The premise of Towing Jehovah is fascinating to me. What if God died? What if he descended from heaven, lifeless and floating aimlessly in the AtlantiThe premise of Towing Jehovah is fascinating to me. What if God died? What if he descended from heaven, lifeless and floating aimlessly in the Atlantic ocean, with his falling angels announcing to Earthly religious leaders that they must bury him in an icy Arctic cave? How would people respond?
While I thoroughly enjoyed Morrow's creative, yet clear writing and his bold questioning of possibility, traits I always look forward to in his stories, I felt Towing Jehovah to be lacking. Throughout the novel, a handful of different characters showed a variety of responses to God's death: a sea captain who just wants to reclaim a bit of honor, a deeply reflective religious scholar who must weigh Vatican imperatives with his own moral searching, a Jewish deckhand who struggles who the anti-Semitic prejudice of his evangelical peer...through these stories we see the struggle to live ethically in Anno Postdomini One.
But there is one set of characters that make no sense to me. How would atheists respond to the sudden appearance of a large mass identified as God's body? I would imagine one prominent response would be validation through the knowledge that God was in fact some sort of giant humanoid and, if this giant humanoid also facilitated or inspired some Biblical stories, he certainly didn't create the universe or control life or death, as evidenced by his current state. God's death, should the term "god" still apply, would reveal him to have been far from omnipotent. The book's two atheists, Cassie and Oliver, leaders of an activist atheist society, respond quite differently. They freak out, believing the appearance of the deity's corpse to be an event that will usher in a new era of ignorance, though ignorance concerning what, I am unclear. In their view, God's death somehow validates everything they are against. It validates the existence of a god, it validates the dominance of patriarchy, and it weights faith over reason. Morrow never provides a reason for why they feel this way, for why they never consider the possibility that God's death will alter rather than further the course of human history, but their panic does allow an essential plot line to develop. I hate to say this about Morrow because I'm such a fan of his work, but I feel like he left a major gap in the story and filled it with a bit of nonsense in order to facilitate a plot device. Ultimately, the hole and layer of brush covering it prevented me from going forward with the book and believing its conclusions.
For how concise, yet thorough Morrow is in his short stories, I am bummed that the first novel of his I've read was so intellectually disappointing. Nevertheless, I did enjoy his language -- his use of words and his way of revealing characters and worlds was always enthralling -- and I will probably read the rest of the books in the Godhead series with the hope that he will more fully explore the diversity of responses to the death of God....more
The first chapter of Downbelow Station was one of the most exciting openings I've read...and it was actually back story. A tantalizingly possible futuThe first chapter of Downbelow Station was one of the most exciting openings I've read...and it was actually back story. A tantalizingly possible future of space exploration catalyzed by corporate profit and marred by petty in-fighting turned war, the intro chapter got me so geared up for the rest of the book that I wanted to read it to random friends just to get them geared up with me. Unfortunately, as soon as the narration revved down to the present time of the story, the plot was so confusing and the characters so fleeting that I could never find anything to latch onto. You know that inevitable feeling of disorientation you feel the first few pages of a novel? I was nearly a third of the way through Downbelow Station when I realized I was still experiencing that disorientation so completely that I had to stop. I didn't know who the protagonist was or if there was one, every character seemed a bit of an antagonist to at least one other faction, and I was still uncertain which thread of plot the story was most closely following or how each thread fit into some sort of whole carpet. It's too bad. I really wanted to like the book, but I just couldn't sort it out enough to compel me to dedicate my couple hours off each night to engaging it....more