During the two year period following the release of The DaVinci Code, church attendance across America rose by seven percentage points according to a Gallup poll. For many people, The DaVinci Code put religion on the map again, and turned groups like Opus Dei and the Knights Templar into household names. Often vilified by devout Christians, The DaVinci Code actually did a great service for the Christian faith. Whether or not you agree with Dan Brown’s portrayal of Christianity itself is irrelevant. What matters is that he got people talking about it. Even better, he sparked enough interest that people returned to church.
The DaVinci Code is a good example of a growing genre of books that provide education through entertainment. Some people may question my use of the word ‘education’ as it relates to The DaVinci Code because of the book’s description of Jesus Christ being married to and having children with Mary Magdelene. However, it goes without question that more people now have Christianity on their radars.
Though less controversial, The Goal by Eliyahu M. Goldratt and Jeff Cox offers the same combination of education through entertainment. Each year, business students across the United States are assigned The Goal as part of their operations management classes. By offering a memorable experience, students can easily retain concepts that sound about as dry as, well, ‘operations management’. The allure of such books has been detailed in numerous studies that demonstrate a strong correlation between the retention of new information and entertaining experiences that engage the learner. This is the rationale behind the boom in video games that attempt to boost children’s reading and math scores.
The latest newcomer to this world of education through entertainment is The God Complex. This recently released thriller has been classified as ‘faction’. The God Complex takes the author’s personal journey through a fifteen year medical crisis and weaves it into a fictional plot. In a recent interview, the book’s author, Chris Titus, stated, “Most of the book is in fact true. The segments of my actual journey were separated, massaged, and rearranged to construct a more engaging story line.” By taking this approach, he was able to spread fifteen years worth of drama, intrigue, and enlightenment across multiple characters and settings to create an exciting mystery. Readers experience the same discovery process the author underwent as a patient, however, it’s through the lens of a murder mystery.
The book is told from multiple points of view. It begins with the gruesome suicide of an English teacher in Prague at the base of the Nusle Bridge, an actual bridge in Prague with the nickname, Suicide Bridge. Paul Benson, the brother of the victim flies to Prague where he meets with police to clear out his brother’s apartment. When he arrives, the Lieutenant organizing the investigation asks for his help in deciphering two of his brother’s journals. One journal is written in diary form and offers insights into the author’s actual medical journey, a mystery that took more than 140 physicians to solve. The journal entries are vivid and border on the surreal, depicting a life of misery leading up to the suicide, something the author admits to having contemplated many times during that fifteen year period. The entries are the literary equivalent of a car crash. Unable to look away, you are drawn deeper into the drama that Titus constructs around his journals.
The second journal contains notes on Chinese medicine. With the help of a local acupuncturist in Prague, Paul pieces together the cryptic writings that hold clues to a diabolical plot rooted in Chinese medicine.
In a sudden and unexpected twist, the book begins bouncing back and forth between Paul’s journey in Prague and an unknown assailant who is implementing the actual plan detailed in the journals. It seems as if Paul is always a step behind figuring out who killed his brother or the significance of the journals. The chapters move quickly, offering just enough clues to keep you glued to the pages and on the edge of your seat. In fact, you won’t even realize how much you’ve learned about Chinese medicine. For the reader, these little kernels of information are just clues to solving a mystery. After a few more twists and turns, the story wraps up neatly and you realize that all of those kernels add up to some very interesting lessons about health care, acupuncture, and a hidden connection to martial arts.
Similar to The DaVinci Code, Titus’ book is controversial. While the book has received glowing reviews on Amazon by a number of acupuncturists, the author admits that there are those in the medical and martial arts communities who have contacted him directly to express the opposite reaction. At the root of their complaints is the use of Chinese medicine to cause harm. As a reader, I found the use of this medicine in an evil plot both exciting and uniquely compelling. According to Titus, “Nobody wants to there to be a car crash, yet nobody can look away either.” By crafting an engaging experience that makes you want to know what happens next, Titus successfully gets his story out in a way that doesn’t lose readers, imparts the lessons that came with his fifteen year journey, and above all, he makes it entertaining. Keep an eye on this book. It’s sure to set some records.
Michael McBride is a retired thirty-year veteran of the publishing industry. In his free time, he enjoys reviewing mysteries and thrillers by up and coming authors.