How Like a God
by Brenda W. Clough
Review by James Walton

One morning, meek, mild mannered suburbanite Rob Lewis wakes up with the ability to read the thoughts of other people and manipulate those thoughts. He doesn't question this gift/curse at first, he is too busy straightening out lives. He forces a homeless drunk to give up alcohol and he reforms prisoners in a state penitentiary. It is not until he accidently affects the minds of his young twins does he realize his power may be dangerous. He finally wonders if he has the right to impose his will on others, no matter how well meaning he may be.

A frightened Lewis abandons his family and home and becomes a street person in New York City. He uses his power to sponge off rich people and winds up acting much more like Coyote or Loki than any benevolent god. (Hmm. Is it possible the author gained part of her idea from observing homeless people talk to themselves?)

How Like a God is Clough's retelling of The Epic of Gilgamesh. How well does Clough perform this retelling? I don't know. I've never read the Epic. Many years ago, when faced with the choice of reading Gilgamesh or studying for a Chemistry final, I chose the latter. (Hey, Chemistry was my major, not ancient literature.)

Clough attempts to show us the despair and loneliness Lewis feels as he struggles to come to terms with his power, and she more or less succeeds. Parts of the book dragged as we watched Lewis wallow in his self pity and doubt, but real people sink to much lower depths with less reason, so things were pretty much true to life. (Peter Parker has used the same shtick for 30+ and he's as popular as ever.)

The scenes in which Lewis discovers the source of his "godhood" and deals with it are almost anticlimactic. The major confrontation leaves Lewis the victor but no wiser. By then he has some measure of control over his rapidly increasing power. And we never learn exactly why Lewis was chosen to receive the gift/curse instead of thousands of other who might have handled the power differently.

I suspect Ms Clough plans a continuation of How Like a God. We never learn the full extent of Lewis' power, nor do we learn the fate of his poor, abandoned family.

How Like a God has interested me in reading The Epic of Gilgamesh.

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