We know that the publishing of Mathenia's new book, Paradise Earth: Day Zero was announced here on JWN some weeks ago. We sincerely hope that many of you reading this post have read Part One of this three-part series already. We were so thoroughly engrossed when reading this book that we doubt if someone yelled "fire" it would have caused us to move from where we sat spell-bound while reading this fictional, but oh, so true, story.
Please don't come on this thread and scold us for using this discussion board to endorse a book. Of course, that's exactly what we're doing but this is the only way that we can think of to introduce you to an outstanding story that rang so true with us and should do so for most JWs and XJWs. (There's always those former JWs who are not interested in this type of story, but for those who love a good read about JWs, here's one for you.)
Anthony Mathenia has no idea that we started this thread. Please put your mind at ease as he didn't ask for an endorsement on this board or any other board. If Simon or any of the mods are dissatisfied by our using this board to push a book, please remove this thread.
If anybody desires to read Anthony's book and can't afford the small price asked, we believe that Anthony will make it possible for you to read it through other means. You can also PM us and we'll see what we can arrange. FYI, here's Anthony's website, www.anthonymathenia.com.
Barbara and Joe Anderson
We're not the only ones who liked PE: DZ, here's what others said about it on Amazon:
I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of Anthony Mathenia's new novel, Paradise Earth: Day Zero. The novel is a deconstruction of the Jehovah Witness faith, set at the onset of an apocalypse event. Day Zero is the first volume of a forthcoming trilogy. Although the disastrous events are global, the story is pleasantly small in scope. The Jehovah congregants hole up in the kingdom hall for shelter, lending to the evocative humanization of the group.
The catastrophe is viewed through the eyes of one central character. The man remains nameless throughout the story, but the narrative flows in such a way that backstory reveals itself as the event progresses. Wielded correctly, this form of exposition can work brilliantly, and Anthony pulls it off without missing a beat.
Even more fascinating than the blizzard fireballs of doom raining down from the heavens is the progression of the character's rationalization of humanity's impending destruction. The continual onslaught of horror and death take a toll, leading the character from blind faith to a horrified skepticism. We're able to see through the man's recollection that these events are not the first time his faith has forced him to credit the divine for an unimaginable atrocity. The man's memory reveals just how dangerous an imagined `pious duty' can be for human beings.
As an ex-evangelical I know all too well of the sensationalized pseudo-theology of doomsday and Armageddon. I remember fondly asking a pastor, "how the hell anyone could believe such bollocks?" To which he replied, "youth is a dangerous time in any life. Often times our brains are filled with lies, and most people are afraid to empty their heads when they get older."
Many faiths throughout the world have their own prophesied version of the end of all things. As an ex-Jehovah's witness, Anthony's firsthand experience of the faith lends itself well to the difficult task of conveying sympathetic characters in what would otherwise seem inhumane, barbaric, and irrational to an outsider. However monstrous, the central group's lack of compassion for the dead and dying is understandable, albeit disheartening. Anthony uses his insider knowledge to craft an interesting array of characters within the sheltered group.
The hierarchy and patriarchy of the religion is evidenced as the church elders bully the congregants into submission. The congregation is in constant fear of being cast out and shunned by the church elders. And the reader is forced to watch in disgust as their submission leads to horror and death. The commentary on fear mongering and hierarchy is unraveled via story craft, and it also struck me with its parallels to evangelicalism. The story rolls out a sympathetic treatise on the Jehovah Witness faith, but I would venture to say that it could just as easily apply to the majority of systematic faith groups. My study of religious anthropology has shown me that at the heart of even the smallest faith groups is a system of hierarchy and in most cases, patriarchy.
Furthermore, via story craft, Mathenia manages to brilliantly comment on the vice of blind obedience and unquestioning faith. Mathenia observes: the problem with expectations is that in the end we don't always get what we hope for. Mathenia says that we may anticipate the effect of a dream realized, but we don't know that our expectations of a dream realized will mirror reality.
One might expect the group of congregants to be overly pious, and they are to an extent, but what struck me is how similar they are in nature to the nonreligious. They're selfish, violent, and greedy. They share all the traits that make human beings what we are, and they may have given it a name, (sin), and they may fancy themselves set apart, but their humanity resides within them. These traits: lust, greed, envy, and anger are often the source of great evil, but they also lend themselves to empathy and compassion. They are the source of our humanity, and to try and rid the world of them is folly. The problem with perfection is that it's unknowable, and yet, it's all around us.
Day Zero is an incredible start to the Paradise Earth trilogy. Mathenia has crafted a cautionary tale, but more than that he has crafted a human journey from indoctrination and fear - to freedom and compassion. He's a gem of a writer and I highly recommend purchasing this novel.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful 5.0 out of 5 stars Paradise earth, January 1, 2013 By Jackie - See all my reviews Amazon Verified Purchase (What's this?) This review is from: Paradise Earth: Day Zero (Paperback) I read Paradise earth in one afternoon and have reread it again. There was so very much I could identify in the things you wrote. Only a person who has been a Witness can really know about such things. When is the second book coming out, I am so excited. My heart went out the df'd brother, he wasn;t even treated as a human who also had needs. Rachel's funeral was like my mother's funeral. They spoke a little about her and then went on to preach a sermon. I am still enjoying "happiness", don't ever stop writing. People have no idea what goes on with Jehovah's Witnesses, their story has to be told. Thank you Anthony.
4.0 out of 5 stars armageddon, January 15, 2013 By Breezie - See all my reviews This review is from: Paradise Earth: Day Zero (Kindle Edition) Anyone waiting for Armageddon will relate. You will identify with the caracters in this book. Look forward reading book two.
