J. Neil Schulman
Escape from Heaven
Pulpless.com, 2002
ISBN 1-58445-192-0
Reviewed by Gary McGath
Copyright 2003 by Gary McGath

Those who have read Schulman's Alongside Night and The Rainbow Cadenza will know they should expect strange things from him. Escape from Heaven is more bizarre than either of those two books.

The premise of this large-print novella [1] is that Lucifer has challenged God to an election for governorship of the world. A premise like this should make an exciting novel, especially when the cast of characters includes God, Jesus, Thomas Jefferson, Ayn Rand, and Robert Heinlein. The book avoids the clichéd anti-theism which is found in some anti-authoritarian fiction, and could even be considered pro-Christian, though it would be considered heretical by all churches except (possibly) the Unitarians.

In the end, though, it's a disappointment. The main problem is with the Jesus character; although he's returned to Earth to save mankind, he comes across as a complete, hopeless wimp. In the end, the conflict between the divine and satanic powers has all the cosmic significance of a dysfunctional marriage.

The book provides a wild ride of ideas and a strong measure of wish-fulfillment. Wouldn't you love to have dinner with Jefferson and ask him in person why he didn't free his slaves, as the narrator of the book does? But when the main conflict in a story is a disappointment, nothing else can save it.

[1] Mr. Schulman wrote in response to this review: "technically the book is a novel, not a novella. Its length is 49,500 words, which puts it into the novel category by the Hugo rules."

Last revised May 26, 2003
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