The Judeo-Christian tradition throws in the towel, to be replaced by a new world mythos in this disarmingly sweet fable by the author of Eyes in the Fire (1989). It is the turn of the century, shortly after the arrival of The Big One--a devastating man-made plague that feeds on human stress to kill. Four billion adults have died; the children, creatures, and few adults remaining find themselves in a bountiful yet simpler world in which animals and humans are able to communicate clairvoyantly. In fact, the events to come are manipulated largely by an immortal cat, a trout, and some accommodating ravens--who patiently shepherd a pregnant poetess, her lover, a reluctant Jesus Christ, and a handful of other humans into position for the birth of a new world order whose symbolic leader is developing in the poetess' womb. As the woman adjusts to her new role as mother of a god, Max, her lover, reveals his identity as the ageless Wandering Jew whose curse has been to live until Christ's Second Coming. For two thousand years, Max has taunted his enemy, Jesus Christ, but when Jesus finally appears to witness the end of his kingdom and reveals a fear of dying, he and Max become fast, if unlikely, friends. Just in time, too, for the baby is about to be born. The cat sees to it that Max and Jesus are present; that a simple-minded painter, a seer from India, and the Greek Calypso stand in as the three wise-men; and that the birth is witnessed by beautiful children and prescient beasts. The new god (who turns out to be female) arrives bearing vague promises of a more harmonious world order freed of the former separations between body and soul, man and beast, male and female, and even, perhaps, life and death. With the new goddess in power, Max and Jesus take off to see the world together as mere mortals, and the ageless animals--whose job it is to witness ""the turning of the wheel""--settle down to wait another two thousand years. A charming fantasy, simply yet humorously evoked.