July 16, 2010
The Second Virgin Birth by Tommy Taylor Review
By Tommy Taylor
Published by BookSurge Publishing
Review by Jim Cherry
Review Posted: 9/23/2009
Ideas are the foundation for any writer. An average idea executed well can get national attention and make the author a critical and commercial success, such as Dan Brown‘s The DaVinci Code. Conversely, a great idea that is poorly executed may lay unread. Unfortunately, I have to put The Second Virgin by Tommy Taylor in the latter group.
When people talk about cloning they usually discuss it in the context of bringing back some historical personage, Elvis, Caesar, Hitler (for some strange reason) or Jesus. This is exactly the premise of The Second Virgin Birth. Dr. James Burk is a scientist working for Pope John Paul III in trying to isolate DNA of Jesus from the Shroud of Turin. Burk does indeed find DNA on the shroud that he is able to identify as being 2000 years old, and from a 25-35 male who was crucified. Convinced, the Pope will have him killed after Burk turns over the DNA. Burk steals it, heads to England and meets up with Dr. Clark Sullivan, a bioengineer who can clone the DNA. Together they meet and convince Brazilian industrialist Alberto Alvarez to invest in the project to clone Jesus from the DNA they’ve stolen from the Pope. Alvarez sets them up in a state of the art of lab.
After finding a young girl, Mary, who God has told she’ll be the mother of his son, they clone and impregnate her. They set-up the Church of The New Living God and start receiving pilgrims and donations from around the world which makes them richer than their wildest dreams. While they’re doing this the Pope has mercenaries track them down, and launches raid after raid, to have Mary killed. All fail until he hires a genocidal general from a third world African nation, who launches an all out assault against Alvarez’s compound that protects Mary. There is murder, greed, attempted rape, and gunfights but this isn’t enough to move the novel.
The main problem seems to be that there is very little literary artifice, as if Mr. Taylor expects the idea itself to carry the reader over. No real dramatic tension is built up over plot points. They’re mentioned and then resolved within a chapter or two with no real time or exposition to build up the dramatic anticipation of wanting to see what happens next. There’s no real character development beyond the avarice of Alvarez, Burk and Clark, and even they’re clichés. The Pope is said to be evil. Sending mercenaries to kill Mary is certainly the act of an evil man, but there is no real reason given that the Pope is threatened by the cloning or Mary except that it will bring down the church.
No reason’s are given for the Pope to believe this, and we’re not even sure of the Pope himself. Is he an evil man who worked himself up to the Papacy? Or is he an inherently good man who either genuinely or mistakenly believes the new Son of God will bring about the ruin of the church? The DaVinci code also casts a Cardinal and a devout zealot as the antagonists, but their actions are understood because Brown gives us some background and explains their motivations. That is what is lacking here.
The Second Virgin Birth is a really good idea as a concept, but it misses the opportunity that comes naturally from the source material and that is morality and values. A lot of good science fiction uses extreme ideas and scenarios to comment on a society’s morals or values. The idea behind this novel lends itself to comment on cloning, whether it’s a good idea, or is it “because we can science.” Nowhere does Taylor take the opportunity afforded which should be the natural stomping grounds of a Christian writer. The book also fails to succeed as a thriller. As mentioned before, there is no real tension in the actions or decisions of the characters and events. It doesn’t even have non-stop action that would keep the reader hanging on by the seat of their pants.
There are also some logical inconsistencies that detract from the story. A couple anomalies may exist in a novel, but when they start adding up they become noticeable as a pattern. Taylor says that people who come into contact with Mary instantly become their better selves, but the people closest to her act opposite to this and you would think those closest to her would be affected the most. If there was supposed to be an ironic reason for this, I didn’t see it. The characters of Burk and Sullivan at first seem to waver between being faithful and unfaithful, but these inconsistencies seem to exist for no reason within the world presented to us by Mr. Taylor.
Like most Christian writers, Taylor wants his climatic battle scene to be a battle between good and evil. The characters that are supposed to be the “good guys” are shown to be acting as vilely as the Pope’s attacking mercenaries, committing murder, demonstrating avarice and lying to each other. Good has to distinguish itself from evil. In the end nothing redeems these “good guys.” The breakthrough of Christian novels like the Left Behind series is that they use modern literary techniques to capture the interest of their audience and not count on the reader’s faith, or the morality-tale aspect to sell the story to the reader. They conjure their own sensibilities and induce the reader to follow. The Second Virgin Birth doesn’t.
Jim Cherry is the author of The Last Stage available at www.jymsbooks.com