Soulsaver

James Stevens-Arce, Author
James Stevens-Arce, Author Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $24 (272p) ISBN 978-0-15-100472-0
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Based on a novella that earned the 1997 UPC Prize for Science Fiction (Barcelona), this first novel is a satirical near-future adventure with SF trappings and a clear mission to unmask the money-grubbing, cynical powers behind a particularly pernicious form of fundamentalist Christianity. The world of 2099 is controlled by hellfire-and-brimstone TV preacher Reverend Jimmy Divine and his gorgeous, soul-saving sidekick, the Shepherdess. Divine's secret bastard son, Juan Bautista, has just started a great job with the Suicide Prevention Corps of America, scraping up the bodies of recent suicides and speeding them to Saint Francis of Assisi Resurrection Center for healing and soul-saving. His partner, Fabiola, an SPCA veteran, is far less upbeat about the job. She's old enough to remember when church and state were legally separate, before the ""Great Miracle"" that ""illuminated"" the souls of believers of other religions and made them all Christian. When Juan is asked to inform on her by Church leaders hoping to learn the location of the outlawed children known as the Twin Messiahs, he naturally accepts, but soon enough begins to question his own faith as Fabiola reveals to him her point of view. In the end, it comes as no surprise that Reverend Jimmy's Bible-backed crusade is merely a well-disguised attempt to feed his own greed. Stevens-Arce's background as a writer for film and video is obvious from the novel's breakneck pace, convenient plot twists and thin characters. Although there's little here that will be new or surprising for the SF reader, the author's biting humor and sense of the absurd are bound to entertain. (Sept.)
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