"Why mess around with Catholicism when you can have your own customized religion?"
Fed up with his parents' boring old religion, agnostic-going-on-atheist Jason Bock invents a new god -- the town's water tower. He recruits an unlikely group of worshippers: his snail-farming best friend, Shin, cute-as-a-button (whatever that means) Magda Price, and the violent and unpredictable Henry Stagg. As their religion grows, it takes on a life of its own. While Jason struggles to keep the faith pure, Shin obsesses over writing their bible, and the explosive Henry schemes to make the new faith even more exciting -- and dangerous.
When the Chutengodians hold their first ceremony high atop the dome of the water tower, things quickly go from merely dangerous to terrifying and deadly. Jason soon realizes that inventing a religion is a lot easier than controlling it, but control it he must, before his creation destroys both his friends and himself.
- National Book Awards
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
August 23, 2005
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from Godless by Pete Hautman
In the beginning was the Ocean. And the Ocean was alone.
Getting punched hard in the face is a singular experience. I highly recommend it to anyone who is a little too cocky, obnoxious, or insensitive. I also recommend it to people who think they're smart enough to avoid getting punched in the face by the likes of Henry Stagg.
I was all those things the day Shin (real name: Peter Stephen Schinner) and I ran into Henry beneath the water tower. Henry was in the company of three lesser juvenile delinquents -- Mitch Cosmo, Marsh Andrews, and Bobby Something-or-Other. None of the four were particularly dangerous one-on-one, but in a pack? That was different.
"Hey, Henry, how's it going?" I said, striving for the sort of gruff heartiness I imagined he might respect.
"Who's that? Is that Jay-boy and Schinner?" Henry squinted ferociously, his face scrunched into a hard little knot. He was wearing his usual getup: beat-up cowboy boots, jeans, and a black T-shirt. "What're you guys doing here?"
"Just hangin' out," I said. I wasn't about to tell Henry what we were really doing there.
"With each other? You guys must be desperate," he said. Then he laughed. Bobby, Mitch, and Marsh all laughed too. The three stooges. Watching Henry as if he were the most fascinating thing they'd ever seen.
I have to admit, Henry Stagg is an interesting specimen. He's only about five-foot-five and scrawny as a wild cat, but Henry has presence. He's twitchy, cobra-quick, and wound up so tight you just know something has to give. Henry has a history of sudden, unprovoked violence. That makes him both dangerous and exciting company. Fortunately -- or so I thought -- Henry and I had always gotten along just fine. That might have had something to do with the fact that I'm twice his size. Also, I figured I could outthink him any day of the week.
"Could be worse," I said. "We could be hanging out with you guys." I laughed to make sure he knew I was kidding, which I wasn't.
Henry gave me a neutral scowl. "So how come you're hangin' out here?"
"We're working on a science project," Shin said in his Shinny voice. I groaned silently. I've gotten used to Shin's somewhat high-pitched, nasal voice, but it sends a guy like Henry right up the wall.
"A science project?" Henry said, lifting his voice to a quavering falsetto. "I thought fags were only interested in hairdressing and ballet."
"I'm not a fag," Shin said, his voice rising even higher. And I thought, Uh-oh.
"Not a fag?" Henry piped, raising his arms to display his knobby hands hanging slack from the ends of his wrists.
Shin, realizing that he was headed for trouble, crossed his arms over his notebook and went into his shell. More about that later. Henry capered in front of him, hopping from toe to toe, chanting, "I'm not a fag I'm not a fag I'm not a fag..." Shin just stood frozen, staring at the ground. Henry dropped his arms and walked up to him and stuck his face a few inches from Shin's and shouted, "Anybody home?"
Shin said nothing. Henry's jaw muscles flexed and the veins on his neck throbbed. Shin didn't even blink. When he went into his shell you couldn't pry him out if you stuck a firecracker in his ear. Not until he was ready.
Henry looked at me. "What's the matter with him?"
"Nothing," I said.
"Hit him," said Bobby. "Give him one."
The stooges laughed as if Bobby had said something witty.
Henry glared at them. Beneath it all, Henry had his rules. It wasn't his style to hit someone who was, say, unconscious. He wouldn't beat up a little kid, or an old lady -- at least not without just cause. And he could sense that Shin, in his shell, was just as helpless.
"Push him over," Marsh suggested. "See if he, like, tips."
Henry put his palm against Shin's chest and gave a little test shove. Shin teetered, but his internal gyroscope kept him erect. Henry realized that a more aggressive push would topple Shin, but he decided not to do it.
"What's the matter with him?" Henry asked me again.
"He just gets that way sometimes."
Marsh said, "He must be, like, some kinda, like, freak."
"He's not a freak," I said, knowing that Shin was hearing everything.
Henry shifted his attention to me.
"You guys are both freaks. Look at you. How much do you weigh?"
"One ninety-four," I said, taking my standard thirty-pound deduction.
"I bet you weigh two hundred and fifty. You're huge."
I wanted to say something like, To a Munchkin like you, everybody must look huge. But I just looked back at him.