Bereft and deranged earthlings struggle to adapt to a world without divine guidance in this mordant dystopian fable, its Maine author’s abrasively funny first novel.
It begins in Darfur, whence God, hamstrung by the indecisiveness of “an implacable polytheistic bureaucracy,” has come, in the guise of a native African (Dinka) woman, to show His solidarity with embattled Sudanese refugees. The Deity’s disguised appearance elicits both emergency aid and profane insubordination from visiting U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell. And when the eponymous tragedy occurs, humanity comes apart at its seams in a series of variously interrelated seriocomic episodes. A hopeful high-school graduate eager to jettison her past and embrace the future instead experiences numbing depression when she observes a priest committing suicide. When the absence of God moves parents to blind adoration of their children, a weary CAPP (Child Adulation Prevention Psychologist) tries, and fails, to set misguided moms and dads straight. Directionless teens form a suicide club, and a love-struck adolescent joins the Marines to fight in a catastrophic global war that pits Postmodern Anthropologists against Evolutionary Psychologists. When an unstable young man who cannot completely shed his Christian faith commits mass murder, his innocent family are “accused” of worship. Clearly, Currie intends these spiky narratives to fray readers’ nerves, and despite a tendency to push even his most inspired premises to what’s-going-on-here extremes, they’re almost uniformly inventive and absorbing. His wired imagination works best in a monologue-“interview” with the last surviving member of the feral dog pack that feasted on the Deity’s fresh corpse, ingested some of His powers and were themselves worshipped by humans, before suffering exploitation by a megalomaniac theologian. Currie builds momentum expertly, but diffuses it somewhat with an ending that almost exactly echoes that of the popular film The Terminator.
Very clever indeed: Kurt Vonnegut laced with Louis-Ferdinand Céline.