At a small New York college, two roommates set out to create a religious cult as a social experiment. Soon, however, things take a malevolent turn when the burgeoning Church’s chosen messiah turns out to be a socio-pathological lunatic. Waking to find himself trapped in a sort of dungeon cell like that of John of Patmos, with only a typewriter, a spider, and the rotting corpse of his former roommate for companionship, Harden Campbell sets to work writing his book of Revelation.
Set over a quarter century ago, Carter Wilson’s novel, Revelation, was only published last year, but it could easily have been set in contemporary times. The story toggles between third-person point of view and first as some of the examination of the action puts us in the position of observer, while other chapters are from the perspective of a manuscript being written by the captive, Harden.
There are three main characters, our part-time narrator, Harden; his roommate turned tormenter, Coyote; and Coyote’s girlfriend, Emma. The story takes us from Harden’s first meeting with Coyote all the way to a contrived conclusion in which the triangle of Harden, Coyote, and Emma come together to realize Coyote’s penultimate coup de grace, unless a miracle or Deus ex Machina intervenes.
My review is based on the audio version, which I received in exchange for my honest review, and to be honest, I’m not sure how I felt about the choice of narrator, Timothy McKean. It’s not that he did a bad job. On the contrary, he helped give life to the characters and added a sense of reality to the tension, and in the end that’s really all one can ask of a voice actor. But there is a slight Keanu Reeves-like immaturity to the quality of his tone. Another coming-of-age/college-experience story that wasn’t also about a murderous messianic sadist would probably be right in his wheelhouse.
As for the story, I have to confess, I have a particular fondness for thrillers which twist the conventions of religion into something distorted and horrifying. The best parts of this story for me were, in fact, the aspects showing how a charismatic sociopath could easily convince enough vulnerable and weak-willed neophytes to follow his promises of lasting happiness and self-improvement. From my perspective, Jim Jones, L. Ron Hubbard, Joseph Smith, and Paul of Tarsus are all just variations of a theme representing a template from which Wylie “Coyote” Martin was drawn.
Available on Amazon and Audible