I once came across a “survivalist fiction” book in the local library. Early interest gave way to tedium when it read like a outdoors handbook written from a third-person perspective. Instead of saying, “You can build a deer trap by doing X, Y and Z,” this book said “Bob told Jerry he could trap a deer by doing X, Y and Z. Jerry went into the forest and did it, then came back later and found a deer in the trap.”
Informative? Yes, as much as the textbook it was obviously cribbed from. A work of fiction? Not at all. No conflict, no character development, and a villain as non-threateningly nebulous as “The evil US Army sent an Abrams tank to force the survivalists off their homestead. Bob made a Molotov Cocktail by doing X, Y and Z, waited for the tank to drive by, hit the tank in the correct spot and disabled it.”
Unfortunately, The Heretics of St. Possenti is the Manosphere equivalent of that miserable survivalist book. The first chapter opened promisingly with ordinary Bishop Cranberry having a life-threatening and -altering encounter with a mugger but then bogged down in Manosphere talking points. Most of the first half of the book consist of Thompson sitting in a pub being taught masculinity by the regulars in the form of so many, many talking points that the reader’s eyes glaze over.
The rule of entertainment is “Show, Don’t Tell.” Heretics completely violates this rule.
The point at which I stopped reading was when protagonist Cranberry reported his findings on masculinity to his very male-negligent authorities in the Catholic Church. Finally, I thought, those Cuck-priests are going to freak at the idea of encouraging manliness among the ‘little people’ of the Church, conflict will ignite and we’ll get this story on the rails. But instead, the clergy decided after off-screen debate to create a fully funded, militant monastic movement for society’s unwanted men who, primarily, are homeless military veterans with PTSD (a favorite talking point of the author’s).
This was the last straw for my suspension of disbelief. The reason masculinity is not welcome in the modern Church is because its leaders are incompetent, know they’re incompetent and therefore fear competition from laymen. There’s no way, in no reality, that such leaders would voluntarily fund an effort to foster potential male competitors, leas of all one that basically considers firearm practice a new sacrament.
Despondent, I skimmed the second half of the book, looking for any elements of a real story. There was one scene where a “gun nut but not a believer” was quietly asked to leave for his unbelief. He did, just as quietly. No conflict. Another scene was dedicated to the new Abbey setting up an ammunition reloading workshop. Did not advance the plot. Not that I’d found a serious plot yet.
The Heretics of St. Possenti is not a story. It’s a handbook written from a third-person perspective describing an idealized Catholic monastic movement that would be relevant for today’s unwanted men of the Christian West. I understand the author wrote Heretics primarily to give background information on his popular The Stars Came Back series, which I haven’t read, so the fact it isn’t a story might be forgivable to fans of that. As a standalone book, however, it is only a “How to Man Up and What An Ideal Future Looks Like” guide.
Disappointing. I was all set to read about how one priest’s concern for laymen and society led him to expose a few centuries’ worth of institutional rot while fighting off Vatican assassins and a corrupt world fearing the righteous wrath of innocent men with big guns a la Larry Correia.
A closing thought, what is it with the Manosphere’s association of masculinity with firearms? I realize the latter are essential for lethal-force situations but being a gun owner myself, there’s nothing magical about guns. A day at the range is not good exercise. Firearm maintenance is as character-building as toilet-scrubbing. Martial arts, even archery are better choices to hone the mind and body for exerting violence.