A time-traveling novel centers on turmoil in the near future.
It is the year 2025, and exactly 140 meteoroids are headed toward Earth. Life, as humans know it, may very well cease to exist by the winter solstice. Added to the trouble is the fact that the solstice will involve a celestial alignment “considered to presage an apocalyptic event.” Pope John Paul III, a frail though amiable pontiff, encourages the world to pray, though it seems that more drastic action may be necessary. Meanwhile, a strange blackthorn tree has sprouted from the steps of St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. It is a sight that mystifies people and enrages a blood-drinking cardinal who, along with his equally sinister dwarf sidekick, Brother Alaimo, teams up with a mysterious woman named Lebhudha (aka “the Dragon Queen”) to engage in money laundering and prevent a resurgence of the Roman Catholic Church in China. The only hope seems to come from a grumpy German archbishop named Regenmacher and his Irish assistant as they seek to find lost religious artifacts that just might save the world. Events in 2025 are, however, merely the tip of the iceberg in this raucous adventure that spans time periods, encompassing the days of Eden, Gilgamesh, and Noah. Readers who at the outset think a quick resolution may be around the corner concerning those 140 meteoroids will instead find themselves redirected through detours that include a curse of Cain, questionable ethics among Vatican relations with mobsters, and a brief suggestion that Pope John Paul I was murdered. Burch’s (Romancing Boudica, 2014, etc.) ambitious tale is a starkly imaginative mix with a colorful, wide-ranging cast. But it is easy to get lost in the fray. With so many locations, topics, and conflicts, narrowing it all down to a single, discernible narrative is not a simple task. Dialogue is often obvious, as when a female pope asserts: “I’ll do my best to create an education system so women can participate in our religious community.” This type of statement gives some inventive portions a blunt quality that will likely fail to dazzle the audience.
A wildly creative thriller that attempts to cram too many threads into an already packed and harrowing storyline.