|It’s really too bad humans have such short life spans; I can imagine Voltaire reading this book, nodding his head vigorously, saying, “Mais oui, c’est toujours vrai! Le plus ce change, le plus le meme!” The Messiah Game, aptly subtitled A Comedy of Terrors, cheerfully depicts, with utter cynicism, the way a religious movement can be created, cultivated, fertilized, and directed - only to have it mutate beyond the control of its calculating progenitors. It also shows how incalculable misery, profiteering, and destruction follow in the wake of false hope and fanaticism.
Arn Parek is beginning to believe that he actually is the latest incarnation of Christ - v.d. induced delirium can seriously impair one’s mental processes - as he figureheads a ravaging army across the primitive planet Jaremi. Never mind that the actions of his followers are about as diametrically opposed to Christ’s teachings as they could be; “miracles” happen around him, and that’s good enough for him - and for the trillions of a galaxy-wide audience, watching events through the mechanical eyes of imbedded reporters called Spectators, who come complete with pseudo-identities. The Spectators are beginning to experience an uncommonly high death rate on their assignments, but that just boosts the ratings.
But genuine idealists, like Annek Panna, can find inspiration in the unlikeliest places. Surely it is no coincidence that the names of the Arn Parnek and Annek Panna are so similar. There is a syzygy of sorts here; and more than any other story thread, I want to see how this one ravels in the concluding third part.
The men who are pulling the strings and writing the scripts, Alrue Latier and Heber Beaman, want Parek to be the new guiding light of their own Mormon religion; meanwhile, the Catholic Pope is beginning to wonder if Parek might actually be what he is touted to be. After all, in a future where the Catholic church has stopped pretending that reincarnation was not originally part of Christianity, one of the pope’s primary duties is to be on the lookout for an incarnation of the messiah.
So is he or isn’t he? What is sham and what is spirit? Each reader gets to winnow the story. And if you have a recording of the musical Candide on hand, it makes for great counterpoint. ~~ Chris R. Paige