Book Club Guide to God Bless the Dead
Topics to Consider:
1. In GBTD, the character of Helena Fianna is based upon the hero from the Fenian Cycle of Irish mythology named Finn mac Cumhaill, also known as Finn McCool and by other names. Who was Finn? Who were the Fianna? Who was Ossian? What elements of the Irish myth cycle are incorporated in the character of Helena? How is she different?
2. How realistic is the concept of mind reading? Do you think it will be accomplished in your lifetime? Does controlling a smartphone with your thoughts sound plausible? Should we worry about this type of technology?
3. What is the role of government in protecting our society? Does the government have the right or the responsibility to utilize technology to search for threats? How about searching our thoughts? Even without our consent, or even our awareness that it is being done?
4. What is the significance of the number 42? Do you believe in numerology? How is numerology employed to analyze the bible, the Talmud, and other religious or spiritual texts? Is the number 42 special in other works of art or literature? How about movies?
5. In GBTD, the author explores the nature of time and the possibility of higher dimensions, including higher dimensions of time. How does the author manipulate time in the last third of the book? Is there a disconnect between “actual time” and “perceived time” during the last act? How is this accomplished? How does this relate to the themes in the book?
6. Both the characters of Helena and Chuck are enigmatic. How do their names affect their roles and personalities? Who was Charles Parnell in Irish history? What is the truth of a name? Why is it so disturbing not to truly know someone’s name?
7. What is the relationship between mental illness and mathematics? Have there been schizophrenic mathematicians as is suggested in GBTD? What is the reality of Hamilton’s epiphany on the bridge? What does GBTD speculate as to the cause of audio hallucinations in schizophrenia?
8. What were the troubles associated with the Irish orphanage system, particularly the Sisters of Mary orphanages? What did the Irish government sponsored investigation into the treatment of children by the Irish Roman Catholic Church (The Ryan Commission report) reveal?
9. What is the origin story of the Mormon religion? How is this utilized in GBTD? What similarities or aberrations are employed in the book’s plot? Why does the author choose to incorporate the origin story of the Mormons, rather than another religion such as Christianity or Islam?
10. GBTD is the first book in The Claddagh Trilogy. What do you think or hope will happen in the second book? What is the significance of the Claddagh ring? What is the reality of the ring’s history?
Endnotes from God Bless the Dead
God Bless The Dead is a work of fiction. Obviously, any resemblance of the characters in this book to real persons, living or dead, is mere coincidence and not the intent of the author. That said, much in this book is indeed true. The theories of time travel, the basic interpretation of brainwaves, distant sensing of brainwaves, and many aspects fundamental to the plot of this book are either already achieved in the laboratory or proven likely on a theoretical basis. In addition, much of what is not necessarily true is, nonetheless, based upon a unique interpretation of factual events. Allow me to elaborate, briefly.
Modern cosmologic and quantum theories now permit, and in some cases require, the existence of time travel. An interesting and approachable discussion of this possibility may be found in the March 1994 issue of Scientific American entitled “The Quantum Physics of Time Travel” by David Deutsch and Michael Lockwood. A deeper discussion is found in the New Scientist article by Mark Buchanan (2005) entitled “No Paradox for Time Travellers”. These sources and other, more recent, articles are easily found in a cursory survey of the scientific literature.
I will leave a discussion of the mathematics of higher dimensions to those readers with a burning interest to pursue this topic. As a writer, however, I must emphasize the factual basis of the genius of William Hamilton, his strange epiphany on the bridge, and the repeated instances of mathematical genius coexisting with mental aberration. The unique importance of the number forty-two is a mathematical truth touched upon in this book and many other works of art, religion, and science. The astute reader will appreciate the many hidden (and some more obvious) references to this number incorporated throughout the novel. The fascinating mathematics underlying the works of Jorge Luis Borges has also been the subject of several recent texts.
I will also defer the discussion of the religious aspects of this work to a later time, as many of the issues and concepts raised in GBTD serve as a fundamental basis for the remaining two books in the trilogy. I would like to take this opportunity, however, to emphasize that I mean no disrespect to the teachings and beliefs of the Church of Latter Day Saints or any of the many branches of the Mormon religion. I am fully aware that some of the statements made in GBTD do not accurately reflect the exact nature of the religion and hope that I have not given offense. The liberties that I have taken are for artistic purposes only, which hopefully will become manifest in the rest of the trilogy.
Truly fanatic readers are referred to the Fenian Cycle (aka, the Third Cycle, the Ossianic Cycle) of Irish mythology in order to appreciate my obscure references and plotting regarding the life and times of my heroine, the significance of the Salmon of Knowledge, obscure punk music allusions, and the occurrence of digital amputation. Those readers interested in the ambiguous Irish historical references are encouraged to read about the life of Charles Stewart Parnell. I refer the interested reader to Katharine O’Shea (Mrs. Charles Stewart Parnell), The Uncrowned King of Ireland: Charles Stewart Parnell—His Love Story and Political Life (Nonesuch Books, Dublin, 2005). Those gentle readers who may be somewhat offended by the characterization of my heroine’s experiences as an orphan are referred to the Ryan Commission Report (The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse, 2009), and to the several excellent documentaries and reviews of what some have termed “The Irish Holocaust”. Unfortunately, this aspect of the novel rings all too true.
