It’s never easy to be the child of a celebrity. No one knows this better than Bernie. His father is, perhaps, the greatest universe builder the World of gods has ever known. If he hadn’t walked out on Bernie’s mother, he might have taught his son how to be a successful builder as well.
Most of his teachers find Bernie disorganized and his attitude unconventional. It seems to stem from his theory that all life is sacred, and therefore the gods should not destroy the life forms they create. While most of the gods develop worlds in order to manipulate them, Bernie becomes attached to his creatures. In spite of this, Bernie manages to graduate from builders’ school and land a job building new universes.
Bad recommendations are the least of Bernie’s problems, though. His arch-enemy, Billy, just happens to be the nephew of the head of Bernie’s department, and, as luck would have it, they have adjacent cubicles. Billy is determined to get Bernie fired and sabotages his work. Bernie spends more time trying to compensate for Billy’s interference than he does developing his universe. Bernie must rely on the help of loyal friends and his own perseverance in order not to lose his job.
Steve LeBel’s spoof on the Greek gods is humorous and unpredictable. Bernie is an endearing underdog, and the reader cannot help but root for him. LeBel’s description of how the gods develop their “worlds” incorporates knowledge of cosmology, seismology and climatology, demonstrating just how unique our own planet is. The author’s philosophy of human life, however, is not altogether clear. On Bernie’s planet, man develops spontaneously, due to a mistake he makes. Human civilization closely resembles that of the gods in Bernie’s world, except that humans have an organized religion that is not altogether genuine. The book is entertaining, but may leave readers wondering if LeBel has a view about the origin of the universe and human beings that he is trying to convey—and exactly what that view is.
Jennifer Minicus is a mother and teacher living in Ridgewood, NJ.