The Barnes & Noble Review
Christmas Eve, 1999. A comet, satellite, or perhaps the finger of God, rends the night sky above Israel and rains fiery destruction on a top-secret military research facility in the Negev. Ony one mute and naked survivor struggles from the ruins in the aftermath of the explosion, then vanishes into the desert unnoticed. Drawn by the rumor of a Jordanian SCUD attack, a World News Network team producing a Millennium Eve special in Jerusalem races to the scene and stumbles upon the story of their lives, involving veteran reporter Jonathan Feldman and his cameraman Breck Hunter in perhaps the greatest story ever told.
Throughout the final year of the century, messianic sects have descended upon the great religious centers of Rome, Jerusalem, and Salt Lake City to await the coming of the millennium, convinced that the Last Days are at hand. Now, in the fulfillment of prophesy, at the stroke of midnight, New Year's Eve, a beautiful and mysterious young woman appears on the steps of the ancient Israelite Temple of the Messiah just as a violent earthquake rocks Jerusalem and sets off aftershocks felt even in the Vatican. By a stroke of purest luck, WNN has it all on videotape.
As a world audience primed for spectacle clamors for more, Feldman and Hunter follow the elusive figure as she appears throughout "Apocalypse Central," proclaiming a new gospel of the apotheosis to Christian, Muslim, and Jew alike. Overnight, Jeza, as she calls herself, has become a worldwide phenomenon, occasioning a summit meeting of the world's religious leaders and spawning a brisk trade inT-shirts,ashtrays, and other novelties bearing her image. But despite reports of miracles, fulfillment of biblical prophecy, and even the announcement of an 11th commandment ("Thou shall honor woman as thy equal; and thou shall cherish her in unity with thy fellow man"), the question remains: Is Jeza imitating or emulating Christ? Is she messiah, antichrist, or something even more sinister a biotech experiment gone tragically wrong?
Deftly incorporating subplots that include Vatican conspiracies, IDF assassination squads, cutting-edge scientific speculation, and the doomsday prophesy of the Last Secret of Fatima, Glenn Kleier's cleverly exploits the growing fascination with the millennium and eschatology, provoking impassioned questions about our most cherished beliefs and delivering a suspenseful thriller of the highest order.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
A millennial thriller that's as cranky as it is intense, Kleier's first novel grinds a sharp ax against organized religion, particularly Roman Catholicism, as it imagines the arising of a possible global messiah. Kleier narrates primarily through the viewpoint of a cable-TV reporter who witnesses many of the novel's bizarre events. On December 24, 1999, a meteor strikes a secret Israeli defense facility, freeing one of the site's experimentsJeza, a beautiful woman who is an artificially gestated clone and whose unsurpassed intelligence may arise from computer chips implanted in her brain. Days later, Jeza performs a miracle in Bethlehem; shortly thereafter, she delivers her "New Beatitudes" ("Blessed are you who are tolerant, for you shall attain Unity") to a worldwide TV audience. Within months, the world teeters on the brink of anarchy, torn between pro- and anti-Jeza forces. The latter are spearheaded by the Vatican, for Jeza's apocalyptic message includes the dismantling of all churches. If Kleier's prose, particularly his dialogue, lacks subtlety, his melodramatic story will have readers racing through the narrative with its many plot twistspolitical, scientific and theological. A warm and fuzzy conclusion can't mask the novel's bombast and bad taste, however. Kleier's portrayal of the Vatican as a venal cabal and of the pope as a bumbler, his swipes at Protestantism and Islam, his use of the Lubavitcher Rebbe to endorse Jeza's sacred status, his employment of the maybe-messiah as a mouthpiece for politically correct religion (feminist, pro-choice, anticlerical)all make this work as much an offensive rant as an entertaining read. 500,000 first printing; film rights to Columbia/TriStar; Time Warner audio; foreign rights sold in the U.K., the Netherlands, Italy, Spain and Portugal. (Nov.)
