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  • By Anthony A. Policastro
    Oct 12, 2009
    In Absence of Faith, author Anthony Samuel Policastro begins his book with the premise: What would you do if you were confronted with a near-death experience that challenges the basic principles of your faith in God, and when you take a closer look at your life, you discover an “absence of faith”? What would you do? How would you react and cope with this discovery? Policastro poses this question to the citizens of Ocean Village, a small coastal town in New Jersey, and to the reader. Of course, how you respond depends on the strength of your faith. How strongly do you believe in God? Or is it your opinion that God had abandoned you? When Doctor Carson Hyll and his wife, Linda, are returning home from a class reunion and Carson falls sleep at the wheel and drives off the Red River Bridge, Linda pulls her husband from the wreckage. Her fast thinking and quick response to their precarious situation saves Caron from a watery grave and perhaps from hell. When Carson regains consciousness in... More > his hospital room, he notices his sunburned complexion and a “foul, burnt odor” emanating from his skin, and has a revelation. The nurses tell him he arrived D.O.A. - that is Dead on Arrival - and despite their best efforts, they couldn’t save him. They were sure he had died in the emergency room, and, hence, they stored his body in the morgue. People with similar near-death experiences thought they had journeyed to hell and then had returned to life for some inexplicable reason. Policastro creates a dichotomous universe where good versus evil, science versus religion, and Satan and God wage a battle for the lost souls of the world, for those who believe that God is no longer with them, and realize that something was missing from their lives, realize there was an absence of faith. The chaos and pandemonium that results from an “absence of faith” is fitting and reminds one of John Milton’s epic poem, Paradise Lost, where Satan is the lord and master of Pandemonium, the capital of Hell. Absence of Faith has everything you could ask for in a book: it is a medical mystery, a murder mystery, a romance/adventure story, and a detective/police procedural story. It is a page-turner from the very first to the very last page. You will not be able to put it down. Part of this may be attributed to Policastro’s marvelous talent and skill as a writer for creating a suspenseful plot, and compelling characters with whom you will commiserate or hate. Policastro also has a talent for turning the ordinary places and locations into something extraordinary and mysterious. For instance, you will be more than a little frightened when Linda is left alone in her home and hears the sound of the howling wind, “whipping off the ocean,” and the tapping of the loose clapboard against the house. She feels a draft on her neck, and the dampness of the cold air. All of these Hitchcockian elements are preludes to Linda’s horrifying abduction, and, later, Nick Vancuso’s abduction by the same disciples of Satan. And then, there is Carson’s venture in the “root cellar,” a mysterious, secret place, a “subbasement,” which houses masonry jars, containing preserved fruits, and which contain vital secrets. There are also many interesting turning points and discoveries along the way that you will find more than a little fascinating, as Policastro unravels the story, revealing just enough information about the characters and the conflicts – good vs. evil, science vs. religion, and Satan vs. God - that will keep you sitting on the edge of your soft and comfortable reading chair.< Less
  • By Ann Keller
    Aug 10, 2009
    "A Thrilling Read" There are some stories that haunt you long after you close the cover - Absence of Faith is one of them. Some of the inhabitants of Ocean Village suddenly have horrible hallucinations and near death experiences. Their red, burned skin and terrible symptoms confuse and frighten the entire town and many are certain they’ve literally been to Hell and back again. Law enforcement is baffled and a group of Satanists takes advantage of their momentary confusion, paving the way for the third Anti-Christ, Kyle Mabus. Finally, detectives and well-meaning citizens unite, exposing the coven and eliminating their threat to the peaceful townspeople. Unfortunately, Kyle Mabus escapes a fiery death, surviving to spread fear, pain and destruction elsewhere. All of the time I was reading this book, I kept thinking about what an incredible movie it would make. The special effects wizards would have a field day with this! Like Poltergeist, Absence of Faith lingers on in the... More > uncertain recesses of my mind, a dark black shadow in a quiet corner of my thoughts. Was it real? Could such a thrilling but monstrous tale really occur? I wonder.< Less
  • By Shannon Yarbrough
    Aug 10, 2009
    "Absence of Faith" If Tim LeHaye and Michael Crichton had ever gotten together to write a book, it would probably end up being something like Anthony Policastro’s Absence of Faith. It’s part medical mystery and part religious thriller all rolled up in a plot of Christianity, Unexplained Phenomenon, New Age Beliefs, and Satanic Occults. Dr. Carson Hyll and his wife are just settling down to a new life in Ocean Village. But Dr. Hyll falls asleep, a mysterious black out, at the wheel and drives his car off a bridge and into the river. His near death experience is so horrible that he believes he has actually gone to hell and back and lived to tell about it. But his bare skin ends up telling the story instead. It suddenly becomes covered in first degree burns. But the doctor isn’t alone. Other residents of Ocean Village start have the same experiences, blisters and all. Is it an unexplained outbreak? Is it a sign from God? Panic breaks out as those suffering from the mysterious... More > burns start to believe that it’s a sign of Satan and that God has abandoned them. Satanists decide to take advantage of the situation and prey on the fears of the suffering, moving into Ocean Village and spreading their word. Their leader, Kyle Mabus, takes center stage and insists he is the Anti-Christ. The vivid and