Because Byron is so well-known among book lovers in the area and because he's so knowledgeable about books, I was thrilled when he wrote a review of my own book In the Absence of God for his store's website. I urge anyone thinking about purchasing Absence to read his evaluation.
Here are a couple of paragraphs from his review to whet your interest:
So, no, this isn't a quick bit of mindless entertainment, but - happily -- it is quite entertaining. There are colorful characters, true-to-life plot lines, drama, romance, sports (Cleary was a football coach, too, so the athletic scenes of locker-rooms and game films and bus-rides to away games and inter-racial comraderie and tensions on the teams are realistic and believable.) And there is violence. Did I mention this is a tensely wrought, suspenseful crime story? I don't think Dick was being intentionally commercial (he just isn't that kind of a schemer and has too much stubborn integrity to allow anything to alter his vision) but as a bookseller, I can say that, as popular novels go, this truly has something for everyone.You can order the book directly from Hearts and Minds by clicking on this link. I have to say that Absence would make a fine Christmas gift for any thoughtful reader, but especially for a young man, who might be wrestling with questions about God.
The plot of In the Absence of God is fairly simple to tell, but the long conversations and the numerous sub-plots are many, so I don't want to summarize it too briefly. In a nutshell, the plot revolves around several college professors and their generally friendly intellectual debates and a handful of students that are struggling to determine which basic philosophical starting points are true.
Cleary's thesis, comes up posed as a question over and over: Can we truly say anything is actually wrong/immoral if there is no God? At a garden party near the end of the book, some free thinkers take exception to what they've heard of Dr. Peterson's view, and attack him rudely for daring to believe that atheists cannot be moral. Of course, Peterson has never said this---even in a novel, that would be outrageously dumb. Peterson's position is not that atheists cannot be good, since they obviously can be, but that there is no intellectual basis for saying something is good, no coherent foundation for ethics or morals, no way to really say that something is right or wrong. That is, there cannot be, if there is no universal right or wrong that transcends personal taste or social convention, which there cannot be if there is no God.
In the Absence of God contains episodes that are quite believable for anyone who has worked in higher education: the Christian prof, a biologist that is generally liked in his department, comes to blows with his department chair. There is a debate sponsored by the political science department about U.S. foreign policy and the left-wing perspective gets much more voice in an imbalanced panel - what a show that was, and what a good conversation some of them had afterwards. There is a sub-plot about interracial dating, a sub-plot about middle-aged professors caring for their aging parents (which I found very, very moving.) And there are some exciting football games, described without too much detail, but offering enough sports coverage to qualify as a bit of a novel for sports fans.