This is a very weird book. It's also very short. Listed as having 96 pages, nothing said anything about 36 of them being blank pages and a few more with illustrations - and not great art at that, imho. It was easy to read this in one sitting. Although that's not what I did.
It is a mixture of prose and poem mostly about the land and sea coming alive. Not that interesting I have to say and I only finished it because it was short.
That said I am glad I read it. I'd rather come across the odd dud than miss out on anything especially if it's experimental.
Not recommended 😞
This book was written thirty years ago (you can tell, central locking in cars seems to have been a novelty and as for mobile phones, non-existent) and it went out of print. The only Rankin to do so. Legend has it that a fan persuaded Ian Rankin to give it another read and he realised that it wasn't as bad as he originally thought it was and had it re-released, this year.
So, it's about a facility that uses satellites to monitor goings on. Something bad happens and one of the scientists ends up trying to battle secret service agents to find out the truth. A little far fetched but interesting none the less and an entertaining read.
Well, yes - it hardly needs Tsiolkas to tell us that.
The "Church" as an organised religious institution is a construct of men in the centuries long after those who knew Jesus personally, or knew those who followed teachings of Paul and the apostles. It has come a long way from its origins as told in the 'Acts of the Apostlea', and the teachings of Paul in his 'Epistles' - those letters to his fellow missionaries and the communities of believers they were nurturing.
I certainly don't feel the need to read a novelists imaginings on the beginnings of the early church, especially having read your review of it. Thank you.
I didn't really bond with Damascus - which is a pity because Christos Tsiolkas's last novel Barracuda was brilliant.
Damascus is the story of St Paul from his youth persecuting Christians through his conversion, his ministry and his immediate legacy. We see life from Paul's own viewpoint and also three other perspectives: Lydia, Vrasas and Timothy. As a character driven novel with such varied perspectives, we should really feel we've got to know Paul. But the whole novel feels as though it is seen through some kind of fog. The details are clear enough for scenes of torture, illness and bodily fluids, but the big stuff - Paul's conversion, his beef with Thomas, his writing of gospels - is either so quick that you blink and you've missed it, or written in such opaque terms that unless you are a scholar of the Bible, it will be hard to understand what is going on.
And at the end if it, I never felt I knew Paul. There was [more than] a suggestion that Paul and others were repressing their homosexuality and this was what drove them to develop a sect based on love. And there is a sense that Paul is a loner who is uncomfortable dealing with societal values. But he never quite felt like a real, rounded person. And that is quite a failure since Tsiolkas says in his end notes (and I paraphrase) that his whole objective was to depict Paul and the early years of the church in human, relatable form.
I am sure there is enough in Damascus to cause some angst to Christians - Thomas being Jesus's twin brother for example. But what did leave an impression, and which ought to trouble Christian readers - is how fragile those early years of the church were. There was no Bible; there was no training for the priesthood; there were no firm rules. The way the Church set its rules was as much based on the mood Paul might have been in as it was on the teachings of Jesus. Did Christians need first to be Jews? Was Baptism administered at birth or in adulthood? Could Christians participate in civic society? Was there a virgin birth? Was the resurrection literal or figurative? All of these rules of the modern day churches were determined by men applying their own ethics and opinions - or at least that is what Tsiolkas would have us believe.
So the novel does leave some things to think about, but in terms of telling a Biblical story in human terms I felt it didn't quite work - it was a bit too sterile.