When the empires of reason and faith collide, the authority of each is called into question. Sean and Maddy begin to build a life together in New York City, but their endeavor is complicated by Maddy’s choice, prior to meeting Sean, to become pregnant via artificial insemination. Unbeknownst to her, however, the child she carries—Victor, whose destiny the second half of the novel traces—is a beacon of paradigm-shifting research: not just a clone, but the human clone of Jesus Christ, whose DNA was salvaged from Christian relics by the brilliant but unstable Dr. Khodadad Jal. Raised a faithful Muslim, Jal is tormented by the dilemma posed by the confrontation of religion and science. His destructive answer to the fate of mankind—he wants to create an apocalypse—calls him to study advanced embryology and to seek out (and deceive) rich donors. After securing Victor’s birth and surviving a murder attempt by a crazed colleague, Jal envisions the realization of his grand scheme with a nuclear holocaust, a manufactured apocalypse led by Victor, the supposed second coming of Christ. Masterfully told from its benign beginnings to its tragic end in a Jerusalem cemetery, this novel charts the intersection of men and women made anxious by the question of life’s purpose and its seemingly paltry answers. Fantastic in its arc, the story nonetheless roots itself in moments of genuine psychological discord, revealing itself via anachronistic chapters that flit between past and future. This is a fable of sorts for the modern world, spanning the events of 9/11 and the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict as well as the doctrines of Hegelian philosophy and Islamic theology. A study in the ethical limits of science, the novel also traces the blurry line that divides sanity from insanity, as Jal’s views degenerate from philosophically reasoned convictions to sadism and self-delusion.
A confident mix of high-minded intellectual arguments and fast-paced fiction.