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The Big God Network [Paperback]

J. C. McGowan
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
RRP: 21.99
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Book Description

28 Oct 2007
J.C. McGowan's science-fiction debut The Big God Network blends the wry humor of Kurt Vonnegut with the cosmic scope of Carl Sagan and the edgy near-future scenarios of William Gibson. The novel explores the clash of culture and religion in cyberspace and post-America; the search for extraterrestrial intelligence and higher powers; and the socio-cultural impact of "virtual life" on our existence, as it takes us on an imaginative, breathless ride through Bali, Tokyo, California, and exotic virtual worlds that range from the fantasy realm of Nigh Errant to the erotic Yabyum Palace to the evangelical Church of the Good Citizen.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Xlibris Corporation (28 Oct 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1425769373
  • ISBN-13: 978-1425769376
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.2 x 1.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,288,209 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

J.C. McGowan has published books about Brazilian music and digital media, and blogged about politics and culture for The Huffington Post. He is a native of Pasadena, California and lives in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The Big God Network is his first novel.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
Finally a new satirical post-cyberpunk (cypherpunk McGowan terms) SF voice with elements of William Gibson, Neal Stephenson and the likes but with the added dimensions of Tom Robbins with entheogenic AND spiritual elements that this genre sadly lacks.
The fundamental notion is very probable, being that higher intelligence beyond our solar system is ALREADY here and has been for a long time, if not from the beginning of time; the problem is simply that WE do not realise it nor recognise it.
But other cultures past and present (especially those using sacred plants and shamanic rituals) have always been communing with and learning from it.
But not necessarily realising what it actually was they were in contact with.
The novel is set in a near future America that has been split into various sovereign states and at the core is the battle between the Christian Creationist Fundamentalists and the rest of the population which rejects its narrow minded bible believing apocalyptic jihadist dogma.
The plot is about a cult of alien searching star gazers which develops the technology that it believes will access this intelligence using an advanced VR system with an AI interface to the web and the ensuing battle between the world's most powerful political forces to gain control of this new epoch making technology.
This book deserves a wide audience and hopefully through Amazon many more will synchronistically pick up on it as I did myself.
G
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Science-Fiction Satire 19 July 2008
Format:Paperback
Humor can be in short supply in cyberfiction, which usually takes itself way too seriously. A notable exception is one of my favorite recent science-fiction novels, "The Big God Network" by J.C. McGowan. Much of the book is set in cyberspace, with many scenes charged with satire, sometimes blatant and other times subtle. The chapter "Halfway There" is a sly send-up of William Gibson and WIRED-ish techno-fetishism, while "The Yabyum Palace" (a Tantric cyber sex realm) is both erotic and quite funny. There is an affectionate slice of "fantasy" fiction in "Nigh Errant," while several notable scenes take place in evangelical virtual churches, putting televangelists into cyberspace with disturbing and hilarious takes on the Christian Right (and the Trinity Broadcasting Network preachers). I recommend "The Big God Network" highly, especially to those who are conversant with Vonnegut.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gonzo Yet Visionary Cult Novel 30 Oct 2009
Format:Paperback
"The Big God Network" is a brilliant debut novel by author J.C. McGowan that mixes near-future sci-fi scenarios, vivid virtual-reality scenes, and gonzo-ish political satire. I heard about it through friends on the Net; it seems to be slowly gaining a cult following.

Published at the tail end of the Bush 43 era, the book predicts that things will get even worse in the U.S. over the next twenty years, resulting in a "post-American" outcome. Some twenty years from now, political polarization splits the United States into a handful of new countries, including liberal Pacifica (the West Coast) and conservative New America, the country's theocratic heartland. The latter is run by a yokel (and funny) president obsessed with the Christian rapture (hmmmm!).

Part of the narrative takes place in cyberspace, where "the Big God Network" is the name of a group of conservative virtual churches. The culture wars are being waged more fiercely than ever before, especially on the Net, and a dystopic New America hopes to bring Pacifica back into the fold. Meanwhile, a wealthy UFO cult called Offworld has developed an AI-laden communications interface called "The Channel" in its quest to establish interactive contact with extraterrestrials. The Channel may tip the balance of power between the new countries. Only Net journalist Franz Sampaio, his wife Dolores Chang, and their Otaku friend Takeshi can keep the Channel from falling into the wrong hands and threatening Pacifica's existence. I don't think I'll be spoiling things by mentioning that the Channel eventually does make contact with something "out there," but in a totally unexpected way. At that point the phrase "big God network" takes on an entirely new meaning.

