John Macbeth is a psychiatrist involved in one of several projects around the globe which seek to take consciousness one step further by investing artificial intelligence with self-awareness. Science leads the way, religions fade, humanism is key. But that was before ‘the staring’ began. People began to stop dead in the street, staring over other people’s shoulders or through their bodies, intent on something that nobody else could see. When this happens to car drivers, pilots of planes, leading political or industrial figures, it’s time to take notice. Macbeth is better placed than most to try and understand this strange behaviour, because he is also subject to it. He too feels the deja vu, the chill in the air, the presence of ghosts.
Staring is followed by suicides, committed by people completely out of character, sometimes in large numbers. Then there are the visions, followed by larger events, ones shared by whole cities. But these large scale phenomena are accompanied by countless numbers of personal experiences by men, women and children, each of whom sees something different, is taken out of their time and finds themselves lost, terrified, hunted, something else. And it is these stories, along with those mass events, which fill the pages of Biblical, spellbinding the reader who has no idea what could possibly happen in the next chapter. Anything can happen and it does.
Biblical is full of stories. Some are the experiences of people we never meet again, others come and go through the pages. The stories are linked by John Macbeth, and a few other key characters, and by the mood of foreboding that increases as the number of cases grows. Something is happening to the Earth and everyone on it. As science and scientists flounder, the religious call what is happening The Rapture.
Many of the stories or visions in Biblical are jawdropping. There were times when I could hardly believe what I was reading but the wonder of it all is described so well I accepted it all. I couldn’t get enough of the shocks and twists. Christopher Galt has the ability to transport the reader to other places and the result is that I never wanted to put this book down. I had no idea what to expect, except the unexpected, and I have to take my hat off to the power of Galt’s imagination, not to mention his ability to hold the structure of this novel together as expertly as he does. There are many characters and ‘incidents’ but Galt never loses sight of the plot’s path through the book. Its spirit throughout is imbued with Galt’s fascination with history, science and the world around us. And however briefly some of the characters feature, we are given more than enough to care for many of them deeply.
It would be difficult to imagine a world less certain than the one portrayed in Biblical. As a result, anything can and does happen to leading characters. The book has more twists than a corkscrew. But what is also contains are grand themes, most notably religion versus science, in all levels of life, society and government. There is a philosophical element, too, concerning the nature of existence and its relation to time. Everything becomes questionable. Whatever is happening affects people on a profound level.
Biblical is such a clever thriller, with science fiction and apocalyptic colours, but it is also hugely entertaining and well-written. Definitely one of my top reads of the year so far, I didn’t want it to end and I’ll read it again.