When you run a Google search to find out how long a book has waited to be published, only to find a post of yours complaining about a sixteen-year wait – five years ago – you know that a book like Drums of Chaos by Richard Tierney has quite a rocky road on the way to publication. Indeed, it’s rare that a book with such a tumultuous history actually turns out to be worth the wait.
Drums of Chaos, I have to say, is the exception. It’s quite the excellent work of historical fiction, if you like your historical fiction mixed with Mythos entities, Jesus, and flying saucers.
Jesus? Yes, Jesus is a character in this book. Drawing from a critical tradition that has pointed out how many aspects of the life of Wilbur Whateley, the villain from Lovecraft’s “The Dunwich Horror”, parallels that of Jesus, Tierney does a reversal and transforms Christ into a spawn of the Old Ones, brought to earth to pursue their agenda. Mainly, however, the book follows the exploits of Simon of Gitta, better known to Bible readers as Simon Magus, a gladiator-turned-magician whose adventures are described in the out-of-print collection The Scroll of Thoth. As we begin, Simon is leaving his mentor Dositheus, his sidekick Menander, and his soulmate Ilione to take revenge on the Romans who slaughtered his parents and led them into slavery. On his way, however, he runs into a man named Taggart in a flying saucer made with the technology of the Old Ones. Taggart, the star of Tierney’s even more out-of-print Winds of Zarr, comes from a future America destroyed by the Old One’s minions and has been working with those minions to advance their goals until recently. Now he, Simon, and their friends must race against the clock to prevent the devastation of the world.
Got all that? Well, it’s even more complicated, what with the various factions working against each other, various artifacts, two or three different rituals going on simultaneously, and an intelligent mule. Nonetheless, Tierney weaves all of this together masterfully, keeping the narrative moving and making the actions of each group of characters compelling and significant to the plot.
There’s another layer to this book as well, for those who have some Biblical training. It’s not necessary to the enjoyment of the book, but being able to find out who the naked guy running through Gethseneme was or what really happened to the Tower of Siloam gives a certain amount of frission to readers who have had that background.
If the book has a weak point, it is the treatment of the female characters. I do not recommend this book if you dislike seeing female characters captured by brutes who try to rape them, only to be rescued by the hero who then sends them somewhere else where the process can be repeated. They are rarely compelling or competent in their own right, and Simon’s soulmate is particularly insipid and helpless. Fortunately for the reader, the flying saucer eventually drops her off in Persia and then flies away, and we don’t see her for the rest of the book.
Overall, though, this is a wonderful book, even for those who haven’t read about Simon or aren’t familiar with the Passion story. For those who are, and who aren’t turned off by Jesus/Wilbur, this is definitely worth a read.