Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Allan Reini, author of Flight of the Angels, has offered this long and thoughtful review on Amazon:

“From its opening line, Johnny Came Home draws you into the world of its reluctant, damaged, and super-charged hero. And what a fast paced, dark, and intriguing world it is!

Author Tony Breeden lays a firm foundation for what I hope will be a series of novels centering around John Lazarus, a young man assumed dead in a tragic, but suspicious, house fire years earlier. Clearly against his better judgment, but driven by circumstances and a sense of duty he doesn’t quite understand himself, John returns to the town of Midwich with his long-haired, rocker wannabe friend, Weasel Hopkins. Weasel doesn’t know anything about Midwich or the powerful and omnipresent Titan Biotech, whose headquarters
overlook the supposedly peaceful town. In fact, he really doesn’t know that much about his friend, Johnny, either. And neither do we–at first.

The fun begins as Weasel wakes up in the battered K-car (K-car…I love it!) they had traveled in and begins to press Johnny for answers as to why his friend would drag him to Midwich, of all places. When Johnny reveals just a small sample of his super-human abilities, his friend is hooked, and so are we.

What follows is an exciting adventure that I would describe as X-men meets James Bond with just a touch, believe it or not, of To Kill a Mockingbird thrown in. Breeden skillfully weaves a story that, while leaving you breathless with ever-escalating action still takes the time to develop a rather large cast of characters–each one touched in some way by Titan’s invasive and deliciously morally-ambiguous meddling in their lives. As is real life, each character responds to their past and their circumstances in different ways, some choosing
the path of righteousness, while others opt for the more seductive path of power and promised riches. And some, like one of my favorite characters, Football Coach and more (No Spoilers!) Mike Trager, take a path that is decidedly more vague. They often skirt the line, as so many of us do, between what they know is right, and what they are obligated to do by duty, loyalty, or career. These characters press on, influenced by their past and driven by their present, ever evolving as truth is slowly revealed.

Of these evolving characters, none is more fascinating than the lead, John Lazarus himself. Dark, brooding, but with a high sense of loyalty and justice, Johnny’s journey is one of self-discovery. Breeden allows the revelations of Johnny’s past, and hopefully his coming to terms with them, to arrive at a similar pace to his discoveries of more and more of his preternatural abilities. What results is a reluctant, sometimes angry, but maturing hero that you simply have to cheer for.

It is these supernatural abilities, and their inclusion in a Faith-based Sci-Fi novel that create what I thought were some the more interesting theological questions in the book. Are super-human abilities, or the possibility of their existence, compatible with Biblical theology? If those abilities are boosted through human intervention, what is our response as people of God? Breeden does not shy away from these questions. Instead, he weaves both the questions and possible responses throughout the narrative as part of the story and the characters’ reactions, rather than hammering out obvious opinions through exposition.

Breeden also does not shy away from issues of race and prejudice in his book. Again, without heavy-handedness, he explores these issues through his characters. Johnny is a young, black man, adopted by white parents. He wonders if some of the hatred and opposition he has experienced is due to bigotry and ignorance, yet he never uses those questions as a crutch or a reason to shirk his responsibilities. Other characters must also come face to face with preconceived social notions and decide how they will respond. In fact, the entire question of the “indigos” (read the book…no spoilers.) is a parallel to so many issues and opinions we still must process in our world today.

On the subject of parallels. In my opinion, there is one, small item that could improve the story even more in future installments. Occasionally, one of the characters in Johnny Came Home would be compared to a fictional character in our actual universe, in order to illustrate a particular trait or a desire to emulate that character . While only happening a few times, I did find it a little jarring, taking me out of Breeden’s universe for a moment and back into our own. My point is this: the characters in Johnny Came Home are rich and diverse enough to stand on their own. They need no comparison!

Finally, I’d like to close this (long) review with my favorite part of the book. I am simply a sucker for a satisfying ending and tantalizing epilogue. I long for a “Life goes on,” feeling about the characters after I am done reading. I’m going to break my own rule from the previous paragraph. Think of “The Incredibles.” (Best. Pixar. EVER.) The story ends. The good guys win. But suddenly, the family┬áis about to fight The Underminer. You know that their adventures are going to continue. You don’t have to see it happen. You can leave them there, knowing that “Life goes on.” That being said, I loved the ending of this book! Seriously, I could hear the theme music playing in my head. It is a satisfying, complete story in itself that still leaves just enough unanswered questions, just enough teasers thrown in to leave me looking forward, with great anticipation, to the next installment, John Lazarus: Man from Midwich!”

