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Towing Jehovah [Hardcover]

James Morrow
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

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Book Description

May 1994
A visit from Raphael, a despondent angel, who tells Anthony Van Horne that God has died and fallen into the sea, leads Van Horne on a bizarre mission to recover the divine corpse from the Atlantic and tow it to the Arctic. By the author of Only Begotten Daughter.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

God is dead, and Anthony Van Horne doesn't feel very well himself. Van Horne--whose captaincy of a mammoth oil tanker during an Exxon Valdez -type spill has left him unemployed, estranged from his family and suffering nightmares--is hired by the Vatican to pilot his former vessel as it tows the Supreme Being (found dead of unknown causes) to a tomb in the Arctic that His angels have built for Him. Van Horne's task would be difficult enough without the well-intentioned efforts of devout atheist Cassie Fowler and her compatriots from the Central Park West Enlightenment League, whose reactions to God's corporeality belie their organization's quaint name. Morrow (winner of a World Fantasy Award for his novel Only Begotten Daughter ) describes a captivating voyage. As complication builds upon complication--including a shipwreck, an island that appears to be the abode of pagan gods, a mutiny, acrimonious dealings with Van Horne's father and contretemps from both the reappraising Vatican and the WW II Reenactment Society--Van Horne's journal reads like that of a modern-day Odysseus. There's an unnecessary death that deprives the narrative of the perspective of one of its potentially most interesting characters, but this clever novel still stands as a wry, boisterous celebration.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Anthony Van Horne, the disgraced captain of an oil tanker that spilled its cargo, is approached by the angel Raphael at the Cloisters in New York to command his former ship on an important mission. It seems God has died, and his two-mile-long corpse has fallen into the ocean at 0 latitude, 0 longitude. The Vatican would like the captain to tow God to a remote Arctic cave for a quiet burial. Naturally, things don't work out this simply, and the complications form the events of this splendid comic epic. As more and more folks with varying perspectives become aware of the covert mission, more hell, if you will, breaks loose. The author, an sf crossover, puts the weighty subject and its possible ramifications to clever use on many levels. He packs the story with sailing matters, cultural criticism, theology, physics, and more but still manages to keep the encounter bubbly and inviting. Recommended for general collections.
- Brian Geary, West Seneca, N.Y.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Vonnegut's heir March 5 2003
P>TOWING JEHOVAH starts with an intriguing premise; if God were dead, what would happen to the body? In this case, it lies in the Atlantic Ocean, a two mile-long corpse of staggering dimensions. Faced with this dilemma, leaderless angels take it upon themselves to contact the Vatican, hire a ship commanded by the disgraced captain of a horrific oil spill (think EXXON), and tow the body to the Arctic, where an icy tomb awaits.
Along the way, a variety of people and events serve to point out the many, MANY foibles of mankind. Suddenly faced with the prospect of life without constant watch from above, the boat's crew begins to experiment with life in Anno Postdomini One. Sin becomes pointless, and anarchy begins to take hold. Murder occurs, sex explodes, and gluttony becomes the order of the day, despite the ship's Vatican representative insisting that despite the lack of a supreme being, it does not negate the Kantian moral law that exists within.
The Vatican (or, the Big See) faces extinction, and attempt to hide God's death from the public. Devoted atheists, also facing extinction, seek to destroy the corpse, thus hiding proof of God's existence. I recall a particular sketch from Canadian comedy troupe THE KIDS IN THE HALL; a priest, faced with proof that God both existed and is dead, solemnly intones, "I've got some good news . . . and some bad news."
Critics have compared Morrow's tale to the works of Jonathan Swift, but the comparison is not accurate. Morrow's methods are a much more direct version of satire than Swift, who preferred metaphor to direct comparison. This is not to slight Morrow's accomplishments at all, only to point out that Morrow's targets are never in doubt. Vonnegut is a far more incisive comparison in both Morrow's scope and humour.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The best in eschatological science fiction Jan. 26 2003
James Morrow has made eschatological science fiction and fantasy his domain over the past ten years. He started with the short stories "Bible Stories for Adults", which garnered him a Nebula award, then quickly followed up with a novel in the same vein, 1990's Only Begotten Daughter, in which the second coming of God comes in the female form. His latest novel, Towing Jehovah, continues his study of modern religion with the ultimate test of faith--the Death of God.
Anthony Van Horne is a disgraced oil freighter Captain who lost his post after a disastrous collision with a reef in the Gulf of Mexico that spilled crude over a 20 mile stretch of Texas coastline. His ablutions prove fruitful, because it is he who the archangel Raphael chooses to helm the most important salvage operation of all time. Yes, God is dead and floating supine in tropical waters. The angels, who are dying of empathy, have carved him a tomb in the Antartic and want Van Horne to take control of his recently repaired oil freighter, find the Corpus Dei, and tow it to its icy grave.
