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The Assignment Paperback – July 1, 2004

4.3 out of 5 stars 28 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Troubles plague this jumbled suspense novel for the CBA market by Olsen, a screenwriter who collaborated with Tommy Tenney on the novel Hadassah. Deep below the ground, sealed alive in a tomb for 60 years, is a "man" who is 1,734 years old and whose mission is to battle demonic forces on behalf of the Christian faith. Searching for him is Father Thierry, a 95-year-old priest who is part of the Order of St. Lazare, a secret sect that the Vatican has tried to disband. "The destroyer," Satan's evil spirit of destruction, war and bloodshed, is at work to prevent them from reaching their goal. He's already wreaked havoc over the course of history, as detailed in the novel in a tiresome litany of human atrocities. Complicating things is tension between Jews and Catholics over the priest's perceived desecration of a Holocaust site. Olsen peppers his tale with bang-bang action, supernatural warfare and Christian history, but too many points of view confuse the reader and make the pacing fitful. There's no shortage of kidnappings, quicksand, gunfights, secret membership amulets, harrowing escapes, rape, murder and terrorists as the plot unfolds. Numerous italicized journal entries, letters and flashbacks make for challenging reading. There's also an obvious nod to the The Da Vinci Code in the idea of a secret Catholic sect. Olsen writes some good scenes and knows how to raise the occasional goose bump, but readers will have trouble sticking with his story.
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"A good book that relies on its story and characters rather than on sermonettes and churchy cliché...." -- InFuze Magazine

"A writer who can take your breath away with a single sentence. A welcome, fresh voice that must be read!" -- Ted Dekker

"His power of description is beautiful. The concept of the story is fascinating. The main characters are instantly captivating..." -- Focus On Fiction

"Olsen weaves the present and the past together to show a man tormented by immortality...a fascinating suspense novel..." -- Christian Book Previews

"Riveting and unforgettable…characters walk straight off the pages and gives an edge-of-the-seat, thrilling read...rivals Left Behind." -- MyShelf.com

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Bethany House (July 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 076422817X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0764228179
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #502,218 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
The idea has intrigued mankind since the dawn of time: What would it be like to be immortal? What if you could not be killed? What if death had no hold on you?
Mark Andrew Olsen approaches this idea in a fresh way, and, in the process, gives us a suspenseful story with theological implications. The book opens with a group of old priests, a secretive Catholic order, who have been digging ceaselessly in their search for their immortal ward. The man they seek is one who has walked the earth for two millenia, living countless lives, and working as the one of who will restrain the spirit of the anti-Christ in godless times.
The story breaks open when this man is found, at last--buried alive in a Nazi tomb near Auchwitz. The havoc that ensues could've turned Hollywood-ish. At times, it does rely on gunfights and nick-of-time escapes. But the real accomplishment here, the beating heart of the story, is Olsen's ability to take us into the mind of his immortal character. We care about this man. We believe in his struggle. We feel at times that his struggle is the same one we face, daily trying to follow God despite our sense of hopelessness and uselessness in this fallen world.
Publishers Weekly accused the book of tiresome and confusing viewpoints, but I found the plot easy to follow. Even more importantly, I thought the characters were easy to sympathize with. Although the ingredients of the story seemed to promise more suspense in the finale, "The Assignment" is worth the effort. Without being preachy, Olsen reminds us that life is worth living--and that dying is nothing to fear when we are part of God's family.
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Format: Paperback
Since THE ASSIGNMENT is the first book I have ever seen endorsed by Ted Dekker, I was instantly curious about the story.

Now, after emerging from this incredible tale, a tale told well by an author with obvious, undeniable talent, I can see why Ted Dekker called Mark Andrew Olsen "A welcome, fresh voice."

I am also gnashing my teeth.

A writer with this kind of skill deserved the best editing a publishing house could offer. This clearly did not happen with THE ASSIGNMENT.

The sad lack of editing attention is showcased through character point of views that switch within the space of an unmarked paragraph, and words that repeat within a line.

The Biblical justification that makes the hero's existence plausible throughout the book is cast aside at the climax of the story.

Journal entries written by the hero are intriguing, but as the story progresses these italic print missives increase in both frequency and length, and become tedious history narratives that seem to detract rather than add to the book's momentum.

The appearance of a minor character, Beth, in the last chapters, feels as contrived as a peeling paint chip glued onto a wall. And the hero's insistence that Betsy stay with him is even more perplexing. Especially when juxtapositioned against his earlier decision to distance himself from the lead female character in order to spare her the danger he draws.

Also confusing are the loose ends at the story's conclusion. Some key goals are attained, but readers are left to wonder what happens to several primary characters. This is either another editing oversight, or a great cliffhanger to usher in a sequel.

Amazingly enough, in spite of these distressing editorial lapses, Olsen shines.
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Format: Paperback
Initially, I looked at this book and thought, WHY bother?.Its just another fast paced Dekker style GREAT LOOKING book...and who can beat Dekker at the moment in the CBA?

MAN WAS I WRONG! Once I picked it up I could barely put it down again. This is primarily a spiritual warfare novel and the crux of the story is that Lazarus has been assigned (hence the title) to assist the Holy Spirit (mentioned in 2 Tim 1:14 and Thessalonians) in holding back evil, essentially making him immortal and roaming the earth unrecognised for 2000yrs.

A Catholic sect called the Order of Lazare is given the task of helping Lazarus fight evil .. Lost for 60 years the Order find him asleep in a cript buried by the Nazi's near Auswitch.

I found this book to be a moving picture of how God must have felt when he saw what was happening to His people in the concentration camps and the pain He must feel looking at the suffering of His people today.

Drenched in intrigue, destiny, History and relationships, this book is PLOT driven all the way.

Set in this century it looks back over 2000 years since Christ and asks questions through Character dilemas that helps this work of contemporary fiction stand alone.Such as the idea of strategic spiritual espionage and counter terrorism in the unseen spiritual realm.

Not 100% biblical but its interesting outline and what ifs? make it a worthy read all the same.

This is worthy of a position on my bookshelf.

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Format: Paperback
THE DA VINCI CODE has spawned a mini-industry of exegesis and echoes --- even tours for beguiled readers. I've read Brown's book and even written a tongue-in-cheek research piece about some of the history involved in his mystery, and I'm here to tell you my honest opinion: THE ASSIGNMENT was more interesting, more honest and more fun to read.

Like Brown, Mark Andrew Olsen bases his book on a small, secretive Roman Catholic group: the Order of St. Lazare, comprised of just seven priests. Like Brown, Olsen's protagonist is faced with a seemingly insurmountable task that involves convincing others of an impossible premise. Like Brown, Olsen's book is fast-paced and has characters careening from the States to all corners of Europe --- and, in some cases, even further. And that points to one of the things that is different about Olsen's approach. First of all, he unabashedly includes the spiritual --- he even includes the mystical, and a lot of it!

But hang on for the ride, because even though his use of several different perspectives and forms of narration (including the protagonist's diaries) can get a little confusing, Olsen uses the chaos to allow readers' suspension of their disbelief. By the novel's end, you may not consciously subscribe to the idea of angels and demons (pace Dan Brown), but you'll be cheering the former on.

In fact, one of the most interesting things about Olsen's novel, for a CBA author, is that he has structured it more as a battle of good versus evil than a battle of Christian versus nonbeliever. Conversions happen, but they aren't necessarily the "born again" kind. While not all readers will agree with Olsen's scenarios or his theology, this non-preachy yet grounded style is both refreshing and thought-provoking.
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