According to a recent Harris Poll, 90 percent of Americans believe in God to varying degrees, and 58 percent are absolutely certain of God's existence. What happens to all those people when God returns to Earth as a Dinka woman and is murdered by the Janjaweed militia in Darfur? Not only does a crisis of faith ensue, but a much more practical one, a crisis of Newtonian physics: Nature abhors a vacuum, and something, perhaps even something terrible, will arise to fulfill it.

In God Is Dead, a profound and profoundly disturbing debut novel that unfolds in a series of linked stories, Maine author Ron Currie Jr. takes his place among the ranks of George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and Arthur C. Clarke in outlining a dystopian future. A former short-order cook, Currie has contributed stories to literary journals like Glimmer Train and the Alaska Quarterly Review. In his imagined future, armed forces are no longer bound to nation-states, but to concepts, and the Postmodern Anthropologists battle against the massed forces of the Evolutionary Psychologists. Meanwhile, on the home front, agents of the Childhood Adulation Prevention Agency attempt to drive a stake into the heart of a sudden wave of innocence-worshiping parents; lost-soul teenagers engage in a drunken mutual suicide pact; and nanotechnology is employed on a grand scale to erase bad memories . . . including the death of God and the ensuing world war.

But the emotional core of the book lies in a surreal extended interview with one of the feral dogs who chanced to feast upon God's flesh, and who much as with Adam and the apple gained knowledge for which it was in no way prepared. Each of the chapter-length stories seems to have emerged as if from a fever dream, sampling alternate futures that spring up like mutant weeds from this single event. And while Currie studiously avoids the use of Satan either as a character or a metaphor, the world he has created seems surely to be as close to the definition of hell as one could hope to portray. At a mere 182 pages, God Is Dead doesn't weigh much in the hand, but it certainly lies heavily on the psyche.

Los Angeleno Thane Tierney is a practicing bishop in the Universal Life Church.

 

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