The Religion by Nicholas Conde
This 38 year old book was published in 1982 and is set in New York. A decaying dangerous New York which is fertile hunting ground for religious cults. Cal the 'hero' denies the danger until denial is less and less viable. He learns there are religious cravings better suited to an ancient world loose in NY. Cal is a bad father and an inept anthropologist and he is bad at both with unflagging determination.
This has a hilariously BAD sex scene and Cal is a ignorant tool who knows nothing about religion despite being an anthropologist. The word primitive is used a lot and Cal trusts white people over people of colour. Various people have iron self will and the cold determination of zealots and the drive of fanatics and complete conviction of the ultimate truth.
Sinister influnces and dark looks surround Cal, his son and his galpal. Cal takes absolutely no interest in any advice given to him, he has plain stubbornness and still residual fear and sorrow take over as calamity sweeps through his life. People have pernicious spite and there is unspeakable imagery and Cal will not listen to warnings that a terrible event will happen.
Bit by bit the perception of threat intensifies and they provide a sobering reminder of Cal's own inadequacies. Cal's primary responses are driven by fear and anger. Evil is incited and there are a series of disconcerting cumulative disturbing events.There are simmering tensions and seemingly ordinary people promote such dark values and chilling terms are casually used and Cal's own chocies doom him.
Cal makes cultural assumptions and things without a natural explanation happen. Cal's perception of risk is affected and he can't behave with some restraint. Cal is pressured to behave dangerously as friends and allies turn out to be ideological bedfellows. Sense is torn apart by Cal's personality and strategy. Cal thinks inevitability is overrated and there is an ignored global narrative. The stakes are high and the odds seem even.
Cal does hugely damaging things and is without a shred of credibility. Cal is mostly unimpressive and things descend into uproar due to Cal's antipathy and disastrous chocies. This was a vivid if dated read and it was horrifically compelling. Cal is not a competent person and he has superficiality and a total lack of intellectual curiosity. His notions are gradually crushed as he becomes mentally unstable and glibly unethical. There is absurdity as Cal does disquisitions and says untruthful things. Momentous things happen and there is a cruel downer ending.
Cal castigates and doesn't show affection to his son. Cal's wife died in a hilariously bizarre household accent. Cal thinks magic isn't intellectually tenable and he is repellent. Cal loudly asserts his entitlements and rights and is incapable of facing his deficits, he maximises his self interest and he is self righteous and he can't do reasoned argument. Paths collide fatefully and remorselessly. Cal has moral superiority and is a know it all 'academic' who never does any work.
Cal does nothing to address the social problems on his doorstep which leads to awful consequences. There is forceful assertion of power and ill fated terrible events are to come for Cal, but he is dangerously irresponsible and has selfish isolationsim and pious interventionism and is uninterested in events that 'don't concern him'. That's his normal cultural belief. One feels exasperation at Cal and he has an emotional reckoning coming.
Cal does nothing but standby and he is stifling and toxic as he helps inflict violence and harm and is unsympathetic. There is foggy plotting and antagonistic people and Cal faces a forlorn fate and makes inauspicious mistakes and brings down more misfortunes on him and others. This book is full of universally dislikeable characters who make lousy decisions and do fatal harm. Cal does consequential and unforgivable harm.
People have bad and inexplicable impulses and the lurching plot provokes disbelief rather than terror. Cal develops an all out obsession. Cal is not prepared to address problems and he perpetuates issues and creates more. Cal causes upset in the family unit and creates narrative, plot and meaning out of otherwise random insignificant events.
There are increasing complex flights of fancy that seep insidiously into the real world and Cal struggles to seperate fact from fiction, coincidence from clue. There is no future of certainty for Cal and the future he gets, is not the future one wants. Dark, devious acts and troubled psychology bother Cal. What Cal ultimately does shows him as someone cold, capricious who thrives on conflict and schemes and bullies.
People have inherent untrustworthiness and there are disastrous encounters and distorted aims. There is no wistful yeanring and this was adapted into a Martin Sheen movie that was not faithful. Cal is a wastrel who is all mediocrity. There is slow narrative drive and Cal has an attacking nature and Cal is surrounded by relentless and constricting belief. There is resonance and formulaic exposition and an atmosphere of terror and mounting dread.
Cal has no contrition and finally reaches breaking point and he is strident in his awfulness. His 'friends' are cunning, self-centred, amoral, habitual lairs. Cal is not endearing and he is predictably terrible and lousy. He has no parental feelings and no work ethic. A screaming villainess lurks and people are on demonic form. People of colour lurk, menacingly.
Cal goes on a grim downward spiral and is surrounded by a wreckage of broken dreams. Cal faces dark disturbing thoughts and is sullen and stubborn. Cal is exclusionary and has a fixed truth belief system. This was mundane yet satisfying and there is an eerie past. The erratic Cal does not learn. This novel is now obscure and the Martin Sheen movie is also obsucre. This book has dubious cover art and the slip cover summary gives away the entire plot. Cal's life becomes hellish as he pokes around at voodoo.
Torey is Cal's personality free love interest. Chris is Cal's ignored son. Does Chris ever go to school? Does Cal care? Cal is profoundly impacted by his own moronic actions and his actions have no provable benefit. Cal invests everything with significance. People see sacrifice as somehow necessary and important. There is no happy conclusion and Cal unnecessarily escalates the situation. Evil is intentional and Cal is deeply frustratingly oblivious and puts himself and others at risk by his choices.
Things are grim and disheartening. There is a dark mantra and Cal is horrendous and via truly surreal events – be begins to believe. People have opaque and confusing motives. Believers are legion and loyal and some followers are unremittingly evil. Cal's wilful ill informed blunders are glaringly exposed. Cal has muscular pride in himself and causes heightened melodrama. Cal is a noxious unlovable character. NY is a grim backdrop to Cal being in need of salvation in his darkest hour. Cal lives a darker reality and whenever he tries to explain himself he just churns out endless psychotic ramblings.
Believers have fierce loyalty and Cal has ill informed concerns. There is a predatory belief system and believers have vicious collective joy and they cause strange happenings that are not natural. Things turn out to have darker implications and there are challenging emotional times. Cal is an entitled man with few redeeming qualities and takes an enormously combative approach. This was good with a cruel twist downer ending. There is no hope or solace just apocalyptic doom and this was engaging,
“He looked ludicrous. No one laughed.”
“Unsure of what had befallen her, yet knowing it was terrible.”
“Bombs they weren't supposed to be capable of making.”
“Assumption of friendship.”
“Eighty years ago, yes, it must have been an idyllic rural setting. Now the cemetery faced across six lanes of cracked asphalt to a MacDonald's and a drive-through car wash.”
“We've got to do it. Because when it's done, we can stop being afraid.”
“Opens or closes the way to opportunity.”
“Tried not to sound deranged.”
“Such a betrayal, such an evil.”
“The world cared not, knew not what rites unfolded in secret havens.”
“It could not be expected of him,...There had to be a limit.”
“The only way he could live with what he had done already was to believe there had been a purpose.”
“Nearly succumbed to the impulse to shake his fist toward heaven.”
“Said a man who looked dangerous was on the way up.”
“They? Who were they?”
“No answer for her, and no forgiveness.”