James Dobson is focusing on the fiction, not the family

James Dobson has written a thriller. Fighting the culture wars apparently was no longer enough of an adrenaline rush for the Focus on the Family founder; now he wants to take all of us with him — into the year 2042, to be exact, which is where Fatherless, Dobson's first novel, is set.

"A relentlessly-paced, faith-based, dystopian thriller," according to the publisher's summary, Fatherless envisions a world where desperate choices have to be made as a result of decisions being made today. "In the dystopian tradition of 1984, Brave New World and The Hunger Games, Fatherless projects the headlines of today into the desperate choices of tomorrow." And that includes reminding the elderly that they have a duty to die and get out of the way. (Where have we heard that before? Oh, from former governor Dick Lamm, who's an author, too.)

The stars of Dobson's thriller are Julia Davidson, a journalist seeking to revive a flagging career, and influential young congressman Kevin Tolbert, a Christian facing his own dilemmas. "Often the best way to communicate vital truths is to weave them into a story," Dobson says in a statement about the book. "The New Testament parables offer a great example of that. Fatherless takes the demographic realities of today, combines them with our nation's economic, moral and ethical drift and imagines a future thirty years from now that's at once familiar and frightening."

Not as familiar as Dobson himself, however, who turned Colorado Springs into the Washington, D.C., of the religious right in the 1980s and '90s, preaching against gay marriage, single mothers, sex education, evolution and SpongeBob SquarePants.

And not as frightening as the fact that Fatherless, which was co-written by fellow Focus on the Family veteran Kurt Bruner, is just the first in a three-book series. We're guessing the title of part two will have the word "son" in it, while part three will be named for the "holy ghost."

Although this is Dobson's first novel, it's far from his first work of fantasy. A prolific author, Dobson is responsible for a couple dozen books, most of them concerning marriage and child-rearing. Given what we've read of Fatherless, we can only hope that his next work will be a romance novel. Here's an excerpt from Chapter One:

I didn't expect the person killing me to yawn in boredom.

The small print under her name, Hannah, reads transition specialist. I recognize the title from the online permission form: she's one of the many "thoroughly trained, warm-hearted associates who provide essential services to our heroic volunteers."

She probably exhausted her warmth earlier in the day. She said I'm the fourth volunteer since noon. I counted at least three more in the reception area nervously anticipating their final moments in this very room. Hannah will be eating a late dinner tonight.

I never met the physician. I guess that's to be expected. Doctors don't take temperatures or check blood pressure. They delegate routine procedures like mine. I'm just another lame horse needing a swift, painless end to my misery. No, not a horse. Horses, at least, bring value to the farm. I've been pure expense to Mom and Jeremy for eighteen years, dead weight at a time when humanity needed all hands on deck....

Fatherless will be released on January 15 — too late for Christmas!

Scene and herd: We've been flooded with questions about the ramifications of Amendment 64's passage. And so, with apologies to Gustavo Arellano, author of Ask a Mexican (apologies he's accepted), we're introducing Ask a Stoner, with answers provided by our medical marijuana critic, William Breathes. Have a question for him? Send it to [email protected].

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