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A Novel

Written by David GregoryAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by David Gregory



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On Sale: May 04, 2010
Pages: 352 | ISBN: 978-0-307-45906-0
Published by : WaterBrook Press WaterBrook Multnomah/Image

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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

In the future, it’s possible to live forever—but at what cost?
 
A.D. 2088.
 
Missionary daughter Abigail Caldwell emerges from the jungle for the first time in her thirty-four years, the sole survivor of a mysterious disease that killed her village. Abby goes to America, only to discover a nation where Christianity has completely died out. A curious message from her grandfather assigns her a surprising mission: re-introduce the Christian faith in America, no matter how insurmountable the odds.
 
But a larger threat looms. The world's leading artificial intelligence industrialist has perfected a technique for downloading the human brain into a silicon form. Brain transplants have begun, and with them comes the potential of eliminating physical death altogether—but at what expense? 
 
As Abby navigates a society grown more addicted to stimulating the body than nurturing the soul, she and Creighton Daniels, a historian troubled by his father's unexpected death, become unwitting targets of powerful men who will stop at nothing to further their nefarious goals. Hanging in the balance—the spiritual future of all humanity.
 
In this fast-paced thriller, startling near-future science collides with thought-provoking religious themes to create a spell-binding "what-if?" novel.

Excerpt

PROLOUGE
 
APRIL 3, 2088
“I see your neurons firing, Ray.”
The voice was familiar, one Ray Caldwell had known for decades. Bryson Nichols’s face came into view overhead.
I must be on my back.
He had no such sensation. He tried to turn his head to the right, then the left. It didn’t respond. He tried moving his fingers. No sensation. Nothing. Panic swept through him. He was paralyzed.
“I brought you back to consciousness to let you know about the procedure.”
The procedure. On whom? There were no more procedures scheduled. Caldwell had canceled them all. Nichols’s face slid in and out of view as he hovered above and behind, wielding surgical instruments with which Caldwell was all too familiar.
No…He wouldn’t…
Nichols spoke calmly as he worked. “I do so apologize for having drugged you. But it was the only way. You know how much I’ve valued our working relationship—our friendship—these many years. I’d never do anything to jeopardize that friendship.
“But you were acting nonsensically, Ray. Halting the procedures at this point was sheer madness. I told myself it was the onset of disease, that you weren’t thinking straight. Or perhaps you were having cold feet about your own procedure. In any case, for your own good, I had to accelerate the schedule.”
Nichols paused, his upside-down face fixed in Caldwell’s line of vision, smiling. “Your alphas reveal your reluctance, but I do forgive your response, Ray. I know that, once the procedure is complete, we’ll see eye to eye.”
Caldwell examined Nichols’s face as he spoke. He was calm, purposeful, self-assured. No trace of consternation concerning the crime he was about to commit.
“Oh, Ray, to be free at last from the constraints of biological intelligence. How I wish I were in your shoes!”
The room fell silent save for Nichols’s movements and the methodical hum of neural scanners. Caldwell knew the routine. He had performed it himself numerous times, though not to completion.
Think! He had to think. Within the hour he would be disconnected from his biological brain…forever. If only he could talk, he could dissuade Nichols from— Nichols’s face reappeared. The procedure was ready, Caldwell intuited. Now was his final chance to change his destiny.
“…pat your hand, Ray. But I know you can’t feel it. I want you to know that I’ll be with you throughout.”
Nichols leaned closer to Caldwell’s face, his voice softening. “I have to admit, I’m envious. We had always planned on my being the one unveiled. And now it appears you will be the world-famous one—the first transhuman.”
He straightened up. “I could be bitter, being supplanted by you in that regard. But of what value, ultimately, is the recognition we receive for our achievements? Is it not of minor importance compared to the contribution we make to the advancement of our species—of the evolution of the universe itself ?”
Nichols glanced to his right. “I can tell by your scan that you still aren’t in full agreement.” He cocked his head slightly. “Ray, are your gammas spiking? I recognize that configuration. Are you trying to tell me something?”
He turned back toward his patient and shook his head. “You never cease to amaze me. I doubt any of our colleagues could manipulate their brain waves with such ease. That’s why I teamed up with you so many years ago. Always amazing.”
Nichols stepped away from Caldwell’s sight, then reappeared. “I’m putting you back to sleep now, Ray. When you wake up, everything will be complete. Your misgivings, whatever they may be, will be alleviated. You’ll be everything we have worked toward. Everything humanity has dreamed of for millennia. Our friendship, our partnership in this grand endeavor will continue. Shortly you’ll perform the procedure on me. The two of us will lead humanity into its greatest adventure.” He smiled broadly. “See you on the other side.”
With all his will Ray Caldwell commanded his arms to move, his legs to break free from the bands that held him to the surgical table. But it was no use. In a few moments he would lose consciousness. When he awoke, he would be missing the only thing that made life—existence
itself, even—worthwhile. Drowsiness stalked him. His mind began to swim.
Three hours and six minutes later Caldwell’s new brain powered up. He awoke. Electronic impulses coursed through the silicon mass that his cranium now housed.
Terror seized him. He bolted upright and scanned the room. His gaze landed upon the smiling face of Bryson Nichols standing four feet away.
“O brave new world that has such people in it, Ray. How do you feel, my friend?”
Past Nichols, in a glass jar, he spotted the three-pound mass of gray matter that had been extracted from him. His terror subsided into resigned grief.
What he had feared most had come to pass.
It was gone. Utterly gone. He had lost his connection.
David Gregory

