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The Piaculum
Richard C. Gray
iUniverse, 212 pages

Art: Richard C. Gray
The Piaculum
Richard C. Gray
Richard C. Gray was born in Utah where the local landscape inspired much of his writing. He is a scientist, writer, and artist. He earned his bachelor's degree in physics from the University of Utah and is currently living in upstate New York while working toward his Ph.D. at Cornell University.

Richard C. Gray Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Alisa McCune

The Piaculum by Richard Gray is a book I will not forget anytime soon. The Piaculum is difficult to categorize as it has many different levels to the story.

The Piaculum is set in a future, post-apocalyptic Earth. We follow the story of Cearl, a young man with a white-mark, who is a Mone. The Mone are non-violent farmers, who value family and religion. They are poor farmers who eke out a living in a desert-like landscape. The white-mark Cearl has is rare. It is similar to being an albino. He has pale skin compared to the dark color of the other Mone.

Cearl is an inquisitive young man. His father is atypical of the Mone in that he fosters his son's ability to think for himself. The Mone have a version of the Bible called the Book of Testaments. Cearl is encouraged to read the Book of Testaments and to interpret it himself. This background is crucial for the upcoming trials Cearl must face.

In contrast to the Mone are the Kathe. They are more prosperous city-dwellers who are religious fanatics. The Kathe have a much different interpretation of the Book of Testaments. To them, Christ gave his only son for crucifixion in order for all to ascend to heaven. In order for a Kathe to receive salvation, he must consume the blood of a white-mark male who is a living, walking, and crucifixion -- a Piaculum. Only a Piaculum as a living God can grant salvation.

Every 12 years the Kathe send out armies to search out all young males with the white-mark. These children are horribly tortured by a series of ascensions which result in metal chassis being integrated into their bodies. The Kathe have no mercy for a Piaculum as the pain and suffering they carry allows others into heaven.

The Kathe restrict reading to only a chosen few and by doing so ensures the fervor of its citizens. In contrast, Mone families read the Book of Testaments every night together. This crucial difference is pivotal to the story-line.

According to Richard Gray, the Kathe are modeled after Mormons. It is easy to insert most any religious fanatics who rule by restricting knowledge into the Kathe. Cearl's father instructed him to also read and interpret the Book of Testaments for himself as no one can be completely accurate in interpretation. Everyone should read and think for themselves.

Through history mankind has produced many horrors that are the result of someone's interpretation of the Bible. One only needs to turn on the television to be reminded of the political and religious upheavals of the Middle East. The violence man commits in the name of religion is horrendous. Think of the Palestinian suicide bombers. How can one gain salvation by killing others just because they are a different religion? While reading The Piaculum, I was reminded of the Romans who thought early Christians should be destroyed. The Romans believed the body and blood of Christ was a true act of cannibalism. Today, most would not think twice about this, but back in time it was a true outrage.

The Piaculum is a deeply moving book that will keep the reader thinking long after finishing the book. It is a commentary on Christianity that can be applied to today's turbulent and violent religious sects.

Copyright © 2004 Alisa McCune

Alisa discovered science fiction at the tender age of eight. She devoured The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis and never looked back. She lives in Chicago with her husband, cat, and 5000 books. For more information please visit her website at

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