The Godhead Trilogy: Towing Jehovah, Blameless in Abaddon, and The Eternal Footman

The Godhead Trilogy: Towing Jehovah, Blameless in Abaddon, and The Eternal Footman

by James Morrow
The Godhead Trilogy: Towing Jehovah, Blameless in Abaddon, and The Eternal Footman

The Godhead Trilogy: Towing Jehovah, Blameless in Abaddon, and The Eternal Footman

by James Morrow

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The award-winning, irreverent, and darkly funny trilogy from “the most provocative satiric voice in science fiction” (The Washington Post).
The complete Godhead Trilogy from James Morrow, including Towing Jehovah, Blameless in Abaddon, and The Eternal Footman.
In the World Fantasy Award–winning Towing Jehovah, God has died, and Anthony Van Horne must tow the corpse to the Arctic (to preserve Him from sharks and decomposition). En route Van Horne must also contend with ecological guilt, a militant girlfriend, sabotage both natural and spiritual, and greedy hucksters of oil, condoms, and doubtful ideas.
Blameless in Abaddon, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, is a “funny, ferocious fantasy” (Philadelphia Inquirer). God is a comatose, two-mile-long tourist attraction at a Florida theme park—until a conniving judge decides to put Him on trial in The Hague for crimes against humanity.
The Eternal Footman completes Morrow’s darkly comic trilogy about God’s untimely demise. With God’s skull in orbit, competing with the moon, a plague of “death awareness” spreads across the Western hemisphere. As the United States sinks into apocalypse, two people fight to preserve life and sanity. A few highlights: a bloody battle on a New Jersey golf course between Jews and anti-Semites; a theater troupe’s stirring dramatization of the Gilgamesh epic; and a debate between Martin Luther and Erasmus. Morrow also gives us his most chilling villain ever: Dr. Adrian Lucido, founder of a new pagan church in Mexico and inventor of a cure worse than any disease.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780544503106
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 09/01/2018
Series: The Godhead Trilogy
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: eBook
Pages: 1172
Sales rank: 196,131
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Born in 1947, James Morrow has been writing fiction ever since he, as a seven-year-old living in the Philadelphia suburbs, dictated “The Story of the Dog Family” to his mother, who dutifully typed it up and bound the pages with yarn. This three-page, six-chapter fantasy is still in the author’s private archives. Upon reaching adulthood, Morrow produced nine novels of speculative fiction, including the critically acclaimed the Godhead Trilogy. He has won the World Fantasy Award for Only Begotten Daughter and Towing Jehovah, the Nebula Award for “Bible Stories for Adults, No. 17: The Deluge” and the novella City of Truth, and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award for the novella Shambling Towards Hiroshima. A full-time fiction writer, Morrow makes his home in State College, Pennsylvania, with his wife, their son, an enigmatic sheepdog, and a loopy beagle. He is hard at work on a novel about Darwinism and its discontents.
Born in 1947, James Morrow has been writing fiction ever since he, as a seven-year-old living in the Philadelphia suburbs, dictated “The Story of the Dog Family” to his mother, who dutifully typed it up and bound the pages with yarn. This three-page, six-chapter fantasy is still in the author’s private archives. Upon reaching adulthood, Jim produced nine novels of speculative fiction, including the critically acclaimed Godhead Trilogy. He has won the World Fantasy Award (for Only Begotten Daughter and Towing Jehovah), the Nebula Award (for “Bible Stories for Adults, No. 17: The Deluge” and the novella City of Truth), and the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award (for the novella Shambling Towards Hiroshima). A fulltime fiction writer, Jim makes his home in State College, Pennsylvania, with his wife, his son, an enigmatic sheepdog, and a loopy beagle. He is hard at work on a novel about Darwinism and its discontents.

Read an Excerpt



The irreducible strangeness of the universe was first made manifest to Anthony Van Horne on his fiftieth birthday, when a despondent angel named Raphael, a being with luminous white wings and a halo that blinked on and off like a neon quoit, appeared and told him of the days to come.