chilling descriptions of Kyle’s blood-lust habits will make your stomach churn! I myself was raised in the pews of a Baptist Church. The preacher had to give us permission to clap after someone sang a solo because we sat there in silence most of the time. Once, I was scared practically to death just attending a school friend’s Non-Denominational church and hearing people speak in tongues while running up and down the aisles. And while I don’t practice a certain religion or attend a church today, I do marvel at the beliefs that can shape our lives and culture. Whether it be Jesus on a potato chip or visions of Mother Mary on a hilltop in Kentucky, our faith is personal and yet complex, and certainly intriguing to a writer and reader like me which is why I think I enjoyed this book so much. And Policastro has done a superb job of presenting the theories that baffle both scientists and christians. Absence of Faith is the deep struggle between good and evil, science and religion, believers and non. It asks what happens when our faith is tested, or even lost, and what happens to humankind with and without it. Being coined a “thriller,” Policastro moves his book along at a magnificent pace that makes for a nice page-turner. There are numerous underdeveloped characters, but the central ones more key to the plot are given the right amount of focus. The book does suffer from being a bit “preachy” at times though; Policastro is determined to have the reader literally find the message (or be brow beaten by it) in scripture and sermon, but overall it didn’t distract too much from the main point of the book. If it had, I would have certainly stopped reading after about 50 pages. And if anything, there is a message there at how sometimes one’s beliefs can be forced upon us when we don’t always agree. Those strong in their faith may want to avoid this one unless you do have an open mind and can appreciate a good read that will explore and challenge the complicated outer limits of religion. Part Crichton’s Outbreak, part LeHaye’s Left Behind, and even some of King’s smalltown Salem’s Lot thrown in, be prepared to stay up late at night reading this one, and being haunted by it long after the last page. Read the full review at The LL Book Review.< Less
  • By Robby Charters
    Jun 24, 2009
    "Anthony Samuel Policastro's Absence of Faith" A narrative that incorporates elements of a mystery, disaster, medical thriller -- even, at times, a romance novel; I found it a good read. Dr. Carson, while at the wheel, goes into a trance -- or is it death? It seems like he's descending into hell, is torn limb from limb by a demon dog, subject to intense fire, and meets the devil. He is heroically rescued by his wife from the river, but his vital signs fail. He awakens in the morgue. His return to life is explainable as it's happened before in medical history. What mystifies the doctors is that his skin is burned all over as though he'd really been burning in hell. Other people in the small religious community begin to have the same experience. It's dubbed the Hell Fire Syndrome. Dr. Carson manages to hold to the view that it's no more than a rare unknown disease. For the local community, good religious folks who believe in heaven for the righteous, it has other... More > implications. Mass hysteria is one of the results. But that's not all. There are the Satanists who take maximum advantage of the situation -- or are they the cause? Has Satan won the ultimate battle between good and evil? Is it a curse? Is it a medical phenomenon? That's the mystery. At the end of the roller-coaster ride, Policastro brings it to a satisfying finish. As a mystery and a thriller, it pleases. You've got your money's worth. No worries there. After following Dr. Carson, his wife and medical colleagues for several chapters, we meet Kyle and Chantress. Kyle's introduction is a vivid display of textual special effects. Through a spirit medium, he learns deep dark secrets about himself that promise an interesting story. Chantress is an old hand in New Age and Occult, whereas Kyle, despite the role he's to play, is a newbie. Chantress explains at great length, the difference between Satanism (the dark side), and New Age, or the light side. She considers herself the latter. With Kyle in toe she separates herself from the other, starts a new group and invites a few like minded friends along. During some of the passages it seems as though the author has a lot to get off his chest and it behoves his characters to accommodate him. Examples: Chantress' explanation as to the reasons people choose to get into Satanism or New Age, later, Dr. Stoke's goes on about the value of religion in society, then there's an entire Sunday sermon, quoted verbatim. At times, I didn't know whether the book was pushing New Age, Occult, or Christianity. The intimate scenes between Kyle and Chantress told me it definitely wasn't the latter. It's not a book you'd recommend to the youth of your local church. In this respect, it seemed like a romance novel (to me anyway). It goes from blissful love, to betrayal, to the kind of emotion that can only happen when a dream, once-in-a-lifetime relationship has gone horribly wrong. That's not a spoiler. The medium, at the beginning, will have already told you that would happen. The book feels authentic in many ways: as a medical thriller; the social turmoil in the small community; though I think the Satanists, as depicted here, are probably an urban myth. Certain sources that we used to rely on for this, such as The Satan Seller, have been discredited as fraudulent. (Covens and witches do exist -- as Wiccans, worshipping the goddess Diana, not the Biblical Satan. They’d probably choose to identify with Chantress in our narrative rather than the dark side). However, like gun slingers of the wild west and KGB agents in Venice, they make a good story, and Anthony Samuel Policastro has played his hand well. Robby Charters< Less
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Product Details

Second Edition
Outer Banks Publishing Group
June 14, 2009
Perfect-bound Paperback
Interior Ink
Black & white
1.2 lbs.
Dimensions (inches)
6 wide x 9 tall
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