cover image Blameless in Abaddon

Blameless in Abaddon

James Morrow. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt P, $24 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-15-188656-2

God isn't dead after all. He's just in a coma. The angel who announced the Creator's demise in Morrow's World Fantasy Award-winning Towing Jehovah (1994) was simply wrong. God's body is no longer controlled by the Catholic Church, either. Strapped for funds, the Vatican has sold the Corpus Dei to the Baptists, who (shades of Stanley Elkin's The Living End, 1979) have turned the body into the central attraction at a religious theme park. Then a Pennsylvania justice of the peace named Martin Candle gets prostate cancer and loses his beloved wife in a freak automobile accident. Outraged, Job-like Martin decides to put God on trial before the World Court in The Hague. As in Towing Jehovah, Morrow combines black comedy with theological speculation in an often painful examination of God's possible responsibility for human suffering. There are some powerful and surreal scenes here, as when Martin, gathering information for the prosecution, enters God's brain and finds himself on a packet steamer captained by Saint Augustine, their destination the Garden of Eden. Along the way, they run into various biblical characters, many of whom applaud Martin's actions. Much of the narrative is heavy going, consisting of detailed discussions of ""theodicy,"" the ""attempt to reconcile the fact of evil with the existence of an omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent Creator."" Equally hard to deal with, though for emotional reasons, are the extended descriptions of human suffering, ranging from the gas chambers of Auschwitz to Martin's cancer. Ultimately, this is a dark and powerful sequel, but one lacking subtlety as well as the surprise and adventurousness of the original. (Aug.)