Logos by John Neeleman, a literary historical novel, has won the 2016 Independent Publisher Book Award Gold Medal for religious fiction. The Independent Publisher Book Awards, also known as the IPPY Awards, is an annual book awards contest conducted to honor the year’s best independently published titles.
While novels and cinema have repeatedly sought after the historical Jesus, until now none have explored what may be a more tantalizing mystery—the Christian story’s anonymous creator. Logos is a literary bildungsroman about the man who will become the anonymous author of the original Gospel, set amid the kaleidoscopic mingling of ancient cultures. Logos is a gripping tale of adventure, a moving love story, and a novel of ideas. None of this should be regarded as out of place or incompatible in a novel about Christianity’s origin. Dissent, anarchism, and revolution—and incipient Christianity was no less these things than the Bolshevik, the French or the American revolutions—inevitably have involved ideas, adventure, and romance.
In A.D. 66, Jacob is an educated and privileged Greco-Roman Jew, a Temple priest in Jerusalem, and a leader of Israel’s rebellion against Rome. When Roman soldiers murder his parents and his beloved sister disappears in a pogrom led by the Roman procurator, personal tragedy impels Jacob to seek blood and vengeance. The rebellion he helps to foment leads to more tragedy, personal and ultimately cosmic: his wife and son perish in the Romans’ siege of Jerusalem, and the Roman army destroys Jerusalem and the Temple, and finally extinguishes Israel at Masada. Jacob is expelled from his homeland, and he wanders by land and sea, bereft of all, until he arrives in Rome. He is still rebellious, and in Rome he joins other dissidents, but now plotting ironic vengeance, not by arms, but by the power of an idea.
Paul of Tarsus, Josephus, the keepers of the Dead Sea Scrolls, and even Yeshua, the historical Jesus himself, play a role in Jacob’s tumultuous and mysterious fortunes. But it is the women who have loved him who help him to appreciate violence’s dire cycle.
Praise for Logos
“Logos is a remarkably compelling novel born of scholarship and passion. This is a novel likely to change opinions. It might even change lives.”
—Lou Aronica, New York Times bestselling author
“First-time author Neeleman has pulled off a staggeringly impressive feat: a rigorously researched historical novel that carries its scholarliness lightly and grips the reader with personal drama. . . . Neeleman depicts the ensuing drama with a powerful prose that evokes the spirit of the time without devolving into historically archaic vernacular. . . [A] stirring account of a historically significant time and a deep comment on the nature of Scripture itself.” Read more»
“The best historical novel tackles historical events from different perspectives, injects an intimate feel of bygone years, and deftly implants these facets into characters taken from historical fact and personalized so that they are real living, breathing people. Logos is such a beast, a serious historical approach set in an ancient world that captures not only the advent of Christianity and the rise of a religion, but the heart and soul of its times.”
—Midwest Book Review
“Through rebellious uprising, wilderness wandering and a final sea journey, Jacob is eventually involved with every single Jewish or Roman person of historical importance….Sexual interludes describe prurient details and bloody battles spare little when it comes to gore. Yet this novel’s core is a set of ideas more than a chain of events…. Those interested in how facts and myth synthesize to form a religion will be pleased by plausible extrapolation from reasonable assumptions.”
“Logos is a brilliant evocation of the tumultuous first century and the birth of Christianity. Neeleman’s vivid reconstruction of the period of the Jewish Wars and ultimately the promulgation of the first Gospel is a feat of both art and scholarship. One need not agree with his conclusions to find this book rich with provocative questions and sometimes satisfying answers. In the world of historical fiction that both informs and entertains, this is a must-read.”
—Beverly Swerling, author of Bristol House and City of Dreams
“John Neeleman weaves a compelling tale of adventure, danger, faith, and romance in his debut novel, Logos. Set amidst the dawn of Christianity, Logos is an epic journey through a richly imagined history with exquisite detail that transports the reader into the turbulent Roman Empire. This novel both entertains and educates as it explores the roots of religion.”
—Jeffrey Small, bestselling author of The Breath of God and The Jericho Deception
John Neeleman spends his days working as a trial lawyer in tall buildings in downtown Seattle. He lives in Seattle with his wife and children. He also represents death row inmates pro bono in Louisiana and Texas. As a novelist, his editorial model is historical fiction in a largely realistic mode, though there are hallucinatory passages that reflect Neeleman’s concern with philosophical and spiritual matters, in part a residue of his religious upbringing. He was raised as a seventh generation Mormon, and rebelled, but never outgrew his interest in metaphysical concerns.