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How Like a God
Brenda W. Clough
Tor Books, 288 pages

How Like a God

Brenda W. Clough
Having published six novels in the last dozen or so years, Brenda W. Clough also write short stories and, sometimes, non-fiction. Periodically, she teaches writing at the Writer's Center in Bethesda, MD. She and her husband, Larry, have two children.

Brenda W. Clough Website

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows. And Rob Lewis.

Out of the blue, Rob Lewis, the hero of Brenda Clough's How Like a God discovers he has the power to read other people's minds and alter them. Initially attempting to use the power to do good, like one of the comic book characters he read about as a child, Lewis quickly comes to fear his strange power when he realizes it is adversely affecting the family he loves. Lewis determines that he must leave his family in order not to harm them.

Although Clough tells us that Lewis is not introspective, much of the novel deals with Lewis delving into his inner self, trying to discover what makes him tick, where his mysterious power comes from and what he should be using it for. More than any external threat, this self-examination is Lewis's greatest enemy.

Clough is less concerned with where Lewis's powers come from and how they work than she is with the ethical consequences of great power. Lewis's ethics are haphazard when he first begins to use his power. He has no qualms about helping a semi-anonymous homeless person completely change his life, but making his sister quit smoking seems to be too major of a change to make without much contemplation. Eventually, Lewis begins using the power constantly to help him get through life, but continues to ponder what he should be using his power for. He gains a hint when he comes across the ancient epic of Gilgamesh.

Eventually, Lewis decides that, like Gilgamesh, he needs a confidante. He selects a scientist, Edwin Barbarossa, to be his Enkidu. Despite Barbarossa's concerns that Lewis is manipulating him, the two try to track down as much as they can about Lewis's affliction. Although Barbarossa is convinced that Lewis is not entering his mind except on specific occasions, the reader can not be so sure. Clough has already indicated that Lewis can not always control his abilities and, in fact, suffers from leakage, one of the first areas Barbarossa turns his attention towards.

Despite being a fast and easy read, the ethical issues which Clough raises and, in many cases, leaves open, give the reader much to think about. What are the effects of power on the average human and what are the limits a human should have when dealing with that power. Clough also touches upon the idea of human free-will. Lewis' main god-like power is his ability to subvert others to do his bidding. He must decide whether he should use this power or permit people, especially those close to him like his wife, Julianne or Barbarossa, to do what they want without regard for his own desires.

Copyright © 1997 by Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is one of the founders and judges for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. He sits on concoms for Windycon, Chicon 2000 and Clavius in 2001 and is co-chair of Picnicon 1998. Steven will be serving as the Programming Chairman for Chicon 2000. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is trying to get his short stories published and has recently finished his first novel. He lives at home with his wife and 3200 books. He is available for convention panels.

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