Since I fancy myself a student and fan of the post-apocalyptic genre, I wanted to write a few words about Mike Silvestri’s soon-to-be-released (September 1, 2010) novel, The Gospel of Matthias Kent.
I’ve had the privilege of obtaining an advance copy from Mike after having reviewed snippets of his manuscript in our monthly critique group meetings. Those compelling sneak peaks always left me hungry to read more, so it was with eager anticipation that I dove into the book.
GMK is a futuristic tale of a dystopian America where the gap between the rich and poor is stark to the extreme. The rich enjoy wealth and power on the backs of the poor who struggle daily to survive starvation and a pestilence known as the Rot which consumes not only flesh, but also wood and paper. This extinction of paper is a blessing to the governing body, the Synod, who uses the tragedy to control the masses. As writers, we are all familiar with the phrase, “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Take away the pen (and paper) and you are left with only the sword which the Synod ruthlessly wields to promote their self-serving agenda.
Matthias Kent, an opportunistic advertising executive employed by the First Bank of Job, climbs the corporate ladder to land a prestigious position providing him with a lifetime of security except for one catch: to maintain his status, Matthias must always and forever submit to the will of the Synod. A childhood trauma motivates Matthias to pursue a vengeful scheme that puts him at odds with the ruling elite. He gambles not only with his new found position but with his life and the lives of others.
Mike does a masterful job presenting the reader with a cold, gray America mostly devoid of human civility and the title character’s inner struggle against his true calling. Novelists are taught the key to successful fiction is to put your protagonist in an impossibly bad situation and then make it even worse. There is where Mike’s literary talent really shines. In the opening chapter Matthias gains the reader’s sympathy by performing an act of kindness. At heart, he is a good man who ends up making some bad decisions and falls victim to a cruel enemy. Mike’s skillful writing left me suffering along with Matthias during his loss, a turn so devastating and complete that it even surpassed that of Biblical Job. At least that man didn’t lose his faith.
Not wanting to reveal any more of the plot, I’ll just say that elements of GMK reminded me of other tales, most notably Fahrenheit 451, The film The Book of Eli, and even Saul on the road to Damascus. Like those stories, GMK also includes redemption and a satisfying conclusion. The Gospel of Matthias Kent has found a permanent home in my bookcase and will be a book I’m sure I’ll revisit.
Way to go, Mike. You make all of us Susquehanna Writers proud!