I had been hesitant to get involved with another series, but James K. Morrow’s Godhead Trilogy seemed like it had the potential to be a quick and amusing read. With all three volumes conveniently stashed in one ebook, I had visions of just plowing through them all in short order. Things don’t always go as planned, however, and I only ended up reading the first book after finding this initial volume, Towing Jehovah, somewhat lackluster.
Main character Anthony Van Horne is a former sea-captain haunted by his past. Some years prior to the events of the novel he was in command of a supertanker that struck a reef and caused a massive oil spill, an event which ended his career and stalks him in his dreams. Seeking to ease his conscience, he has taken to bathing at a fountain in New York’s MET Cloisters to hopefully wash away his guilt. One day while in the process of doing so, he gets approached by a sickly bewinged individual claiming to be the archangel Raphael. The dying angel makes the stunning claims that God has died, Heaven is in disarray, and the Vatican wants to recruit Van Horne to discretely haul the 2.5 mile corpse to an iceberg for preservation. In exchange for doing so he would be reunited with his old ship and offered the chance of inner peace and atonement, not to mention a nice paycheck. The improbable voyage ends up being more difficult than even Van Horne could have possibly thought. In addition to the staggering logistical challenges, he must face down a scheming society of wealthy atheists, hostile WW2 re-enactors, and the utter moral collapse of his crew.
While I thought the book had an entertaining concept, I never quite managed to get into it. Some of that I think was due to the fact that the story wasn’t quite what I was expecting. I had gone into this looking for something a bit more irreverently zany when instead it was often quite the opposite: dull. Not to say the book didn’t have its moments; I did enjoy Van Horne’s dialogues with his Popeye notebook, the dedication of the WW2 re-enactors, and the creative solution to a food crisis that arises, but overall I felt there were a lot of missed opportunities. All the groups depicted in the story offer plenty of fodder for satire; however, the author never quite hit the right mark on these and as a result the book made for a dry read and the overall story fell flat. The characters also seemed a bit mismanaged, with parts of the cast often disappearing and reappearing without much in way of explanation other than the author was seemingly either done with them or suddenly needed a familiar face to throw on a page. In a closed environment like a ship it felt odd. Although I didn’t actively dislike this book, ultimately it failed to grab me, and I’ll be passing on the rest of the series.