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|The Jehovah Contract|
by Victor Koman
Originally published in German (as Der Jehova-Vertrag) by Wilhelm Heyne Verlag, 1985. Published in English by Avon Books, 1987.
Suggested by: Greg Slade
The premise is that, on the eve of the year 2000, hit man Dell Ammo is approached by a TV preacher, who wants him to kill God. The rest of the book is the convoluted story of what happens when Ammo attempts to do so.
I am ambivalent about this work. On the one hand, Koman does a better than usual job of evoking the sort of tough guy character which Humphrey Bogart made his trademark in any number of flicks. On the other hand, his practice of ending virtually every chapter with a cliffhanger got to feel cheap after a while. On the plus side, Koman uses the premise of the book as an opportunity to explore a number of different theological positions. On the minus side, the two belief systems most important to the story (Christianity and the religion which triumphs in the end) are given very little attention. (I suppose it could be argued that Koman believed that Christianity has already had its say, but it does seem to me that the defendant should have been allowed to address the court before being executed.) On the positive side, Koman has the honesty to admit that much of what passes for evidence that God does not exist is, in fact, simply motivation for wishing that He didn't exist, and he throws in C.S. Lewis' name more than once, presumably to prove to the reader that he has done his research. On the other hand, the climactic "battle" between Ammo and God depends on arguments even weaker than the ones Koman has already admitted were inadequate, and reads like those old Star Trek episodes where Captain Kirk would destroy an all-powerful computer by asking it to calculate π to the last digit.
In fact, Koman himself seems to have been a bit ambivalent in writing the book in the first place. In some places, the book seems to be saying that God and the devil are simply figments of the imagination which simply need to be excised from people's minds in order to make the world a better place. Thus, "killing God" simply consists of convincing everybody in the world that He doesn't exist. However, this neat little solution to Ammo's problem goes against the repeated evidence within the tale that the Devil does, in fact, exist. (And thus, presumably, so does God.) Even more self-contradictory is the last-minute replacement of God and the devil with another deity entirely, which does considerable violence to the notion that it is religion as a phenomenon (rather than any specific religion) which is the problem.
There are other problems with the book. The religious conspiracy which Ammo faces is ludicrous in the extreme, not just in the motivation (and nastiness) of the characters involved, but in terms of a gross misinterpretation of non-Christian religions into various versions of Christianity in disguise, with the same categories of theology and morality under different names. Several times, characters do things, not because those things make sense for them to do, but in order to heighten the tension of the story.
Still, there is value in the work. Koman is a better writer than many, and aside from the occasional slip, the story actually works as a story, as long as you're willing to suspend disbelief. More importantly, the assorted arguments and complaints against Christianity, however illogical they may be, are used fairly frequently by non-Christians, so it would be appropriate for Christians to understand those arguments, and be able to point out their fallacies.
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