This past month I read the book, Nevada, by Joshua S. Porter. Porter doubles as both an author and the lead singer of the band Showbread. I first bought Nevada along with another one of Porter’s books, The Joke That We Play On The World, which is a biography about Showbread. I read the biography first, and I was impressed with Porter’s writing skills. I laughed along with the funny stories and shook my head at the weird ones and when I was done, I picked up Nevada.
In all honesty, I was expecting Nevada to be much like The Joke That We Play On The World, only in the fictional world of giant lizards via the cover of the book. I didn’t have much prior knowledge of the plot of Nevada when I started it, but that didn’t stop me. I enjoyed Porter’s writing style so much that I figured I couldn’t go wrong.
The book opens with a journal entry, and I quickly discovered that the entire book was built upon that structure. There are no chapters, just journal entries and other transcriptions of similar nature by a handful of people. At first I was at a loss at how all these people were going to be connected to create a plot. The opening entry was dramatic, and the lizards from the front cover made their appearance right away, which I was very pleased about. It wasn’t until I had gotten through a dozen or so entries before the story started to come together and the lives of all these, seemingly unrelated, people started to mesh together.
What was unfolding in front of me was a rather epic, yet weird, journey into the rise of the Anti-Christ. In the form of a giant talking lizard. Or dinosaur. Or a mix of both. Either way, the 8ft tall talking lizard-ish creature, Belial, would soon prove to be a nightmare from the Biblical book of Revelation. Revelation talks about the Beast from Sea, the Beast from the Earth (also known as the False Prophet) and the Dragon. At first I was sure that Belial was the Beast from Earth, since he did in fact come from an endless crater out in the Nevada desert, but as the story went along, I started to think that maybe he was all three. At one point he is even referenced as being a dragon.
The long and the short of Nevada goes like this:
After a lot of drama, a few deaths, a missing kid, and media circling like vultures, a giant talking lizard named Belial comes out of the earth. He stands up in front of the American public and announces, in short, that there is no God, and that we, individually, are God. Therefore we should be looking out for ourselves and ourselves only. Screw everyone else, what we want is more important. Not surprisingly, the public buys it and Belial is quickly ushered into a position of power. The government, as well as the public at large, stand mesmerized by every word he says and every idea he has and pretty soon he has his own government supported facility where he’s reteaching anyone who will come to him about how to satisfy self and to forget about the needs of others. He is assisted by his minions of talking, lizard-like creatures known as the Ziz and a handful of human associates.
Among the people who show up to be converted by Belial’s theology are many of the journal entry writers. Through their entries the story is told of how Belial is quickly taking over the American public’s mind and simultaneously destroying all belief in God, the Bible, and decency. There’s a glimmer of hope here and there of someone who doesn’t believe what the giant lizard is saying, but for the most part the cast of characters who are writing the novel with their journal entries are all believers. Belial preys on the hurt, the mentally challenged, and those who already hate the world.
As Belial’s reign becomes stronger, things go from bad to worse. Little by little people start giving into ideas that are steadily growing in heinousness. As the story progresses, the graphic nature of the writing increases right along with the chain of events. Each dark incident is accompanied by Porter’s skill at giving just the right amount of detail to make you shudder.
As I got closer and closer to the end of the book, I wasn’t sure how it would play out. I was hoping for a hero to show up. I wanted someone or something to put Belial in his place and turn everything around, but as I closed in on the last three chapters or so, I realized that wasn’t going to happen. What did happen, however, is that I, as the reader, was left with hope. Out of the mess that had been created with all the death, sorrow, and torture, a pebble of hope had been thrown in, and somehow that was enough. I closed the book being satisfied.
My only hesitation over recommending this book is that there is quite a bit of Biblical references in it. Sure, you can read it without having any Biblical knowledge and you’d probably still enjoy it, but if you do happen to know your Bible, a whole new realm of layers is opened in Nevada and it’s these layers, I think, that really made this book shine. I didn’t read this in front of a mirror, but I’m pretty sure my face lit up every time I made the connection between a line, a phrase, or theological idea that I recognized from the Bible. I found myself talking to myself throughout the entire novel, trying to piece together who Belial was and which event would come next and trying to guess what prophetic thing was just around the corner. It was exciting in that way, a real rush of theological orchestry, and I think that if those moments -those connections- weren’t there, then Nevada would have lost some of its brilliance.
All in all, though, it was a thrill to read and I did so rather quickly. The journal entries are short -usually being two to three pages a piece, and I found myself saying, “One more, I’ll read one more then I’ll put it down.” This, of course, led to me getting through the entirety of the book in just a few days. I’m pretty sure that’s the sign of a well-written novel. When you can’t put it down, the author has done something right. Even if the bad guy is an 8ft tall talking lizard-ish dinosaur-thing who by the end of the book was wearing a hat that resembled Napoleon’s.
Porter is currently working on a sequel to Nevada, and I am patiently waiting for it to come out.