The Mahdi: A Millennium Thriller

Margo Dockendorf, Author Cypress House $24.95 (440p) ISBN 978-1-879384-35-4
Confusing thinly veiled proselytizing with millennial thrills, this sincere, albeit clumsily repetitive first novel by a California lawyer, self-styled as a New Age prophet of doom, echoes the book of Revelation in offering a vision of saving the world from Armageddon. In the final days of the millennium, the Earth is beset by earthquakes and volcanic disasters while satellite communication is disrupted by cosmic chaos. With global rioting in the streets and the major powers on nuclear alert for WWIII, Pulitzer-winning reporter Ben Williams is sent (on order of the U.S. president) to assassinate his old friend and mentor Abu 'Ali Asghar--a charismatic Nobel-winning mystic gone mad--to stop him from destroying the world. Most of the narrative is a flashback to the mid-1990s, when Williams goes to Bhopal, India, to write a followup on the 1984 Union Carbide disaster, and first meets the charismatic Abu. Enthralled by the Gandhi-like figure but doubtful of his teachings--love is all; all are God; and violent revolution is the answer--Williams is so mystified by the chimerical figure that he becomes an acolyte. Mired in travel notes and historic asides, the tedious narrative describes a pilgrimage across Asia, Malaysia, Africa, Israel and on to the New World, reprising variations of Christ's ""miracle of the loaves."" Amid assorted cataclysms and the occasional earthquake, Abu is murdered--and resurrected--(in Jerusalem; where else?) to prove he is the omnipotent Mahdi--The Awaited One. This New Age tale strives to encompass every moral and spiritual issue in the cosmos, but Dockendorf's hackneyed characterizations and purple prose nullify any visionary potential. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
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