A combination of scientific thriller, religious satire, and New Age mysticism, this debut novel offers a view of what might happen as the end of the millennium approaches. At a remote research facility in the Negev Desert, a meteor wreaks massive destruction. Meanwhile, at midnight on New Year's Eve, 1999, in Jerusalem, a young and mysterious woman appears who seems to have a powerful gift. She calls herself Jeza, and soon everyone wonders whether she is a prophetess, the Messiah, or the Antichrist. On hand is Jon Feldman, a skeptical reporter for the World News Network. Beset by his own doubts and lack of strong faith, Feldman is nevertheless fascinated and attracted by the mysterious Jeza. Is she truly a manifestation of God, or is she simply the result of a bizarre experiment of bioengineering? Feldman won't rest until he finds out the truth. Kleier's novel offers a view of how organized religion would react to such a threat. Though the prose is pedestrian and the dialog often overwrought, the story is so well paced that most readers will perhaps forgive the other deficiencies. For large fiction collections.Dean James, Murder by the Book, Houston, Tex.
An impressively imagined debut offers a devilishly cunning speculation on how a sinful world might greet news of a messiah's appearance come the millennium.
Jerusalem-based WNN-TV correspondent John Feldman gets appreciably more than he ever bargained for on New Year's Eve, 1999. Expecting to provide only cursory coverage of local observances, the journalist and his cameraman, Breck Hunter, wind up investigating the mysterious destruction of a hush-hush Israel Defense Force (IDF) lab in the Negev Desert. The sole survivor of this cataclysm is an ethereal young woman called Jeza, whom millennarian groups throughout the world soon hail as their long- awaited redeemer. Spouting gnomic parables, citing a gospel known as Apotheosis (from the so-called "Newest" Testament), and performing the occasional miracle, the arriviste divinity travels the holy lands of the Middle East, urging ever larger congregations of Christians, Jews, and Muslims to forsake the distractive trappings of formal liturgies. With logistical assistance from Feldman's ratings-obsessed network, the deity is soon able to present her provocative message (fiercely resisted by established religions) to a wider world from forums in Salt Lake City, the Vatican, and Washington. Meanwhile, word leaks out that the IDF facility was engaged in genetic engineering projects, which could make Jeza a robot with artificial intelligence of a very high order rather than anyone's savior. During the Lenten season, hopes for peace on earth evanesce as Armageddon-scale violence racks key venues, and the Antichrist or True Prophetess is martyred at the close of a Good Friday sermon before the Wailing Wall. While cooler heads in Rome ponder, IDF renegades, die-hard ecclesiastics, and others with apocalyptic axes to grind vie to ensureor abortJeza's resurrection on Easter morning.
Deliciously wicked entertainment that combines biotech with theological arcana to mount an effective (and often offensive) assault upon churches militant, affluent, and complacent.
Read an Excerpt
An Excerpt from The Last Day
WNN news bureau, Jerusalem, Israel
11:15 A.M., Wednesday, January 5, 2000
The rumors had been filtering in since early morning, and by now Bollinger was convinced they were accurate. Direct from the millenarian grapevine, it was said that the Messiah would finally be making a long-awaited public appearance. Having fasted and meditated for four days and nights in the deserts north of Jericho, the Messiah would give an address near the resort town of Tiberias, on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. Tomorrow morning, at dawn. Feldman, Hunter, Erin Cross and a production crew were dispatched immediately to Tiberias by WNN helicopter to prepare for whatever eventualities might develop. Sullivan, Bollinger, Cissy, Robert Filson and more crew were to fly up in a second helicopter later to join them.
. . .
Mount of the Beatitudes, Israel
6:21 A.M., Thursday, January 6, 2000
The massive audience was absolutely immobilized by the ethereal scene, and remained so for a full sixty seconds while the celestial music crescendoed to its finale.
The slender Messiah was dressed in a loose, hooded, full-length white robe, trimmed with red and purple piping. The head was bowed, the face completely shadowed by the hood in the dawning sunlight behind.
Feldman, the TV crew, and the millions of breathless spectators watched, spellbound, as the mysterious form appeared to slowly unfurl itself. The head tilted back. The slim arms rose steadily from its side, upward to the sky. The sleeves slid gracefully down to unveil thin, opalescent arms. Arms that extended to small, clenched fists which petaled open to display fine, outstretched, alabaster fingers.
And at last the hood dropped away, revealing an unearthly, radiant, alluring, upturned face of an angel. Innocent, unpretentious, childlike and beautiful. Yet purposeful and wise. The eyes were closed and the mouth opened wide, exposing straight and perfectly white teeth.
Feldman was taken aback, then charmed to realize that this transfixing, commanding display had been, in actuality, nothing more than an early morning stretch and yawn. Although, because of the contrast of sunlight and shadows, and the distance of the crowd, Feldman doubted anyone but he could tell.