5.0 out of 5 stars The logical end., January 13, 2013 By LeAnn - See all my reviews This review is from: Paradise Earth: Day Zero (Kindle Edition) Anthony Mathenia's Paradise Earth takes the message Jehovah's Wittnesses preach at your door of armaggedon and a paradise earth and brings you down a path leading to it's logical end. The characters realisticly protray members of the religion and how they would react too finally facing their long aticipated end of the world. The book weaves in issues facing practically every congregation of Jehovah's Wittnesses in a way that even a person unfamilar with the inner workings of the religion will be facinated. For those who are or have been members, Mathenia's ability to grab a group of people and make you feel like you have known them all your life, will have you recalling details of your own experience as a witness, long past the time it took you to read his novel.
5.0 out of 5 stars Enraptured Doom, January 12, 2013 By James Wymore - See all my reviews This review is from: Paradise Earth: Day Zero (Kindle Edition) What will people do when pushed beyond their limits? Anthony Mathenia's apocalyptical book delves into the dark actions of the truly desperate. Featuring a distraught Jehovah's Witness experiencing the pivotal event predicted by their religion, Day Zero stares into the shadows cast by imperfect humans blocking the light of perfection.
Powerful and moving, we experience the emotions of one man as he watches a group of believers cross from the world as we know it into the promised Paradise Earth. Although it is the first of a trilogy, this volume delivers a powerful ending. Not a fan of cliff-hangers, I appreciated the climax. Not only does it take the character to the next level, but it left me in haunted contemplation. The language is masterful and artistic. The scenes are compelling, and hold the reader enraptured. This reading experience easily stands up to any great book.
See a longer review at [...]
4.0 out of 5 stars Come for the apocalypse, stay for a moving story!, January 7, 2013 By Jared Hamline (O'fallon, MO) - See all my reviews Amazon Verified Purchase (What's this?) This review is from: Paradise Earth: Day Zero (Paperback) One of my favorite cautionary tales I read sometime back was Sinclair's "The Jungle".It didn't have the effect the author was aiming for. Sinclair wanted to show what industrial life and living conditions were doing to the poor and immigrants, but wound up sparking the fire that forged the creation of the FDA. Upton even said, "I aimed at the public's heart, and by accident I hit it in the stomach."
But, I don't believe that is the case with Anthony Mathenia's "Paradise Earth". It is very apparent that the book is very much about the apocalypse, but I wasn't counting on was how very human and un-Hollywood-Disaster-Film it was. The main character, though flawed and cowardly at times, is one you can sympathize with. By the end of th book, you are left with some questions, but that's what a good author does with a series. He keeps you wanting more and I do. Bring on "PE:D2"!
5.0 out of 5 stars Accessible, disturbing and provovative, January 5, 2013 By Thea Gregory - See all my reviews This review is from: Paradise Earth: Day Zero (Kindle Edition) End-of-the-world scenarios are a dime-a-dozen. From your everyday zombie apocalypse to a giant meteor smashing the Earth, it's all been done. But, what if an event that is suspiciously like the Jehovah's Witnesses' prophesies came to pass? Smart, believable, and certainly blasphemous to our door-to-door friends, Mathenia's Paradise Earth hits hard and hits home. I read it in four hours, without putting it down.
The first chapter won me over. Its darkness and utter despair pulled me in--the imagery and emotion of it was like a punch to the gut. I needed to know what happened. After that, I was held captive by the storytelling. The narrative follows an unnamed brother throughout the early stages of the apocalypse. The dissection of his faith and the loosening boundaries in his mind between past and present are fascinating. Much of the character's back story is explained via flashback, which makes it seem as though two stories are being woven together.
In the end, all he has left is his naked faith.
As far as religious-themed books go, this one is presented in a way that both the religious and non-religious can take enjoyment in. Perhaps not for the same reasons, but I can see it as being interesting to either perspective. It's not preachy and does not seek to give the heavy-handed treatment to the reader. You're left to draw your own conclusions, much like the main character has to. I greatly enjoyed the Zombie Bible for similar reasons, so if you're familiar with Litore's work then you'll have an understanding of the treatment faith has.
I was given a copy for purposes of posting an honest review.
5.0 out of 5 stars For Destruction Ice Is Also Great, January 4, 2013 By T. Brasel "Bibliophile" (Southern Illinois) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME) This review is from: Paradise Earth: Day Zero (Paperback) I read Anthony Mathenia's novel, "Paradise Earth: Day Zero," in one sitting, finding it to be one of those books that clings and lingers with the reader. It is a harrowing, all-too human story: we follow an unnamed narrator as he attempts to follow the many seemingly contradictory tenets of his religion, the "True Religion," and finds himself living through a horrifying apocalypse.
What is interesting to me, as someone who has no connection to the Jehovah's Witnesses, is how universal this story is. Another reviewer has stated that unless you have been a witness, you won't fully understand the novel, and I can respect that. However, you don't have to have been raised in that religion to recognize the hypocrisy and judgment that the narrator experiences (and occasionally doles out). Mathenia has created characters in "Paradise Earth" who are recognizable in any walk of life.
Despite the horrors depicted in the book (and there are many), this is ultimately a story about redemption. In addition to the aforementioned human flaws, we also witness the genuine love that the narrator has for his brothers and sisters in the congregation. The narrator comes to recognize the different atrocities humans commit against one another, and bumps up against the questions: If he survives and makes it to Jehovah's Paradise Earth, will he be worthy? And will Paradise be worth all the pain? Mathenia has pulled off a trick here in crafting a dark story with such an uplifting message. Readers will find themselves haunted by the story, as I have.
Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I've tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.
- Robert Frost