Back in 1958 Eugene Vale wrote the ultimately best-selling Thirteenth Apostle which had a generally good press here (""we should have to go back to Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain"") and poor press in England (""a kind of Mexican Passing of the Third Floor Back""). In that book, he was a better ""novelist than theologian,"" but in this one, a giant economy sized sermon, the story just about gets lost. And there are pages and pages (close to 700 in all) tussling with the absolute Absolutes, fate, freewill and faith, science versus the soul, homo sapiens Versus the new ""race of automata,"" and all ""the conflicts, uncertainties, ambitions and titanic dreams unique to twentieth century man."" Coping with them is Ray, a scientist with a breakthrough discovery-- the conversion of salt water to irrigate the deserts of the world; opposing him is Howard Garlow, who worked with him long ago, and now wants to cut himself in on the deal. Garlow is blackmailing Ray claiming that it is not his formula but that of a man who died in a laboratory explosion. Then there is Lisa, Ray's wife undergoing a difficult pregnancy which may involve the ""burial of her unripened fruit""; Garlow and his loose women; a sister's shaky marriage; and not much else to prop up the messianic message. Or turbid thoughts like this. ""And after achieving its intangible and eerie independence, this deathless consciousness became an activating entity of its own, creating results as real as any produced by individual motivation. Manifesting an obscure, suprapersonal will , it rapidly grew beyond people's comprehension and control."" At any rate ours, although publisher promotion will be strong.