The Notebook

As far as my fictional reading has been going, I've been on a spate of "fictionalized nonfiction."  Put simply, this is taking a serious, complex topic and writing it into a narrative, to show how such a topic might play out in the real world for the average person, beyond mere speculation and theory.


One such book is called, "One Second After."  I did a review of it on the previous website, so the written portion is gone, but the video is still up on Bitchute.  Essentially, it novelizes what life would be like if an EMP were to strike the United States.  It's not about the mechanics of an EMP or the political ramifications, it's about the average person.


Most books of this caliber tend to be poorly written, as it is clear that the author is a better researcher and analyst than creative writer.  Characters tend to be dull, two-dimensional, and fitting in a perfect archetype necessary to carry the most consequential weight from the inciting incident.  The plot also tends to be more analytical, event-driven rather than character-driven.


I understand that the point of these books is not necessarily to entertain, certainly not in a Hollywood-esque zombie movie sort of way, but they are still, on the whole, annoying to read.  Why do I read them, then?  Because they're usually still better than rote, Hollywood-esque, post-apocolyptic garbage that is wholly unbelievable.


Thus we come to the book being discussed here, called "The Harbinger" by Jonathan Cahn, and, to a minor extent, his follow-up nonfiction called "The Mystery of the Shemitah."


I'm not going to get into the theological points of the book, whether I think they're right or wrong or any of that.  That's not what this post is about.  Rather, I am going to discuss the idea of attempting to novelize a nonfiction topic.


Harbinger came out first, published in 2011, and Mystery was later published in 2014 "because [the publisher] asked [him] to."  Honestly, I doubt it.  And here's why.


1. From page 1, the dialogue is utterly insufferable.  Not just insufferable, but godawful.  As in, shoot yourself in the head terrible.  And it never gets better.  It's like watching the crazy homeless guy who wanders around in the middle of a busy intersection holding a conversation with himself.  Half the questions are nonsensical, the other half are insulting to the reader.  And ninety-nine percent of them feel unnecessary, except that if they weren't there, it wouldn't be a book, but a research paper.


You can tell which parts are the research paper, too, because that's exactly how it reads.  Exactly.  Footnotes and endnotes and all.  Everything that is the research paper is paragraphs that are fifteen sentences long of complex structure and variation, while everything in between is one or two sentences of no more than five words at a time.  The distinction is so jarring, it's infuriating.  It's one thing to have different characters who have different mannerisms, but this was ridiculous.

2. There is zero plot.  The book starts out with the MC approaching some hotshot corporate media lady (which I'm calling absolute BS on, by the way [the fact that he got a meeting with her without even telling her why he wanted to meet]) trying to pitch a story about a conversation he had with a man known only as the "the prophet."  And then the whole book is just this conversation.  The prophet approaches him, gives him a clue, and then at some point in the future, they meet up again to discuss the clue.  Prophet gives MC new clue, leaves, later returns so they can discuss.  Repeat.  Again, it's like a research paper with narrative bits thrown haphazardly here and there.  Then it randomly cuts back to the MC and the corporate lady for two or three lines of more garbage dialogue before jumping back into the conversation with the prophet.


Supposedly the whole thing is about the MC discovering the nature of the Nine Harbingers and the Two Mysteries.  On its own, stripping away everything that is supposed to be "narrative," (also known as, by the middle of the book I was skimming, looking for any meaty parts and didn't even bother with the last two chapters), you end up with a minor research paper of maybe ten to fifteen thousand words which could probably be translated into a 25-slide presentation and accompanying 2-hour lecture.  The rest of the 250-page "book" is garbage filler.  There's no plot, nothing being resolved, no one to care about, nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  It's just a dude who does a tiny bit of research, talks to the prophet and has to be spoon-fed like a brain-dead vegetable, and...I don't know.  As I said, I didn't even bother with the last two chapters.

Once again, this is just critiquing the writing style, or lack thereof.  I'm not going to argue one way or the other on the theological arguments that the author is making.  However, this is going to be my shining example of technical perfection being unable to rescue a [insert your favorite frustration/profanity words here] story.

And this brings us, briefly, to Mystery.  Supposedly, after Harbinger, Cahn was asked to expound on one of the Two Mysteries.  I think this is a lie, but considering all the idiots who gave Harbinger glowing reviews (certainly not for writing aesthetic), I guess it could be true.

Mystery is the nonfiction, technical explanation of Harbinger, with graphs and charts and timelines and so forth and so on.  While this spares the reader from having to suffer through more atrocious dialogue and worse-than-cardboard-cutout-characters, it, too, feels like an over-glorified research paper that could be better understood in less than 20,000 words.

I enjoy fictionalized nonfiction.  I do.  I really, really do.  This just isn't it.  Check out (and skim) The Harbinger and The Mystery of the Shemitah to get a start on your own research, but don't expect to find anything of narrative substance.