18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars
A step by step guide to creating a new world religion., 3 Sep 2001
Messiah, I believe is Gore Vidal's satirical masterpiece. This brilliant but deeply unsettling book, first published in 1954 is very prophetic. Despite the reaction to the book when it was published, Messiah, is not a blasphemous book. It is not a gloating destruction of Christianity but an understated, chilling look at the power of a manipulated mass media. This is a novel that works on several levels and has a wide appeal. It's a great work of satire for those who would like to see how great satire works. Its full of tasteless jokes and cheeky little parallels that ring bells in the mind of the reader. The most obvious 'gag' is the name of the new 'messiah', John Cave; the initials are J.C., get it? The original JC was a humble carpenter, the new JC is a humble mortician's assistant who decorates corpses. The 'Caveites' message is simple, death is nothing and is to be welcomed and the message of Christianity is subverted and turned on its head. There are parallels throughout the novel between the rise of the 'Caveites' and the rise of early Christianity. The continuous revision and re-writing of doctrine, for example, long after the death of the 'messiah' to suit present needs is a theme that Vidal returns to in other grat novels such as, 'Julian', and, 'Live from Golgotha'. We see how an essentially simple message is bloated by dogma, and religion is reduced to an apparatus of control as yesterday's persecuted become today's leaders of the inquisition. Back in 1954 Vidal was aware of the potential power of the TV and mass media and how it can be manipulated with those with the know how and the contacts. The new 'messiah's' right hand man is not a fisherman but a savvy Hollywood PR guru who ruthlessly exploits the mass media and John Cave's strange charisma to devastating ends. Fans of Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein's, 'No Logo', or anyone who believes in the mass media's power to change, redefine and create attitudes and philosophies almost overnight will find this book striking a few chords because what really works in this novel is that the whole plot is so plausible. The reader is left with the feeling that this really could happen and it could happen any day.