Casting the Messiah is one of those rare diamonds – a book people either passionately love or fervently hate. Peter Delchev gives ground for both sentiments. He draws a futuristic society, where the schism between the Catholic and the Orthodox Church is about to end. His thorough description of the global trends that would be prevailing in c.50 years and his impressive knowledge of the history of the church make the novel a must-have. However, due to a lack of an editor, Casting the Messiah is cumbersome, difficult to read and understand, often repetitive and frankly at times quite boring. Overall, having good ideas does not a bestseller make. When these ideas are presented in a disorganized and confusing manner, the quality of the book diminishes noticeably. It’s like a woman – you may be a great person on the inside but if you go out resembling Dracula, whatever you say will be refracted through the prism of your appearance. First impressions last and my first impression of Peter Delchev was that he ruined a great book with an amazing potential.
50 years from now the Church sees its influence in the political and economic world diminish to almost non-existent. The years when the Pope/Patriarch was not only the head of the Church, but was also an active and powerful player in the redistribution of the world are long gone. There are more religions than people and the pillars of the Orthodox and Catholic Church are shaking. It is difficult to be extremely original about what life is going to be in 50 years but Delchev attempts to paint a picture of moral degradation, wars, and loss of humanity. In nearly 50 years people will be able to choose when and how to die. The confrontation for Alaska puts Russia and the USA at odds. Organized crime is growing with a geometrical progression and the financial world becomes more and more powerful in shaping the world and the distribution of wealth. In this anti-utopia the two most powerful Churches decide to take back what they believe was originally theirs – control over the world.
The most important reason for the great schism was the filoque – the argument whether the Son proceeded from the Father (as the Catholics believed) or not. More than 1,000 years later nearly 6,000 Church delegates gather on a remote island in the Atlantic to try and resolve issues and disputes building up for centuries. However, the true reason for the separation has long ago changed focus to more practical arguments: who is going to rule the Christian world. Delegates came not to make concessions but to demonstrate value and power. They never thought they would actually have to compromise until the curator of the congregation announces that all have been poisoned and the only way out of the island is through true faith.
A task that proves more difficult than anyone imagined. It turns out that even in the face of death these people stick to their old-fashioned and conservative ways. While the old and the new clash on the island, a different conflict is developing on the outskirts. The huge media company hired to report from the venue is disappointed with the lack of news and development. And they decide to make themselves a war. A new reality show, where entertainment has reached unbelievable levels: the audience can watch the battlefield through the eyes of the participants and witness death in real time. Oh, what a triumph of the consumer society. What a great idea to exploit people’s lowest instincts and to use them to satisfy the human need for realism and brutality.
Several story lines intertwine in Peter Delchev’s Casting the Messiah to form a portrait of a world, where virtue has been pushed back in favor of power and influence. The Christians, the pilgrims, the Asians, the financiers, the media, and all the regular people are fighting for God knows what. A witty tale of what will happen to human kind if it continues on its path of self-destruction. However, the biggest weakness in Delchev’s novel is the lack of connection to any of the characters. The author spends a great deal describing the geopolitical forces but spends only limited amount on the human beings that drive them. The result is only shells of human beings, shadows that don’t exhibit any defining characteristics, robots whose role seems to be to supplement the geopolitical changes, rather than drive them (which they actually do). Here, an editor would have proved extremely useful to Delchev to guide him, but as mentioned, the author decided not to use one. The only character that provokes some reaction to the reader is Nicole – an ambitious and unscrupulous young lady, who comes up with the idea of creating an artificial war and brings millions to the media company. Her difficult childhood has made her brutal, which combined with her beauty and sexuality make her a worthy opponent in an all-man world.
Casting the Messiah is a great exercise but it is not a novel. Not in the meaning I give to it. The process involves a writer, an editor, and a publisher. When one of the links is missing, the result seems incomplete. It is quite disappointing as evidently Delchev spent a great amount of time researching his thesis and had the means to produce an international bestseller.