Stant Litore’s No Lasting Burial is an amazing book on many levels. I admit I approached it with trepidation solely based upon its premise. The story expands upon the rather brief description in the New Testament of Christ’s invitation to the disciples to join in his ministry.
Shimon and Koach bar Yonah are the primary protagonists. They live in the shattered remains of Kfar Nahum, fighting for survival in a world in fear of both the Romans and the hungry dead. The community has been decimated and tremendously scarred by both. Litore masterfully weaves this history into the Biblical tale, breathing life into characters we all know, perhaps too well. His choice of use of the Hebrew names function in the same way. In each case, this provides the necessary distance to view the characters anew.
The book reads like a run-away express train. It is a tremendously gripping tale, perfect for setting your teeth on edge and reading with manic energy far into the night. This quality makes for an excellent thriller of a book, but that is not what No Lasting Burial is. It reminds me of the quality Tolkien ascribed to Norse myth: its inherent ability to ensnare and enthrall the reader upon first exposure, yet be capable of sustaining profound study. It is not the action I remember, so much as the calm (though often dark and brooding) which both precedes and follows. There is a lot of philosophical, historical and spiritual meat to be devoured, which though not always in tune with my own thought, invites profound contemplation.
It takes tremendous courage to write a book of speculative fiction centering on Jesus Christ. Though I was troubled by some of Litore’s portrayal, I greatly admire him for the effort and the intelligence shown in his choice to not place Yeshua center-stage. We all are familiar with who Yeshua is, or think he is; by making the tale center on Shimon, primarily, and the town, secondly, the reader is confronted by the same shocking strangeness which must have struck those first witnesses of His ministry. We are placed in the same mindset, slowly shown (or led through) the journey from incredulity to belief.
I did not agree with all of Litore’s choices, but they challenge us to reevaluate our own belief. In the secondary world of his first century Kfar Nahum, however, the development of Yeshua’s ministry flows logically and seamlessly to its conclusion, with many powerful applications to be found in its implications. Events, teachings and sayings from the Bible are recast as they would reflect upon the world of the hungry dead. They are made new.
This book is a tremendous vehicle for recovery, espousing Tolkien’s own theories of eucatastrophe and evangelium. There is great enjoyment to be found in it, but there is also the clarion call of challenge in it. No Lasting Burial invites us to enter more deeply into the Gospel story, to see the Truth in it, to see the humanity, and especially to rediscover the wonder and strangeness of the God made flesh. Even in those scandalous moments of disagreement, the mind is set aflame with our own beliefs and the hunger for knowledge stirred. This is the mark of not some simple thriller to be enjoyed and set aside, but a potentially life-changing novel capable of reinvigorating faith and wonder.
This is why I found No Lasting Burial both intensely troubling and sharply beautiful. I highly anticipate the opportunity to reread it to better absorb and consider without the mindless, moaning craving for resolution. I cannot say if it will stand the test of time and the vagaries of study, but it certainly will have a lasting effect on my thought and for that Stant Litore deserves congratulations.