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REVIEW: Accidental Prophet, by Bud Gundy

Title: Accidental Prophet

Author: Bud Gundy

Genre: Sci Fi

LGBTQ+ Category: Gay

Publisher: Self

Pages: 264

Reviewer: Andy

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About The Book

Intelligent, handsome, and struggling to make his rent, thirty-year-old Drew Morten loses his only meaningful relationship when his grandmother dies. A famous television anchor, Claudia Trenton, leaves Drew the legacy of her secret memoir. From the fate of a vanished medieval prince to a top-secret NASA study about a mystifying space object, her unreported discoveries hum with wonder. 

But history merges with the present and upends Drew’s life when he has a terrifying revelation. Teaming up with a brilliant woman who receives the same vision and a handsome man whose arrival is either fortuitous or sinister, Drew follows the clues in his grandmother’s memoir and races against time to save the world from an apocalyptic nightmare about to be unleashed in downtown San Francisco.

As catastrophe looms, so does the question: Who, or what, is the real enemy?

The Review

Aliens may walk among us in Bud Gundy’s cleverly imagined, deftly paced sci fi thriller Accidental Prophet, which has echoes of Jack Finney’s The Body Snatchersand a Robert Ludlum-style spy novel.

The story opens with thirty-year-old Drew sitting with his grandmother on her deathbed. Since his parents died in a car accident, his grandmother Claudia, once a national news anchor of much notoriety, has become Drew’s emotional haven and closest confidant. Before she dies, she reveals to him a bizarre story with hints of a conspiracy that will destroy the planet.

Claudia dies the next day, but she left Drew her journal which recounts everything he needs to know, along with a jeweled pendant he’s never seen before. Drew is more concerned about his grandmother’s mental status during her final days until he starts having terrifying visions in broad daylight and seems to have developed a rapid healing ability after coming into contact with the pendant.

Some of those visions show him the life story of a Russian spy named Victor, who Claudia had warned him about. Drew is soon deep down a rabbit hole of hidden telepathy and a secret society of never-aging humans who might be connected to a UFO that the U.S. government has been studying out of the public’s eye.

Claudia’s journal entries are interwoven as a first person epistolary that figures equally into the unfolding mystery. There are also chapters detailing Drew’s visions of Victor’s life, taken from Victor’s perspective, which makes for a creative and dynamic approach to storytelling. Though readers who like their stories linear and from a single point-of-view might find the structure distracting.

I felt it broadened the “world” Drew must navigate and added texture. The sections told by Claudia and those focused on Victor’s turbulent childhood engage and activate emotions, which on the flipside leaves Drew’s third person storyline a little flat in contrast. Claudia traverses the 1960s and 1970s with lovely period detail while she fights for her place in a sexist industry and encounters difficult personal choices. Victor is introduced as a ten-year-old boy in the direst of circumstances. His father raped him, his mother is a heroin addict, and he swigs vodka on his way to school with a group of futureless boys in the slums of a minor Russian city. It’s a case of vibrantly-drawn supporting characters working to the detriment of Gundy’s lead man Drew, who doesn’t achieve the same level of fascination.

Setting that quandary aside, there’s a ton to like about Gundy’s series-starter. His background as a TV news producer really shows. I love books that teach me something I didn’t know, and Gundy renders the sociopolitical environment of the late sixties and early seventies with authority, as well as behind the scenes in network news as one might expect.

He also has a sure pulse on how to build interest and suspense. It’s the kind of story in which the reader knows early on things are not what they seem, and the gradual reveal dials up the creepiness and sense of danger.

Accidental Prophet has a romance subplot with Drew meeting an attractive guy named Tom while out at a bar, though the portrayal there is not quite as successful. It’s a tough thing to sneak in when the broader story demands attention elsewhere, thus the will-they-or-won’t-they side drama lacks some feelz.

Overall, Gundy is a skillful storyteller, and this first installment in a planned sci fi series is well worth the read and of special interest to readers who enjoy extraterrestrial thrillers and trips back to the 60s/70s.  

The Reviewer

Andy is an award-winning author, an educator, and an activist. His novel The City of Seven Gods won the 2017 Silver Falchion Award (Best Horror/Fantasy) and was a finalist in the 2016 Foreword INDIES (Best Sci Fi/Fantasy). He is also the author of the Werecat series, Poseidon and Cleito, two books for young adults (The Seventh Pleiade and Banished Sons of Poseidon), and most recently the romantic comedy Irresistible. Oh, and he’s a Hufflepuff.

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