That year, 1992, Anthony's Sundays were always the same. At four P.M. he would descend into the New York subway system, take the A-train north to 190th Street, hike across the rocky hills of Fort Tryon Park, and, after melding with the tourists, enter the simulated European monastery known as the Cloisters and slip behind the altar in the Fuentidueña Chapel. There he would wait, holding his breath and enduring his migraine, until the crowd went home.

The lead-off watchman, a rangy Jamaican with a limp, always made his rounds faithfully, but at midnight a new guard normally came on duty, an emaciated N.Y.U. student who made no rounds but instead entered the Unicorn Tapestries Room bearing an aquamarine nylon backpack jammed with textbooks. After seating himself on the cold stone floor, the student would switch on his flashlight and begin poring over his Gray's Anatomy, endlessly rehearsing the parts of the human body. "Gluteus medius, gluteus medius, gluteus medius," he would chant into the sacred precincts. "Rectus femoris, rectus femoris, rectus femoris."

That particular midnight, Anthony followed his usual custom. He stole out from behind the Fuentidueña altar, checked on the student (hard at work, drilling himself in the fissures and sulci of the left cerebral hemisphere), then proceeded along an arcade of Romanesque columns capped by snarling gargoyles and down a flagstone path to the gushing marble fountain that dominated the open-air Saint-Michel-de-Cuxa Cloister. Reaching into his freshly washed chinos, Anthony removed a translucent plastic box and set it on the ground. He climbed out of his pants, then pulled off his white cotton jersey, immaculate undershirt, spotless Jockey shorts, polished shoes, and clean socks. At last he stood naked in the hot night, his skin burnished by an orange moon drifting across the sky like a huge orbiting pumpkin.

"Sulcus frontalis superior, sulcus frontalis superior, sulcus frontalis superior," said the student.

Anthony picked up the plastic box, popped the lid, and removed the egg-shaped cake. Pressing the soap against his chest, he leaned into the Cuxa fountain. In the golden pool he saw himself — the broken nose, the weary eyes sinking into bogs of flesh, the high forehead eroded by sea spray and baked hard by equatorial sun, the tangled gray beard spreading across a lantern jaw. He lathered up, letting the cake slide down his arms and chest like a tiny toboggan, catching it before it hit the flagstones.

"Sulcus praecentralis, sulcus praecentralis, sulcus praecentralis ..."

Ivory soap, mused Anthony as he rinsed, Procter and Gamble at its purest. At that exact moment he felt clean — though the oil, he knew, would be back the next day. The oil always came back. For what soap on earth could scrub away the endless black gallons that had spilled from the fractured hull of the SS Carpco Valparaíso, what caliber of purity could erase that particular stain?

During the cold months, Anthony had kept a Turkish bath towel handy, but now it was mid-June — the first day of summer, in fact — and a simple jog through the museum would be sufficient to get him dry. And so he put on his Jockey shorts and ran, moving past the Pontaut Chapter House ... the Nine Heroes Tapestries Room ... Robert Campin Hall with its homey Annunciation: the angel Gabriel advising Mary of God's intentions as she sits in the bourgeois parlor of the artist's patrons, surrounded by tokens of her innocence — fresh lilies, white candle, gleaming copper kettle.

At the entry to the Langon Chapel, beneath a rounded arch set on lintels carved with blooming acanthus, a sixtyish man in a flowing white robe stood weeping.

"No," he moaned, his low, liquid sobs echoing off the limestone. "No ..."

Except for the man's wings, Anthony might have assumed the intruder was a penitent like himself. But there they were, huge and phosphorescent, sprouting from his shoulder blades in all their feathered improbability.

"No ..."

The glowing man looked up. A halo hovered above his snowy hair, flashing bright red: on-off, on-off, on-off. His eyes were rheumy and inflamed. Silver droplets rolled from his tear ducts like beads of liquid mercury.

"Good evening," said the intruder, convulsively catching his breath. He laid his hand on his cheek and, like a blotter pressed against some infinitely sad letter, his palm absorbed the tears. "Good evening and happy birthday, Captain Van Horne."

"You know me?"

"This is not a chance meeting." The intruder's voice was wavering and fragmented, as if he were speaking through the whirling blades of an electric fan. "Your schedule is well known among us angels — these secret visits to the fountain, these sly ablutions ..."


