From LifeDate, Quarterly Journal:
The Seventh Word was written by Scott Smith or S.L. Smith as his name appears on the front of the novel. Smith is an author, attorney, and (Roman Catholic) theologian from Louisiana. He also has a blog www.thescottsmithblog.com.
His book is set in a small Louisiana town and tells the story of a quiet community that has an abortion clinic open up in it midst. Prior to opening its doors two strange visitors begin to pop up and have frightening and disturbing encounters with the unsuspecting locals.
Smith's book was definitely inspired by the works of Stephen King and Bram Stoker. The famous novel Dracula was told through multiple character perspectives as is The Seventh Word. Many of King's novels such as It or Salem's Lot take place in small town America and feature a supernatural evil that preys upon the inhabitants and must be defeated. This small town USA setting and a supernatural battle that unfolds there is also present in the book.
The central characters in the book are Jim David, a young lawyer, Monsignor a priest who suspects something wicked has come to town, and Edward Teach who speaks on behalf of his business partner Mr. LaColt who set up the abortion clinic in this tiny Louisiana town. Throughout the book Smith enjoys rotating the perspective from Jim to Monsignor or some lesser known characters in the book. This allows the reader to experience the events that are unfolding from multiple perspectives. One of the most intriguing smaller characters is a nurse named Jana who takes a job at the new abortion clinic due to her gradual discovery of something spiritual that is unfolding at the clinic.
Not only does Smith draw upon the work of King and Stoker the reader will also find scenes depicted in the book that bring to mind the apocalyptic scenes of Revelation. For instance readers will find depictions reminiscent of what John saw regarding the trumpets of judgment from chapter 8, or the woman and the dragon from chapter 12 of Revelation. Just as John sought to give us a picture of the spiritual side of life here in this world, so Smith also seeks to use the horror genre to show the spiritual reality of abortion.
The narrative flow Smith uses for The Seventh Word is both literary and suspenseful in keeping the reader guessing until the end. Smith also seeks to show how the taking of the life of an unborn child is a deeply spiritual matter. These elements of writing and reflection provide a lot for the reader to ponder. Anyone who is thinking about reading Smith's book does need to be forewarned about what they will be reading.
This is a horror novel and there are some frightening scenes in this book that are also quite graphic as well. However, it was refreshing to read a book where Christianity (from a Roman Catholic position) was depicted in a positive, useful, and ultimately victorious way.
I greatly appreciated Smith tackling the subject of abortion using the medium of story and in particular the horror genre. Abortion is a horrific matter that needs the voice of Christ's people who are called to be salt and light in the midst of dark times.
This Present Darkness is among the classic novels of the Christian horror genre. It also serves as strong commentary against the hidden dangers of New Age-ism, which is as important now as it was in the 1980s, when the book was first published. Set in the deceptively peaceful small town of Ashton, the book's ingredients are solid: an intrepid Christian pastor, Hank Busche; the dogged editor of The Clarion, Marshall Hogan; and sinister figures slowly manipulating a town toward their own dark purposes.
This Present Darkness is the first book of a two-part series, including Piercing the Darkness.
First published in 1986, Peretti's book set the standard for suspense for spiritual warfare story-telling. Nearly every page of the book describes sulfur-belching, ash-choking demons battling fierce angelic warriors. All of this occurs on a level of reality that is just beyond the senses. It is a helpful spiritual practice for Christians to read books such as these. They help us tinge our reality with the supernatural, even as the rest of the world focuses on the purely material.
This book also teaches us about the power of prayer in our own unseen spiritual battles. Christian believers and New Age demon-worshippers influence the unseen clashes between the angels and demons through prayer. This book is not for the faint of heart. The descriptions of exorcisms are especially vivid: "There were fifteen [demons], packed into Carmen's body like crawling, superimposed maggots, boiling, writhing, a tangle of hideous arms, legs, talons, and heads."
This Present Darkness should be on every Christian Horror reader's summer reading list.