Science fiction writers have long loved to play the game of super-heroes. Some have even gone to work for the comic book folks. Some played WildCards. And some Ė- like Steven Gould (JUMPER and WILDSIDE) have played it a little straighter.
Now we can add Brenda W. Clough to that last group. Her HOW LIKE A GOD gives a family man and computer programmer Rob Lewis the ability to make people do (and see) what he thinks they should. Itís a neat trick, similar to what Joe Haldeman did in TOOL OF THE TRADE, perfect for reforming panhandlers and criminals, stopping muggers, getting folks to cooperate. But his wife gets stars and stripes in her eyes and says, "You could be President!" And their eighteen-month-old twins start acting much too mature. Naturally enough, Rob is terrified. He tells his wife, "Donít worry about me, Iím off on a trip," and heís outta there. Gone, hiding from his novel power in the gutter, doing a lot of reading and discovering in the classic EPIC OF GILGAMESH some very familiar notes and eventually deciding that he really does have to get a grip on it.
Fortunately heís actually a pretty responsible fellow, he makes friends easily, and has a contact, a very nice NIH microbiologist who is willing to help. Together they play games in Atlantic City, and when Rob discovers a mental signpost pointing towards an archaeological site in the Kyzylkum Desert on the Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan border, they go there. The answer to Robís problem turns out to have some very ancient, very long-lived roots. Itís also quite modern, rooted in the realization that we all have demons within us that must be tamed before we can truly settle down to civilized life.
HOW LIKE A GOD is flawed for me mostly by the difficulty I had in believing Robís sudden leap into the gutter. Once past that, Clough held me all the way and let me down with a nice sense of satisfaction.
By Thomas A. Easton
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