This novel, ambitious in conception and accomplished in technique, graphs the growth of an end-of-the-world religious sect in a Southern town. There Giovanni Bruno, a renegade Catholic, is trapped in a mine disaster. With him is a disciple who writes a death note which is retrieved by the town's newspaper editor who cynically broadcasts its message as a miracle; Bruno himself--when rescued--admits to having seen the Virgin in the mine. What happens is that hardnosed Baptists tangle with Catholic symbols and the end-of-the-world means blood and fists. The novel is extensive and goes everywhere, while the growth of the underground sect is a spine for the pages. Coover does not herald himself as a firebrand with an original insight--he accepts old modes and re-works them. However the book has many points of interest--introducing all kinds of characters often caught with the precision of a Speedgraphic, and many of them are quite likeable, even the eccentrics. And even though the end is somewhat vacuous, much of it reads with aggressive excitement.