The best thing about Frank Peretti's 2005 novel Monster was that it was over quickly. I was able to zip through the 419-page yarn in about five hours, although after about five minutes I felt I had wasted too much time on this anti-evolution screed.
I was loaned the novel by a friend who thought I might enjoy it, but I already knew I was in trouble when I glanced at the Acknowledgments page;
Jonathan Wells, postdoctoral biologist and senior fellow at the Discovery Institute, whose book, Icons of Evolution, first got my creative wheels turning, and who helped me clarify my main idea over a pleasant lunch.
Dr. David DeWitt, director of the Center for Creation Studies at Liberty University, who, besides being a brilliant scientist and technical advisor, is quite an imaginative story crafter in his own right.
Wells... why did it have to be Wells? That creationists were technical advisors on the scientific aspects of the book did not instill me with optimism. My fears were confirmed when I noticed there was a little Q&A section in the back of the book where Peretti explains his motivation for writing Monster;
Q: What are some of the different issues you have dealt with in your books?
A: In This Present Darkness, it was spiritual warfare and intercessory prayer. In Piercing the Darkness, it had to do with the encroachment of neo-paganism into the educational and legal system. ... And in Monster - whoooh! - there's a whole lot of different messages. My first idea was evolution. One of evolution's best-kept secrets is that mutations don't work. They're not beneficial. I believe that if I can just create a story that somehow addresses that one leg of evolution, I can get people thinking. I can't make a big scientific argument. I can just tell the story. One of the best ways to really combat the fortress of Darwinism is to allow people to wonder about it, to acquaint them with the controversy so that they know there is one.
Great! Evangelical-Christian conspiracy theories and regurgitated creationist bile, all in one package! I am half-surprised that the makers of Expelled did not try to tie in their film with Perotti's New York Times-bestseller (?!), as a major point of the story is the academic coverup concerning "the truth" about evolution. Peretti does not try very hard to disguise his targets in the book. Not only do academic institutions expel anyone who questions the "Darwinian orthodoxy", but the "American Geographic" association, "Public Broadcasting," and the "Evolution Channel" are in on it, too.
Indeed, Peretti canonizes the faithful "good guys" who are constantly wondering things like "Why, oh God, did you let that Sasquatch steal my toilet paper?" (more on that in a minute) while anyone remotely associated with evolution is evil, stupid, or both. Indeed, Peretti has clearly imbibed a lot of Jonathan Wells' teaching, and that is certainly not a compliment.
But what of the story itself? The story follows our hero Reed (described as "a six-foot hunk", which made me wonder "A six-foot hunk of what?") as he tries to rescue his wife Beck from some creature that absconded with her during a camping trip. While Reed and his friends (one of whom is a creationist ex-professor who was expelled from academia for his views) try to figure things out, Beck is carried along by a female Sasquatch (one of a family of four) who took a liking to her.* But there's something else out there, something that makes size-18 feet scamper off to safer places. That something is a genetically modified and highly aggressive chimpanzee, created by a mad-evolutionist who wanted to prove that beneficial mutations are a reality.
*[One particular howler that appears early in the book is that the apes apparently have a tapetum lucidum, a layer of tissue in the eyes of some vertebrates that reflects light. It is the tissue that makes "eye shine" you see in flash photos of cats and dogs. Apes don't have a tapetum lucidum, but some primates, like lemurs, do. When I read Peretti's mistake, I have to admit that I got the idea for a horror story of my own involving killer lemurs (perhaps something like Megaladapis), but I don't think I'll ever commit such a tale to print.]
I won't apologize for spoiling the big "gotcha" revelation. That Beck is among a group of Sasquatch is made clear in the first quarter of the book, and there are near-constant references to some even nastier menace in the forest. It was not that difficult to figure out. Nor was it a stretch to imagine those "devilutionists" creating some kind of monster in a last-ditch effort to prove evolution, and the villains ramble on and on about "survival of the fittest." They are villains because, being evolutionists, they obviously have no morals (or so the likes of Wells and Peretti would have us believe), and therefore anything is permissible. This is a bunch of rot, of course, but I'm sure Peretti's morality tale had a sympathetic audience among those who wish to read the Bible as a science text.
[I am not going to recount the overwhelming evidence for evolution here. I will instead point you to the Talk Origins archive and Expelled Exposed! if you want to know more about evolution and the intelligent design manufactroversy.]
Strangely, Peretti never questions where the Sasquatch came from. If they existed in nature and were not manufactured monsters, what was their origin? This is never considered, and I can only assume that Peretti believed that they were "created" at some point, just as we were. Depending on the situation, their ape-like or human-like characteristics are played up, but Peretti makes sure to remind us that apes are just animals. In one particular instance, Beck's superiority over the apes is asserted because she was able to use a hairbrush and Peretti's Sasquatch could not.
