The Methuselah Project by Rick Barry (Kregel Publications, October 2015)
Nazi scientists started many experiments. One never ended.
Roger Greene is a war hero. Raised in an orphanage, the only birthright he knows is the feeling that he was born to fly. Flying against the Axis Powers in World War II is everything he always dreamed–until the day he’s shot down and lands in the hands of the enemy.
When Allied bombs destroy both his prison and the mad genius experimenting on POWs, Roger survives. Within hours, his wounds miraculously heal, thanks to those experiments. The Methuselah Project is a success–but this ace is still not free. Seventy years later, Roger hasn’t aged a day, but he has nearly gone insane. This isn’t Captain America–just a lousy existence only made passable by a newfound faith. The Bible provides the only reliable anchor for Roger’s sanity and his soul. When he finally escapes, there’s no angelic promise or personal prophecy of deliverance, just confusion. It’s 2015–and the world has become an unrecognizable place.
Katherine Mueller–crack shot, genius, and real Southern Belle–offers to help him find his way home. Can he convince her of the truth of his crazy story? Can he continue to trust her when he finds out she works for the very organization he’s trying to flee?
Thrown right into pulse-pounding action from the first page, readers will find themselves transported back in time to a believable, full-colored past, and then catapulted into the present once more. The historical back-and-forth adds a constantly moving element of suspense to keep readers on the edge of their seats.
Anyone reading this book review likely knows that historical fiction set during World War Two is one of my favorite genres and time periods with which to read. I rarely pass a chance to read a novel set during the Second World War, so when an author friend of mine posted a link to Rick Barry’s upcoming World War Two book I instantly went to the publisher’s website to request a review copy. Although The Methuselah Project deviates the typical historical romances on my bookshelves, I am beyond excited for this novel to claim a spot amongst other fabulous World War Two fiction authors.
People are creatures of habit–including readers who tend to choose novels based on favorite genres of authors–but sometimes it is beneficial to break away from what we know best. In my case, although I am well versed in World War Two romance fiction, I am new to Barry’s twist on the subject via science and super-hero fiction. Keep in mind that The Methuselah Project is not another Captain America story, but for the purpose of comparison the base storyline of both the book and movie are good indicators of what one will find in Barry’s novel. If nothing anything (although it’s not the case here), I am glad that I read The Methuselah Project because this book brought me a vastly different outlook on World War Two, soldiers and veterans, and historical significance. I love that Barry approached this time period with a different outlook and dared to write a story that goes beyond the typical battle grounds, settings, themes, romance, and possible after effects of war.
The Methuselah Project is a blend of the historical, contemporary, and science fiction genres. Based on those categorizations alone I would not have chosen to read this book. Based on the recommendation of an author friend, I was willing to put aside the fact that I don’t like science fiction in order to read this book. Barry’s novel demonstrates how and why categorizing books by genre can be both helpful and detrimental to readers because I, for one, found myself captivated by The Methuselah Project despite the odd (to me) scientific aspects of the story. The author blends historical research with scientific facts throughout the book, never once leaning too far towards either science or history so that readers will not be alienated by a subject they do not care for.
Roger Greene and Katherine Mueller, the hero and heroine of The Methuselah Project, drive this story through their unique experiences and challenges of the times they live in. Barry’s hero flew off the page (what a pun to use for a pilot, right?) with his 1940’s lingo, daring feats of flying, and strong character. I enjoyed Roger’s character because he was a hero in every sense of the word–not necessarily a prince from a Disney movie, but a real-life hero and gentleman who fought in a war and subsequently fought to stay alive through the brutal circumstances. For Greene’s counterpart, Barry wrote southern-belle Katherine Mueller, who fills her day as a freelance editor and Kadet in a secret organization. The Methuselah Project‘s heroine was one of my least favorite aspects of this novel. I found Katherine harsh, naive, and obstinate; her prickly personality and judgmental attitude made it hard for me to warm up to her.
The Methuselah Project utilizes dual storylines to tell Roger and Katherine’s stories. The pacing of Barry’s book flows quickly, and for the first quarter of the book I found myself challenged to swap time periods–and all that goes with it, such as dialect, word choice, etc.–and remember that Katherine and Roger experienced vast differences between them. Additionally, the chapters that focused on Roger jumped decades of his captivity, which also jarred me as I mentally refocused on what Roger would have known as a prisoner of war. I realize that Barry could not literally give his readers a day-by-day account of Roger’s experiences in prison; however, the time hopping made empathizing with the character a challenge because I constantly had to focus on setting and time period rather than on Roger. Focusing solely on the characters became easier once Roger and Katherine’s are brought together. In the spirit of a timely and quick ending, Barry finishes Methuselah Project in an action-packed adventure, but the fast pace brings a sense of unbelievability to his novel. I would have preferred a longer novel focused on authentic situations to end this book.
I enjoyed The Methuselah Project for its stellar story filled with historical research. Despite the aspects of the story that I didn’t care for, I still would recommend this book to readers because the merits of this novel strongly outweigh any pacing or character issues. I would especially like to commend Barry for writing a Christian historical novel that I believe is well suited for boys and men. While women, such as myself, surely will enjoy the book, The Methuselah Project is a novel that I would hand out to men of any age in a heartbeat.
Rating: 3.5 stars
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
By God’s grace, I’m the author of the novels The Methuselah Project, Gunner’s Run, Kiriath’s Quest, and over 200 articles and fiction stories. In addition to being a writer and World War II buff, my main role is Director of Church Planting ministries at BIEM, a Christian ministry active in Eastern Europe. I hold a degree in foreign languages, speak Russian, and every summer I assist with children’s camps in Eastern Europe. I live near Indianapolis with my wonderful wife Pam. Visit me at facebook.com/AuthorRickBarry, or on Twitter (@WriterRickBarry).