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Science Fiction

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Harcourt Brace & Company 371 pages, $23.95 Reviewed by Eric Jackson AGENDA Associate Editor "To eam a living, some men merely have to haul oil. " Such was the lot of Captain Anthony Van Home, until the night thathelcftthcsupertankers bridge for somc shutcyc, just bcfore the firstiratcstccrcdoutofmewayofColornbiandrugsmugglerssailing without running lights - and onto a reef. The jury acquitted Capt. Van Home of the charges arisingfrom the 1 1-million gallon oilspill, but the company fircd and bLicklisted him, and as the novel begins it appcars that hc will bc spending the rest of his days in disgrace, his nights torturcd by nightmares of accusatory oiled birds and turtles. But then life gets really weird. A depressed and dying angel comes to him with the strangest mission. God, says the Angel Raphacl, is dcad: "Dicd and feil into the sea." Anthony Van Hornc is callcd to assume the helm of a tanker once more, this time to tow the two-milc-long corpsc to the Arctic for a proper burial. The journcy is cvcntful. Doggcd by marine predators, uncharted islands, a mutinous crew, a wcll-heeled Central Park athcist cult, a maniacal World War 1 1 re-enactmen t club and the lrish Rcpublican Coast Guard, Van Home sees nautical terrors that nobody ever should. And that's not even counting the Vatican intrigues and the strangc compulsions that pursue the captain every nautical milc of the way. Autlior James Mrïrrow is onc for dark satires. My first experience with him carne at the recommendation of an old friend with an apprecifttion for such things. A federal prisoncr doing 45 years, my friend and pen pal Linda Evans gave me a copy of Morrow's "This Is the Way the World Ends" a few years back. As somebody who enjoyad such cnd-of-the-world works as Kurt Vonncgut, Jr.'s "Cat's Cradle" and Harían Ellison's "Deathbird," 1 likcd Morrow's earlier work. But despite first glance appcarances, "Towingjchovah" is a far more optimistic work. U's a tale of redemption, an cxploration of that common denominator of human dcccncy which unitcs the truest of bclicvcrs in cvery faith - whether religious or anti-religious. "Towingjchovah" is even a whackcd-out love story too. Buithercarcbclievcrsinevcryclenominationforwhomlove is just a slogan. Such people will dislikc this book. Some will want to ban it. If you possessed such a bookin Panama 400 years ago. Span ishlnquisition agentswould have questions for you - probably in a newly-built dungcon at Fort San Lorenzo. Don't get caught walking around present-day Tehran carrying a copy of "Towingjchovah." And if Frank Zappa's Brain Pólice exist, watch out for them, too But if a wild sailor's yarn about a voyage through uncharted religious and philosophical waters might appeal to you, "Towingjchovah" is a good way to spend your time and money.


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