West St. Paul author offers ‘dilemma’ in first book

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Steve McEllistrem

In his first novel, “The Devereaux Dilemma,” West St. Paul writer Steve McEllistrem paints a picture of a disturbing time in the not-so-distant future.

In this “speculative” science fiction piece, the world is on the verge of collapse. War is breaking out among humans, many of whom are biologically enhanced, and the bio-weapons being created are powerful enough to destroy them all. As war wages around him, Jeremiah Jones embarks on a journey to hunt down an elusive religious leader who holds the key to saving them or destroying them all.

McEllistrem has written works of nonfiction before, including guidebooks to higher-education law and special-education law. But this is his first foray into long-form fiction.

McEllistrem, who is also the producer and host of Write On! Radio on KFAI, was raised Catholic and says he began writing his book with faith in mind.

“I wanted to explore the question of faith. The book started with me wanting to write about what would happen if someone proved there was no God,” he says.  

“How would society and religion react to that proof? Obviously, some would accept it as truth, while others would deny it, but the larger question to me was: ‘How would the fabric of our society be affected by such an event?’”Although faith is a factor in “The Devereaux Dilemma,” it’s less of a theme than McEllistrem originally planned. “Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, that particular aspect of the book didn’t survive, and I was left with a science fiction thriller,” he notes.

Despite the action-packed thrills, the theme of faith -- and how far someone will go to defend it -- remains. 

McEllistrem admires the work of mythologist, author and lecturer Joseph Campbell. “(He) devoted his life to understanding mythology and legend in the context of religion,” McEllistrem notes. “That background made me want to explore why religion makes people so passionate, so single-minded at times, that they ignore other realities around them. They tell us we have to live our lives the way their religion tells them to live theirs, and that puzzles me.

“ My main character, Jeremiah Jones, questions everything, and he is the lens through which much of the story is told.”

But is our world heading for a bleak situation such as the one outlined in “The Devereaux Dilemma?” McEllistrem thinks so. “I’m concerned that we might be headed in a similar direction,” he says.  “Too many of us around the world have views that are not inclusive. We study religion, but not history. We dismiss science as having an agenda and therefore conclude that it isn’t telling us the truth. And we seem incapable of avoiding war.

“As a result, many of our efforts are focused on building better weapons. Further, as science progresses, it will be more possible for someone to create a virus that is deadly. So, yes, I think this is a very possible future.”

For more information on “The Devereaux Dilemma,” visit  McEllistrem’s Web page at http://www.mcellistrem.com/

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