Monteleone takes a stab at his biggest novel ever (Ozymandias, 1981, etc.), about Millennial Fever and the Second Coming, and comes out half a winner with lusterless hero. A promising start slips into melodrama as ``charismatic'' Father Peter Carenza, now 30, is told by the Vatican that he has been cloned from blood molecules recovered from the Shroud of Turin and then finds himself pursued by Rome's deadly Vatican Secret Service hit-squad. Father Peter, confronted by a gun-wielding teenaged mugger in Brooklyn, fries the mugger to a crisp with a lightning bolt. Soon, he's whisked off to Rome to have this miracle ``verified,'' although Rome knows already that Peter will be able to do such miracles at 30, the age Jesus became Christ. It seems that the Church had him cloned in the womb of a sinless 18-year-old virgin; his mother, now Sister Etienne, has since been secreted in a convent and lately been invaded by Apocalyptic visions. Imprisoned in the Vatican, Peter escapes, flies back to New York, and teams up with Marion Windsor, a TV anchorwoman looking for her first national scoop, who gives him his first sex. When Peter's friend Father Daniel is tortured and mangled by an assassin, Peter brings him back to full health with a blast from his aura. While hiding out with Marion and Daniel, he interrupts a robbery and makes the repentant robber one of his followers. Soon Peter is preaching across the land to folks waiting for the millennium. Slowly, as Peter's powers increase, his character turns lopsided: he kills Daniel, then thousands die in a flood he's caused. Will assassins nail him when he gathers the Pope and the world's leading religious figures together at L.A.'s giant Sports Palladium? Well, a sequel is clearly ahead as Peter shades into the Antichrist. Absorbing but not a novel you can take seriously, with a Jesus who wouldn't know a parable from a fig tree.