Review: The Piaculum

Just between you and me, I thought the life of a book reviewer would have more glamour to it, you know? A little cash, a little flash, a little redheaded something on my arm once in a while.

Nope. The life of a book reviewer sucks. No chicks. No cool cars. Have to dig around in the couch cushions for laundry money.

But sometimes I come across a book that makes me smile. A book I know I wouldn't have read if I didn't have this gig, and I think, "damn, this almost makes it worthwhile, but I'd still like a little nookie for my troubles."

The Piaculum, by Richard Gray, makes me smile and want sex.

The Gist: In the distant future(?), the world has separated into two major religions. The Mone, a pacifist society, live their lives in accordance with The Book of Testaments and The Ancient Word. The Kathe, on the other hand, live by a distorted interpretation of The Book of Testaments, and honor ritual and ceremony above the book's actual teachings.

Though both the Moan and the Kathe generally have dark skin, occasionally children born to both factions have a curse upon them, and enter the world with chalky white skin. The Kathe prize male children with the curse, as they believe drinking the blood of these gods, the Piaculum, will wash their sins away and assure their places in heaven.

Cearl, a Mone man with the mark, avoids the Kathe raiders as a child, but later in life becomes one of the Kathe gods. He believes he has volunteered for this horrific fate to save the life of a fellow Mone. Little does he know that his sacrifice will change the course of an entire people.

The Good: We've got a thinker, here! Mr. Gray thankfully filled his book with literary devices not commonly found in most first-time novels. Little things, like allegory, irony, and metaphor. The issues and conflicts presented have familiarity and believability, as they have plagued mankind for centuries. Ignorance, illiteracy, religious strife, and bigotry against those born different from the norm. Instead of just trying to fill enough pages to finish an exciting adventure, Mr. Gray actually takes a look at humanity and manages to say something about it. Y'all might want to read his tome and take some notes.

The Bad: Though not as badly as others I've read, the book does suffer from Amateur Writer's Syndrome. Too much description, not enough scenes. Too little detail at times. Not enough attention given to the little things that put the reader into the story. And Mr. Gray had the aggravating habit of putting in redundant information. Still, I thought that the damn fine story made up for the somewhat weak prose.

The Ugly: Mr. Gray commits a near mortal sin by pulling a small Owl Creek Bridge at one point. It only affects a small part of the story, thank God, but why play the whole "reality vs. dream" bit with such a gripping and emotionally involved story? 'Bout tore out what little hair I have left when I came across that part. I still recommend the book. Read it. Enjoy it. And just suffer through that small error in judgment.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

The Piaculum, by Richard Gray
Published by: iUniverse; 2003
ISBN: 0595303013
Genre: Dark Fantasy
Author's Webpage:

About Joe Murphy

Joe Murphy succumbed to leiomyosarcoma on April 1, 2007. The irony of this is not lost on any who knew him and laughed with him. He was the first “official” book reviewer for The Dragon Page Radio Talk Show, and after moving to Arizona, he became a frequent contributor to Cover to Cover, Wingin’ It, Slice of SciFi and co-host of Kick-Ass Mystic Ninjas.

He will be missed.