All of this nonsense might have been mitigated if Peretti was a good writer. He is not. His character descriptions typically consist of what a character is wearing, what kind of hat they have on, and whether they have facial hair. Minor characters buzz in and out of the story to the point where it was a relief to see repetitive references to "the one in the Mariners hat" because otherwise I wouldn't know who the hell these people were supposed to be! Even though Peretti claims that he wants to write cinematic, visually-oriented stories in the Q&A section at the end of the book, I often found it difficult to get a mental image of what was going on. I had to strain to fill in the gaps that Peretti left open in his descriptions.
Peretti also mentions that his favorite author (and chief writing influence) was Michael Crichton, and this makes sense. Not only does the book have an anti-science bent, but it reads as a sort of mash-up between Jurassic Park, Congo, and Icons of Evolution. Even though it is a monster story, the author makes it clear that the real monsters are the immoral evolutionists who will stop at almost nothing to uphold their crumbling intellectual doctrine. I have been involved in this issue enough to see through Peretti's fictional diatribe, but I am sure that many readers were nodding in agreement with his treatment of scientists.
The chief problem with Peretti's book is that, like many fiction authors specifically targeting Christians, he is so concerned with getting his theological message across that the story is overwhelmed by heavy-handed religious rhetoric. The only reason I read it all the way through was to see whether my guesses to the conclusion of the story were correct. Given its target audience, I don't think many (any?) readers of this blog had intended to pick it up, but unless you're in the mood for a real howler, I'd say leave this one alone. Your time is better spent elsewhere.
[If you're in the mood for a good monster book, check out The Relic. If you want to read something cheesy but without the religious overtones, check out Fatalis, one of the worst books I think I have ever read.]
Indeed, Peretti canonizes the faithful "good guys" who are constantly wondering things like "Why, oh why God, did you let that Sasquatch steal my toilet paper?" (more on that in a minute) while anyone remotely associated with evolution is evil, stupid, or both
This sounds just like Crichton in State of Fear in which the climate change deniers are all James Bond meets MIT prof. and everyone else are buffoons. Man, that was a gawdawful book as well.
Not only do academic institutions expel anyone who questions the "Darwinian orthodoxy", but the "American Geographic" association, "Public Broadcasting," and the "Evolution Channel" are in on it, too.
Man, I wish we had an "Evolution Channel"! Well, to be honest, one channel wouldn't be enough to get me to buy a TV set, but I'd totally stream its programmes over Hulu.
Not only does the book have an anti-science bent, but it reads as a sort of mash-up between Jurassic Park, Congo, and Icons of Evolution.
Aaaaagh! You frightened my brain — it's trying to escape!
Perhaps it's BECAUSE he's a creationist that he lacks the imagination to write a good story?
The people who WROTE the bible, now they had some good moments. But the fanboys, they seem unwilling to stray too far from the canon ...
I really like the idea of killer lemurs. I think you should go with that.
Or at least a chapter in your book....
I have certainly heard of Jonathan Wells, who, unlike most creationists, isn't a fundamentalist Christian but a "Moonie". Like Peretti, he had personal and religious motivations for embarking on his present path, saying his goal in life was to destroy "Darwinism". The book "Icons Of Evolution", has both flat-out untruths and details that are factually true but misleading (the posed pictures of moths on tree trunks, for example, which he noted. He's right, moths don't rest on tree trunks, but have darkened in response to industrial pollution, as has been confirmed by recent studies.) And his criticism of pictures illustrating evolution have been correct, but not for the reasons he thinks, but because it gives a simplistic idea about how evolution works. People should know that individuals like Wells and Peretti have an agenda, and even if one of their works is fiction, they're being propagandized. P.S. You're right, if something like a Sasquatch existed, it would be a hominid creature and the product of evolution. Kind of defeats their whole purpose, doesn't it?
Peretti also mentions that his favorite author (and chief writing influence) was Michael Crichton, and this makes sense.
Wow, as I was reading your post, I was also thinking "Gee, sounds like Crichton." Methinks imitation is not very good flattery in this case.
"They are villains because, being evolutionists, they obviously have no morals (or so the likes of Wells and Peretti would have us believe), and therefore anything is permissible."
Is this license to do whatever we please? I, for one, am down with throwing out our morals and running amuck.
I really think that some of these creationists and maybe some laypeople in general think that "mutation" equals something that would kill you, ie: genetic mutation from exposure to radiation. Since the word has that association in popular media, I think there are people who never learned what it means in the scientific sense and are probably therefore honestly confused when we talk about mutation in evolution. That confusion can be remedied, of course, with some reading or explanation, but who wants logic, when you could have killer chimpanzees?!
damn you for suggesting relic 'cause i just spent over half an hour reading the synopses for all the books by preston. now my shopping cart is full again. ~sigh
> One of evolution's best-kept secrets is that mutations
> don't work. They're not beneficial.
Because if you are not the exact clone of your parents (what parent btw., because there are usually two of them ;-)?), you are a freak, and will not find a partner, and will not be able to reproduce. LOL. There are many silly creationist arguments, but this must be one of the most silly of them all; either those creationists don't know the difference between a developmental anomaly and a mutation, or their concept of a "mutant" comes from a 50ies sci-fi B-movie. Or do they really think that being 2 centimeters taller or shorter than the average of your species, or having different coloured hair, or eyes, makes you a monster?
