Thursday, November 24, 2005

Title: The Oculi Incident
Author: Regis Schilken
Publisher: TurnKey Press
ISBN: 0976498138
Genre: Fiction/Religion/Christianity/Mystery
No. of Pages: 348
Presentation: Paperback

This novel attempts to portray the ever-raging conflict between good and evil, between altruism and greed, through a religious setting. The story takes place in a Catholic Church. A cross is sent for renovation to a nearby monastery. Brother Anthony who is doing the renovation disappears suddenly without a trace. Nothing much is made of the mystery because it is not too uncommon for Fathers and Brothers to get bored of the monastery life and disappear to surface under a different name and lead the so-called 'normal' life. No one is beyond temptation.

7 years later, suddenly a 'miracle' starts taking place in the Church where the restored cross is installed. Tears start forming from the eyes of the statue of Jesus Christ. When investigation is attempted, deaths start taking place and threats are held out. The connection between the renovation of the cross (and the body of Jesus) and the present miracle is lost on the people because of the time gap.

Pastor Paul Logue’s gut instinct keeps telling him that the few drops of water that fall from the eyes of the statue suspended in the old, Gothic Church are probably a diabolical human ruse or possibly a display of Lucifer himself. But for simple believers and to his Bishop, the word miracle arises in the mind and it spreads like a raging fire fanned by the media’s unquenchable desire for sensationalism. The unique occurrences at his church quickly become national phenomena. Money pours into church coffers as droves of curiosity seekers, tourists, and religious believers visit Saint Martin’s to glimpse the miracle cross and to leave behind extremely generous donations. The mystery is finally solved by the help of a policeman and his live-in partner, a school teacher. They are aided by an young woman in the police department and an intelligent technician working for the villain.

The author succeeds in conveying a few ideas through the characters of this interesting book. Firstly miracles do take place. But all apparent miracles are not necessarily real and thus need to be investigated thoroughly. The forces that are trying to bring about the miracle, human or otherwise will not keep quiet when the investigation is attempted and will try to thwart the same through threats, murder etc., It is not necessary for a human being to believe in Church to be good, and it is entirely possible for an evil person to be in the robes of religion, since normally suspicion doesn't point there.

The story is written well and till half of the book, the suspense of who could have done the killings is well maintained. Though the villains are identified fairly early in the book, the plot keeps unfolding nicely and a good climax is presented. The end is quite mysterious.

The physics behind the formation of the water drops is fairly simple and is well presented. To lay people, the science could indeed be mystifying and magical. I felt that graphic descriptions of love making are out of place in such a book. The story stands quite well without such descriptions. The characters are well developed and look plausible. The effects of war and violence combined with the innate greed could certainly make a man inhuman.

All in all, it is a good read.