One of the great things that happened to me in the past few months was to have the good fortune to come upon J.C. McGowan's "The Big God Network." BGN does everything that great science-fiction should do. Good sci-fi is usually an educational device, with the purpose of lecturing readers about current problematic societal issues, usually metaphorically substituting aliens or far-away races of people for Americans. Yet, only in very brave, truly great modalities of sci-fi, such as that on which McGowan expands in The Big God Network, do sci-fi writers actually speak boldly of a certain time in the not-too distant future, alluding critically to actual problematic trends and contentious character-types that occur and exist in the here-and-now. It is this, I believe, that makes BGN so courageous, particularly in light of the current repressive, religious-fundamentalist regime in America. McGowan is very frank in his use of actual American geography, real places, existing character types, references to Bush, and even the term "New America" (as in The Project for The New American Century)
Science-fiction has, for the last century-and-a-half, been an incredibly powerful way of showing humanity its flaws --and its possibilities for positive growth and change-- through metaphorical worlds designed to mirror our own world and society, and to show humans what they are (or could be) destined to become. What McGowan has achieved, with BGN, is one of the greatest post-post-modern examples of this kind of prophesy... BGN is a work of true genius. On a visionary level, BGN offers a wide scope of very different possibilities for the near future, ranging from a cosmogaian vision that respects and reveres cosmology and the natural world, to a xenophobic American Taliban that destroys difference and fascistically dictates its vision of Christianity, guns, and hypocrisy.
Appropriate to BGN's clever speculation concerning future cybertechnologies, it is written in an extremely tight, quickly intercut cinematic style that is new and refreshing. BGN moves swiftly, back and forth, from brief chapter to brief chapter (80 chapters in all), breaking up each plot line and each character's narrative into tight scenes, and even fractions of scenes-- at times, it is as if the reader has access to a multi-screen edit-suite on which he can view 4 or 5 stories that move together simultaneously. As in any great work by Vonnegut, Heinlein, or Leven, these multiple plotlines gradually merge up until the stunning conclusion, when the characters come together in a grand Fellini-style finale of both mayhem and resolution. The author must have used a complex flowchart in order to make sense of his many narrative threads, and yet, for the reader, the flow is smooth and effortless.
The broad palette of diverse characters is extremely impressive and tirelessly demonstrates both McGowan's love for people and his vast knowledge of multiple cultures and personality types, with a wide variety of dialogue types to match. And even as the globally diverse characters are, as in Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions, drawn from some Lynchian pool of surrealist archetypes, each one is brimming with humanity and with distinctly unique characteristics and idiosyncracies--these are fully conceived humans. From BGN's protagonist, world-religions Net show host Franz Sampaio, through New America's Christian Coalition leader, John T. Jawbone, through the free-spirited nymphomaniac Sally Simkin, to cybersex-addicted, alienated net journalist and lonely guy Takeshi, BGN's characters are something not often seen in satirical science fiction, the kind that makes fun of the human problematique-- they are real humans.
I strongly recommend to all who read this to get out there, and get a hold of McGowan's stunning book, "The Big God Network." Hilarious, poignant, and prophetic, it's the best sci-fi since Vonnegut.
Dr. Reeves Medaglia-Miller, professor of Liberal Arts and Sciences, George Brown College/Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada