by Mike Resnick
“Genesis: The Rejected Canon”
“God and Mr. Slatterman”
“The Pale Thin God”
“How I Wrote the New Testament, Ushered in the Renaissance, and Birded the 17th hole at Pebble Beach”
“Interview With the Almighty”
Reviewed by Bryan Thomas Schmidt
Mike Resnick’s collection Blasphemy has the most fitting title of any anthology released this year. Filled with stories of an Atheist’s take on religion, particularly Christianity, there’s plenty here with which religious readers might take offense. As a Christian myself, I found the material at times to be challenging, but at other times, I was rolling around the floor in laughter.
Written with Resnick’s usual no holds barred style, the stories raise difficult questions which might well take some Christian readers by surprise, but they also provide good insight into how Athiests regard Christian religious tropes, and it’s there the book hits its stride, providing rich rewards for any reader who can set aside his or her pretensions and dig in.
The bulk of the collection consists of the short novels “Walpurgis III” and “The Branch.” The story of a planet populated by covens of witches and satanists from Earth, “Walpurgis III” documents the arrival of an assassin sent by the Republic to kill a man who’s launched a reign of terror and Evil that shocks even the witches and satanists. Having fled from the Republic and others who want him dead, genocidal Conrad Bland sought refuge on Walpurgis III and has now taken over the planet. At first, he was worshipped and revered, but when the killing didn’t stop, the people grew to loathe and fear him. The story asks the difficult question: who’s more evil—the man who kills from compulsion, because no other opportunity presents itself; or the calculated killer who sees alternatives but chooses murder anyway?
“The Branch” tells the story of what would happen if the Messiah the Jews expected showed up at the end of the 21st Century. A very different Messiah than Christ, not at all a prince of peace. The results shock even those who have long awaited his arrival.
The remainder of the stories are quite short and varied. The funniest was the last, “Interview With The Almighty,” which has the author interviewing God in a humorous dialogue.
The most unusual piece is “The Pale Thin God,” where Jesus is put on trial by a succession of African Gods until they realize He’s superior, not because of the good He’s done, but because of the suffering He’s left in His wake. It poses an interesting view of Christ which will challenge those who look at Him as a Savior and righteous man, but the points of view expressed by the African dieties also force the reader to question how they think as well.
Jack McDevitt’s Foreword and Lezli Robyn’s Afterword provide insight into the author’s own beliefs with humor and warmth.
Altogether, an interesting collection from one of the best writers working today. It may shock you or thrill you, but either way, you won’t be bored.
Blasphemy by Mike Resnick
Golden Gryphon Press
Oct. 2010, hc, 349 pp., $24.95