Waterstone's Quarterly SF & Fantasy - Spring 1999
When a priest offers Frank Kersh, a death row convict on his way to the electric chair, a chance of 'salvation', he's expecting harps and clouds and pearly gates. Despite what his crazy prison visitor told him, he isn't expecting to become a god, suspended in the second between life and death, with almost unlimited power over past and future events; but that's exactly what happens.
There's only one problem. A man called Cawdor who, in various incarnations, becomes the unwitting mortal enemy of the sect that now worships Kersh as their saviour. Once, he almost destroyed the sect as they journeyed to the newly-discovered Americas, in the present he is struggling to rescue his wife and daughter from the televangelist hearth-throb icon, Messiah Wilde. Kersh must destroy Cawdor utterly, both in the past and the present, in order to be truly safe, but Cawdor is a determined enemy and with the aid of his equally-determined friends, he thinks he might have found a way into Kersh's kingdom.
Hoyle's novel blends bad karma, consipracy theory, media satire and cyberpunk into a taut metaphysical thriller in the Tim Powers mode. A convincing 18th century is intercut with the tragic, inexplicable collapse of Cawdor's happy middle-class life, revealing tantalising links between history and the current day. Kersh is a particularly compelling character, driven by thoughtless greed and arrogance, whose idea of making the most of godhead is to summon up a willing woman and a bottle of whiskey. It's a solid rather than ground-breaking read, but its well-paced mixture of action, religious speculation and spiritual coinflict keeps you turning the pages right to the end.