Joining Van Horne is Thomas Ockham, the controversial New York priest cum physicist, personally selected by the Vatican in consultation with the archangel Gabriel to be the spiritual leader of the expedition. The Vatican has its own goal--due to the calculations of its powerful computer OMNIVAC, it has determined that due to the size of the corpse, brain death may not have fully occurred, and the faster the corpse is frozen, the better the chance that God's neurons might be saved. Along the way, Van Horne rescues Dr. Cassandra Fowler, adrift in the tropics due to a failed trip to the Galapagos Islands in a recreation of Darwin's famous voyage in the Beagle.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Delightful premise Dec 18 2002
I came across Morrow's novels through a Freethinker's website. I don't know whether I'm a theist or not, but I appreciate the idea of a post-theist world. There are some masterful moments in this book, which I had a hard time putting down. I read the whole series in 4 days! (I intend to write reviews of "Blameless in Abaddon" and "The Eternal Footman.") I was tickled by the subplot involving Cassie Fowler and her little coffee klatsch of free-thinkers. I know someone just like her so I couldn't help but think of this woman as I was reading.
There were a number of fairly well-developed minor characters as well. Weisinger will stay with me for a long time to come as will Fr. Thomas Ockham. Morrow doesn't condescend to his theistic characters, though he is rightfully unsympathetic to the one representative of oranized religion that appears in the book. And at the close, I did find myself getting emotional. At the beginning of the book, Raphael hints at what will be coming at the end -- a scene with Van Horne's dysfunctional father. I found myself crying at that scene, but I am an old softy.
It's a very good read, and one that I found more fruitful than Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy. I can't help but compare the two in my head. They're very different, but they say similar things and I think this one is superior.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Just Try to Digest This Food for Thought Sept. 28 2002
I became aware of James Morrow because I happen to live in the same town as him. He's made the local news a few times as his books have been banned by religious conservatives. This is my first novel of his and I can see what the fuss is about. There are some truly hysterical plot elements in this story, like God's corpse floating in the ocean, a sinful civilization rising from the sea, and a rambunctious World War II reenactment that ends up with as much carnage as the real thing. There are some gaps in the plot madness, and a few boners like two characters near the end of the book observing the Milky Way from the middle of Manhattan (remember: light pollution). But those glitches are minor. While your mind reels at the bizarre concepts of the plot, Morrow injects some heavy sermonizing on the state of Christianity, from a clear rationalist and atheist perspective. This is the source of the religious trouble, but folks who ban books think you are too weak to think for yourself. There is real food for thought here, and while it might not be digestible for everybody, you can still find this novel to be one of the more bizarre and entertaining things you've read in a while.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars What an odd and terrific book
When I first started reading Towing Jehovah, I'm not sure what I expected. What I got was a very funny (laugh-out-loud funny) satirical novel that is about towing the 2 mile long... Read more
Published on Dec 20 2003 by H. J. Spivack
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book
It has been a while since i have read this, but I remember it being an interesting read. I think it ended up fizzling out a little at the end, but it left a good enough impression... Read more
Published on Dec 16 2003 by Scott E. Conrad
5.0 out of 5 stars a BIG surprise!
God, a 2 mile giant, croaks and floats in the ocean. What now?
I laughed and thought a lot. You won't forget this one! James Morrow is a gem. A World Fantasy Award Winner. Read more
Published on Oct. 28 2003 by curious explorer
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Characters
The author treats his characters with great dignity and compassion, even as they go about their odd task. Read more
Published on July 16 2002
5.0 out of 5 stars Talk About Serving God!
I enjoyed the entire book. The subplots offer fascinating questions to think about years later. For instance; how was Cassie, a self-avowed atheist, changed when she forced herself... Read more
Published on May 27 2002 by Jim-bob Furlbottom
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent premise, questionable execution
Towing Jehovah has one of the best starting points for a plot that I have ever seen: GOD IS DEAD(!) Body's fallen into the ocean. Some dude's gotta go get him out. Read more
Published on May 5 2002 by Bill R. Moore
5.0 out of 5 stars Religious Meditation on a Serious Subject
The first book in James Morrow's "Jehovah" trilogy, "Towing Jehovah," introduces readers to the idea that God has, in fact, died, and His gigantic corpse is drifting in the... Read more
Published on April 2 2002 by Jason N. Mical
5.0 out of 5 stars A witty satire about religion and contemporary life
"Towing Jehovah," the first book in James Morrow's trilogy (which includes "Blameless in Abaddon" and "The Eternal Footman") begins with a... Read more
Published on March 8 2002 by Atara Stein
3.0 out of 5 stars the whole is less than the sum of the parts
... You see the corpse of God being towed by a supertanker on the cover. The back cover starts with "God is dead" and proceeds to promise a tale full strange and troubled... Read more
Published on Sept. 22 2001 by Justus Pendleton
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