Bicycles of the Gods

THE BOOK: Bicycles of the Gods: A Divine Comedy

PUBLISHED: August 16, 2022

THE AUTHOR: Michael Simms

THE EDITOR: Kimberly Davis

THE PUBLISHER: Madville 

SUMMARY: In Bicycles of the Gods, the main character, Jesse, presents an earthly incarnation of Jesus Christ come to earth in the body of a 12-year-old boy in the company of Xavi, who is the earthly incarnation of Shiva, Destroyer of Worlds, also a 12-year-old boy. The pair stand on a hilltop above the city of Los Angeles contemplating how best to destroy it as a precursor to destroying the entire world to rid it of humanity so it can refresh and rebuild. Xavi is ready to get on with the task The Big Guy, God, has assigned them, but Jesse has a problem. He isn’t sure that everyone deserves to be destroyed.

THE BACK STORY: I woke one morning with an image of two boys riding their bicycles up a hill that looks down on a large city. One boy, Xavi, dismounts and strikes a match, but the other boy, Jesse, stops him from setting fire to the dry brush. Right away I knew that these two boys were Shiva and Jesus, and this was the beginning of a story about the apocalypse. Ancient stories of these two gods have always imbued them with human characteristics. The temptations of Christ make sense only if he experienced them as a man, and portraying Jesus as a twelve-year-old Latino in Los Angeles (The City of Angels) shows us how he would react to being an adolescent in America today. Like any 12-year-old, he has Daddy issues, extreme in his case, since his father actually had him die on the cross in his last human life. He’s embarrassed by his mother’s sexuality. He’s devoted to his best friend. He’s baffled and outraged by the flaws of our society, such as racism and classism. Like any adolescent, he has a fragile idealism which is constantly being shattered by the greed, cruelty and dishonesty of adults. Xavi (Shiva), on the other hand is coming into his sexuality, but with the powers of a god he is able to perform sexual deeds far beyond what is normal for a human. A lot of the humor of the novel arises from the tension between who these two characters appear to be and who they actually are.

WHY THIS TITLE:  Both the bicycles that the boys ride, the Merida 96, and the motorcycles the Sisters of the Piston ride, the Harley Fat Boys, are actual models that one can order online — although they’re very expensive. I thought it would be funny to have American ingenuity invent vehicles that even the gods covet.

WHY SOMEONE WOULD WANT TO READ IT: I’ve been surprised by the many readers who say they love The Sisters of the Piston, a motorcycle gang known as Nuns with Guns, an order of badass elderly nuns trained as special-op warriors — feminist vigilantes who ride Harleys and save women and children from oppression and violence. Anyone who is Catholic has known nuns who are fierce as hell. When I was active years ago in the sanctuary movement on the Texas border, it was nuns who organized and led us. I’ve been active in grassroots progressive politics for over forty years, and I’ve never known more committed activists than the nuns who smuggled refugees across the border and gave them shelter. The Sisters of the Piston are a composite of the nuns I knew and the historical Knights of the Templar, as well as the Sōhei, the Buddhist warrior monks of feudal Japan.

REVIEW COMMENTS: 

“A playful, provocative, and imaginative discursus, Bicycles of the Gods is an affront to racism, sexism, classism, ageism, and heterosexism as it posits a Divine who will not be captured and used by white supremacists for their own purposes. Michael Simms has created an engaging new world order that functions within our familiar one.” — Rev. Dr. Moni McIntyre, author of Social Ethics and the Return to Cosmology

“Whether Michael Simms is writing a personal essay about growing up with autism or poems about our dying planet, a barfight, or the mystery of a hummingbird’s radiance, he is a master storyteller whose narratives hold memorable moments full of fresh and telling details that unlock the heart. And now, in Bicycles of the Gods he has invented a new genre-apocalyptic satire. The novel is hilarious at times, but make no mistake, Simms is serious as a heart attack in a hurricane. It tells an old story in a completely new way, exploring issues of faith, politics, trauma, imagination, and the triumph of love over tyranny. ” — -Peter Makuck, author of Wins and Losses: Stories.

“Set in today’s digital-age Los Angeles, with a delightful cast of characters, including celestial ones “in disguise to make it easier to move through the world,” you will encounter The Big Guy, Maria, Jesse, Xavi, Luke, and Abe, as well as Christine, Mikey, Patrick, the Six Sisters of the Piston, Father Jack, Stefan the Poet, Birdie, Dharma the Dog, and Caruso the Parrot, all of whom are caught up in the tragic-comic battle between the forces of Good and Evil, Light and Darkness. Michael Simms has given us a frolicking and “novel” approach to the Apocalypse of John that offers a front-row seat to the shenanigans of the times in which we are presently living. Bicycles of the Gods deserves its own Broadway billing as both “Dantean” and “Shakespearean.”—Rev. Dr. Charles Davidson, author of Bone Dead andRising: Vincent van Gogh and the Self Before God 

AUTHOR PROFILE: Michael Simms is the founder of Vox Populi, an online forum for poetry, politics and nature, as well as Autumn House Press, a nonprofit publisher of books. He’s the author of three full-length collections of poetry including American Ash and Nightjar (Ragged Sky, 2020, 2021); the co-editor of a college textbook about poetry; and the lead editor of over 100 published books, including the best-selling Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, now in its third edition. In 2011, the Pennsylvania Legislature awarded Simms a Certificate of Recognition for his contribution to the arts. He is also an environmental activist, having twice addressed the Allegheny County Council on the issue of fracking in public parks.

AUTHOR COMMENTS: Once I started telling the story I knew that the reader would be in suspense, wanting to know whether the world actually ends, as Xavi wants, or whether Jesse would find a way to save it. I wasn’t sure how this tension would be resolved until I was almost finished with the first draft. I wanted to let the story tell itself, rather than force a pre-determined resolution. 

The deities of the story, besides Jesse and Xavi, include Mikey, the Archangel Michael who, like Jesse and Xavi, also occupies a twelve-year-old boy’s body; Maria and Jose, Jesse’s mother and stepfather who live in an abandoned mission in the Sonoran desert; and The Big Guy (God) and his brother Luke (Lucifer) who continue to enact their eternal competition to rule the world. 

But the emotional center of the book is the story of the mortal characters. Stefan Józef,, a homeless ex-vet who lives in a cave beside the freeway, writes poems that no one reads except the angels in heaven who put them to celestial music. Jesse takes Stefan under his wing and assures him of the importance of his work. Christina O’Malley is a social worker who falls in love with the young poet and he with her, but they’re aware of the difficulty of their making a life together. And Stefan’s dog Dharma, brave, loyal and loving, proves to the humans that it is possible to live a life of faith and service. Also, there is Reverend Sheffield, a black preacher who leads the migrants across the Otay bridge to freedom; Father Jack, a Catholic priest and friend of Stefan’s; Marta, a veteran who lost a hand in Iraq and is intent on killing the man who beat her mother to death; and Birdie, a day care worker who is known to be the most compassionate person in the world and who may or may not be an agent for God. 

There are also cameos by dozens of celebrities, including Albert Einstein, John Wayne, Abelard and Heloise, Walt Whitman, and Cleopatra. 

The climax of the novel is a huge battle that takes place both on the mortal plane and on the celestial.

LOCAL OUTLETS: White Whale Bookstore, Pittsburgh

WHERE ELSE TO BUY IT: 

Madville: 

https://madvillepublishing.com/product/bicycles-of-the-gods/Amazon:

PRICE: $19.95

CONTACT THE AUTHOR:

Michael Simms

https://www.michaelsimms.info

Published by

bridgetowriters

Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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