on September 13, 2021
Genres: Fiction, Christian
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This is the first book of an alternate history depicting the world before the global flood. Bill McKay, a time traveler from our modern world, travels through time to land in a beautiful world with a pleasant climate and abundant food, where exotic people and dinosaurs cohabitate. A paradise. Has he traveled to another planet?
Despite the idyllic conditions, Bill witnesses the violence and corruption of the people firsthand, reminding him of his world with its incessant war, death, and destruction.
A charismatic man claims to have received a word from God that the planet will be destroyed by a Great Flood. Is he actually on the earth before the Flood? Is this Noah? Bill has doubts about the man but not the man’s commitment to his mission. The man persists in his efforts to warn the people despite many threats to his life and the persecution he suffers.
Has Bill really arrived in a world that will soon be destroyed? What can he do? Bill strives to change history to avoid the worldwide catastrophe that occurred in his world's past. Can history be changed?
Time traveling back to Bible times isn’t new in Christian fiction, but it’s rarely done well. Indeed, the only positive example I can think of comes from Madeline L’Engle’s Time Quartet novel, Many Waters. Incidentally, L’Engle’s novel has enough parallels with John Thomas’s The World Before the Flood that I do believe he had to have taken it as inspiration. Unfortunately, he is nowhere near L’Engle’s quality.
The World Before the Flood begins in a jarring, haphazard manner as our protagonist finds himself fading through time. He wonders “Is this the Transport Disease?” Through bits and pieces, we discover that Bill McKay is a World War II soldier who is part of a team that was attempting to time travel and stop Hitler. Or Stalin. It’s not clear. And that’s all we really get. Thomas never connects the story back to the present or explains how something that is a disease fades a person through time.
Anyway, Bill awakens in a world not unlike the Flintstones meets Atlantis. Dinosaurs are domesticated. Everyone has anachronistic weaponry and technology. People live really long lives. It takes him way too long to make the connection that he has, indeed, time traveled and gone to a much different antediluvian world. The bulk of the book involves Bill’s involvement in a war involving Noah—excuse me, Nokan—leading a contingent against the K’aynah people.
Thomas’s prose is clunky and uninspired. His dialogue is trite and unrealistic. The novel starts with McKay not being able to understand anything that’s being said to him and Nokan giving him a universal translator. Except it can’t be a universal translator because, you know, the world still only has one language, so it’s a device that helps people with traumatic brain damage.
Large sections of the book involve McKay telling Nokan spoilers for all of human history that lies ahead. Global flood. Jesus. The whole nine yards. McKay also falls in love and marries. He’s also responsible for introducing 20th century weaponry, including tanks, to this Noah v. Cain war. And I haven’t even mentioned that the man villain is a guy named Sinbadder, a name Thomas has McKay explain to us in detail. You see, the guy is a villain. He. Really does. Sin badder. You get it? You get it?
There’s a meme going around about a person complaining that an author “seemed like they were making it up as they went.” The joke is that’s what fiction is: making stuff up. But good fiction is about making stuff up that seems like it could be real, is coherent within its own context, and has enough grounding in reality for the reader to be willing to suspend disbelief. The World Before the Flood accomplishes none of that.