Francis W. Porretto
on July 27, 2010 :
I don't have quite the right words with which to describe these two novellas. (Missy Tonight is a sequel to Orange Car With Stripes.) Madcap? That almost fits. Black humor? More in the indigo range, but what the hell.
Tom Lichtenberg is an atheist, but he's fairly easygoing about it:
"I'm not a big fan of the so-called "militant" atheists and tend to agree with your assessment of their obsession with religion, but at the same time I enjoy them and I'm glad they're out there ruffling feathers and making noise. It's a good thing, as far as I'm concerned, for atheists to be seen and heard.
"There is still a long way to go before atheism is truly accepted at large around the world - a long long way - and we who merely claim to not believe in any god are still at risk of our very lives in many places - how crazy is that?
"Still, we need to have a sense of humor about it, and this seems sorely lacking to me. I've done my little part with the publication of my two 'atheist comic pulp fictions.'"
These linked stories concern a fictional Pink City, built by eccentric millionaire Ronald Humm as a haven for atheists. It's fully equipped with atheist institutions: a college, a broadcasting service, and whatnot. The plots concern one Gian Carlo Spallanzini, almost literally a professional atheist -- in point of fact, he's a Professor of Defunct Sciences at New Harbinger College -- and his blindsiding by events he's spent his adult life ridiculing.
Professor Spallanzini is also a regular guest on Missy Tonight, a production of the Atheist Broadcasting Service. Its hostess, Missy D'Angelo, is a vicious battleaxe who delights in tearing believers to shreds, which she does nightly on her show. Believers in what, you ask? Name something!
The novellas aren't really about atheism, but about intellectual vanity and obsession. Spallanzini, protagonist of Orange Car With Stripes, is compelled by an offhand challenge from a theist friend to confront realities he'd been pooh-poohing since he was toilet trained, which unmakes the man he was and provides the seed of the man he becomes. In brief, his friend challenges him to select a random stranger and unearth his deepest secret, opining that it will be something stranger and darker than Spallanzini has ever imagined. That puts the professor on a collision course with aliens more remarkable than any of the conceptions he's derided...and also with the Orange Car With Stripes, though not in a literal sense.
Alan Musted, forty-three-year-old antihero of Missy Tonight, resolves to become Spallanzini's replacement on the show. Musted has no qualifications for the position. Indeed, he has no qualifications for anything, being a complete loser who ekes out a subsistence living in a glorified broom closet in nearby Spring Hill Lake. But he's an atheist -- hard core, from toddlerhood -- and he fancies himself the perfect replacement for the ruined professor. Reality disagrees, but in a funny and often touching series of encounters, many of which parallel Spallanzini's from Orange Car With Stripes.
Alien parrots, talking redwoods, really slow interstellar travel, an orange Camaro with white racing stripes, adultery, nasty young and old women with more attitude than Carter has Little Liver Pills, a janitor who owns a city, militant atheists, a preacher who'll forgive anything at all, and an amateur videographer who calls himself "Beauregard and Scooter" and never says die....You could say these novellas "have it all."
Theme: Be none too sure of your premises. I concur: A
(review of free book)