Few books have reached out, grabbed my attention, and held me captive like Rolf Nelson’s original The Stars Came Back. While the format was not what one would expect, being a screen play, the story was simply so good that it only took a few pages before the format was not even noticeable. Since that book was first released, the publisher, Castalia House, has novelized the story, breaking it into two parts. The first is available now, and the second should be out shortly.
Based on my response to Nelson’s book, you can imagine how happy I was when I heard that he had penned a prequel of sorts, The Heretics of St. Possenti. Now, to be clear, it is not really a true prequel. Rather, it takes the mysterious group of warrior-monks that serve a pivotal role in The Stars Came Back, and tells the story of the monastic order’s origin. Set in our near future, with the world slightly more devolved by SJW dogma, the novel’s setting is recognizable, and serves as a warning for where the world is heading unless good men step forward to stop it.
As the book presents this origin story, it accomplishes two important tasks.
First, it does explain where these monks come from. Since the traditional view of monastic orders holds that they are essentially pacifists, often avoiding even eating meat, considering a group, in communion with the Roman Catholic Church, yet actually living as warriors, can be disconcerting. Yet Nelson has effectively shown how and why this group came to be, telling a realistic, viable, and engaging story.
Seldom have I read a Science Fiction book that gave me goosebumps, raising the hair on my arms. Yet multiple times, as I read the book, I found myself catching my breath, amazed at the emotional impact of the development of the order, and how it impacted the lives of the characters involved. I am doing my best to avoid spoilers, so I will have to leave this vague comment as is, but trust me, you will be impressed.
Second, Nelson provides a road map for those who have good hearts and intentions, but have succumbed to modernity’s lies about strength, masculinity, and manly tenacity. The men who make up the Order of St. Possenti are no shrinking violets. They are hard, rough, and will not match up to your expectations of monks, and yet they come across as exactly the kind of men that the world needs. They are the type of men that the Church needs – a major theme of the book.
Some might consider the story to be a type of “message-fiction,” but they would be ignoring the skill that Nelson uses to weave his proposed worldview into the narrative. The only ones who will respond this way are those who refuse to listen to what the characters do and say. The “messages” that are presented are organic to the story and fit nicely with the ethos of the men who are engaging the world around them.
The Order of St. Possenti is composed of men who are the perfect blend of lifelong clerics, unchurched (but believing) men, and struggling sinners. Nelson skillfully blends these various characters together into a unified force, and it is clear that the foundation has been set, leading to the monks found in The Stars Came Back.
I am sure that I am not the only person who hopes that the Order of St. Possenti becomes a series, so that we can follow the growth and trajectory of this monastic order, as it continues to develop and spread throughout the cosmos.
So not only has Rolf Nelson given us a fantastic read, he has given us insight into how we can confront the liberal world view. He has described what it takes to be a Man of the West, in a sense. Yes, it is fiction, but it is absolutely real.
At its heart, this novel is about redemption and reclamation. It speaks of the redemption and reclamation of individual men (and their souls), the church (which has, in so many cases, drifted from what it should be), and Western Culture. In doing so, it avoids being preachy, but accomplishes its purpose in a rollicking, adventurous, enjoyable, and encouraging story.
I cannot recommend this book enough. If you have men in your life that need encouragement, support, or even a nudge to become the men that they have been called to be, then this book is for you.