Something darts past the line of vision with such speed you can’t be sure you ever saw it. What sounds like a whisper is just the faint rustling of curtains swaying in the breeze. A sudden change in emotion is natural fatigue…or is it?
In Frank Peretti’s This Present Darkness, nothing is as it seems in the small town of Ashton. Demons have descended on the town in record numbers, harassing its residents and executing a grand plot to take it over. Named for the sin they evoke in or inflict on their victims, Complacency, Lust, Jealousy, Murder, and a host of other evil minions carry out orders to subdue whichever residents they can, and get rid of the ones they cannot.
But they are not unchallenged. Resistance is found in the new young pastor, Hank Busche, whose heart is burdened for the troubled town, and in Marshall Hogan, the gruff reporter whose intuitive nature alerts him that something is not quite right.
Angels are also at the ready. They guard their charges and increase in strength and number as more people are won to the faith and begin praying for Ashton. The town soon becomes the venue for an epic battle between good and evil–both on human grounds and in the heavenly realm.
Peretti’s fictional account of the real topic of spiritual warfare is all at once creative, bold, and thought-provoking. Angels and demons, who are mentioned in Scripture as being very active in the affairs of men, suddenly come to life with individual personalities, histories, and goals. The human condition and the nature of suffering is given a different perspective in light of the unseen forces at work, and the power of prayer is exposed for the grand weapon that it is.
Initially published in 1986, This Present Darkness is a wonderful story, but the writing style suffers from the many flaws allowed during that time period. Point of view is all over the place–switching from character to character on a dime–and gets very distracting and confusing in places.
Also, the book is often setting and character heavy. Though I like detail, many times I’d already conjured up the scene based on the type of place, yet the paragraphs went on to explain chairs and paintings and shrubs. As for characters, between the demons, the angels, the good humans, the bad humans, the new converts, the ousted residents, the old subjects of old cases…it all got very busy at times.
Finally, angels were portrayed as human-like. They were of diverse ethnic backgrounds depending on the region they hailed from, and they were tall, powerful, attractive beings. Demons, however, were taloned and monstrous with stinky breath and yellow eyes. Since demons are fallen angels I would expect them to look the same as their adversaries, so Peretti’s distinction didn’t translate well for me. I also think it would’ve been more powerful for the demons to have attractive features, since the popular association between good and good-looking is incorrect.
All in all, however, Peretti did a great job of using fiction to make the reader reconsider everyday occurrences normally taken for granted. His work inspires one to live with an eternal perspective, and to be alert to schemes of the enemy. More than that, the need for prayer–as well as the sheer work of it–is given its proper platform as the ultimate strength of every believer. So by writing This Present Darkness, Peretti (no doubt intentionally) reminds the saints how they are to fight it.
That in itself makes it worth the read. I gave it three out of five stars.
Click here for the list of the remaining books: Seven Books in Seven Weeks: The List .