“The Pope is getting Married” is, in theory, a cracking opening line. Things look even better when, within ten pages we get this crisp piece of dialogue: ‘ “How could you even think of defying me? I’m the fucking Pope!” ‘. So what grounds do I have to slag of the millenial, end-of-the-world pot-boiler that is Thomas F.Moneteleone’s The Reckoning? Mainly because it is slip-shod, ignoring all the interesting parts of the premise with poorly justified and motivated action sequences (guess what, the Knights Templar rock up too). And that opening line, well it is the first line of Chapter One but we’ve had a quote from the Bible (Revelations natch), a foreword and a prologue explaining the premise first.

The premise – well it’s 2000 so the world is going to end. Especially because, ignoring much of historical precedent, a new Pope has been voted in on what appears to be a whim and decent PR. And, well, it is not clear whether he is a good bloke or not. His parentage is pretty good – I’ll go back to the other juiciest line for the text for that one:
“Considering the sensation the cloning of that silly sheep had caused, thought Giovanni, the world media would create a feeding frenzy of speculation and moralizing if they ever discovered the Pope had been cloned from blood off the Shroud of Turin and brought to term in the teenage womb of a virgin nun.”

Anyone who can write a sentence that good cannot be all bad, though in the rest of the book when stupid implausibility piles upon stupid implausibilty you stop caring for this everyday tale of Pope’s fiances, living saints and assasin priests. The ending – taking place naturally in the Pyramid of Giza – is supposed to leave us conflicted as to whether the Pope is the Anti-Christ or the Second Coming (or both DYS?) Instead you have to re-read it five times to work out who kills who, if it’s the little Chinese bloke from page 50 who can predict earthquakes who saves the day, or the virgin Nun/mother of the Pope. And what sunspots have to do with it.

The Reckoning? I reckon it is rubbish.