vẽr′di·grïs, (or -gris), n.[ME. Verte grece; OFr. Ver de Grece; verd, green, de, of, and Grece, Greece.]
….1. a green or greenish-blue poisonous compound prepared by treating copper with acetic acid, used as a medicine, pigment, and dye.
….2. A green or greenish-blue coating that forms like rust on brass, bronze, or copper.
Verdigris is a tale inspired by the Hebrew legend of the Golem, an apocalyptic ride into the world of be careful what you wish for.
Lillith Adams, bronze sculptor and ex-marine, has the opportunity of a lifetime: create a monument to St. Francis of Assisi for the Archdiocese of New York. However, she has also obligated herself for the past seven years to take care of her tenants in her renovated century-old building. She is certain none of them could make it without her help, particularly former USMC Gunnery Sergeant Anderson Jones. His VA benefits inadequate, suffering from PTSD and exposure to sarin nerve agent in Afghanistan—his brain function gradually degrades every day. Lillith would never leave behind a fellow marine. Dealing with her tenant’s problems threatens her with failing to complete the monument, which would destroy her reputation as an artist and bankrupt her.
Her life and the lives of all human beings take a decisive turn when a crate is accidentally delivered to her studio. Rather than the clay she ordered from Prague, a sarcophagus lies within. The man who lost it, Marine Corps Force Recon Colonel Johnson Proffit, arrives with his armed team too late. Through a basement window he sees the being emerge from the sarcophagus and “imprint” on Lillith. Though this being, whose name is Joseph, appears as an ordinary Arabian man, the colonel knows he will now grant Lillith a wish.
The colonel has his orders in case of a “miss-imprint,” setting into motion an escalating series of contingency operations. He characterizes them to his men as “…automatically generated with a miss-imprint and, well, they’re classified, but we don’t wanna be around for any of them.” Three years of painstaking research with an archaeologist and a rabbi revealed to the colonel what Joseph is capable of and where his sarcophagus lay hidden the past two thousand years. He initiates this military operation to find Joseph. The colonel’s wish? To end war. However, he fails to convince his superiors to dispense with the contingency operations, or the ridiculous security protocols that had him lose the sarcophagus in the first place. It has him wonder if the powers that be are not more interested in their contingency plans than the wish.
In time, though she scarcely believes it, Lillith finally tells Joseph what she most desires, “Take care of the people in my life, so I don’t have to.” Inadvertently this sets into motion events that could end civilization as we know it, for this is no genie, it is more the Golem of Hebrew legend. It will fulfill her wish completely to the letter, no matter what it takes, or what it costs.
Praise For Verdigris:
The author brilliantly takes you on a journey slowly expanding the scope and impact of the character’s actions and inactions – effortlessly expanding our view from the confines of a hangar in Prague and a reclusive artist’s studio in Portland to a galaxy spanning endeavor encompassing all of human history.
The story is an exploration of what happens if an irresistible force meets an unmovable object – one is the American military machine and the other is – well, I don’t want to give too much away. I delighted in the twist of perspective at the end when it became obvious my assumptions about which were the immovable object and irresistible force were, I hate to admit – wrong.
The character’s characterizations are expertly and unhurriedly revealed, mostly by us discovering what these are through their actions and words, and by allowing us to witness their struggles and triumphs, their failures and victories.
Throughout, careful attention is given to the detail of the environment and the realistic rendering of military protocol and hardware, resulting in a vivid mental picture of the world the characters find themselves in.
Despite the depiction of massive loss and destruction of human beings, and a healthy exposition of the stupidity of our authoritarian institutions, ultimately the author conveys his eternal optimism in the human spirit and the full expression of humanity’s potential.
One small critique is that pervasively an entirely American centric point of view is present – not a problem as such, as from the point of view of the novel’s protagonists, that is where the action takes place and is the source of the institutions reacting to the situations. Yet in the end, when the stage has expanded to be world-wide, and interstellar, I am left with only a token page or two covering the rest of humanity.
Having said that, I was entirely satisfied with the story and the storytelling, at times thrilled, exited, moved and touched, and amused and delighted with the humor and humanity, the tragedy and triumphs and ultimately the authentic expression and possibility of who we are as human being.
Thank you for writing Verdigris!
Mark Van-Der-Pol, Inventor of the Dodecatimer (http://dodecatimer.com/)