Frank Peretti writes Christian fiction. Some have called him the Christian Stephen King because he has written Christian horror, plots that have demons or monsters. There are times when his work does not have those things, though. I think of his book, Prophet, which is about a news anchorman with a prophetic calling that could disrupt his life. And, while The Visitation had demons, it was far from being a horror book, and I found it to be a thoughtful exploration of such issues as Pentecostalism, disappointment with God, and different denominations.
Frank Peretti’s Illusion is a different kind of novel, in comparison with what Peretti usually writes. Don’t get me wrong, though: it is classic Frank Peretti, the sort of book where the characters seem real and you want to keep on reading to see how mysteries get resolved. But there is not much emphasis on the supernatural—-at least not if one defines that in terms of demons, angels, or spirit beings; there is still magic and extraordinary phenomena, however. The book has a scientific focus, and, while I did not understand half of the time what the scientists were saying, that did not prevent me from following the plot, plus I took comfort that some of the characters did not fully understand what the scientists were saying, either! Christianity is still in the book, but its presence is not as salient or overt as it is in other Frank Peretti books. It is far from marginal, however, for the book does have Christian lessons and characters.
The book is about an old magician named Dane Collins. He and his wife, Mandy, had a famous magic act for forty years. Dane is broken after he loses his wife in an automobile accident. And yet, something strange happens. The Mandy of the 1970’s—-a nineteen year-old Mandy who has not yet met Dane—-has somehow come to be present in 2010. Moreover, she has certain abilities: she can go places without being noticed and cause people and things to levitate. Mandy changes her name to Eloise, and she begins to gain renown as a magician in her own right. She encounters Dane, who reluctantly becomes her mentor. There are so many things about Eloise that remind Dane of his late wife, and part of the tension within the book was that I continually wondered when Dane and Mandy would reveal to each other what was on each of their minds, as strange as that might be. Here is Dane, baffled that this Eloise is so much like Mandy. And here is Mandy, hiding from Dane the fact that she is from the 1970’s and is struggling to understand 2010, with its odd devices.
I do not want to give too many spoilers, since part of the pleasure of reading Frank Peretti is wondering how the mystery will be explained. In response to Christians who criticize Illusion for not having a spiritual focus, I will say that it does, in its own way. One of my favorite parts of the book is when one of the scientists acknowledges his limitations, the limitations of science, and even the existence of the soul, something that Dane sees as unusual for a “materialist scientist.” I also liked the scene in which Dane, Mandy, and other people in Mandy’s act join hands in prayer, even though they all come from different religious (and even non-religious) backgrounds.