Got a cloaked warrior fighting evil at night and carrying one seriously epic sword? Naturally, you need Wesley Snipes involved.
Talon of God (Harper Voyager, 368 pp., *** out of four stars) isn’t a Blade movie and Snipes isn’t playing an action-film character. Instead, the actor makes his debut as a novelist with a pretty entertaining supernatural adventure about the war between angels and demons — literal and metaphorical — on the streets of Chicago.
Co-written with fellow first-timer Ray Norman, Talon centers on young ER doctor Lauryn Jefferson, recently out of med school, who’s become estranged from her strict Baptist preacher dad and rapper younger brother.
After getting off a long shift at the hospital one night, she encounters something surreal: one of her patients, a homeless man, turns into an otherworldly monster. Then the situation doubles down on the weird when a tall stranger on a motorcycle walks into her life and saves the day with old-school weaponry and holy water.
Together with her vice cop ex-boyfriend Will, Lauryn and the stoic protector named Talon unearth a plot to use a sulfur-laced drug additive laced to infect the populace of the Windy City and ready them for a mass demon possession.
Talon reveals himself to be part of an ancient sect of warriors and sees something special in Lauryn — not to mention that the substance affecting everyone else doesn’t work on her — and her initial skepticism turns to respect as the scale of the threat becomes apparent.
Themes of faith abound through the narrative. While not a big talker in general, Talon speaks mostly in Bible verses and lines from the Gospels, and other parts of the Good Book inspire chapter titles. But Snipes is never holier-than-thou, instead weaving Christianity into the plot naturally and making it fascinating rather than sanctimonious. (The author puts a little spin on it, too, naming the book’s devilish big bad Christopher St. Luke.)
The religious bent also works well with the aspects of science and procedural storytelling. The green slime that becomes the chemical agent potentially spelling apocalyptic doom for the city fuels some of the more action-packed scenes, and turning drug addiction into a hellish outbreak is extremely effective.
With Lauryn, the novel introduces a female character who’s grounded in terms of her family and way of life but also a cool heroine with whom you’ll want to spend more time.
Snipes has been in Hollywood long enough to know he should lay track for a sequel. Lauryn acts as a counter to some of Talon’s more over-the-top elements.
Old-school fans of Passenger 57 and Demolition Man will appreciate that Snipes has just as much punch with a keyboard as with his fists, and the realm of urban fantasy has an impressive new disciple.