Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
The Word of God
Thomas M. Disch
Tachyon Publications, 177 pages

The Word of God
Thomas M. Disch
Thomas M. Disch was born in Des Moines, Iowa, at the beginning of World War II. Within months of finishing high school he was in New York where he worked as a checkroom attendant, a supernumerary at the Metropolitan Opera, in offices and bookstores and night-shifts on a newspaper. He wrote his first published story called "The Double Timer" for Fantastic Stories. He has written 12 novels (the most recent being The Priest: A Gothic Romance), 5 collections of short stories, 7 volumes of poetry, and essays, reviews and incidental pieces too numerous to count. Thomas Disch has won two O. Henry Prizes for short stories, the W. Campbell Memorial Award and the British Science Fiction Award. He died in 2008.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made Of

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rob Kane

Thomas Disch is God. Or rather merely a god, you're free to worship other deities of your choice as well. The Word of God is both the of memoir of Disch the writer as well as Disch the god, with a little bit of fictional storytelling thrown in. It is really an odd little mixture; fun and clever but with a serious undertone.

The story is told in two main sections interwoven in more or less alternating chapters. The first section is a semi-autobiographical account of Thomas Disch's life told as though he had just recently realized he was a god. Mixed in with this he takes the time to examine to examine and show what religion and extremely devout belief look like to an atheist. The second intertwined section is a little work of fiction about the conception and death of a god.

This is the first book of Thomas Disch's that I've read, part of this memoir involves him recalling many of his previous works in the context of the religious issues that he is looking at. Also, recalling them in them to show that make more sense in light of his recent realization of his divinity. There are several instances of earlier poems and short stories being reprinted in the book where they add to the subject.

The highlight of the book is also a rather blasphemous story of Jesus and Saint Peter becoming flesh again in order to attend a showing of Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ. Disch is, of course, allowed to get away with this outrageous story because he is a god himself.

For the most part however, the book takes a fairly serious, if humour filled, look at religion. Disch seems to have been a fairly staunch atheist, and the book is a well wrought satire of religion. Although his opinions and commentary might be taken as insulting by some more pious readers, readers of different faiths should find the book a fun read. Disch is quite clear through his writing that the target of his satire and scorn isn't the average person but the "True Believers" and "Jesus Freaks," and his self-proclaimed god-hood is merely a tool that lets him speak on issues of religion with the same bravado and self importance that they do.

Throughout the book, Disch looks at various facets of belief like death, commandments, the miracles he's performed, how people tend to speak for their gods, and cowboy fashion (tough motherfuckers). There's also the Santa Claus nature of the True Believers' faith; how most people grow out of a true conviction that God exists, but the True Believers never do, and having invested so much in their faith their faith that they must adamantly refuse anything that goes against their beliefs (e.g. evolution) because this would take away from who they are as people. Of course, Disch tackles these possibly sensitive and heavy subjects in a very light and deeply funny fashion.

In his discussion of these topics, the book also acts as a memoir of events in Disch's life, as well as his interests in various forms of the arts. Which add a nice personal touch to the book.

In the fictionalized part of the story. Disch paints a picture of a broody, sad Philip K. Dick languishing in Hell. The devil presents Dick with a deal to good to turn down: a chance to prevent Disch from being born and for Dick to become the most celebrated author of all time. Unfortunately this would involve altering the course of World War II. So Philip arises from the dead in 1939 in order to murder Disch's parents. This story takes up about a third of the book, and as mentioned its chapters are interwoven throughout the others. The story is broken up so that the action in the story frequently complements that musings and thoughts of the autobiographical part. Being a God Disch gets away with probably one of the more novel uses of Deus ex Machina, the absurdity of which can probably also be construed a criticism of people who exclaim "God did it," when presented with something they don't understand.

Thomas Disch died just before this book was published. As such it seems like a fitting last work.

Unless, of course, the blasphemous nature of this book caused some more powerful god to take notice of him.

Copyright © 2008 Rob Kane

Robert learned to read with a litle help from Lloyd Alexander, and he hasn't stopped reading fantasy since then. No matter how busy life gets he can always find time for a good book.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or other stuff worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide