Saint Vidicon To The Rescue
by Christopher Stasheff
Review by Ernest Lilley
Ace Books Mass Market ISBN/ITEM#: 044101271X
Date: 30 April, 2005 List Price $6.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
If you've ever had to solve technical problems on a regular basis, you've no doubt had the feeling that the universe was against you, or that there was something to gremlins...or worse. Some rational part of you probably responds that by only noting events of consequence your mind skews the statistics of troubleshooting...but that's not the way it feels.
Well, in Christopher Stasheff's lighthearted romp through guilt, gremlins and the path to Sainthood for an former Father and video engineer who gave his all so that the Pope might go live (in a historic video address) the truth is revealed...it's the forces of finagle at work, and they're definitely not on our side.
Fortunately, St. Vidicon most definitely is. Working behind the scenes whenever his name is invoked, ("St. Vidicon, save us from finagle." Muttered the troubled technician...) he jumps to the task, dealing with circuitry, human error and bad design in metaphorical, and possibly metaphysical realities where he confronts imps and imperfections on their own turf.
The only problem is that he's a video engineer, not a hacker, and today's troubles come more from the ills computers are prone to than temperamental tubes...so he turns to a geek on the go, Tony Ricci, who's been out solving problems in the real world, for some help at Heaven's help desk. First he spams systems with a narrative of his adventures in the ether, and then when Tony is tapped to troubleshoot the torrent of theological text, he finds himself drawn into the story and then the good fight.
It's not all bug slaying for Tony though. In return for his help, or at least because he needs it, he gets St. Vidicon's help steering his way to a more fulfilled life, one with less obsession with computers and more with a certain member of the opposite sex. Of course, having a saint advise you on your love life might seem to put you out of step with modern mores, but virtue is its own reward, right?
Stasheff's real accomplishment with this book is to try to take a look at how Catholicism relates to contemporary life, at least for geeks. If that look is a bit frivolous, so much the better. Who want serious sermonizing anyway? The forces at work against us appear to be largely entropy and self doubt, the first requiring endless perseverance against, and the latter best dealt with by getting in touch with friends, faith and a focus on things bigger than ourselves.
It's an enjoyable romp, all in all, though I found myself wanting to skip forward between trials in the virtual reality of computer problems to see how Tony's romance was progressing. Depending on your personal faith you may find the intersection of religion and geekdom reassuring, irreverent or just plain wrong, so you're guaranteed to have fun with it.
Saint Vidicon to the Rescue probably won't shake or settle, the foundations of your faith, but you might just feel a tremor or two while you're reading it. So enjoy it, and St. Vidicon preserve you and may your code always compile on the first pass.