Reviewed by Jenny Mounfield
by Christopher Galt
Pan Macmillan (Quercus)
RRP: $29.99, ISBN: TPB 9781780874814
WARNING: This book will change the way you view reality.
Biblical is a work of fiction. Or is it? (Cue Twilight Zone music.)
Around the world something strange has begun. Individually and in groups, people are seeing what’s not there: In France, a school girl is apparently transported back in time to witness the burning of Jeanne d’Arc; in Germany, Markus is confronted with the horror of Hitler’s concentration camps and in Israel a group of soldiers stands transfixed as the Red Sea parts. Psychiatrist, John Macbeth, a man with a somewhat vacant past, is drawn into the heart of the anomaly while visiting Boston on business. His interest is compounded when he is involved in a mass hallucinary earthquake, which mimics an event from 1775. Could these episodes be the result of a virus, or is something more monumental—perhaps even biblical—going on?
The thing about the remarkable and the extraordinary is that if they are part of your everyday life, they become by definition unremarkable and ordinary.
I would categorise Biblical as historical surrealistic science fiction—or better yet, philosophical science fiction. However, it crosses almost every genre. Galt (the pseudonym of a mysterious best-selling crime fiction author) is clearly a master storyteller. He hasn’t simply grabbed an idea and run with it. The amount of research that has gone into the book is mind-numbing—and it’s detailed: Viking history, the holocaust and the complexities of quantum physics just to name a few.
The construction of the story is interesting too. Main character, Macbeth’s viewpoint is interspersed with chapters from the viewpoints of several other characters, many of whom are so well constructed that their experiences could easily stand alone as short stories. One such example is Mary:
When it was over, when the déjà vu subsided, the day darkened and the world—and her reflection in the mirror—restored itself to the present. Mary sat in the living room and thought about what had happened. She didn’t try to make sense of it, just thought about the experience itself. The wonder of it.
It isn’t often I come away from a reading experience as thoroughly satisfied as I did from this one. My only complaint, if I were to have one, would be the title. While I understand why Biblical was chosen for this work, I don’t feel it does the story justice—and it may put some readers off. Biblical is one of those words that has been so over-used it’s lost its impact—so much so it is almost a parody. It implies a Da Vinci Code style adventure, a myth-based fiction involving despicable clerics in midnight pursuits. Now, I mean no disrespect to, The Da Vinci Code and its ilk, whatsoever, but it must be said that Biblical offers far more than a crackpot code. The science Galt has used to justify his fiction is absolute, and the history is valid and well documented. Biblical isn’t just entertainment, it’s a philosophical study and all-round learning experience. Oh, and did I mention the ending? Where so many authors tend to coast to a stop after the grand finale, Galt has saved the best for last. And on that note I will leave you with the words of the elusive John Astor:
Whether it was in the name of God or science that you devoted yourself to seeking out the Truth, the danger always was that you would find it.
From: Phantoms of Our Own Making
Jenny Mounfield is the author of four novels for young people and several short stories for both kids and adults. Her book reviews have appeared both in print and online. She lives in south-east Queensland with her husband and two of their three grown children.