For the most part, the book is beautifully written.
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3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not very good... 7 Nov 2009
Format:Hardcover
Its official - I do have more money than sense after buying this. It is rather poorly written right from the off. Apart from anything else it desperately needs a good editor to scan through the strange and clunky style of writing. In fact, it was so strange in style that I checked out the American version of Amazon for reviews and sure enough it turns out that this seems to be a self-published book. Now, I admire anyone that can sit down and write a novel, but it just doesn't read too well, and the ideas are more cliched than innovative. And it makes you wonder why it was so well received by the other reviewers. To compare this with Gibson and Stephenson's work is nothing short of outrageous. We've had the internet for years now and I can't see any new ideas here. Honestly, "the Yabyum Palace of pleasure" - about as erotic as having a cup of tea. And did we really need the description of the guy cleaning out his little touchy-feely virtual cod piece thing afterwards? Eeew, please - too much information. Even the main concept quickly becomes a rant against organised religion in favour of "right-on, lets gather in a circle nude" type religions. To sum this book up, its by no means unreadable but it certainly doesn't stand up to the quality and ingenuity of other contemporary SciFi novels.
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  10 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wickedly Funny post-American Science Fiction 6 Aug 2008
By The SciFi Fanatic - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
It's a treat when a great science-fiction book also has a great sense of humor, as is the case with one of my favorite recent novels, "The Big God Network" by J.C. McGowan. The book blazes through Bali, Tokyo, and numerous settings in "post-America," as well as through many virtual worlds in cyberspace, as it weaves together a near-future high-tech adventure, a mystical quest, and heavy political and cultural satire. The humor can be blatant and other times subtle, as the author takes on a range of subjects, from religion and cults to the promise and pitfalls of virtual life. The chapter "Halfway There" is a sly send-up of William Gibson and WIRED-ish techno-fetishism, while "The Yabyum Palace" (a Tantric cyber sex realm) is both erotic and quite funny. There is an affectionate slice of "fantasy" fiction in "Nigh Errant," while several notable scenes take place in evangelical virtual churches, putting televangelists into cyberspace with disturbing and hilarious takes on the Christian Right (and Trinity Broadcasting Network-ish preachers like Paul Crouch and John Hagee). I recommend "The Big God Network" highly, especially to those who are conversant with Kurt Vonnegut.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ghost in the Machine 8 May 2008
By marc ladewig - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The Big God Network by J.C. McGowan is a New Age adventure-satire set in the contemporary, globalized, wired up near future where the former United States has split into several nations with New America, (N'Am for short) comprised of the Midwest, Far West and Old South, and guided by the spirit of Saint Ronald Reagan, versus Pacifica, the West Coast minus Orange and San Diego Counties and guided by the spirit of Saint Jerry Garcia, the late great lead guitar player for the Grateful Dead. Into this whimsical socio-political senario dominated by the World Wide Net is thrown a smorgasbord of New Age religiosity and nefarious organizations, everything from televangelical Christian right wingers, Japanese Yakuza, and governmental hitmen to Wiccan Earth Mothers, Brazilian shamans and fervent UFO seekers.Like all classic science fiction, the plot centers around the work of a great scientist and his amazing invention: an innovation in virtual reality that some see as the method by which contact with extraterrestrial civilization is possible, some as a way to make direct contact with the spiritual world and yet others as the method by which to spy on everybody. Various and sundry no-good-niks want it for themselves and of course, it all comes down to one lone hero, Franz Sampaio, a Brazilian anthropologist-journalist who must safeguard the "Skuld" and save the world. The Big God Network is written in a page turning style. The scenes flow quickly like cuts in an action movie. The story is a romp, jumping back and forth from Bali to Japan to California, and it is fun. If "groovy" were a term with which I were comfortable, I'd have to say that The Big God Network is a "groovy" novel.

But there is an aspect to this first novel of J.C. McGowan which lifts it above the mere level of comedy and elevates it to true social commentary. "Virtual Reality As Obsession" is handled with deep insight and compassion, psychologically and socially. The nausea of artificiality and yearning for real life experience and true love of the character Takeshi ring true not only in the novel but also in our day and age as well among video game addicted thirty-somethings.

The Big God Network is an excellent vacation read while sitting on a beach sipping something tall and cool.

