Author: Dan Simmons
Simon & Schuster / 368 pages / February 1999
Chances are, you won’t be seeing Messiah on most SF bookshelves; mainstream fiction has claimed it for its own. Don’t be fooled. This strange and wonderful novel is as much a part of the world of science fiction and fantasy as it is the world of… well, things not genre. However you wish to classify it (if you must classify fiction), it’s a winner and, even more rare, an utterly original story.
In the universe of Messiah the millennium is just around the corner and some major shake-ups are coming with it. If you believe the Reverend Mullins, this turn of the century is bringing with it the Rapture. Of course, if you believe him, he should also have all of your cash, stocks, bonds, etc. But, do you really want to place your wealth and your future in the hands of a televangelist?
Andrea the Orphan knows an apocalypse is on its way, but she feels too disconnected to fix on exactly what the changes will mean. That’s not so unusual, though. Thousands of miles away in New Orleans, Felicity is experiencing that same incompleteness. The paths they take to the big show are more whim and accident than thoughtful strategy. Lack of a plan seems to be the only thing that most of the world has in common as the crucial date approaches.
Unfortunately, not everyone is without a plan. The right Reverend and Felicity’s beloved “Uncle” are among those ready to roll with their schemes, none of which bodes well for humanity. Our only hope is that one of the good guys can figure a solution out in time. Let’s just say it doesn’t look good for our side. Whatever happens, it’s going to be quite a spectacle along the way.
And this show is going to be unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Whew!
Messiah is no less a show than the wild parties awaiting the new millennium. The lives, actions, and thoughts of Andrea, Felicity, and their extended families are more bizarre than anything you are going to come across on the streets of the Big Easy.
Codrescu has “peopled” his book with a cast of characters that could come from nowhere else but fantasy. Heaven and Hell have chipped in with their fair share of creatures. Alive or dead is a useless distinction, in Messiah. As is good and evil — it just doesn’t apply. Every character is more mystifying than the last, but even that is not Codrescu’s greatest achievement: how he presents multi-dimensional, complex personalities for people (and non-people) who have so little idea who or what they really are is quite a feat. For all the holes in these psyches, only pure illumination shines through.
But don’t expect to find the ending in any religious document; that’s not the way this apocalypse crumbles. Don’t waste your precious time trying to predict the final outcome. What comes after Messiah is a brave and bizarre new world. No one but you can say if it’s for better or for worse.