Book Review - The Story of the Cloud Pusher
Author & Publisher Reg Sivapulle - 3.95 UK
By TILAK S. FERNANDO

If fiction is a branch of neurology and novels are no more than sketches of the author's extended nervous system; all imaginary intricacies of the text determined by three pounds of grey matter inside the skull; then the Sri Lankan author & publisher, Reg Sivapulle's fiction, " The Cloud Pusher" will find it less inspiring to many a pious reader but appear as blasphemous and offend many .

The story of the " Cloud Pusher" is set in Rome, Italy, concentrating on an atheist, Marco Vincenti, a resident of Rome and linked to the disappearance of Pope Louis, from the vestment room. Cardinal Mario de Benedetti and Monsignor Pierre Lamont are waiting for the Pope to arrive at St. Auguistin's Chapel on an early Monday morning for a private mass, but the Pope never appears - right along the story. As the news of Pope's disappearance comes to light, through the television, Marco Vincenti's family is woven into the plot. The story then moves from the Vatican dilemma to lengthy discussions on human concepts and religious faiths of all kinds while deeply challenging the existence of God, as the underlying factor.

The author's critical analysis of the Catholic religion, primarily extends through the build up of many characters, from the clothes the Pope wears to the techniques of the officials of the Church and their self-importance before the eyes of their followers. The author projects it bluntly thus: " By wearing fancy clothes, rings and gold coloured objects which are silly accoutrements and a joke"! Through dialogue, such harsh arguments are pushed to the surface to question whether " God who can create a diabolical torture camp called Hell is much of a God"! During this continuous dialogue over 196 pages and 24 chapters, scarcely bringing Pope's role directly into the main stream of the story, except for intermittent casual references about his disappearance, the reader is thrown into a vast vacuum and, even at the end of the final chapter he is not clear what happened to the Pope.

Stopping at various points of this God battering journey, the author makes ' stop-overs' at various religious 'camps', bringing into focus the Hindu religion, for example, and attempts to depict Hinduism as " one with incredible myths to find excuses for the Gods for some of the silly things that they can do" and questions as to why those Gods have chosen India to enact their dramas? In the author's mind, there is no doubt that, "God seems to have completely forgotten about human beings in other parts of the world, for example like in China".

The tile " Cloud Pusher (referring to God I assume) appears to be author's personal infidel opinion about religion and, through dialogue, his attempts have been to get his message across that "there is no God"; Others have created God, and people believe in this image because they are frightened by its power, which ' does not exist'! To substantiate his arguments, the author attempts to compare feelings of spirituality and ecstasy as no more than states of neurone connections. He backs this idea up by pointing out that the power behind cures of physical ailments are merely caused by release of curative hormones.

From the first to the final narrative of " The Cloud Pusher" is completely dependent on dialogue, within the family of Cincenti. And heavy criticism against God is made to balance out by counter arguments put forward by other members of Marco Vincenti, including his mother, who is a very pious God-fearing lady. In this area of dialogue the author displays his skill quite effectively.

The author touches on science very briefly in " The Cloud Pusher". Perhaps a wider combination of scientific arguments could have turned it into a much more balanced fiction rather than the method he has adopted by using a " sledge hammer" attitude towards God. Then perhaps it would have given a different twist and greater influence to the dialogue and made it much more palatable to a wider readership, thus making his first fiction much more inspiring and appealing to read. Nevertheless, " The Cloud Pusher" is undoubtedly " unusual and innovative" and disregarding his personal viewpoints about religion, his skills as an author need not be invalidated completely by casting the book aside and condemning it as blasphemy.