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Book Club Guide to The Problem With God
Topics to Consider:
1. In TPWG, Geller employs the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright as a device to transport the dead back from the afterlife. What is the significance of Wright’s architecture to modern design principles that was so revolutionary? How does Wright’s personal life and personality impact his work? The plot of TPWG?
2. TPWG begins with a frontpiece, a painting by Blake depicting the Tower of Babel. This is followed by Emerson’s poem, Uriel. What is the significance of these elements? How do they relate to the plot of TPWG? Who is Uriel/Earle?
3. As in the first book of The Claddagh Trilogy, TPWG again makes reference to the Fianna, from Irish mythology. What is the meaning of this reference? How does Grace’s life reflect the hero of the Third Irish Mythological Cycle?
4. Both GBTD and TPWG are filled with popular movie references and quotes. Can you name some? Is there any particular significance to these references? What do you think of Jack as a movie buff?
5. Discuss Jack as a character. Did you like/hate him?
6. What is the relationship to the plot of TPWG and The Wizard of Oz? How about the elements that incorporate aspects of Mormon theology/history? The Granite Mountain Project? What is postmortem baptism?
7. What is the concept of ‘the fourth wall’ in books and media? How does TPWG break the fourth wall? Who wrote the book in the book?
8. TPWG ends with Julius pushing Grace off a bridge. Why?
9. What is the deal with Chuck? Why is he “one of three?” What happens to Chuck at the end of TPWG? Is this it for Chuck, then?
10. The first book in The Claddagh Trilogy explored the world should mankind learn how to read minds. This leads to the events in the second book, which looks at what the world may become if proof of the afterlife is revealed. The third and final book of the series explores the world in which man learns the true nature of God. What do you hope will happen to our characters?
Endnotes from The Problem With God
I hope you enjoyed reading the second book in The Claddagh Trilogy. Hopefully, you read the first book, God Bless the Dead, before reading this one. If not, I do encourage you to read GBTD now—it’ll all make so much more sense. Well, maybe not a lot more sense, but a bit more sense, anyway.
As always, this is a work of fiction. Any resemblance of characters in this book to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidence and not the intention of the author. And, as always, the rest of this stuff is true. At least, true like I see the truth. As in GBTD, this book interprets factual events in a manner which I find intriguing. If reality, or your sense of reality, differs, well I think that’s just fine. I hope that I have not offended your sensibilities.
In particular, I apologize to anyone offended by my characterization of Catholicism, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Mormons, or Jesuits. Once again, I have taken liberties with the sum and substance of the doctrines relating to these religious organizations. I mean no offense and again wish to emphasize that certain elements are depicted in a fictional way for the purpose of story. I don’t actually believe that the Roman Catholic Church has a practice of excising souls from the universe, nor do I think that the Pope would ever condone the excision of a potential Messiah. Just a story.
Now that that’s out of the way, allow me to emphasize what is indeed true in the book. Georgetown University does have a course required of all of its undergraduates entitled “The Problem of God.” It is taught, in large part, by Jesuit faculty. The course references a real book of the same name. To my knowledge, however, it is not a “magicky book.” Jack, an English bulldog, is the university mascot. He does live with a Jesuit instructor in campus housing. I don’t know if he ever pretends to be an advisor to Winston Churchill.
The events described in the history of the Mormon religion are true. The Great Migration occurred as described, though the cause for the multiple evictions that I put forward is pure speculation on my part. There was an incident known as The Mountain Meadow Massacre which occurred as described. The motivation of the Mormon attackers is not known. Again, my assertion is purely imaginative.
There is actually a large, underground bunker complex constructed and maintained by the LDS Church in Granite Mountain, Utah. Fascinating videos of this complex are available for viewing on YouTube. I have no real evidence that the facility is being utilized to bring back the dead, however. The practice of surrogate baptism is a principle of the LDS church and continues to this day. The Granite Mountain facility, according to church statements, is used to facilitate and maintain the genealogical records relating to this activity. The controversial nature of this practice has been the subject of a great deal of reporting in the press. In response to protests, the LDS Church has stated that the practice of the post-mortem baptizing of Jews, particularly Holocaust victims, has been discontinued.
The historical events related to the life and death of Frank Lloyd Wright, Mamah Borthwick, and the fatal fire at Taliesin are true, as is the manner of injury and death of Grigori Rasputin. The landmarks and locations referenced in the novel are accurate. The shower in the Robert Llewellyn house may not be capable of interdimensional transport, however.
As the close reader with a penchant for fact checking will also realize, many other nuggets within the novel also have a basis in truth. For instance, the phrase “Surrender, Dorothy,” really is spray-painted on a bridge over the 495 expressway in Washington, DC. No, not because I put it there—nobody knows how it appears or repeatedly reappears after it has been removed. I’ll leave the discovery of other little truthful tidbits from the novel to the over-curious.
I wish to extend my heartfelt appreciation to my great friend and technical consultant, Dr. James Droesch, for his expert assistance regarding all things nautical. Any technical inaccuracies are due, I am sure, to my own inability to take his expert advice. A debt of gratitude is also owed to Kristen Droesch for her excellent editorial assistance.
As always, I could accomplish nothing of substance without the continued support and indulgence of my cherished wife, Sheri Ford. Thank you for everything. Thank you also to the kindly, helpful, and nonjudgmental advice of my alpha, beta, and gamma readers, my children Kaitlin, Sarah, and Ethan.
God bless you, dear reader.