Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Creed for the Third Millennium by Colleen McCullough

Title: A Creed for the Third Millennium
Author: Colleen McCullough
ISBN: 038070134
Publisher: Avon Books/1985
Pages: 464

A Creed for the Third Millennium speaks of a world in not-too-distant future. It is more than a simple analogy for a time-transplanted gospel. Dr. Joshua Christian is born during the presidency of Augustus Rome. His story unfolds during the presidency of Augustus's hand-picked successor Tibor Reece, when the government invents "Operation Messiah" in order to bring a message of spiritual renewal to an oppressed citizenry, despite the reluctance of Cabinet secretary Harold Magnus . Christian's advocate Judith Carrioll manages the project, to his ultimate detriment, while hired biographer Lucy Greco tells his story for the masses.

Despite the many unsubtle analogies to the New Testament, "Operation Messiah" cannot follow--the story of Jesus too literally, hence author Colleen McCullough experiments with twists on the story in its twenty-first-century setting. Sometimes her twists makes sense, but more often they do not, and they leave the reader wondering where she was trying to go with her story. She may not have known herself. But she paints an interesting twenty-first-century America, despairing over climatic and economic changes, whose government goes searching for someone "capable of teaching a sick nation how to heal itself" and finds and then elevates a made-to-order messiah. These manipulations finally destroy the messiah.

Even though the plot left much to be desired, but the writing was very good, the narrative flowed easily (even when the author seemed unsure about where it was flowing to), and the story was occasionally thought-provoking. The reader quickly realizes Judith Carrol is Judas Iscariot, and the main character is Christ all placed in the future. The interesting twist is relating the idea to a twisted, sick love and admiration for someone, a person that must be controlled somehow.

While the writing style is still quite simple and her symbolism is much too obvious, the novel offers a thought-provoking vision of a not-too-distant and all-too-possible future. The creation of a modern day messiah through the government's manipulation of the media is a fascinating premise. Although the ending couldn't have been any other way, it left me feeling sad. It is a very different read from The Thorn Birds. Not all would like this. It tends to get monotonous at certain places.