Gore Vidal's satirical fantasy, with a new introduction by the author. From his long-time hiding-place in provincial Egypt, Eugene Luther tells the story of John Cave, a former Californian undertaker, his rise to power and the subsequent global impact of his new religion.
A double track carries the story of Eugene Luther's life in exile at Luxor and that of the days in which he was working for the hypnotic John Cave whose macabre religion, that it is good to die, swept the world. Eugene tries to resist the West Coast spellbinder but is made part of the growing organization through Iris, whom he loves, and helps to bring Cave before larger and larger audiences until a prison sentence and television starts him on his international fame. As the monster they have given life to attracts more disciples, zealous maniacs and terrible power, it is Eugene who works hard at the flaw - that if Cave is preaching death, he must suicide to prove his beliefs. But it is another who murders Cave and Iris is left to carry on the cult and to help Eugene escape. A socio-religious theming, which takes into account morbid as well as mass psychology, covers the mechanics of building a substantial illusion that is an answer to a desperate need but lacks the ironic satire of, say, Waugh, and is nearer, though not as great, as Orwell. Not for general popularity. (Kirkus Reviews)