Blasphemy, Douglas Preston’s (of Relic fame) latest book, explores science and religion, provocatively suggesting that science is the next stage of religion. It’s about a group of scientists who are part of a government-funded project to explore new sources of energy as well as the Big Bang. To do this, they have built Isabella, a superconducting supercollider particle accelerator (try saying that 3 times fast). However, just before completion, the project runs into snags as the scientists encounter something they do not expect from the machine…something that refers to itself as God. Into this situation falls Wyman Ford, a former CIA operative the government hires to explore the delay. At the same time, a smarmy televangelist and a preacher determined to bring Christianity to the Native Americans who live on the land surrounding the science experiment use Isabella for their own ends with explosive consequences.
This book was a lot better than I expected it to be. I have read other Preston books, and they aren’t as tightly crafted as this one is. The characters are a little weak, but the plot was provocative and thought-provoking. The comments supposedly coming from God were fascinating and could have been an entire novel on their own; when the action diverged from Isabella, I was impatient for the plot to return to her. I wanted more. I had a visceral reaction to other parts of the book and was disgusted by the events set in motion by the unscrupulous lobbyist and the televangelist, and it’s easy to see how a very simple chain of events could begin a religious war in this country. Terrifyingly easy. In an election year, with lobbying scandals in the recent past, with Creationism still battling with evolution in our nation’s schools, this book seems very timely.
I also liked how the book didn’t cop out with the God issue. The book left just enough ambiguity so that the reader thought he or she knew what was going on, but the door was left open for other possibilities. Sometimes other books will handle these types of questions for which there are no answers by ending with a weak, “Oh no. The book fell down the well. I guess we’ll never know who the real Shakespeare is” (Yes, I’m thinking of you, Interred with Their Bones). Humph. I’m not looking for a book to rewrite history, but when you explore a fascinating premise, don’t be afraid to go to the edge. Take a stand! Choose a position! There is also nothing more I dislike than a book that is about a great mystery like Atlantis or aliens or something and after letting my mind soar with possibilities, dumps me to the ground and brings me back to reality with an explanation of fakery. I want to suspend my disbelief. It’s ok…I’m a big girl. I know what’s real and what is not. But I also read these books because I like to think that maybe, just maybe there are some mysteries that haven’t been solved or debunked.
For a book on a similar topic:
The Footprints of God (Greg Iles)