58 of 58 people found the following review helpful
First, if you're going to read O'Brien, I recommend reading his novels in this order. 1. Father Elijah, 2. Strangers and Sojourners, 3. Plague Journal, 4. Eclipse of the Sun. Although they were not published in this order it will make the most sense from a chronological standpoint. Certain characters resurface.
The Plague Journal is the journal of conservative newspaper editor Nathaniel Delaney, his friendship with a local doctor, and his attempts to escape, with his children, from a totalitarian Canadian government that seeks to silence him.
As usual, O'Brien interjects just enough action to keep you reading, and just enough spirituality and theology to get you thinking. O'Brien is one of the finest Catholic journalists of the 20th century.
29 of 29 people found the following review helpful
on March 18, 1999
Artist and author Michael O'Brien has again proved himself to be a master of the writing craft, and one of the most original and creative writers of the late 20th century. Plague Journal, the second of his Children of the Last Days trilogy, continues the story of the Delaney family in Rocky Mountain British Columbia, from the persona and perspective of Nathaniel, now a middle-aged father and editor of a "conservative" newspaper. As the hidden totalitarian government cracks down on him for "hate-crimes", setting him up to be a child abuser and even murderer, he attempts to escape the madness by fleeing into the Canadian wilderness with his two children. The story, albeit filled with many flashbacks and the thoughts and ideas of the protagonist (actually the author's, thinkly disguised), takes place over only five days, as opposed to the 50+ years of its predeccessor, Strangers and Sojournours. The book maintains a pleasurable balance between fast-paced action and O'Brien's trademark gift of spiritual and philosophical insight and commentary. Plague Journal easily stands as the author's most explicit warning against modernism gone haywire: social engineering, abortion, technology-worship, television addication, the numbing of the imagination and intellect, and the possibility that these conditions may make us vulnerable to the arising of a thinly-disguised, "benign" totalitarianism, which, O'Brien conjectures, would operate under a facade of democracy, but in reality, force its will and world-view upon the people. This story includes all the necessary ingredients of a great tale: action, wit, unforgettable characters, pathos and even tragedy, but it is filled (especially towards the end), with a sense of hope, and the ultimate victory of light. The saga, of course, continues on into Eclipse of the Sun, but this shorter novel (only 269 pages) can be read on its own. Heartily recommended to all who are concerned over the present or future state of society, or simply enjoy great literature.
33 of 34 people found the following review helpful
on October 10, 2001
I found it impossible to set Plague Journal down once I began reading it. The unease that I have felt for so many years began to take on a face as I followed this wonderfull story. I began to diagnose the illness that has plagued me, the discomfort that politically correct fascisim has thrust upon me. We in the west have been increasingly held hostage to the unreal and driven into a madness that numbs our souls. Obrien's story shows us the source of that madness and points to the antidote with a faith that shines bright in the face of the bureaucratic mundanity of evil.
I am a pretty rough guy. I have been to war and learned that you do not cry if you wish to survive. Reading this book caused me to weep once more, not for the sadness but for the message of joy, forgivness and the inevitable triumph of the light that sings through its pages
21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
on December 18, 2003
Michael O'Brien has a tendency to overwrite his books (one of his very few flaws as a writer). But in Plague Journal, he reined himself in (or finally got an editor who did) and the result is a book that is no less packed with plot tension, cultural criticism, and character development than his other tomes.
The middle book of a trilogy of books about the Delaney family (starting with Strangers and Sojourners and ending with Eclipse of the Sun), Plague Journal also fits within O'Brien's larger series, which he calls Children of the Last Days. The first of those is the explosive novel Father Elijah.
While Plague Journal is my personal favorite. I recommend reading it after Father Elijah and Strangers and Sojourners, since it needs the other two to provide its context in O'Brien's view of the Last Days.
And O'Brien's view is a bleak one. The government has become the tool of the antichrist, whether it knows it or not, and an honest journalist (even one who doesn't have a living faith in God) can't get an honest shake, but is hunted down.
Swift, sharp, and poigniant, O'Brien provides his readers with everything that Left Behind readers should have gotten but didn't and without all of the silly speculations. This is good literature that shapes the heart and the mind Christianly.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
on December 24, 2000
Can it happen here? Can a totalitarian state run by liberals, feminists, and new-agers take hold in North America? According to Nathaniel Delaney, the protaganist of "Plague Journal", it already has and if you don't conform to the new orthodoxies, you're quite expendable. While "Plague Journal" is a paranoid Christian polemic, it is redeemed by the hero's realization that anger, hatred, and solipsism have no place in a true Christian's response to evil. "Plague Journal" is the story of a man who loses everything but who re-discovers his faith in the depth of his sufferings. O'Brien is a skilled writer and an astute thinker. Despite the polemics, this is an amazing book. Kudos to Ignatius Press for publishing it, but it's too bad it hasn't gotten more attention from the literary media.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on June 29, 1999
This thrilling novel raises serious questions about the present state of democracy in the West, and the dangers of "new totalitarian" thinking--which he demonstrates is seemingly benign but potentially just as destructive as overt tyrannies. O'Brien avoids the two opposite pitfalls of hysteria and denial, using his plot and well drawn characterization to raise absolutely central questions about the nature of government and individual and family rights. A novel that is the "Brave New World" and "1984" for our times. Thrilling and thought-provoking!
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
. . .and the author really appears to understand JRR Tolkien.
Although published third, this book should be read second in O'Brien's "Children of the Last Days" series. It relates an eventful week in the life of a newspaper editor who realizes that totalitarianism has already appeared, and has devastated most of what he holds dear.
This book is so laced with references to "The Lord of the Rings" that if a prospective reader is not familiar with Tolkien, I would suggest reading Tolkien first.
While I'm not quite where O'Brien is, in an eschatological sense -- I have similar political fears. I'd love to meet him some day, hoist a few, light up the pipes and just talk.
I heartily recommend this book.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2000
I agree with O'Brien's diagnosis of the modern world with one important caveat: The west has learned from the Nazi's and the Stalinists that overt repression does not work--it spawns principled and in the end victorious resistance (Bonhoeffer, Solzhenitsyn)--the "soft totalitarianism" of the west relies on a) the consent of people (and O'Brien gets this) but equally important a marginalized dissent which is permitted because it is ineffective and sustains the illusion of democracy. Second point: As with the later novels of Walker Percy this is too much a tract--fiction works differently than this does. Fiction makes the reader an interperative participant not just a listener -- I advise readers to look at Flannery O'Connor's short stories which often voice concerns similar to O'Brien's but which engage the reader at an interperative rather than at a polemical level. Having said this you could sure do worse than read this novel!
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on April 8, 2005
As I'm sure most reviewers have said, be sure you read Strangers and Sojourners first; PJ is the second in the series. Also, it is good to read Father Elijah too; it occurs about the same time as PJ.
I read PJ in a week. It is one of the most moving books I've read, but I was reluctant to heed its message in the beginning. In this world of half-truths and deceptions where everyone is a partially educated philosopher and politician, PJ really does show the need to not believe everything we heard or read.
Should we be constantly paranoid? Not really. But a healthy skepticism is necessary.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on June 25, 1999
Michael O'Brien's powerful insight into the problems of contemporary society are once more the focus of this terrific short novel. It's a fast and exciting read but a profoundly thought-provoking one. O'Brien demonstrates a great insight into the need for all of us to consider the state of affairs our soiciety is in.