Marc Ladewig
Author of Odysseus: The Epic Myth of the Hero
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars J.C. McGowan's "The Big God Network" 14 May 2008
By RHMMM - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
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
6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars COMPELLING ORWELLIAN SCI-FI WITH MORALITY TWIST 20 Aug 2008
By Nomi M. Prins - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
J.C. McGowan's The Big God Network is a masterpiece tale of techno sci-fi, political-cultural-economic commentary, and the path on which the likes of Falwell-Bush-Rove-Cheney and other hypocritically religious and moral extremists will take the country if its citizens don't fight back. Plus, it's incredibly funny, sardonic, visionary, and well-written. It has, not just a 'save the world' aspect to it, but a 'save the progressive thinker's place in the world' one.

The Big God Network is set in a fantasy, yet eminently plausible, future, where America has divided into new countries defined along lines of beliefs and individual rights. There, McGowan's protagonist couple, Franz and Delores, use their sensibilities, logic, and friends with powerful technical skills to fight for Pacifica's brand of progressive, multi-cultural, and free-thought society against New America (N'Am's) crooked Christian fanatics and executive leaders that rule by fear and information manipulation (like banks accounts being scanned for pledges as N'Am citizens listen to extravaggant sermons.)

Moving at page-turning speed, the story has lots of action and well-drawn characters. But, broader than that, The Big God Network's themes are scarily potential outcomes based on the country's current direction. The details, humor and observations are exquisite. Hopefully, McGowan is working on the next installment, because once you put the Big God Network down, you want to pick it up again.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Debut SciFi Novel: Gonzo Yet Visionary 2 Nov 2009
By Diana Jeffries - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
"The Big God Network" is a brilliant debut novel by author J.C. McGowan that mixes near-future sci-fi scenarios, vivid virtual-reality scenes, and gonzo-ish political satire. I heard about it through friends on the Net; it seems to be slowly gaining a cult following.

Published at the tail end of the Bush 43 era, the book predicts that things will get even worse in the U.S. over the next twenty years, resulting in a "post-American" outcome. Some twenty years from now, political polarization splits the United States into a handful of new countries, including liberal Pacifica (the West Coast) and conservative New America, the country's theocratic heartland. The latter is run by a yokel (and funny) president obsessed with the Christian rapture (hmmmm!).

Part of the narrative takes place in cyberspace, where "the Big God Network" is the name of a group of conservative virtual churches. The culture wars are being waged more fiercely than ever before, especially on the Net, and a dystopic New America hopes to bring Pacifica back into the fold. Meanwhile, a wealthy UFO cult called Offworld has developed an AI-laden communications interface called "The Channel" in its quest to establish interactive contact with extraterrestrials. The Channel may tip the balance of power between the new countries. Only Net journalist Franz Sampaio, his wife Dolores Chang, and their Otaku friend Takeshi can keep the Channel from falling into the wrong hands and threatening Pacifica's existence. I don't think I'll be spoiling things by mentioning that the Channel eventually does make contact with something "out there," but in a totally unexpected way. At that point the phrase "big God network" takes on an entirely new meaning.

For the most part, the book is beautifully written. The narrative sometimes has tinges of cyberpunk or (when most biting) Hunter S. Thompson, while elsewhere it recalls Carl Sagan as it gets poetic about the cosmos. Here is a quote from Franz, musing about life and death: "We aren't alone, ultimately. All the life in the universe originated in a singularity, spouses and siblings and neighbors emanated from the galactic womb, and every man carries the birth of the universe in his bones, the atoms of stars in his blood, and billions of years in his stride. And after we die, we will leave a progeny of matter scattered through this world, in the flora and fauna, its rocks and its rain, and molecules drifting into space, there to be absorbed into new worlds, emerging universes. The matter of all time is what our ashes shall ultimately be, while in the night sky shines a firmament of our far-flung, long-lost cousins."

"The Big God Network" is rich with culture and tech references, often worked into sly satire. The Altair, the first personal computer, is mentioned, as are Afro-Brazilian religions, SETI, Wiccan witches, the Yakuza, computer-pioneer Alan Kay, environmentalist John Muir, gamelan music, Saturn's moons, Amazonian hallucinatory vines, and the Kama Sutra, to give a few examples. The weaving of this into the narrative is one of the great pleasures of the book, along with highly believable near-future scenes in Bali, Tokyo and Los Angeles. And, holding it all together, "The Big God Network" has a fast-paced, suspenseful plot that just roars along. I highly recommend it for both hard-core science-fiction readers and those who seldom dip into the genre.
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