THE TRANSMIGRATION OF TIMOTHY ARCHER
Dick's death a little over a week ago may mean that this will be his last published novel; and, ironically, it is the one in which he most completely abandons sciencefiction for mainstream theological writing. At the center of this hardworking, emotional, doleful drama--"a fictionalized biography of Bishop Pike of California"--is charismatic Bishop Tim Archer, a man of compulsive beliefs and singleminded enthusiasms. Viewed through the eyes of narrator/daughter-in-law Angel, Tim becomes involved with ailing, unstable, barbiturate-addict Kirstin (of whom Tim's son Jeff is also secretly enamored). And when some new pre-Christian documents come to light, Tim and Kirstin leave for Paris to pore over the translations--whence it emerges that the (c. 200 B.C.) documents incorporate sayings attributed to Jesus. . . plus (after John Allegro) proof of a sacred mushroom cult. So Tim's faith in Jesus-as-Messiah soon crumbles--and he becomes further undone when son Jeff (unable to cope with his incestuously-guilty feelings) kills himself: Tim and Kirstin will eventually claim that Jeff is signaling to them from the spirit world. Tim resigns from the church to join a think tank. Kirstin, while editing a dreadful book about Jeff's other-worldly activities, follows Jeff to suicide when she learns that she has cancer. And finally, shocked and distraught, Tim abandons mysticism, heading for Israel in search of the magic mushrooms, only to die in the desert. . . whereupon Kristin's likable, crazy son Bill announces that Tim's spirit has returned to share his (Bill's) brain. Thoughtful, elegantly constructed work, with lots of erudite conversations in the Dick manner--and though the characters remain shadows against their tangled, gloom & doom, religious/mystical backdrop, curious readers who recall Pike's mysterious career should find this a quietly stimulating, if thoroughly depressing, reconstruction.