While this was most certainly the same arresting face Feldman had seen in the crude Millennium Eve video, its impact on him now was entirely different. There was no semblance of the pain, rage or anguish that had exuded from the dark TV monitor. Perhaps it was the inexactness of the computer enhancement, but this face had none of the intensity. It even appeared less angular now. Softened. Sweetened.
Yet, it had lost none of the otherworldliness that gave it its divinity. This was an amazing creature. The skin was so completely smooth, unblemished and literally vibrant in its pure, radiant whiteness. The face was perfect in its symmetry, with large, wide-set dark eyes rimmed with long black lashes. The jawline was chiseled, firm. The nose prominent, Roman-godly. Entirely appropriate.
The only physical imperfection to mar this compelling, flawless visage was the appearance of odd red welts that were visible in small, scalped patches in the Messiah's unruly, raven hair. A very bad haircut.
But if this were indeed the face of a Messiah, God had played a cruel joke on His anointed one. This strange and surreal appearance wasn't that of a boy, but of a young woman. And when Feldman heard her speak, he was certain of it.
Looking over the crowd, the Messiah called out in a clear, engrossing, authoritative, but entirely feminine voice:
"Vasheim aboteinu tovu lisanecha," she announced in perfect Hebrew, which Feldman did not comprehend.
"Bism Elah atty laka," she intoned in perfect Arabic, which was also lost on the reporter.
"In the Name of the Father, I come to you," she said in perfect English, and Feldman realized the Messiah was repeating the same phrases in a variety of languages.
"Au Nom de Dieu notre Père, je viens à vous," she continued in French.
She repeated the process in German, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, Italian and Japanese, picking up the pace in a rhythmic chant that physically moved the crowd. Ten separate languages in all, recorded on tape, and her accent, in each instance, was perfect. Finishing one circuit, the Messiah began a new phrase, starting the rhythmic translation process all over again. She punctuated her oration with decisive movements of her arms and body.
The world received its first sermon from the new prophetess. A short speech that came to be known as the New Beatitudes:
In the name of the Father, I come to you.
In the name of Truth, I come to you.
In the name of Revelation, I come to you.
Blessed are you who listen, for you shall understand.
Blessed are you who see, for the New Light shall shine upon you.
Blessed are you who resist convention for the sake of righteousness, for you shall be vindicated.
Blessed are you who seek the Answer within you, for you shall know the mind of God.
Blessed are you who defy the powerful in My name, for you shall be called courageous.
Blessed are you who are selfless, for your compensation shall be immeasurable.
Blessed are you who are tolerant, for you shall attain Unity.
Blessed are you who safeguard the defenseless, for you shall gain life everlasting.
Blessed are the secure of heart, for you shall find comfort in yourself
Rejoice and exult, because your reward is great in heaven; for so did they persecute the prophets who came before. (Apotheosis 4:6-19)
There was one point near the end where the Messiah, in her sweeping scope of the crowd, brought her eyes to rest on Feldman's. Only for an instant, only in passing, but there was a connect. And even in the briefest of glances, her dark, serene, multihued blue eyes penetrated him unnervingly.
He felt simultaneously dizzy, confused and invaded. But he had no opportunity to reflect on the experience. The Messiah's hands rose to the heavens as if bestowing a blessing upon the crowd. And then the slender figure turned abruptly, arms dropping, and calmly descended the steps as the crowd erupted.
The massive audience was in ecstasy. Laughing, crying, praying, fully sated and taken with the rapture of this religious moment. Feldman was fearful that at any second the insensate, joyous mob would surge forward and shock divine sense into some of the more unfortunate faithful near the electric fence, providing Hunter with a little anecdotal footage. But the assembly remained respectful of itself and there was never any danger.
Feldman believed that most of the crowd had been prepared from the onset to accept this Messiah figure as their Savior, regardless of her newly revealed sex. That she did such an effective job surpassing expectations, however, was what sent her audience into this prolonged state of euphoria.
But not all her audience. There were some here who did not come to welcome a new religious icon. Particularly a female one. And they left this encounter with skepticism, scorn and displeasure.
Yet, to all who personally witnessed this unprecedented event, there was no denial that something very extraordinary had happened here.
Reprinted from THE LAST DAY by Glenn Kleier. Copyright © 1997 by Glenn Kleier. Published by arrangement with Warner Books, Inc., New York, New York, U.S.A. All rights reserved.