Review – “Forbidden” by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee

Review – “Forbidden” by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee

In the year 2005, geneticists discovered the human gene that controlled both innate and learned forms of fear.  It was called Stathmin, or Oncoprotein 18.  Within 15 years, genetic influencers for all primary emotions were similarly identified.

Nearly a decade later, in the wake of catastrophic war that destroyed much of civilization, humanity vowed to forsake all that had conspired to destroy it.  Out of the ashes rose a new world in which both the advanced technologies and the passionate emotions that led to its ruin were eliminated.  A world without hatred, without malice, without sorrow, without anger.

The only emotion genetically allowed to survive was fear.  For 480 years, perfect peace reigned.

Until now.

With those words, Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee open “Forbidden”, the first novel in their new “The Book of Mortals” series (releasing on 9/13/11).  I’ll admit, I’ve never read anything by Dekker or Lee in the past.  Based on “Forbidden”, that’s an oversight I need to correct.  Whether by design, or by happenstance, they have put forth an effort that provides one of the best and most accessible expositions on the dangers of world government I’ve read in a very long time.  It also happens to be an exceptionally good story.

“Forbidden” is primarily the story of Rom Sebastian, a twenty-four year old resident of the city of Byzantium.  An artisan (if you can call anyone that in a world with no emotion), Rom is stumbling his way through a mediocre life like everyone else.  That life is interrupted when he is accosted by a crazed man on the street.  This man claims to have known Rom’s late father, and further claims that he was murdered by the government – the same government now chasing him.

The man tells Rom his father was part of an organization called the Keepers – custodians of an ancient and forbidden knowledge.  He tells Rom he must now carry on his father’s legacy.  As the authorities close in, he gives Rom a parcel and exhorts him to discover the secrets it contains, and the secrets his father died to protect.

 Protect it.  It’s power and life – life as it was – and grave danger.  Run!”

As Rom turns to flee, the Citadel Guard arrives and, to his shock and horror, slit the old man’s throat in the street.

With that, Rom is set on a path of both enlightenment and exceptional peril.  The parcel contains a vial of blood that, when ingested, restores the emotions long ago excised from the human psyche.  Love, hate, envy, jealously, joy – the blood opens a door to all of them.  As Rom struggles to comprehend the meaning of the old man’s words, he and a small group of his friends taste the blood and its illicit secret.  With eyes and hearts newly opened, they begin to unravel the web of half-truths and deceit that have held society together for the last 480+ years.

“Forbidden” is both a complex and a subtle story. Fiction is an effective mechanism to deliver and digest complex ideas (you’ve read “Atlas Shrugged” and “1984”, right?)  Like the old saying goes – a little sugar helps the medicine go down.  Here, a superbly crafted post-apocalyptic novel helps couch a more cogent and timely warning on the dangers of globalism.  Through the eyes of Rom we are given a glimpse of what the world would be like should globalism firmly take root.  A world that, sadly, is not as incompatible with much of today’s political and societal rhetoric as one would hope:

Rom had heard the city was a place of light at one time, of sun by day and city lamps by night, like sparkling gems strewn against a backdrop of velvet.  Televisions and computers connected everyone.  Planes crisscrossed the sky.

Citizens owned weapons.

Now personal electricity was rationed.  Televisions existed in public spaces and for state use only.  Many had phones but computers were restricted to state use.  Planes, reserved for royal business, were a rare sight in Byzantium’s overcast sky.  And the only firearms in the world existed in museums.

Sounds crazy doesn’t it?  Sounds like something out of a science fiction book.  Sounds impossible and improbable – but it’s not.  Just spend a few minutes online and you’ll be surprised at what you find in the headlines.  At last year’s climate summit in Cancun, one paper that was presented called for a limit on the personal use of electricity as a means to combat the dubious “global warming” crisis.  During this summer’s riots in the UK, Prime Minister David Cameron proposed that the government have the power to shut down access to websites and social media during times of societal unrest (a proposal that has since, thankfully, been scrapped).  The suppression or outright ban of access to information through the Internet is a favorite tactic of both outright dictatorships as well as merely “oppressive” governments

The EU has put a plan in to place to eliminate cars in all major cities by the year 2050.  The instances of “global warming” propagandists who preach reducing your carbon footprint while they themselves enjoy the conveniences of travel on private jets, are too numerous to catalog (there are a few here, and here).  The only stories more numerous than environmental hypocrisy are those cataloging Progressives’ call for the elimination of gun ownership as a basic human right (a choice few instances are here, here, here, and here).

