night a corpse returned to life
would you feel if you answered the doorbell and found
yourself face to face with Jesus Christ?
all, H promised to return one day to earth, and for nearly
2,000 years the churches have preached of the Second Coming.
why not today, and why not at your front door?
what would you do? Ask Him in for a cup of tea?
Ring the newspapers? Fall at His feet, trembling?
questions are posed by one of the most extraordinary,
original, mind-blowing thrillers I have ever read, MISSION
by Patrick Tilley (Joseph, ?.95 hardback or ?.95 paperback).
is a stunningly weird and imaginative parable that breaks
all the rules and is almost impossible to classify: a
slick, outrageous science-fiction chiller, I suppose,
yet much more than that, written as it is with immensely
wide-ranging learning and deeply researched knowledge
of the Bible, theology, metaphysics, ancient myths and
legends, mysticism, prophecy, the occult, numerology,
politics and science.
English author's brave ambition is breathtaking. For his
book is no less than an attempt to update the New Testament,
explain Jesus in modern scientific terms, define the soul
and investigate the age-long battle between good and evil,
the meaning of life, and man's relationship to the rest
of the universe.
for all that it is astonishingly readable and gripping,
even amusing. It has its faults (sometimes too verbose
and repetitive, occasionally trite) but also all the makings
of a huge success that could well become a word-of-mouth
describe it briefly is impossible and makes it sound ludicrous,
no more than a sort of Chariots of the Gods or
Star Wars, but it begins thus.
the night of East Saturday 1981 a naked corpse is brought
in to the mortuary of a New York hospital.
dead man, apparently the victim of a brutal East Side
alleyway murder, is horribly bruised and mutilated.
his early 30s, lean, swarthy, bearded, with shoulder-length
hair, he has a stab wound just under his left rib cage,
dreadful lacerations on his back, wounds on his wrists
and feet, and a battered head.
he a dope-pusher, perhaps, or the victim of a particularly
vicious Mafia gangland killing?
But then his teeth have to fillings, his feet have never
worn shoes, and stuck in his scalp are three dark spikes
that look like inch-long nails but that turn out to be
thorns - thorns identified by a botanist as having been
cut from a Middle Eastern, prickly shrub within the previous
the body in the hospital mortuary, the Jewish lady doctor
and her wealthy 35-year-old Jewish lawyer love, Leo Resnick,
are baffled when the corpse, undoubtedly dead, begins
to show signs of life and then suddenly disappears while
their backs are briefly turned.
of them is a practising Jew and certainly has no belief
in the Christian Son of God. But the lawyer, trained in
logic and reason, finds himself apprehensively but inescapably
returning to the absurd, incredible, yet only possible
judgement of the evidence:
at the instant of the purported Resurrection, the body
of the man known as Jesus had been transported forward
through time and had materialised for at least 75 minutes
in Manhattan on Easter Saturday of the 81st
year of the 20th century.'
on the night of East Saturday when the Resurrection is
said to have happened on Easter Sunday? Because Jerusalem
is seven hours ahead of New York: in Israel it is already
the lawyer's doubts are finally removed when The Man,
as he thinks of him, reappears miraculously healed a week
later, talks to him genially like any other slangy modern
American, drinks glass after glass of wine from a bottle
that never empties, and hints that there is something
he wants Resnick to do for him.
why me?" writes Resnick the narrator. "Even now,
it's a question I still ask myself. Why pick on me? But
on the other hand, when you think about it, why not? After
all, the first time around The Man just hauled a bunch
of fishermen off the end of the pier at Capernaum. I'm
anybody - just like the next man. And, as I said, we're
all in this together, whether we like it or not."
becomes a modern disciple and is just as baffled and afraid
as the original fishermen of Galilee.
Resnick's mission is becomes plain only at the brilliant,
jolting climax of the story, but the build-up is compulsive
as well as immensely clever and thought-provoking as The
Man casts his spell, works the odd miracle, and appears
and disappears as He apparently commutes back and forth
through time between 1st century Jerusalem
and 20th century New York.
readers may find such a story distasteful, even blasphemous,
and there are certainly some startling, shocking, even
flippant aspects to The Man and Hi revelations of what
Jesus's life was really like. But the book's own mission
is, I believe, a genuinely moral and spiritual one, to
chip away the shibboleths and distortions that man and
the churches have allowed to encrust the original message
of Jesus, and to make us think afresh about God.
science-fiction aspects of the story (and some of them
are exhilaratingly complex and mind-boggling) are merely
a modern means of attempting to explain almost scientifically
to a generation of unbelievers the magic and mystery of
Christ and His message.
most of us, should we come face to face with Jesus, Resnick
the lawyer is at first thrown into a turmoil. For who
in these cynical times, even among your nearest and dearest,
would believer you? As he writes: -
to do with this guy could only lead to trouble. In our
circle of friends and business associates there were two
sure-fire ways of committing social suicide. Going broke
and getting religion. And the last was the worst."
achievement of this amazingly fertile, stimulating, powerful
book is that it may make us think again whether "getting
religion" (though not necessarily organised religion)
is not perhaps just when we need today. I urge you to
The Sunday Express
November 1st, 1981