“Come on,” he told himself out loud, “let’s get this done…” He tried to raise the shotgun again. His hands shook, the barrel wiggled crazily, and he lowered the gun. He couldn’t kill this thing. Against all logic, all common sense, he couldn’t kill it. He couldn’t kill it because this thing was – this thing was – He couldn’t explain it, and he couldn’t shake it, but as he looked at that long, serpentine body spread out before him, he felt he was looking at a part of his own body, no different from his arm, his leg, his hand. Yes. That was it. As strange as it seemed, he felt like he’d be killing himself. I can’t kill it. It’s mine. It’s me.”
The Oath is Peretti’s most heavy-handed book that I have reviewed so far. The plot can be summed up straightforwardly; there is something eating people who do bad things, and it turns out to be a dragon that represents sin. That is that. Part of Peretti’s talent is ensuring that the execution of this does not feel as hard to take seriously as it really ought to be. It is a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Although there is never any serious doubt in the reader’s mind where the genre-defying book (is it Christian-horror? Supernatural-thriller? Both?) will end up and what it is trying to do, some of The Oath is actually done very well. It is wonderful at expressing the objectively repulsive but intoxicating “freedom” of sin, and the foolish attraction of pushing its urgency to the back of our minds. There are some seriously shocking and brave story-telling features; black is black and white is white, and Peretti is happy to let this trump unimaginative tropes. Although the book is profoundly blatant, some of the points and situational details might not be. It stops just short of being worth re-reading.
Having said this, there is lots to be critical of. All non-Christian characters are straw-men with laughably artificial thought-patterns. The Oath seems to propose that some sins are worthy of death, and some not. Of course, we cannot push the analogy too far, but does that make it entirely excusable? Some of the more interesting and subtle themes, like inherited familial sin, could have been made much more of, and I remain amused that Christians are quite happy with bloody violence in their books and films. The Oath is a great story and I happily recommend it, but it is not going to change your life.