14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Belief and reality collide like a motorway pile-up,
This review is from: When prophecy fails: A social and psychological study of a modern group that predicted the end of the world (Hardcover)
This book is why I gave up reading fiction. No novel is as exciting or as revealing of the human condition as a true story like this.
Studying historical examples, a university research group comes up with a theory about the dynamics of apocalyptic cults. When they hear of a local group who believe they are in contact with aliens who will soon bring about the end of the world, they find the ideal opportunity to test the theory. This book is the record of the scientists' infiltration of the group to observe how its members cope with the failure of prophecy.
In a story woven together from the perspectives of the different investigators, we get to see the hilariously desperate attempts of the group members to validate their sci-fi belief system, and the bizarre home life of the lady whose "channelled" messages from space are the focus of the group.
The behaviour of the investigators as they try to cover their real activities draws suspicion, and the medium interprets this as a sign that they are themselves alien visitors. As the disappointing non-end-of-the-world arrives, the investigators find themselves irreversibly involved in the group they are supposed to be objectively studying. This book was gripping enough to make me get up early to spend all day in a bleak departmental library.