If you’re compiling a list of candidates for Most Interesting Man in the World, Wesley Snipes must be in the running. He’s an accomplished martial artist, a famous actor and film producer, he’s spent time in prison for tax fraud, and he holds an honorary doctorate—which means he can legit make you call him Dr. Snipes. (His name is also synonymous with one of the three most famous vampires of the modern era.) On top of all that, Snipes has now coauthored a dark fantasy novel with Ray Norman, Talon of God. Combining hellish horrors, contemporary social commentary, and sincere faith, Talon of God is an modern horror fantasy thriller that takes spirituality as seriously as it does action—and offers up plenty of other surprises along the way
It is spiritual
Many urban fantasy novels deal in demons, angels, and Armageddon, but most take the flashy symbolism and leave behind the spiritual substance. Snipes approaches this story from a sincerely spiritual point of view. He doesn’t fix it on any specific organized religion, but rather imbues the story with simple, unadulterated faith. Set in Chicago, Talon of God introduces Dr. Lauryn Jefferson, daughter of a preacher who has rejected faith in favor of medicine and science. That doesn’t mean she’s a bad person: when a familiar homeless man attacks her, transforming into a hideous beast, her only concern after being saved is helping him. Her rescuer is Talon Hunter, a sword-wielding knight in an ancient monastic order called the Soldiers of El Elyon, who has come to the city in search of her—because he believes she will be instrumental in saving the world.
The crazy premise is realistically horrifying
The story goes far beyond a simplistic “holy badass kicks demon butt” concept. A powerful crime lord floods the streets with a dirt-cheap drug that enhances people’s frailties and sins, allowing them to be easily possessed by demons. As it sweeps through the homeless population, each victim of the drug weakens the barrier that separates hell from the human world, and as the drug takes hold, it begins to transmit itself almost like a virus, quickly unleashing chaos on the streets—and an invasion from hell itself in the skies. Snipes plays this madness out against the backdrop of a city gripped by gang warfare and violence in the real world, giving his depiction of everyday corruption unknowingly helping the forces of evil is given a new dimension (no pun intended) of gravitas.
You might expect a supernatural thriller about faith to be a dull sermon, but Snipes’ version of faith is accepting of human flaws, and turns a thoughtfully critical eye on itself. Dr. Jefferson isn’t depicted as a closed-minded sinner, but rather a thoughtful, generous person struggling with faith, and her anger at her father. She’s a hero from the first page, despite her attitude towards religion, and Snipes’ point, echoed by the fiercely holy warrior Talon, is that everyone can be saved, and it’s never too late to do the right thing and find your way home. At the same time, Talon sneers at the idea that women are to be subjugated, stating flatly that such ideas are the result of misinterpretations of God’s word. The result is a very modern story that doesn’t offer judgment.
It’s a movie waiting to be made
You often hear the word “cinematic” used to describe an author’s writing style, but in this case, it fits. Snipes and Norman have stated in interviews that they hope the book is made into a film, and the writing reflects that. There’s a grandness to the scale—scenes of an entire city convulsing into riots and chaos, a floating fortress straight out of hell, a duel of swords and wills in front of the physical representation of the veil of death—that absolutely begs for a skilled director and a big effects budget.
Bottom line: it’s good
You might think that an actor suddenly deciding he’s a writer can’t possibly lead to a good book—but you’d be wrong. The characters are interesting, the setting is well done, and the pacing is absolutely perfect, ramping up from an exciting introductory sequence, through a buildup of tension and horror, to an explosive finale truly epic in scale and breathless in execution. One character who gets a bit of short shrift is Talon himself—although he’s given some shading with hints at his regrets and failures in his long service to God, he remains a bit of a mystery at the end, despite some of his great moments. The good news is that Snipes and Norman set up a perfect sequel, so his backstory is likely on its way.