"Call me Raphael." The intruder cleared his throat. "Raphael Azarias." His skin, yellow aspiring to gold, shone in the moonlight like a brass sextant. He smelled of all the succulent wonders Anthony had ever sampled on his journeys, of papayas and mangoes, guanabanas and tamarinds, guavas and guineppes. "For I am indeed the celebrated archangel who vanquished the demon Asmodeus."

A winged man. Robed, haloed, delusions of divinity: another New York lunatic, Anthony surmised. And yet he did not resist when the angel reached out, wrapped five frigid fingers around his wrist, and led him back to the Cuxa fountain.

"You think I'm an impostor?" asked Raphael.

"Well ..."

"Be honest."

"Of course I think you're an impostor."


The angel plucked a feather from his left wing and tossed it into the pool. To Anthony's astonishment, a familiar human face appeared beneath the waters, rendered in the sort of ersatz depth he associated with 3-D comic books.

"Your father is a great sailor," said the angel. "Were he not in retirement, we might have chosen him over you."

Anthony shuddered. Yes, it was truly he, Christopher Van Horne, the handsome, dashing master of the Amoco Caracas, the Exxon Fairbanks, and a dozen other classic ships — the soaring brow, lofty cheekbones, frothy mane of pearl gray hair, JOHN VAN HORNE, his birth certificate read, though on turning twenty-one he'd changed his name in homage to his spiritual mentor, Christopher Columbus.

"He's a great sailor," Anthony agreed. He chucked a pebble into the pool, transforming his father's face into a series of concentric circles. Was this a dream? A migraine aura? "Chosen him for what?"

"For the most important voyage in human history."

As the waters grew calm, a second face appeared: lean, tense, and hawklike, perched atop the stiff white collar of a Roman Catholic priest.

"Father Thomas Ockham," the angel explained. "He works over in the Bronx, Fordham University, teaching particle physics and avant-garde cosmology."

"What does he have to do with me?"

"Our mutual Creator has passed away," said Raphael with a sigh compounded of pain, exhaustion, and grief.


"God died."

Anthony took an involuntary step backward. "That's crazy."

"Died and fell into the sea." Raphael clamped his cold fingers around the tattooed mermaid on Anthony's naked forearm and abruptly drew him closer. "Listen carefully, Captain Van Horne. You're going to get your ship back."

There was a ship, a supertanker four football fields long, pride of the fleet owned and operated by Caribbean Petroleum Company, Anthony Van Horne in command. It should have been a routine trip for the Carpco Valparaíso, a midnight milk run from Port Lavaca, spigot of the Trans-Texas Pipeline, across the Gulf and northward to the oil-thirsty cities of the coast. The tide was ripe, the sky was clear, and the harbor pilot, Rodrigo López, had just guided them through the Nueces Narrows without a scratch.

"You won't hit any icebergs tonight," López had joked, "but look out for the drug runners — they navigate worse than Greeks." The pilot jabbed his index finger toward a vague smear on the twelve-mile radar scope. "That might be one now."

As López climbed into his launch and set out for Port Lavaca, a migraine flared in Anthony's skull. He'd experienced worse — attacks that had dropped him to his knees and shattered the world into flaming fragments of stained glass — but this was still a killer.

"You don't look well, sir." Buzzy Longchamps, the chronically jolly chief mate, strode onto the bridge to begin his watch. "Seasick?" he asked with a snorty laugh.

"Let's just get out of here." Anthony clamped his temples between his thumb and middle finger. "All ahead full. Eighty rpm's."

"All ahead full," echoed Longchamps. He moved the twin joysticks forward. "Speedy delivery," he said, lighting a Lucky Strike.

"Speedy delivery," Anthony agreed. "Ten degrees left rudder."

"Ten degrees left," echoed the able-bodied seaman at the wheel.

"Steady," said Anthony.

"Steady," said the AB.

Ambling up to the twelve-mile radar, the chief mate touched the amorphous target. "What's that?"

"Wooden hull, I suspect, probably out of Barranquilla," said Anthony. "I don't think she's carrying coffee beans."

Longchamps laughed, the Lucky Strike bobbing between his lips. "Stu and I can manage up here." The mate tapped repeatedly on the able seaman's shoulder, as if translating his own words into Morse code. "Right, Stu?"