Science fiction perhaps, but not an impossible journey to get from today to the world of “Forbidden”; a world with a severely reduced number of inhabitants (another tenet the globalists like to preach), oppressive government control, and a population ruled by fear.  A world where the global elite saw their opportunity when the fear gene was discovered and then didn’t let the crisis of world conflict “go to waste”. A world where the elite preyed on people’s fears, enticing them to give up their liberties – then made overcoming those fears a physical impossibility.

This is not, however, a world without hope.  As Rom, his friends, and a few fortuitous allies work to overcome this oppression of the mind and the soul, you find more than a few layers of allegory spread across the pages.  In particular, there is a strong religious subtext underlying much of the book.  The examples are numerous.  The public, devoid of emotion, is described as being dead.  The only way to wake them, to have them born again into a world of emotion, is by receiving the blood in the vial.  This paradigm of resurrection and salvation through blood is a core tenet of the Christian faith.  It’s no secret that Christianity and tyranny do not mix well (there’s a reason Christians are persecuted throughout the world, and religion is the target of most dictatorial regimes).  The promise of salvation and the hope of forgiveness have been the relentless wind and rain that’s worn down more than one mountain of totalitarianism over the centuries.

“Forbidden” is an excellent book, and one you should read for two reasons.  First – read it to be entertained.  It’s a well-written story with a rich world and characters ripe for continued development.  Dekker and Lee have created a captivating narrative that will appeal to thriller, sci-fi, and fantasy readers alike. This is the first in a planned series of books, so there is a requisite amount of set-up and explanation.  It’s handled rather well, with a quick pace and a deft balance between action and exposition.

Second – read the book to be educated.  It’s a compelling meditation on the dangers of centralized world government.  It explores the idea that – while human feelings and passions are messy, and people have a capacity for both good and evil – the alternative to that chaotic swirl of emotions is an antiseptic and bleak existence.

“You only feel pain because you are alive, boy!” the keeper thundered.  “This is the mystery of it.  Life is lived on the ragged edge of that cliff.  Fall off and you might die, but run from it and you are already dead!”

This story will force you to consider what it really means to sacrifice freedom for security – even if that freedom is just the freedom to feel.  This book that made me think – long and hard.  I hope it does the same for you.


You can find Ted Dekker online at –

You can find Tosca Lee online at –

Visit and download a free short story prequel to “Forbidden”


My favorite words from “Forbidden”

He was going to die and the thought of death, so close, rode him like a monster more powerful and vicious than any he’d known to exist.

What we call love, Rom, is the shadow of something lost.

“Peace has reigned for hundreds of years.  The Age of Chaos was filled with so much war and pain.  Why would you even dream of returning to such a state?” “Only corpses rest in peace.” “Then leave us dead!  Let the living crave what I already have.  The world is at peace!” “A corpse may rest in peace, but make no mistake, it has no life.  No true humanity.  No true love or joy, not even true peace, any more than a rock has peace.”

“The human heart is a delicate thing.”  She drew back and put her hand on his chest.  “I know that now.  It’s the sorrow you feel that allows you to crave love.  Without that suffering, there would be no true pleasure.  Without tears, no joy.  Without deficiency, no longing.  This is the secret of the human heart, Rom.  You feel so much pain, I can see it in your eyes, but there is also love.  In the end, the only thing worth living for is falling in love.  Bring that love to humanity.”

* A copy of this book was provided to by the publisher for purposes of this review.

© 2011 – 2017, The Word Zombie. All rights reserved.

4 Replies to “Review – “Forbidden” by Ted Dekker and Tosca Lee”

  1. This is a great review. I loved this book, and the links you posted to real life occurrences of some of the policies in Forbidden’s dystopian government are very scary.

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