Picks and Pans Review: A Creep for the Third Millennium

updated 07/15/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 07/15/1985 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Colleen McCullough

As she proved with The Thorn Birds, the Australian-born McCullough can sure spin an enjoyable yarn. This futuristic novel is similarly engrossing and at least as implausible. It's the year 2032, and the global outlook is bleak. "We had wasted so terribly much of what we once had to waste," says a character, "most of all the spirit and strength of our people. We'd fried our brains on dope and our hearts on loveless copulation and our souls on trash." The U.S. has been forced to sign the Delhi Treaty, levying strict population controls. Things do look grim. What's a government to do? Washington decides a Second Coming will cheer things up and picks as its "man" one Joshua Christian (anyone miss the coincidental initials?), who is handsome, unmarried, with a flare for oratory. Joshua lives with his family in Holloman (say it slowly), Conn., and his brothers have such apostolic names as James and Andrew. When Josh is sent on a nationwide tour, people flock to hear his advice on dispelling the demons of millennial neurosis, the national plague of "just wandering in a spiritual desert without the Godly star...." Judith Carriol (this is your last hint: Remember Judas Iscariot?) masterminds Operation Messiah and is ever present on the campaign trail. She's part vamp, part viper, with more interest in power than sex. Josh is hardly a fleshly pleasure-loving sort himself. "To dally unfruitfully in the arms of a lover is a solipsistic alternative," he notes. Theirs is an emotionally symbiotic relationship with ever shifting balances of power. But let's not wreck the ending. McCullough's characters are memorable for their eerie blend of folksiness and futuristic sterility. And her biblical allusions are fun, if only she didn't feel compelled to spell them out. (Harper & Row, $17.75)

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