This Present Darkness // Piercing the Darkness // by Frank Peretti

//published 1986//

I first read these books back in high school, and read them a few times in my 20’s, but it had been at least a decade since I had revisited them.  I was a little afraid that I wouldn’t love them as much now as I did then, but there was nothing to fear – these were both 5* reads for me, and I was honestly impressed by how well they’ve aged.

The first book centers on a small college town that seems normal enough, but there is insidious evil brewing under the surface.  A young minister has just accepted the pastorship of a small church, but isn’t sure why God has called him there, since it seems that half the congregation wants him out.  A newspaper reporter from New York has just bought the local paper, hoping that a move to a small town will help him to slow down his life and reconnect with his wife and daughter, but he seems to getting pressure from various officials in the town to ignore certain activities.  One of his reporters has lived in Ashton for a few years – she moved here after the suicide of her sister, and is still trying to figure out what would cause her happy, loving sister to kill herself.  Slowly the threads of the story are drawn together as each of the characters begins to discover a piece of the puzzle.

This is an excellent thriller with absolutely spot-on pacing.  The chapters are short and snappy.  The action jumps around often enough to keep you engaged, but not so much that it feels choppy.  Throughout the story, the reader is privy not just to the actions of the human players, but those in the spiritual realm as well, as this is a spiritual battle between angels and demons, light and darkness.

Peretti doesn’t pretend to be saying that “this is the way angels and demons work” – but I feel that he does a really amazing job of presenting readers with a way that they could work.  Strengthened by prayer, the angelic forces work to protect and battle for the saints, while the demons attack, unseen, the humans in the story in a very real way.  This book is fabulously creepy, but, as a Christian, it balances that with the concept that there is much that we can do to battle the darkness that sometimes feels overwhelming.

Piercing the Darkness is a similar story, but doesn’t feel repetitive.  Although the focus is on a different town with a different core group of players, several characters from the first book reappear in this one.  I think if I had to pick a favorite, I would go with Piercing the Darkness – the pacing, again, is just astoundingly good.  I remembered some of the twists but not all of them, and I couldn’t stop racing my way through the pages.

There are several goosebump-y sections of this story, places where you suddenly recognize how God is working all of these pieces together for good – but that that doesn’t mean that our prayers and actions are useless or unneeded.  In these current times, where we are in a very serious spiritual battle, where you can actually see the evil all around us, these books were an incredibly timely read.

I’m not completely positive how well these books will read if you aren’t a Christian.  I mean, one of the foundations of the Christian belief – of most religious beliefs – is that our particular religion is correct, and others are wrong, and that’s a part of this story.  So if that kind of attitude would bother you, then probably give these a miss.  But the writing is excellent, the plot amazingly engaging, the pacing is perfect, the characters are likable – for me, these books are close to perfection, and definitely worth a read.