by Rick Barry
PB, 320 pages
What do you get when you cross Captain America with alternate history and secret Nazi science? Rick Barry’s The Methuselah Project. This novel tells the intertwining stories of Captain Roger Greene, a U.S. airman shot down over Germany in 1943, and Katherine Mueller, a young freelance editor and recent inductee into a secret society known as The Heritage Organization. There’s just one catch—Roger was shot down more than half a century before Katherine was born.
Immediately after crashing, Roger is forced to become part of the Nazis’ top secret Methuselah Project. The results of the project’s experiments leave him with a superhuman lifespan and the ability to recuperate quickly from injury. But the project also leaves him confined to a cell and presumed dead by the outside world. What follows is a tale of resilience, strength, and faith in the face of overwhelming obstacles.
One thing that certainly cannot be said about Barry’s writing is that it is boring. He writes in a very personable tone with a meticulous eye for detail—often painstakingly recreating regional dialects, air force slang, or the technical details of fighter planes. His characters are consistent and likeable (if a bit archetypal), his dialogue is charming, and his pace is satisfyingly smooth. This style carries the book through drier spells in the overall plot fairly well.
Unfortunately, the bigger picture is where The Methuselah Project suffers. Barry’s story concepts are all very interesting and engaging. When pen hits paper, though, these grand ideas are often tied together by surprisingly mundane action. The scenarios Barry crafts are sometimes a bit forced and unbelievable, and the novel is hurt by the lack of any real threat through the first half of the book. Neither protagonist is confronted by any consistent, extraordinary threat during this part of the story. Their situations are certainly not comfortable, but neither are they life threatening. Even in the second half, the obstacles in their way often seem impersonal and disembodied. The result is a story with more setup than the payoff is worth.
The Methuselah Project is by no means a bad book, though. The reader need only expect its value to come more from its clever writing, humorous cultural nods, and likeable characters than from its plot and setting. The book will likely appeal to fans of World War II and alternate histories but may struggle to find broader appeal.
Throughout the book, Roger grows in his knowledge of God and becomes a consistent model of faith in the face of adversity. Religious subjects are not primary to the story, but are a recurring theme throughout.
This book has been reviewed by Josh Henreckson who is a professional writing major from Taylor University. He has been a lover of the written word from his earliest memories.