"You bet," said the AB.

Anthony's brain was aflame. His eyes were ready to melt. In the presence of any navigational or meteorological hazard, two officers must be on the bridge at all times: so ran one of the few truly unambiguous sentences in the Carpco Manual.

"We're only two miles from open water," said the mate. "A twenty-degree turn, and we're outta harm's way."

Longchamps snapped up the walkie-talkie and told Kate Rucker, the AB standing lookout in the bow, to keep her eyes peeled for a rogue freighter.

"You sure you can handle this?" Anthony asked the mate.

"Chocolate cake."

And so Anthony Van Horne left the bridge — the last time he would do so as an employee of Caribbean Petroleum.

Nameless as a wild duck, the mahogany steamer came out of the night at thirty knots, loaded to her gunwales with raw cocaine. No running lights. Dark wheelhouse. By the time Able Seaman Rucker screamed her warning into the walkie-talkie, the steamer was barely a quarter mile away.

Up on the bridge, Buzzy Longchamps cried, "Hard right!" and the helmsman responded instantly, thereby setting the tanker on a direct course for Bolivar Reef.

Lying in his bunk, prostrate with pain, Anthony felt The Valparaíso tremble and lurch. Instantly he rolled to his feet, and before he was in the corridor the obscene odor of loose oil reached his nose. He rode the elevator to the weather deck, ran outside, and sprinted down the central catwalk, high above the writhing tangle of pipes and valves. Fumes swirled everywhere, sweeping past the kingposts in palpable clouds and spilling over the sides like absconding ghosts. Anthony's eyes watered, his throat burned, his sinuses grew raw and bloody.

From out of the darkness, a sailor shouted, "Holy shit!"

Descending the amidships stairway, Anthony dashed across the weather deck and leaned over the starboard rail. A searchlight swept the scene, the whole stinking hell of it — the black water, the ruptured hull, the thick, viscous oil gushing from the breach. Eventually Anthony would learn how close they'd come to foundering that night; he would learn how Bolivar Reef had lacerated the Val like a can opener cutting the lid off a cocker spaniel's dinner. But just then he knew only the fumes — and thestench — and the peculiar lucidity that attends a man's awareness that he is experiencing the worst moment of his life.

To Caribbean Petroleum, it hardly mattered whether the Val was lost or saved that night. An eighty-million-dollar supertanker was chopped liver compared with the four and a half billion Carpco was ultimately obliged to pay out in damage awards, lawyers' fees, lobbyists' salaries, bribes to Texas shrimpers, cleanup efforts that did more harm than good, and a vigorous campaign to restore the corporation's image. The brilliant series of televised messages that Carpco commissioned from Hollywood's rock-video mills, each new spot trivializing the death of Matagorda Bay more shamelessly than its predecessor, went ridiculously over budget, so eager was the company to get them on the air. "Unless you look long and hard, you probably won't notice her beauty mark is missing," the narrator of spot number twelve intoned over a retouched photograph of Marilyn Monroe. "Similarly, if you study a map of the Texas coast ..."

Anthony Van Horne gripped the rail, stared at the pooling oil, and wept. Had he known what was coming, he might simply have stayed there, transfixed by the future: the five hundred miles of blackened beaches; the sixteen hundred acres of despoiled shrimp beds; the permanent blinding of three hundred and twenty-five manatees; the oily suffocation of over four thousand sea turtles and pilot whales; the lethal marination of sixty thousand blue herons, roseate spoonbills, glossy ibises, and snowy egrets. Instead he went up to the wheelhouse, where the first words out of Buzzy Longchamp's mouth were, "Sir, I think we're in a peck of trouble."

Ten months later, a grand jury exonerated Anthony of all the charges the state of Texas had leveled against him: negligence, incompetence, abandoning the bridge. An unfortunate verdict. For if the captain wasn't guilty, then somebody else had to be, somebody named Caribbean Petroleum — Carpco, with its understaffed ships, overworked crews, steadfast refusal to builddouble-hulled tankers, and gimcrack oil-spill contingency plan (a scheme Judge Lucius Percy quickly dubbed "the greatest work of maritime fiction since Moby-Dick"). Even as the legal system was vindicating Anthony, his bosses were arranging their revenge. They told him he would never command a supertanker again, a prophecy they proceeded to fulfill by persuading the Coast Guard to rescind his license. Within one year Anthony went from the six-figure salary of a ship's master to the paltry income of those human marginalia who haunt the New York docks taking whatever work they can get. He unloaded cargo until his hands became mottled with calluses. He tied up bulk carriers and Ro-Ros. He repaired rigging, spliced mooring lines, painted bollards, and cleaned out ballast tanks.

