When I first ran across Daniel Thompson’s book, The Great Apocalypse my first thought was that it seemed along the lines of Dan Brown. I love mystery thrillers and I especially love books that encourage you to think. If you love Dan Brown, I know you will love this book too!
“The first book of the Sparlock Trilogy is an intriguing exploration of our history and myths, our shared dreams and nightmares. It examines the hidden meaning behind the stories we tell our children and the lies we sometimes tell ourselves.”
Thompson’s background is intriguing and a great story behind the writing of this complex and thrilling novel! I was honored to be able to chat with him and learn more about the man and his novel.
Melanie Rockett: You describe your first book, The Great Apocalypse, as a philosophical thriller. What is it about this novel that makes it a philosophical thriller?
Daniel Thompson: There is plenty of conflict in the story, but not a lot of physical action. Primarily, the battles involve ideas. The protagonist finds it necessary to reexamine many of his most basic assumptions, and there are several world-shaking events that challenge orthodox beliefs.
The novel also examines the importance of stories in both modern and ancient times. Storytelling is an act of creation. In many ways, stories influence how we construct our world views. Sometimes, however, the scaffolding of our perceptions can become unstable and come crashing down upon us.
Melanie Rockett: I see from your author bio that you were raised as a Jehovah’s Witness but have since left the faith. Could you tell us a bit about that background and how that might have influenced your book?
Daniel Thompson: That background is an important part of the “story behind the story.” This novel is partly a satire of real events involving Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some of the themes would be familiar to those who have experienced the shunning and alienation that come from leaving Jehovah’s Witnesses or other strict religions.
However, I tried to write a book that has a wider appeal and doesn’t assume any pre-existing knowledge of Jehovah’s Witnesses. The modern religion of Jehovah’s Witnesses isn’t even specifically mentioned in the first novel. The series begins in an alternate world that shares a common history with our own. This format allowed me to present a fictional narrative that runs parallel to real events that took place during 2012 involving Jehovah’s Witnesses and a little warrior wizard named Sparlock.
Melanie Rockett: As a child I spent my summers and good chunks of the winter on my grandparent’s farm. It can be a lonely life, so my Grandmother was quick to welcome any visitors …. even Jehovah’s Witnesses. She’d always have a bowl of soup and tea to offer and during the winter, was willing to engage in conversation.
So I was fascinated to learn about your background, because I suspect you had to grow a very thick skin.
Daniel Thompson: I appreciate the way your grandmother showed hospitality to Jehovah’s Witnesses. I recall many cold winter days pounding on doors without the benefit of any hot tea or soup.
Jehovah’s Witnesses are usually nice people. My dispute is with the leaders rather than with the rank and file members. The leaders are often willing to sacrifice the well-being of their flock for the sake of the organization, or “Mother” as it is sometimes called. Since the leaders are believed to be God’s channel of communication on earth, there is very little accountability for their actions.
This attitude is especially apparent in how they treat children. Young ones are expected to spend countless hours proselytizing and performing other work without compensation. The meetings and publications keep them in fear of the outside world and they are threatened with the prospect of eternal destruction if they aren’t obedient. Of even greater concern is the religion’s track record in handling and mishandling cases of child abuse. As recent high-profile investigations and court cases have shown, victims have often been silenced to protect the reputation of the organization.
Jehovah’s Witnesses deserve better than that. I consider myself to be one of their advocates.
And you’re right about how that kind of background can help you to grow a thick skin. In my case, I think their training program worked against them. I had become so used to defending the faith to school mates, teachers, employers, and strangers at the door that I didn’t find it too difficult to stand up to the church leaders when the time came to leave.
Melanie Rockett: Your book challenges many dogmatic beliefs in a way that encourages your readers to actually think about outside possibilities. I suspect that you wrestled with many of these issues when deciding to leave the confines of the religion you grew up in. Can you give us a thumbnail sketch about what Book 1: The Great Apocalypse is about?
Daniel Thompson: The novel discusses those who calculate dates for the end of the world and considers some of the root causes of that obsession. It examines how philosophical ideas related to the quest for perfection and order are also manifested in other fields including art, music, literature, economics, mathematics, and science.
