The Piaculum:a novelby Richard J. Gray
The Piaculum is at once hauntingly dark yet deeply spiritual. Set in the distant future, the story takes place on a desert landscape where a group of Christians called the Mone and a blood worshiping cult known as the Kathe are ensnared in religious tension. The Kathe believe that salvation can only be achieved by drinking blood from men born with a rare skin condition known as the white-mark.
The novel follows the life of Cearl, a man with the white-mark born to a group of poor Mone farmers. Cearl has a good life with a wife and two children he deeply loves, but he finds himself consumed by memories of being tortured by the Kathe as a child, as well as an overwhelming feeling that his god wants something from him. When a group of Kathe come to Cearl's village looking for human sacrifices, Cearl comes face to face with his childhood memories and makes choices that could destroy his life.
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What does one make of a book ostensibly about God and Christianity that consistently misspells 'angel' as 'angle'? I have to tell you it was difficult for me to get past such a fundamental repeated error, especially when it was coupled with spellings and turns of phrase like 'gauntly figured', 'whish' (for 'wish') and 'grizzly' (for 'gristly').
Not to mention the eccentric dialect the youngsters in this book speak but lose the minute they become adults.
Still, I tried my best to give this book the benefit of the doubt--I really did--as it looked like it was going to explore spiritual themes in a fictional future. That combination intrigued me. So did its gripping (and somewhat 'grizzly') cover painting.
But, in the end, it let me down.
Here's a brief recap (although I admit I was fading badly by the end): at an undisclosed time in the future, at least part (how many or how few is not clear) of a low-tech (I think) society is broken up into two opposing factions, the benign Mones, who are farmers with a devout Christian-based faith (few details, so don't ask), and a blood thirsty and likewise Christian (at least tangentially) cult, the Kathe, who basically exist to torture and drink the blood of Mone (Mones?) born with a rare skin condition known as 'the White Mark'. These marked Mone are known as Piaculums (Piaculum?), and the Kathe believe they are gods (which kind of confused me given the cult's Christian orientation). Kathe drink Piaculum blood to find salvation.
The narrative follows one man, Cearl, a Piaculum. He is captured by the Kathe when he is young, is tortured, escapes, and willingly goes back at a much later date in place of one of his sons who is born with the White Mark. (Cearl eventually escapes again, rather easily.) Turns out the Kathe, who are wealthier than the Mone (who knows why?) and can build cities (which we never really see) are illiterate and have been misinterpreting the sacred scriptures both parties believe in, scriptures that seem loosely based on the Old Testament and the New Testament. (A third set of scriptures based on the second coming of Jesus at the turn of the Millennium is mentioned once and dropped.) The Kathe are forced to face the fact that the Piaculum are not gods, which many of the cult ignore as a lie. The revelation causes, as you might expect, much consternation within Kathe society. At the end, all the Piaculum are struck by lightning. Kathe society as we know it ends. The shackles of ignorance are broken!
This sounds like a story that might contain depth and profundity, not to mention spiritual symbolism and allegory. As a Catholic coming out of the tradition of the Eucharist, I certainly was ready for it. I suppose the Kathe could be viewed as an unflattering allegory for Catholics, but the book focuses on surface phenomena to the extent that I found it impossible to tell. The characters' perception of God is not detailed at any length, including Cearl's own. This is problematic because we have to buy into that fact that he is willing to go through years and years of torture (more on that in a minute) sustained by his belief in God. We are often told that Cearl 'knows' what God wants him to do, but we don't get much more than that. In fact, we are told a lot of things, without experiencing them, as readers, for ourselves.