Now what are you waiting for? Go buy Johnny Came Home today!

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“Tony Breeden has created an adventure that addresses many of the most important issues that face every generation. Johnny Came Home teaches lessons on responsibility, acceptance, exclusion, & loyalty from a Godly perspective. I highly recommend this book for adventure spirited people that want stories that have good nuggets of Biblical principles.!”

-“Buddy” (Amazon review – 5 stars)

“This was an awesome book with a mixture of action and personal relationships. It included sound biblical truths without being preachy. It definitely leaves you wanting a followup. The characters are well rounded and believable. Tony has a unique writing style that keeps you on the edge of your seat. I couldn’t put it down!”

-“Lady Ace” (Amazon review – 5 stars)

K G Powderly, Jr., author of The Windows of Heaven series, weighed in with five stars on Johnny Came Home’s first Amazon review. His review expounds on the mythological elements I crafted into the world of John Lazarus:

As a boy, I lived at the pharmacy comic book section, where The Avengers and X-Men captured my imagination, and made me want to be a mutant (I’m old enough to remember before Beast got blue, before Wolverine was even a thought). While I got over my mutant fixation, I still confess enjoying Marvel comics because their heroes have human problems compounded by their super-powers. Reading Tony Breeden’s Johnny Came Home made me feel nostalgic. It was refreshing to see Christian characters deal with super-powers that not only gave them “mad skills,” but complicated their lives.

Science fiction is an expression of today’s mythology, which may or may not have religions spun around it. To most people, myth is just a fanciful story that never really happened. But to the professional mythographer and historian, the technical definition of “myth” is “any story–whether from real history or made-up–that explains why things are as they are.”
As a student of myth with a Bible-centered worldview, who has written fiction dealing with the origins of ancient myth, I was delighted to find Johnny Came Home peppered with allusions to the central Greek flood myth characters. The “evil overlord” corporation, Titan (named for pre-deluge deities as the Greeks recalled them), is in the business of making a new kind of human–a “next step in human evolution” or, when viewed from a biblical worldview, a fanciful depiction of the restoration of human capabilities lost through the Genesis Fall and Deluge. Titan’s hidden agenda is dark and sinister, as monstrous as many of the Titans of Greek myth.

In Greek mythology, a titan named Epimetheus creates man of clay, while his brother Prometheus angers Zeus by giving man fire. To hinder the titan brothers, Zeus sends them a woman as a gift, Pandora (her name means, “all gifts”); with a box that she must never open. Curious, Pandora opens it anyway, and uncontrollable evils spring from it, unraveling creation. The box is shut, trapping “hope for the future” before it escapes, but not before evil gets so bad that Zeus wipes out the Titans and men with a deluge. Pandora’s daughter, Pyrrha, marries Deucalion, son of Prometheus. Zeus relents, and preserves the couple from his flood in a giant floating box, to repopulate the earth by them afterward. Zeus also overthrows his father, Chronos, with the other Titans, setting himself up as the new chief god, while imprisoning the Titans in Tartaros, beneath the lowest chamber of Hades.

Breeden alludes to this myth (and related Atlantean myths of Poseidon and Atlas) with genius in naming the players of his story; set in today’s world. What’s more, he views the myth and his own story through the lens of the Bible’s redemptive history, and its view of human life. Best of all, he does it in a fun and readable story that appeals to kids from 10 to 90. While Johnny Came Home has no flood, it deals with a form of chaos only opening “Pandora’s Box” can unleash.
John Lazarus returns to his hometown for mysterious reasons not even he understands. Three years ago, John’s father died in a house fire that John barely escaped. His father was Sherriff, a devout Christian, and an employee of Titan burdened with a terrible secret. The world thinks Johnny is dead…

I hope Tony Breeden hooks up with a graphic artist to make a graphic novelization of Johnny Came Home. But sparing that, I hope the [subtitle] “(A John Lazarus Adventure)” means a sequel is coming, or better yet, a series. Johnny Came Home is a delightful read with many plot twists and surprises. Breeden so brings it home!

Well, the subtitle does mean exactly that: two [and possibly even three!] John Lazarus Adventures are being written even now. As for a graphic novel… just wait and see.

In the meantime, buy Johnny Came Home at the DefGen.org eStore and begin the adventure!