The Bottom Line: Miller and Manas will make believers out of sci-fi fans in this can’t-miss thriller.
As The One opens, Pastor Luke Remington is on a flight returning from a tour of duty in Afghanistan as a Navy chaplain. On his journey home to see his wife and daughter, he’s recognized by a wounded soldier whose life he saved in an act of immense bravery.
But at the airport in Philadelphia, he has an ominous encounter with a suddenly deranged man he knows from his home church. Wearing a demonic smile, the man warns Luke that he had better leave the church while he still can. The next Sunday, the same man enters Luke’s church wearing a suicide vest and brandishing an AK-47. Luke’s heroics save the congregation, but alas, his wife and daughter are killed.
After the funeral, Luke volunteers for a sniper training program and eventually earns a place in an elite Navy strike force. Three years later, as Luke’s team assembles on the rooftop of the low-rise UN General Assembly building to prevent a potential terror attack, he spots a figure in his scope that Luke can only describe as “no ordinary man.” Seconds later, Luke witnesses what seems to be a Biblical moment as a Christ figure repels the terrorist attack and makes the offenders disappear before promising “’joyful ascension to some and the eternal rest of darkness upon others.”
Almost instantaneously, gathered masses begin worshiping what appears to be a modern-day messiah. All except one little girl named Ariella, who dares to say, ‘You’re not him.’ Even through his binoculars, Luke recognizes her from the day his family was killed. It’s no coincidence.
Authors Edward Miller and J.B. Manas have created a winning setup guaranteed to hook readers from the very first page. While the book is largely an action-packed battle for the future of humanity, it manages to avoid the tropes of typical religious thrillers. While questions of faith are inherent in the story, and the book is suitable for readers of all ages, the story’s true magic lies in the developing relationship between Luke, Ariella, and her attractive mother, Cassandra.
Luke has plenty on his mind – including being added to a certain government watchlist while ‘Jesus’ performs suspicious public miracles – but the mere act of Luke being around a single woman and her daughter creates plenty of authentic emotional tension. The challenges of parenting a clairvoyant child naturally create plenty of comic bits as well (“Ariella, you know what’s not polite? Commenting on people’s personal thoughts“).
Overall, The One is a sophisticated thriller that deftly explores the nature of belief, loss, and redemption within a highly entertaining package.