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In this quasi-science fiction novel, the author of “Kindred” spins a dark tale about survival in a near-future American dark age. The protagonist is one of the founders of a new religion (who sees it as the only way to make people to cooperate so they can rebuild the country and eventually migrate to the stars); the brutal antagonists are fanatical thugs from a fascist regime who call themselves Christian. (One of their slogans, mentioned early in the book but not revisited, is “Make America great again”, though the book was written in 1995.) It all makes for good reading. The characters, settings, and the tenets of the new religion all sound as though they could be real. However, I was disappointed that, except in a couple of furtive hints that don’t lead anywhere, the logical third option is never entertained: a Christian denomination which opposed the thuggery, supports education and betterment of society, and is actually based on the teachings of Jesus. Or perhaps, drawing from the parable in the title, the whole story is allegorical. Maybe there will be a sequel dealing with that third option, though it will have to be by another author: Ms. Butler died in 2006.

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