About David Gregory

David Gregory - The Last Christian

Photo © Louis Deluca

DAVID GREGORY is the author of Dinner with a Perfect Stranger, A Day with a Perfect Stranger, The Next Level, The Last Christian, and the coauthor of the nonfiction The Rest of the Gospel. After a ten-year business career, he returned to school to study religion and communications, earning Master's degrees from Dallas Theological Seminary and the University of North Texas. A native of Texas, he now lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Reader's Guide|Discussion Questions

About the Book

Following are 18 discussion questions for you to use to further explore the themes in the novel The Last Christian. The questions prompt thinking in several different categories.
Questions 1-5 deal with the advancement of technology.
Questions 6-9 deal with the approach to Christianity.
Questions 10 and 11 deal with the demise of Christianity in America.
Questions 12-18 are more general about plots and themes in the book.

Discussion Guides

1. The Last Christian highlights a mixture of rapidly developing sciences, including bioengineering, virtual reality and nano-robotics. These developments can be seen for their positive benefits or for the way they handicap the spiritual life. What do you see as the potential benefits of such advancements? The potential dangers? How should Christians approach technology and scientific advancements? Should they take a posture of fear?

2. In 2088, The Last Christian portrays relationships in the United States as being mostly interacted online, on the Grid. Indicators presently point us toward more virtual community and into a certain kind of isolation. What can believers do to understand that community and to foster relationships even as technology drives us further from actual human contact?

3. The Last Christian presents a world in which most diseases have been cured and people regularly live past 120. If you expected to live past 120, what effect would that expectation have on the way you live your life? What effect do you think such a change would have on most people’s lives?

4. What do you think most people would choose: a consciousness without end, as Bryson Nichols envisioned, but also without God, or a normal lifespan with the presence of God? Why? Which would you choose?

5. Is there a point at which the use of technology and an active walk of faith with God become mutually exclusive? In what ways, if any, does your use of technology impede the closeness of your relationship with God?

6. According to the story, what is deficient in Abby’s understanding of the Christian life as she comes to America? Is she suffering from a lack of trying hard? In what ways do you see this deficiency in your own life or the lives of Christians in general?

7. What does Abby’s grandfather Ray attempt to communicate with her? Why does Abby struggle to understand his message?

8. What are the implications of Ray’s spiritual message for you personally? Does it change your understanding of what a faith walk with God means? How?

9. What is the spiritual epiphany that Abby has on the train? How does this new awareness affect the way she sees and responds to things in the remainder of the story?

10. In his lecture to his college class, Creighton lists five primary reasons for the demise of Christianity in the U.S.
(a) Do you see any of these trends at work now in the culture? In what ways?
(b) Which of these trends do you think is the most serious problem confronting the Christian faith?
(c) What do you expect will be the results of the trends you see on (i) society at large, and (ii) the church?

11. Do you see characteristics or trends in the church in America that will prevent it from going the way of secular Europe?

12. What feelings did starting a book called The Last Christian evoke in you?

13. In the book, Abby has some strong reactions to what she sees as the negatives of American culture in 2088. What are some of the things she reacts against? Do you see any of these same issues in today’s American culture? How have these cultural factors influenced your own life?

14. What threats to free religious expression and freedom of speech have you noticed in the news? What do you think might be the long-term outcome of such threats?

15. What do you think is the main inner conflict Creighton experiences with regard to whether or not to get the brain transplant? What makes him decide in a certain direction? How did you react to his decision? Why?

16. What are the competing ultimate realities expounded by Abby and Bryson Nichols in their conversation at his estate? Which reality do you think is correct? What would you say to someone who asked you to defend your answer?

17. What do you think is the primary message of the final scene of the book, the conversation between Hutch Hardin and Creighton? What implications does this message have for your life?

18. What were the primary effects The Last Christian had upon you? What did it make you think about afterwards? What feelings did it evoke? What, if anything, did it make you ponder concerning your own life?

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