Author Nick LaTorre creates a clever mythology for his imagined supernatural being, the Rauschmonstrum, through three interlinked short stories. In the first, this shapeshifting monster with a “Cheshire Cat grin” who appears most frequently as a cloud of smoke is in Galilee at the time of Jesus’ ascension and crucifixion. He tricks Jesus into believing he is the messiah by guiding him to perform the “miracles” for which he is known (and which are actually orchestrated by the Rauschmonstrum). In the second story, presented as a series of interviews with real-life personalities ranging from Norman Mailer to Oprah, Ol’ Rausch (as he is called by his friends) explains his reasoning for having, essentially, invented Christianity, and expounds on hard-hitting topics like American politics, poverty in Africa (which the Rauschmonstrum has eradicated, earning himself a Nobel Peace Prize), and existential despair. In the third section, Rauschmonstrum is reunited with Jesus in the present day, a shocking development for Ol’ Rausch, who’d firmly believed Jesus was just a human man that died thousands of years ago.
LaTorre’s creativity and originality are fully on display throughout the Rauschmonstrum’s escapades, especially in the series of interviews that make up the second story. Having published a book about his role in Jesus’ life, Rauschmonstrum altered the trajectory of events on a global scale, and LaTorre clearly had fun imagining what this new world might look like—Norman Mailer is elected president, the Vietnam War ends with the signing of a peace treaty in Paris, and the Rauschmonstrum is the inventor of both Microsoft (but called Rauschsoft, of course) and Google (Rauschsearch). The monster’s conversations with illustrious figures of the past and present offer both ruminative insight into human morality and hilarity. For example, Charlie Rose plays the Rauschmonstrum a clip from an interview with Christopher Hitchens in which the controversial social critic had called Ol’ Rausch a “flabby smoke monstrosity,” clearly hoping to inspire conflict between the two.
The first story is the weakest of the three, as LaTorre presents events from Jesus’ life in exhaustive detail, including passages of scripture and parables that any reader with passing familiarity with the Bible will already have knowledge of. He returns to more inventive form in the third story with Jesus’ return.
THE SAGA OF OL’ RAUSCH is a funny, twisted trio of stories about a monster with an indelible link to humankind that is just a little heavy on biblical scripture. Author Nick LaTorre shines brightest when relying entirely on his own imagination.
~Lisa Butts for IndieReader