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The Wrong God

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Since the beginnings of history people have believed in magic, but California science writer Andy Taggart is not one of them. Until the day that John Chalk, his old friend from grad school, makes a ballpoint pen rise to stand on end – untouched. From that moment Andy is caught up in John’s mystery. Is this an illusion or is it new physics? Why can John do things that other people can’t – things that will mark him in some eyes as a worker of miracles? And why does John think someone is watching him?

Someone is watching. Wendell Murchison is possibly the most powerful man in America. He controls wealth, his own cable news network, an army of evangelical political operatives, and the President of the United States, but he wants more. From the new America of terrorist sleeper cells, detention camps and legalized torture he sees a path to levels of power not seen since the Inquisition. He would make a new all-out war of religion; all he needs is a leader – the New Prophet, John Chalk. Whether John believes or not.

When John refuses and flees, Andy is left to face an adversary who will offer bribes, publish lies, send goon squads to beat him, whatever it takes to force him to betray John. Under constant surveillance and unsure who he can trust, Andy can’t stand alone; he has to find John. But even together, what can they do against Murchison? Levitating pens won’t stop him and there’s no point in hoping for miracles if you don’t believe in anybody’s gods.


First published August 18, 2010

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About the author

Paul Guthrie

7 books12 followers
I am a scientist by training and vocation. I received a BA in Physics from Cornell University, followed by a Ph.D. in Astronomy from the University of Massachusetts. After graduation I went to work for NASA at Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt MD. My work was primarily in the development of computer models to simulate the chemistry of the Earth’s atmosphere in order to understand ozone depletion and climate change. After thirteen years I left NASA and joined a consulting firm in San Rafael CA, working mainly on air pollution issues for the EPA. By then I was irrevocably committed to the use of computers and the development of software. In 1999 I left the environmental field entirely and became involved in developing software for biotechnology and medical applications, which I continue to do part time. Starting in 2002, however, I decided to pursue another interest, that of writing fiction. I continue to live in the San Francisco Bay area, still married to the same person after forty years. We have two grown children.

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Displaying 1 - 7 of 7 reviews
Profile Image for David Welch.
3 reviews3 followers
December 14, 2010
I’m writing this review because I like this book. I believe I’m qualified to write a review because I’ve read a lot. In my 65 plus years I’ve easily read more than 4,000 books and a large part of them, perhaps as many as 1,000, have been in the Science Fiction genre. So as an avid reader of Science Fiction I’d like to say the following about Paul Guthrie’s book:

I look for four things in a Science Fiction novel: Does it maintain my interest beyond the first few pages? Do I feel strongly about the characters ie. either like or dislike them a lot? Is the ‘science’ plausible? Last, and by far most important, is there a meaningful message in the story? In other words something that causes me to think after I’ve finished the book.

I believe The Wrong God scores highly on all four counts. To begin with I was quickly intrigued by the story line and once I started reading I couldn’t put it down until I finished it the same day. It wasn’t that I didn’t have other things to do, it’s just that I wanted to find out where the story went and what happened to the characters.

The main character, Andy Taggart, was a rather likable guy and I could relate to his divorce and relationship with Rachel, his new girlfriend. I found the secondary ‘good guy’ John Chalk even more likable and would have preferred more definitive and positive news about his ‘condition’ at the end of the story. The bad guy, Wendell Murchison, was despicably bad and thus an interesting character as well. I was quite satisfied when he met his end.

The science seemed to be based on real physics, except for the mental control element, and thus gave the story a certain credibility.

The message in The Wrong God was one of tolerance which I consider important and useful. Religious intolerance is, and has been for a long time, a major problem in our world. Logic would suggest that belief in a creator and in a purpose for mankind would make people respect others no matter what they happen to believe. After all if there is a creator he/she/it created us all and it is illogical to assume that some of us are to kill or harm others. Yet the fact is a great deal of the killing of other human beings in the last few thousand years has been the direct result of religious intolerance. This killing seems senseless to me and I gave the matter considerable during and after reading the book thus I believe the message in The Wrong God is a powerful one.

I highly recommend The Wrong God to anyone who likes thought provoking Science Fiction.

David Welch
Avid reader and author of Mankind’s End
Profile Image for Rick-Founder JM CM BOOK CLUB .
362 reviews819 followers
April 28, 2011
As the opening synopsis states "Since the beginnings of history people have believed in magic, but California science writer Andy Taggart is not one of them. Until the day that John Chalk, his old friend from grad school, makes a ballpoint pen rise to stand on end – untouched. From that moment Andy is caught up in John’s mystery. Is this an illusion or is it new physics? Why can John do things that other people can’t – things that will mark him in some eyes as a worker of miracles? And why does John think someone is watching him?" THE WRONG GOD is that rare book that combines thriller and magic into an utterly absorbing read. The characters, unique plot and locations created by the very talented Paul Guthrie keeps the reader on the edge of their seat- clean clear prose and a very satisfying conclusion. A recommended read for lovers of exciting stories with quite plots and characters that are quite complex.


August 1, 2011
This book was simply outstanding! Paul Guthrie writes superbly blending magic, politics, and power into a phenomenal story sure to resonate with 21st century challenges. Excellent choice. I look forward to the sequel...
66 reviews10 followers
October 21, 2016
The prologue of this book introduces Ea a female oracle, the Roman Volantus who can levitate, and Dror a fake using wires to levitate objects – fictional characters used to remind us that people with “special powers” have historically been sacrificed as witches and devils. Not sure why this prologue was necessary, and as I read it I was hoping the main story would be better written. Fortunately it was.

This is the story of John Chalk, a physicist who late in life develops skills for moving things like pens and bricks using telepathic abilities. Despite all the experiments and technical mumbo jumbo thrown in (the author is a scientist), we learn that he most likely developed this skill by being in the “aura” of someone else that had the power.

Chalk is helped throughout the book by an old college classmate (Andy) and Andy’s new girlfriend (Rachel). I think we are supposed to like Andy and feel sorry for the situations that John Chalk gets him into. I did not find his character particularly likeable. For starters, Andy is not someone I would share any really big secrets with - which is funny since he is one of the few people Chalk thought he could trust to help him. Under the guise of “not keeping secrets” from his girlfriend – Andy tells her about experiments he was asked to keep secret. Thus, he gets her involved in all the shenanigans that follow, and he spends a lot of time whining about the things happening to him.

I had issues with all the major characters in this book. Chalk is supposed to be a very gifted physicist. But both scientists seem to lack common sense. They can’t think of just one innovative use for these telepathic skills? They can’t think of anywhere to hide that gives you the remote chance of not getting caught? Chalk is pitted against a very rich man who allegedly controls most of America. He is bad, but he is a one-dimensional character. Not much surprise or suspense in the bad things he is willing to do to get his way. If only the scientists were smart enough to outwit him occasionally.

Midway through the book – there’s a pretty implausible plot twist – which sidelines Chalk and throws Andy into the spotlight. For me, the writing and plot took a downward spiral from this point, and the story line seemed rushed to a conclusion. To his credit, the author does tie up all the loose ends before the book ends.

The premise of a scientist conflicted over using his telepathic skills for the religious right in a battle against Muslim terrorists is timely and could have been an interesting story. Could an atheist be convinced to be a Christian prophet for America’s sake? I would have preferred that story line to what I got – chases across America, scientific experiments and torture chambers.
20 reviews
May 12, 2012

I was highly disappointed with this book given it had so many high reviews. Similar in tone to Night Watch or Midnight riot, but not nearly as entertaining or well-written.
Displaying 1 - 7 of 7 reviews

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