And he took showers. Hundreds of them. The morning after the spill, Anthony checked into Port Lavaca's only Holiday Inn and stood beneath the steaming water for nearly an hour. The oil wouldn't come off. After dinner he tried again. The oil remained. Before bed, another shower. Useless. Endless oil, eleven million gallons, a petroleum tumor spreading into the depths of his flesh. Before the year ended, Anthony Van Horne was showering four times a day, seven days a week. "You left the bridge," a voice would rasp in his ear as the water drummed against his chest.

Two officers must be on the bridge at all times ...

"You left the bridge ..."

"You left the bridge," said the angel Raphael, wiping his silver tears with the hem of his silken sleeve.

"I left the bridge," Anthony agreed.

"I don't weep because you left the bridge. Beaches and egrets mean nothing to me these days."

"You weep because" — he gulped — "God is dead." The wordsfelt impossibly odd on Anthony's tongue, as if he were suddenly speaking Senegalese. "How can God be dead? How can God have a body?"

"How can He not?"

"Isn't He ... immaterial?"

"Bodies are immaterial, essentially. Any physicist will tell you as much."

Groaning softly, Raphael aimed his left wing toward the Late Gothic Hall and took off, flying in the halting, stumbling manner of a damaged moth. As Anthony followed, he noticed that the angel was disintegrating. Feathers drifted through the air like the residue of a pillow fight.

"Insubstantial stuff, matter," Raphael continued, hovering. "Quirky. Quarky. It's barely there. Ask Father Ockham."

Alighting amid the medieval treasures, the creature took Anthony's hand — those cold fingers again, like mooring lines dipped in the Weddell Sea — and led him to an anonymous Italian Renaissance altarpiece in the southeast corner.

"Religion's become too abstract of late. God as spirit, light, love — forget that neo-Platonic twaddle. God's a Person, Anthony. He made you in His own image, Genesis 1:26. He has a nose, Genesis 8:20. Buttocks, Exodus 33:23. He gets excrement on His feet, Deuteronomy 23:14."

"But aren't those just ... ?"


"You know. Metaphors."

"Everything's a metaphor. Meanwhile, His toenails are growing, an inevitable phenomenon with corpses." Raphael pointed to the altarpiece, which according to its caption depicted Christ and the Virgin Mary kneeling before God, interceding on behalf of a prominent Florentine family. "Your artists have always known what they were doing. Michelangelo Buonarroti goes to paint the Creation of Adam, and a year later there's God Himself on the Sistine Chapel — an old man with a beard, perfect. Or take William Blake, diligently illustrating Job, getting everything right — God the Father, ancient of days. Or consider the evidence before you ..." And indeed, Anthony realized, here was God, peering out of the altarpiece: a bearded patriarch, at once serene and severe, loving and fierce.


Excerpted from "The Godhead Trilogy"
by .
Copyright © 1999 James Morrow.
Excerpted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Title Page,
Towing Jehovah: Part One,
Towing Jehovah: Part Two,
Towing Jehovah: Part Three,
Blameless In Abaddon: Book One,
Blameless In Abaddon: Book Two,
Blameless In Abaddon: Book Three,
The Eternal Footman: Part One,
The Flower Woman,
A Crisis in the West,
Memento Mori,
Oswald's Rock,
Not by Bread Alone,
The Eternal Footman: Part Two,
The God's Ear Brigade,
Nora Joins the Circus,
The Flagellants of Montrose,
Inanna Unbending,
Plutocrat Preserves,
The Eternal Footman: Part Three,
Waiting for Lucido,
The Olmec Innovation,
Deus Absconditus,
Matters of Life and Death,
Barry's Pageant,
About the Author,
Connect with HMH,

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