40th Anniversary Celebration: An Appreciation of Victor Koman’s The Jehovah Contract, the 1988 Prometheus Best Novel winner

Introduction: To highlight the four-decade history of the Prometheus Awards, which the Libertarian Futurist Society is celebrating in 2019, we’re posting a series of weekly Appreciations of past Prometheus Award-winners, starting with our earliest Best Novel awards.

Here’s the eighth Appreciation, following appreciations for novels by F. Paul Wilson, L. Neil Smith, J. Neil Schulman, James P. Hogan, Victor Milan and Vernor Vinge:

Victor Koman’s audacious 1987 thriller-noir-fantasy The Jehovah Contract centers on dying atheistic assassin Del Ammo – masquerading as a private detective, and living in the ruins of a terrorist-bombed skyscraper – who’s given a contract to kill God. Yes, God!

Clever philosophical speculations by Koman, a veteran libertarian, accent his suspenseful and prescient story, set in a near-future Los Angeles, as the assassin finds a way to excise the concept of God from the minds of humanity and enable a more laissez-faire “Creatrix” to return to power.

But the goddess, much to Del Ammo’s chagrin, doesn’t seem significantly more interested in the lives of mortals than the God she replaces.

Other intriguing characters include a trio of exceptional women who assist the imperiled detective. Among the women are a virginal prostitute with sexual telepathic abilities and a beautiful lady gambler with intriguing skills beyond her day job as an accountant. They all come under threat from The Ecclesia, a cabal of world religious leaders.

Bolstered by cynical and satirical humor interwoven within his hard-boiled framework of a detective novel, plus some very funny sex scenes and fictionalized versions of several libertarian luminaries, Koman’s provocative and irreverent novel offers an entertaining, individualistic and anti-authoritarian hybrid of several genres. Among them: sf, fantasy, private-eye noir, comic adventure, conspiratorial mystery (a la Illuminatus! and The DaVinci Code) and a political-religious polemic, all blended into Koman’s hallucinatory prose.

Libertarian writer/critic Jeff Riggenbach praised Koman’s artful combination of science-fiction adventure story, philosophical speculation and send-up as reminiscent of hard-boiled detective novelist Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep; The Long Goodbye; Farewell, My Lovely) in the Fall 1987 issue of the Prometheus quarterly:
“One of the most difficult assignments any writer can undertake is to imitate a famous style of this kind with both serious and comic intent. And Koman pulls it off beautifully. It is a parody that can hold its own with Chandler’s originals and with the best of his followers…”

Riggenback also praised the novel as a mystery:
“Suffice it to say that Koman manages to surprise and entertain in all the ways you would expect from a science-fiction thriller, while at the same time working in an amazing amount of learned speculation on such questions as what the idea of God really means and what it would mean in practical teams to attempt his assassination.”

Praised by Ray Bradbury as “a fascinating concept, imaginatively delivered” and by Illuminatus! co-author Robert Anton Wilson as a suspense tale that “explodes like a string of firecrackers,” the provocative novel achieves a level of irreverence that may challenge the assumptions of some religious believers.

Perhaps sf/fantasy author Piers Anthony put it best: “The Jehovah Contract will surely be excoriated in religious and literary circles, but this damnation of God should be pondered objectively by both believers and nonbelievers. It is a good, thought-provoking effort that is that rarity in fiction: philosophy that entertains.”

Victor Koman (Photo: Creative Commons)

Note: Koman, a California-based writer and agorist, has gone on to win two more Prometheus Awards for Best Novel, including Solomon’s Knife (1990) and Kings of the High Frontier (1997). He received his PhD in Information Assurance & Security in 2016.
His short stories have appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, Galaxy Science Fiction and several anthologies (including Weird Menace, The King is Dead: Tales of Elvis Post-Mortem and Free Space, a libertarian sf anthology, edited by Brad Linaweaver and Edward E. Kramer, that received the first Special Prometheus Award in 1998.

* Coming up soon on the Prometheus Blog: A 40th Anniversary Prometheus Celebration and appreciation of the next novel to be recognized with a Prometheus Award: Brad Linaweaver’s Moon of Ice, the 1989 winner for Best Novel

* See related introductory essay about the LFS’ 40th anniversary retrospective series of Appreciations of past Prometheus Awards winners, with an overview of the awards’ four-decade history.

* Other Prometheus winners: For a full list of winners – for the annual Best Novel and Best Classic Fiction (Hall of Fame) categories and occasional Special Awards – visit the recently updated and enhanced Prometheus Awards page on the LFS website.

* Join us! To help sustain the Prometheus Awards, join the Libertarian Futurist Society (LFS), a non-profit volunteer association of libertarian sf/fantasy fans and freedom-lovers.
Libertarian futurists believe cultural change is as vital as political change (and often more fun!) in achieving universal individual rights and a better world (perhaps eventually, worlds) for all.

Published by

Mike Grossberg

Michael Grossberg, who founded the LFS in 1982 to help sustain the Prometheus Awards, has been a writer, arts critic, speaker and award-winning journalist for more than five decades. Most recently, Michael won the 2019 Ohio Society of Professional Journalists awards for Best Critic in Ohio (also won in 2015, for theater reviews) and Best Arts Reporting (which he’s won seven times). He's written for Reason magazine, was a regional columnist for Backstage weekly, helped lead the American Theatre Critics Association for two decades and has contributed to six books, including 1990s critical essays for the annual Best Plays Theatre Yearbook, and an afterword/essay for the first paperback edition of J. Neil Schulman's novel The Rainbow Cadenza. Among the books he recommends to inform a libertarian-futurist perspective: Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist, David Boaz's The Libertarian Mind and Steven Pinker's Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress.

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