Australian Cave's Bible-haunted novel--an experimental tour de force about a backwoods incest-ridden community--impressively creates a mythology and brings it to an apocalyptic local finish; but this debut book is finally an odd little game, more gerrymandered than Faulknerian. Euchrid Eucrow is a mute who lives in the Ukulore Valley (a cross between the hillbilly South and the Australian outback), where the Ukilite sect holds sway. His Ma and Pa are hopeless drunks, white trash (Ma ""with a dry black maggot for a brain""), and the local sugar-cane economy collapses under a deluge of rain that lasts years, all described in a style that is prophetic but overwrought: ""When the malignant year 1941 finally abdicated, it left as its successor a black and monstrous spawn. A sullen year was 1942, stewing in the pits of constipation but nevertheless pissing a dark and gravelly stream down into the valley as if it were a pot."" Euchrid, harassed, retreats to the swamps (""Ah cannot, in all honesty, state the exact age ah was when ah first entered the swampland""); all hell breaks loose; the hellfire preacher leads his congregation into paroxysms of violence; Pa murders Ma most viciously. Meanwhile, the poetic style heats up--many passages are willfully obscure--and Euchrid's love interest, Beth, becomes intimate with his swampy kingdom of Doghead. Along the way, various prophecies (parodies of Old and New Testament rhetoric) have been uttered, and by book's end the greatest is fulfilled: Euchrid is hunted down, but Beth gives birth to ""The Child,"" even though she dies in the process. This messianic, overheated tirade, at its best, can create its own peculiar universe. Often, though, Cave, very promising but also very self-indulgent, gets tangled in too many verbal ropes. Too much of a good thing.