By Jill Williamson
Most of us don’t expect to die anytime soon, but Martyr, a.k.a. J:3:3, knows that he is set to expire on his eighteenth birthday. The medical experiments that he and the other clones in the deep-underground facility endure on a daily basis will help save human beings dying on the face of a now-toxic planet, and so Martyr is proud of his sacrifice—if he could only have one wish first—to see the sky. It is this desire that sets in motion a series of events that change his world, and the world of small-town Fishhook, Alaska, forever.
It is worth noting that this work of science-fiction was written by a Christian author, and published by Zondervan, a Christian house. At the onset, such evidence is subtle and effectively woven into the action of the story. One of the novel’s strengths is Abby, the main character, and her strong sense of self-esteem, at least in part because of her Christian faith. She has endured the loss of her mother, her father’s betrayal when he moves Abby far from her Uncle and friends without consulting her, and her beloved Youth Group, yet she remains optimistic about life in Alaska. Readers will also respect the weakness Abby feels for the "Main Man on Campus" J.D. who she is strongly attracted to. What girl hasn’t been tempted by great looks, charm, and flirtation? Equally impressive is Martyr’s character, who ads an innocent, comedic element to the story without being corny, and who lives up to his name and then some. The subtle skillful weaving of science fiction with Christian values begins to lean more heavily on the side of the didactic, however, in the second half of the narrative. Williamson manages to incorporate lessons of purity, fellowship, prayer and Bible study, the plan of salvation and God’s purpose in life, in a very tight span. But Abby is no saint, she gossips, she labels others, she feels anger, and she realizes that she can be self-righteous. And while the conclusion seems to lack balance, at one point being overly melodramatic and at another point rushed, it is satisfying and seems to leave room for additional installments. While this work cannot rival masterpieces like Unwind by Schusterman, the irony of Matryr and his brothers dying for the sins of the doctors is inspired. Williamson is to be applauded for taking Zondervan into new frontiers of fiction.