I'd like to start this review with two related thoughts. First off, it takes a lot of guts to write about Jesus. Almost everyone, and all Christians, has an ideal of Jesus, a set of mindsets and actions, and any deviation by the author is likely to annoy some readers.
Secondly, though I have a degree in Religious Studies with a focus in Christian History and Theology, I'm not actually a Christian.
Which I guess is my way of saying, I'm well versed in the ideas this story deals with, but I have no dog in the fight.
So, what is this story about? The title would seem to indicate a hybrid of the Gospels and Star Trek. And I'll admit that was what I was expecting to read as I got into the book. So, I was pleasantly surprised to find an elegant and gentle treatment of the transformative power of faith.
The theology is clean and simple. Anyone who possesses a faith and works mindset should be pleased. Anyone who is a fan of Paul's criticisms of the Law will probably enjoy this as well. If you too believe the Law is old and dead, and the heart of the Christian message is drop everything, love your fellows, and follow Jesus, then you'll probably like this book, and be sold on it's main premise: that that message can immediately change, heal a man.
But I'm not sold on that message, so I would have liked to seen a bit more emotional depth of transformation. The main characters find Jesus, literally, and are changed. They see Him in action, feel the healing balm of His presence, and in less than two days, are ready to completely change their lives. Now, perhaps that's the point, interaction with the real Jesus is so powerful, it immediately changes you. But it didn't feel real to me.
There is a phenomena with hard core Star Trek fans. If you ask them what happened in any given episode, they can tell you not only what happened on the screen, but they also fill in extra bits of story that weren't really there. Parts that are emotionally meaningful to them are amplified, more detail added, occasionally entire extra scenes or bits of dialog take place. The result is a much rounder, more fulfilling story than the actual TV show on the screen.
I have a feeling actual Christians will have a similar response to The Eternal Messiah. People who already believe the message, who already have felt the power of Jesus in their own lives will likely have no problem connecting the dots of this story and adding in the extra bits of depth necessary to make it great. People like me, on the outside looking in, will likely find the transformation a bit shallow.
Which is not to say it's badly written. It's a solid B effort. But it's not the sort of change where you slide effortlessly into the characters and accept what is going on. This isn't Michael Corleone joining the dark side.
I would have liked to have seen a more defined climax to the story. I know when the plot is character change that a major, well-defined climax is problematic, but this story ended almost tentatively. Yes, it wraps at a logical point, but it feels like the first book in a series.
All in all, I liked The Eternal Messiah. I enjoyed reading it, and wanted to know what came next. There are shades of Dune as well as Star Trek in this story, and I appreciate a bit of sci-fi in my theology.