> When I read Peretti's mistake, I have to admit
> that I got the idea for a horror story of my
> own involving killer lemurs (perhaps something
> like Megaladapis), but I don't think I'll ever
> commit such a tale to print.]
This is an excellent idea. Sources agree that those beasts were sometimes kept on ships (perhaps they were traded as curiosities), and if a few captured *Hadropitheci* broke loose under the already claustrophobic conditions on board of a 16th-century ship, the results probably were pretty frightening.
I was loaned the novel by a friend...
I think I see the problem, you need to tighten up on your word usage.
One of evolution's best-kept secrets is that mutations don't work. They're not beneficial.
Because one of my ancestors had a mutation, I can digest dairy products into adulthood. This was beneficial to many of my ancestors, and is beneficial to me.
If you really like monster tales, (and while I can also recommend The Relic), you should check out Scott Sigler (http://www.scottsigler.com), particularly Ancestor (a tale of xenotransplantation gone horribly wrong). All his stories are available free as serialised audiobooks, and some are in print and available through the site.
Consider "Bones of the Earth" by Michael Swanwick. It has Christian characters who are not psyco-nutjobs. And some, ya know, who are.
I don't really see where you are coming from. You make it seem like Peretti is calling you evolutionists "bad guys" and "evil." He never once said that, and he never once implied that. You cannot hate on him for disagreeing with your views. You also cannot deny that professors are getting fired for their disagreement with the threory of evolution and natural selection. Students are being harrassed by professors for their beliefs. Also, with the theory of evolution and things just happening to come out of nothing on our minds, let me ask you a question. (mind you, I am not a scholor, just a Bible-believer) Do you know that it is the same probability for a tornado to crash through a junk yard and make a car, than it is for there to be a big boom and things appereared. You honestly cannpt believe that there is NO inteligent design at all. There are beliefs that God put evolution into motion, but things just don't appear. I've also noticed that, while most creationists don't openly critizize and make fun of evolutionists, evolutionists often make fun of creationists which is exactly what you did in your blog. I would like to disscuss this more. you said something about mutations being beneficial, whereas Peretti said they weren't. Prove it to me. And also in your blog you said Peretti didn't say where the Sasquaches came from. Who cares? The whole point of it is for it to kind of be mysterious. I read the book and I loved it. If any of you are having doubts about this book after reading this man's blog, I urge you to read it and you will see for youreslf. Don't let someone tell you what to do. And who knows? Maybe Switek has something to hide so he didn't want you to read it. Oh, and don't remove this post, otherwise I'll know you have something to hide.
Please enlighten with your knowledge Mr. Switek.
Thanks for your time,
@14/Brandon Reid: I have read "Monster" (in fact, I read it when it first came out), and I agree with Brian that it is a terribly boring book.
"You make it seem like Peretti is calling you evolutionists "bad guys" and "evil." "
Note: This could be because possibly every evolutionist in the book is wrapped up in a grand conspiracy to mislead/delude the public, which smacks liberally of one of the creationist movement's main tenets. ;)
" Do you know that it is the same probability for a tornado to crash through a junk yard and make a car, than it is for there to be a big boom and things appereared."
"I would like to disscuss this more. you said something about mutations being beneficial, whereas Peretti said they weren't. Prove it to me. "
Usually when I say I'm going to discuss something with someone, I do more than just say you said x, someone else said y, prove x to me. Peretti doesn't explain why mutations don't work, he just says they don't. But in response, I'd say see TalkOrigins as Brian pointed out in his review above
I think this passage from Peretti's Q and A session in the back of the book is very telling:
My first idea was evolution. One of evolution's best-kept secrets is that mutations don't work. They're not beneficial. I believe that if I can just create a story that somehow addresses that one leg of evolution, I can get people thinking. I can't make a big scientific argument. I can just tell the story. One of the best ways to really combat the fortress of Darwinism is to allow people to wonder about it, to acquaint them with the controversy so that they know there is one. [my own emphasis added in bold]
"Fortress of Darwinism" sounds like a great idea for an adventure game.
It's a bit late in the day but I'm feeling grumpy enough to respond to Mr Reid's comments.
I don't know of Professors being dismissed for being creationists, but I'd liken it to a Physics professor who considers gravity to be just a theory and not real. Someone that disassociated from reality needs treatment.
The thing about the tornado and the junk yard has been done to death. Talk about tedious! Evolution works by incremental changes. It is not Spontaneous Creation. Only bible-thumpers believe in that sort of thing.
"You honestly cannpt believe that there is NO inteligent design at all." Honestly? ID is nonsense; there is no God. Oh, and I can spell 'intelligent'.
"you said something about mutations being beneficial, whereas Peretti said they weren't. Prove it to me." Peretti is an authority on precisely nothing. As I right I am suffering from a bout of flu. I've had flu many times, I ought to have an immunity, but the little so and so keeps changing - it mutates and infects me again.
Finally, I don't know Mr Switek, and have only just today come across his blog, but I very much doubt he has anything to hide. Such an assertion borders on the paranoid, and is most certainly insulting.