His name was But For The Love Of Our Lord Jesus Christ We Would All Be Damned. Smith. The Third. Or simply “BC” for short. Such is the introduction of the main character in TJ Morris’s debut novel The Cathedral, and from the naming conventions one can glean a bit of insight to Morris’s style—serious and driven with a wry sense of irreverence that hearkens to the great adventure writers like Ian Flemming and Clive Cussler. Cathedral pays homage to the dystopian science fiction writers like Huxley and Dick without slogging through unnecessary literary details, and keeps pages turning with snappy dialogue and heart-pounding action sequences.
Morris’s Cathedral mainly takes place in the titular building—a towering, monolithic arcology literally reaching to the heavens—that serves as the headquarters for the dominant political faction in his not-too-distant future: a grotesque parody of the worst parts of modern “evangelical conservative” Christianity that has all-but taken over the Earth and its extraterrestrial colonies. Humanity is a star-faring race now, driven less by the desire to explore and more by the Church’s lust for riches. Heathens who do not follow the Church’s doctrines are exiled off world while the faithful take residence in the Church’s babelesque Cathedral. Those off-worlders that dare resist the divine rule of the Church are met with the Cleansers, the psionic enforcers that ensure the Church’s flock is kept in line.
BC is one of the strongest and most experienced Cleansers in Church history. He is known and feared within and without the Church proper as the cold-blooded enforcer who answers to one of its highest-ranking cardinals, but he has a rival within the Cathedral. There is another psionic-adept secretly employed by BC’s master, brimming with envy and hatred for BC’s notoriety, who is anxiously awaiting his chance to challenge the Cleanser. Meanwhile, BC’s comrades are preparing a coup to overthrow the corrupt Church establishment and end the feudalist theocracy that has dominated interplanetary politics for decades. Will BC discover that his former allies are traitorous heretics? Will BC’s rival overthrow the Cleanser and finally get the recognition he desires?
With this first installment in what will surely give rise to an entire series, Morris weaves an exciting space opera through a thinly-veiled political satire and the pulpiest of classic adventure fiction. His characters are drawn from various archetypes, but are seasoned with enough personality that they stay fresh throughout the book’s 320 pages. Morris has an obvious focus on world building—as evidenced by his thorough history of the Church and psionic enhancement technologies—a talent that makes the somewhat improbable environment of The Cathedral wholly believable. The book is a bit busy, with multiple storylines following seemingly unrelated paths, but the payoff is a brilliant climax of frenetic action, suspense, and enough humor and warmth to keep you emotionally invested.
Come for the aesthetic, fun characters, and the world building. Stay for the tightly written action scenes, satire, and gripping suspense. Meanwhile, I’ll be eagerly waiting for book two!
Full disclosure: TJ Morris is my uncle. This review is not associated with nor is compensated by Bold Venture Press, publisher of The Cathedral. The Kindle book link above is an affiliate link, so please click that one if you would like to support this website.