Starving Review: Infringement by Benjamin Westbrook

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Infringement by Benjamin Westbrook (Amazon, Goodreads)

Another Friday has come, so it’s time to crack open the pantry and see what we find. This week’s review is actually something of a difficulty for me, but not for the traditional reasons. You see, foodies, Infringement is a religious thriller, one that deals strongly with matters not just of faith, but a very specific real-world religion. These sorts of meals tend not to sit well in my stomach with their tendency for overspiced arguments and heavily-indulgent themes, alongside a narrow-focus of flavors focusing on that one religious theme. Still, there are religious meals out there that have beaten out those problems, so let’s see if this souffle will rise without collapsing!

Before we do, let’s unfurl the scroll to proclaim the Starving Review Creed:

  1. I attempt to rate every book from the perspective of a fan of the genre
  2. I attempt to make every review as spoiler-free as possible

As with any meal, I have to approach this from both quantitative and qualitative measures. Let’s start with the factual end of things, looking at our usual measures of plot, characterization, and style. Style and wordcraft are the best elements of this meal. Well-baked with an easy-to-digest style, Infringement is never an overly-wordy slog or has a thick crust to break through. Likewise, exposition is well-handled and the overall pace is fairly well-balanced, except for the climax.

It’s that climax where the pacing and core plot feel off-kilter. Everything seems to be going well, with a good balance of rising action and falling action, but then the climax comes and it just fails to fulfill the dramatic expectations at that point. The attempt at the cliff-hanger ending feels a bit forced and the whole thing ends with an abrupt note. I sat there a moment, hoping for another course that didn’t come. This is a flaw I’ve found in many works meant to be in a series, where the plot of one meal is left hanging to set-up the metaplot of the entire series’ servings, and this is not only unnecessary, but it really hurts each individual meal. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it does leave a sour note on the entire dinner.

Characterization is handled well, if with a bit of a light touch outside of the protagonist. I did like the bait-and-switch for the antagonist, yet I was also a bit put off as there was a lot of build-up and characterization that wound up being for naught. That unfortunately left the remaining antagonist as a real one-note-wonder, which probably didn’t help the sour flavors of the climax. The other thing that was a smidge off was the romance sub-plot, mainly in that there really wasn’t one. There was a romance, yes, between the protagonist and his ex-fiancee, but it basically immediately resolved into undying love with nary a mention as to why their romance hadn’t worked out the first time, thus no real resolution of that first problem. Again, this isn’t a deal-breaker, as one could assume that the long-distance romance aspect was what hadn’t worked and that is resolved in short-order, but it feels like a thread that could have been expounded on to flesh out the characters, especially the fiancee.

So overall, things are looking pretty good, right? Solid writing with a few flaws, flaws that any author can make from time to time. The real issue I have with Infringement, despite all my efforts to emulate the tastes of a religious thriller fan, the thing that chokes in my throat, is its single-minded focus on one specific world religion. There is a strong undercurrent that only grows as the book progresses of Christian apocalyptic theology, with hints that the Rapture and the full run of the Book of Revelations is coming, and, as such things usually go, there is no nod, no thought, no consideration for any form of faith outside the purely Christian, with a few minor thoughts to Judaism.

My point is that it always chokes in my throat when a book that wants to explore faith instead explores religion. Faith is personal, faith is something people of many religions and philosophies can experience, it’s a universal human concept, not something purely confined to one religion. There is so far not even an attempt to tie in the billions of other people with faiths that differ from the Christian viewpoint into the narrative of faith, or how those people, no matter their morality, will be treated by this impending apocalypse (though one dream sequence hints it will be the tried-and-true ‘morality doesn’t matter, only Jesus’ route).

What this leads to is one of those curious cases of two ratings. For the general audience, Infringement is a religious thriller souffle that, while baked better than its kin, still falls flat with its narrow-minded spices. For what is probably the intended audience, those who already are fans of such Christian apocalyptic thrillers, Infringement will be a real treat, baked with an attention to the craft that makes it rise above the rest. Basically, if you’re a die-hard Christian, especially if you’re interested in Rapture literature, you’ll love this. If you’re not, you might be able to admire the wordcraft, but the actual subject of the plot will not thrill you.

FINAL VERDICT (for general diners): **

FINAL VERDICT (for Christian religious thriller fans): *****

AVERAGE RATING (cause places don’t let me be expressive to have multiple ratings): ***

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2 comments

  1. “These sorts of meals tend not to sit well in my stomach with their tendency for overspiced arguments and heavily-indulgent themes…” I loved that.

    I really appreciate reading such a thoughtful review of a book that’s really outside of the reviewer’s usual zone.

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