This is a difficult subject. I run the risk of offending both religious and nonreligious people. In addition to challenging superstitions, I suggest that it is worth reexamining some our most honored intellectual traditions.
A complicating factor is that these ideas have contributed to some of our greatest accomplishments. They are embraced by many of the world’s finest thinkers. Nevertheless, there are situations in which this type of thinking can lead us astray.
One example is the use of economic models to analyze market behavior. The elegant power of mathematics can be both illuminating and misleading. All too often, intelligent people confuse a model of reality with reality itself. This has not only led to underestimating risk, it has actually contributed to the wild market fluctuations that they seek to avoid.
The novel begins with a devastating stock market crash. The world learns that a man named Koen Ramsey made billions from shorting the markets. Some think that he might have actually caused the crash.
Koen Ramsey is arrogant and acts to further aggravate the situation. Eventually, he is taken into custody and brought to a psychiatric hospital for evaluation.
Tensions escalate when Koen Ramsey begins writing coded messages and drawing apocalyptic pictures on the walls of the hospital. He makes cryptic references to a purple-clad rebel from Jewish legend, a character who also appears in the Old Testament and other holy writings.
Meanwhile, an editor named Thomas Adams is researching the market crash as part of a book project. He stumbles upon a dangerous secret and learns that the forensic psychologist assigned to Ramsey’s case is also aware of that information. When she disappears under mysterious circumstances, Thomas is called in to help find her.
As he studies the clues left in the psychiatric hospital, he becomes convinced that Koen Ramsey has set something in motion that could be far more devastating than anything that has happened so far.
Thomas’ investigation leads him to the dreams and visions of the books of Daniel and Revelation and the end time predictions of nineteenth century apocalyptic sects. In particular, Ramsey’s plans seem to be connected to the prophetic calculations of Charles Taze Russell, the founder of the Bible Student Movement that would later give birth to Jehovah’s Witnesses and other groups.
The apocalyptic fervor of the nineteenth century resulted in several new American religions and forever changed the cultural landscape. Yet, most people aren’t aware of those events. That includes many members of the religions that arose during that time period.
Although there are several good nonfiction books on the subject, my goal was to present this topic in the context of thriller-type mystery that would be more accessible to the general public.
Melanie Rockett: After you left the Jehovah’s Witnesses, you also left behind family and friends because they were not allowed to talk to you. What are you in your “new” life?
Daniel Thompson: I am grateful. I appreciate having the freedom that was denied me in my youth. That far outweighs what I have left behind.
That experience has motivated me to make new friends and find new ways of dealing with life’s big questions. I don’t have many answers, but I’ve gotten much better at asking questions and looking at issues from multiple viewpoints.
I now have the freedom to think my own thoughts and express them as I see fit. With the help of the Internet, I’m able to challenge the assertions of an immense publishing empire. Many have accused Jehovah’s Witnesses of being a publishing company masquerading as a religion. They have millions of unpaid volunteers who distribute billions of pieces of literature from door to door. The Watchtower, their primary magazine, is the most widely distributed magazine in the world, and they have used its pages to label those of us who have left the faith as “mentally diseased” and unworthy of fellowship.
I’m no longer overly bothered by such talk. I understand that it is a desperate attempt to quell the rising number of defections within their ranks. Nevertheless, I’m happy to use my freedom to express my thoughts on the matter. If my work helps others to broaden their horizons or overthrow oppression in their own lives, then I will consider my efforts to be richly rewarded.
Melanie Rockett: I know from reader reactions that you will be growing a nice fan base. Are you currently working on Book 2 or do you have other projects on the front burner? When can we expect to see Book 2?
Daniel Thompson: Yes. I’m currently working on book 2. The first book took nearly three years to finish. I expect that the second book will take a similar amount of time. It is somewhat more ambitious than the first book and will require extensive research.
In the meantime, I plan on publishing a few short stories that are based on philosophical thought experiments. I hope that will prevent my readers from completely forgetting about me while I immerse myself again in the Sparlock multiverse.
Be sure to watch the book trailer and get The Great Apocalypse, I know you will enjoy it and then anxiously wait for Book 2!
Here is a great introduction to the story.
Keep in touch with Daniel Thompson on his website Sparlock Of The Multiverse