The characters are 'developed' for the most part, by how they react to surface events--fear, horror and, in the case of Cearl, endurance. This isn't a nuanced approach, nor does it demonstrate insight into humanity, and as a result I didn't feel invested in the people wandering through this story. I didn't care about them. I wasn't engaged by the events surrounding them.I was also bothered by the book's lack of a sense of place or society. My perception was that the story played out in a dark, out of focus landscape, almost as if I were visiting pockets of featureless civiliz
The Piaculum by Richard Gray tells of the future but the subject material is all too appropriate for the world of today. It is a story of good versus evil, involving conflict and tension between a group of Christians and a cult. The Mone follow Christian beliefs; however, the Kathe believe that their sins can be erased by drinking blood from males born with the white-mark¿a rare skin condition. The story takes place on a desert landscape where Cearl, a Mone, is introduced to readers as a young boy with the white-mark. From the beginning it is evident that this boy has a mission to fulfill; he experiences pain and has ghastly visions of his future that he believes are warnings. He knows that he is different from others¿an internal difference that overshadows the white-mark which he inherited from his mother. Though he plans to tell his father about his latest and most horrific vision, it becomes a reality before he has the opportunity. Seven-year-old Cearl is captured by the Kathe and, although rescued within days by his father, he is haunted by memories of the torture and abuse that he suffered during captivity. Grateful that he had been freed before being turned into a Piaculum¿a creature trapped inside metallic frames whose purpose was to provide blood atonement for the Kathe cult¿he, nevertheless, loses the innocence of his childhood. As an adult, Cearl has a good life with a loving wife and two sons; however, when the youngest son is born with the white-mark, this good life is blemished by worry and concern over his safety. The thought of him being captured and tortured as he had once been is unbearable. Cearl is determined that his son won¿t become a human sacrifice¿a man-made savior for the Kathe cult. He recalls that the Piaculums, who were kept alive as long as possible so the Kathe could drink their blood, had metal extremities fixed to their feet and arms. These less-than-human creatures truly believed they were gods. When Cearl¿s son with the white-mark is captured by the Kathe, he offers himself as a substitute, changing the course of his own life as well as that of his family. Ultimately, he comes to understand what it is that he has been asked to do by the God of his beliefs¿he has a divine purpose that must be fulfilled, regardless of personal sacrifice. This book is very well written, the characters are believable, and the plot gathers momentum as the story progresses. Toward the end of the book there are many surprising twists and this reviewer found herself sharing the confusion of Cearl as to whether or not his wife is alive or dead. However, when I learned the truth, I was satisfied with the conclusion. Though dark and very graphic in places, I found the book to be an excellent read. It should, in my opinion, get the attention of filmmakers. Richard Gray 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.
In a cave, two men find the remnants of a long dead civilization that left behind three ¿holy¿ books. One of them interpreted the message as God sent his son to save the human race. The other person insisted that the Words meant that the second coming of the Son needed saviors to sacrifice to atone for sins. Several millenniums after their hallowed excavation, mankind has evolved into two predominant cultures, of which both share in common beliefs in the Words of God stated in The Book of testaments. While the Mone share the sacred words amongst all members of their society, the Kathe insist only priests are capable of understanding the Words. The Kathe seek those born with the white-mark so that the males can be converted into Piaculums and the females sacrificed during ¿The Week of Blood¿ as a means to ascend to heaven. The Kathe abduct Mone farmer Cearl because he has the white-mark. He offers little resistance hoping to keep his son protected from the grotesque alteration. Though he prays to the same God as his captors, Cearl has little faith that he will survive. THE PIACULUM is an incredible futuristic tale that extrapolates interpretations of the lost Book of Testaments into cornerstones of two societies by concentrating on one member from each. The evolution is mindful of the clever archeological spin of the 1970s cult movie Fillard Millmore and Wells¿ Time Machine. Richard Gray sounds a warning that strict biblical interpretation is self centered to insure the priests are not Left Behind rather than sharing the Word so all can be saved. Harriet Klausner
The Piaculum is based in the world thousands of years from today. It tells of the fortunes of two civilizations the Mone and the Kathe. Both of these people believe in God and got their belief from the same source. Yet each diverged along two completely different paths, in their search for life after death. The Mone believed what was written in a book called The Book of Testaments and were willing to share its message. Kathe philosophy was to let their priests interpret the writings of The Book of Testaments. In the distant past two men discovered three books in a cave. The books were made by an advanced civilization that was lost in time. Each of the men had a different interpretation of what the books message was. One thought that the message said that God sent his son to earth to save the human race. His followers became known as Mone. The other¿s interpretation was that the second coming of God¿s son meant there was a need to have many saviors. This meant that to secure their salvation, each generation must have several men set aside as sacrifices for atonement. So began the cult that came to be known as the Kathe. The Kathe believed that those males born with the white-mark were needed for conversion to Piaculums, in ¿The Week of Blood¿. Females born with the same skin marking were considered demons that must be destroyed. Those unfortunates born of the white-mark were vigorously sought out by the Kathe in the lead up to ¿The Week of Blood¿. Shalute priests and a band of grotesque half men, half robot beings, called Piaculums was the mainstay of Kathe society. The Piaculums performed bleeding ceremonies by shedding their blood and sacrificed the female demons with the white-mark. It was believed that by doing this the Kathe would be saved from hell and find their way to heaven. The hero of this fascinating story is a Mone man called Cearl. He was born of the white-mark and twice captured by the Kathe. Escaping his fate once, Cearl offers himself to become a Piaculum to save his son Twain from the awful fate. Told in a riveting writing style, this is a science fantasy tale that will enthrall fans of this genre. Richard Gray has created quite believable characters and settings. The plot of the book keeps the reader wanting to know more, to keep on with the journey of discovery. This is one book that I truly enjoyed reading. It is one that I feel will give others just as much pleasure. I highly recommend this book be added to one¿s library.
This is a wonderfully written book. With a wonderful story line that will be hard to put down. This book makes you think about spirituality in a new light. The book puts the main character in a situation that makes you think about your life, your family and your spirituality. This books is a little graphic in places so I would not recomend it to anyone under the age of thirteen or fourteen. What a wonderful book!