t’s gotta suck to be Brian Herbert. Everyone always identifies him as “you know, son of Frank Herbert, the Dune guy”. And Brian’s put out a lot of books but nothing really comes to mind (then again, look who’s talking – Robert Who?). But I picked up The Race for God over at Mayas and figured I’d give it a go.
So the story is that a religious fraudster, a guy who (on a lark) started a church about a cosmic chicken, he gets a clear voice from God in his head telling him where He happens to be located (the planetary coordinates). And after he announces this, after people listen and, of course, take him seriously for whatever reason, suddenly space ships show up. No, they don’t land – they just blink into existence, manifestations of the desires of pilgrims. And then it’s all aboard and let’s race off and be the first to find God (why they don’t just proceed in an orderly formation, well, I dunno – religion, maybe?).
Anyway, as I said, an interesting premise – that people from different religions would be locked in a ship long term, forced to work out their differences (in culture and beliefs). But what snagged me on this one was, simply: “Brian, if you are going to write about religions, and you are going to study these religions, then call them by their proper names”. Yes, in what feels like a bit of a cop out, the author doesn’t use their proper names like Christians and Buddhists and such. He makes up names close to their names. Look, I understand that writing about religion is touchy and people can get really pissed. But otherwise, it’s like writing a book about “Aberdolf Hittlerman” and telling the story about Yermany in Planetary War Two. It’s an absolute distraction, one that really started to bug me. Don’t write about religion if you are going to edge around it like this. It’s frustrating.
The voyage was okay – the usual conflicts and strange events and such, along with a crazy computer running things and a couple of shipboard disasters. But I’ll note that I did like the ending, when the got to “God’s planet”, and they landed and confronted the final maker of everything. It was an interesting conclusion that I will not ruin (other than to mention that there is a Chekhov’s gun moment near the end, where something is ominous and threatening and fails to mean anything at all. I got to the last page, so “The End” and thought, “Wait, what about that other thing?”)
So there you have it. Its like a book about swimming that doesn’t dip a toe because the water’s too cold. Okay, perhaps a good beach- or bedside-book. I’m mixed on it.