Blasphemy--Douglas Preston

| | Comments (4)

[Caution: Spoilers from the word go}

I read all of the Preston and Child books although I often find myself frustrated by the complete rationalism of them. Everything that appears supernatural is undone and shown to be a perfectly natural, albeit heinous and diabolically clever ruse of one sort of another. There were intimations in Wheel of Darkness that they may have moved a little from their rationalist empiricism into a supernatural realm (in the metaphysical sense).

Blasphemy, as its acknowledgments to Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins might portend, is a return to these roots. Scientists in the southwest build a super-collider designed to explore the opening moments of the establishment of the universe; however, when they get the supercollider up to speed, strange things begin to happen and a message from God starts to come through the computers running the machine. Meanwhile, the enterprise is threatened by bad, bad fundies, menacingly peaceful Navajos, and a set of internal conflicts that make the cuckoo's nest look like a home away from home.

Excitement, new ideas, interesting landscape, predictable characters and development, all characterize the book. What I found intriguing, and what intrigues me about all Preston and Preston and Cloud books is the off-stage development of romance. These guys know they have a story without having to introduce a stray sexual element to keep you interested, and, frankly, while I'm not a prude, I find this refreshing. Yes there is a love interest, yes there is a scene in which a curtain is discretely drawn over the action--but this is just a pub brawl from beginning to end with the occasional wench pushed out of the way of harm.

I have to say that I really enjoyed the book despite its predictable trajectory. Recent books by the team seem to want to raise metaphysical and supernatural questions (in a light way) and I think that is also a good trend.

The writing here could have done with a better edit than it got--as I pointed out earlier when our resident expert on all things pedantic and querulous thought that she needed to put me in my place. And I stand by that--most modern books could do with more handling than they get. Heck, that's a huge understatement--most modern books could do with not being published at all. This, however isn't one of them--and if you want some lightweight, cheap thrills, this could be a fun book for you to read.

Bookmark and Share


I had a similar impression of the book. It was fun to read, with an interesting premise and some interesting twists, but I think the state of the world at the end -- a growing belief in a false religion founded by a knowingly false prophet -- is supposed to be a way of saying "see, nothing has changed". The materialism in the book unwinds the magic, and that seems to be very much on purpose.

Dear Zippy,

Your note suggests another reading that I'm not sure the book itself supports, but I'd like to test it out. I think one of the messages may be an unthinking zealotry, any unreasoned faith in anything, be it ever so empirical is in and of itself a bad thing. Perhaps it's not so much an argument AGAINST religion as it is an argument FOR the use of reason.

As I said, I'm not sure the book supports the weight of that hypothesis, but a casual glance back does suggest it as a possibility. In which case, it is not so much enlightenment as it would be fairly conformable to Catholic teaching.

However, the portrayal of religion throughout does tend to make one doubt the efficacy of the overall tone. So, I don't know.



I definitely finished with the impression of "enlightenment rationalism despairs of human rationality". But there is enough ambiguity that maybe to some extent the story is going to reflect the religious/rationalist biases of the reader back upon him.

I have to say that I enjoy, just as pure entertainment, the Preston/Child collaborations more than the 'solo acts'.

Dear Zippy,

I have to say that I enjoy, just as pure entertainment, the Preston/Child collaborations more than the 'solo acts'.

Agreed entirely. Of the two separate, I far prefer Preston, as yet being unable to finish one of Child's separate efforts. But in general the collaborations are somewhat stronger and more enjoyable--they tend to temper one another's excesses.





About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on August 19, 2008 7:04 AM.

Political Consciousness was the previous entry in this blog.

Jubliee of St. Paul Romans 1:16-20 (III) is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

My Blogroll