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Kataklusmós, “challenges the estrangement of science, philosophy, and faith”

An interview with novelist (and environmental engineer and professor) T.M. Doran about the final novel of his Toward the Gleam trilogy.

T. M. Doran is an environmental engineer and an adjunct professor at Lawrence Technological University in Michigan. He is the author of Terrapin (Ignatius Press, 2012), Toward the Gleam (Ignatius Press, 2011), Iota (Ignatius Press, 2014), and The Lucifer Ego (TMDoranBooks, 2018). He is also a contributor to the Detroit Free Press, Catholic World ReportWall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, and the New York Times. His latest novel is Kataklusmós, the conclusion of the Toward the Gleam trilogy.

He spoke with CWR recently about that novel and the trilogy.

CWR: Why such a strange title?

Doran: The Greek word kataklusmós can signify a cataclysm, a deluge, or a devastation, and all three of those definitions apply to this story.

CWR: Is Kataklusmós a Catholic novel?

Doran: Flannery O’Connor, Evelyn Waugh, Walker Percy, and Gene Wolfe approached their stories with a Catholic sensibility, but this sensibility didn’t preclude physical, moral, and spiritual devastations and depredations. Kataklusmós is such a story.

CWR: Describe what Kataklusmós is about.

Doran: A personal tragedy and the radiant book introduced in Toward the Gleam anchor the story. Two desperate brothers, Frodo Lyle Stuart (an archaeologist) and Sam Stuart (a forcibly-retired spy), seek answers in England, Uganda, Jerusalem, Jericho, Istanbul, Paris, Germany, and Shanghai. Along the way, they encounter people who advance and threaten their mission. And historical “voices” and events from the past are still affecting and haunting those in the present.

CWR: How does Kataklusmós differ from a typical mystery-thriller?

Doran: Modern literature may go so far as to admit that choices produce physical or psychological consequences, but can’t admit that such choices are inherently good or bad, right or wrong. So modern literature often depicts human beings as intelligent animals programmed by natural processes to respond in predictable, albeit dramatic, ways.

Kataklusmós challenges this simplistic description. Science, philosophy, and faith were once closely connected, and were considered to be different ways of looking at a single reality, but, since The Enlightenment era, those subjects have been separated into specialties and sub-specialties that have little to say to one another. Kataklusmós challenges the estrangement of science, philosophy, and faith.

CWR: Who might enjoy this book?

Doran: Kataklusmós isn’t a beach or bedtime read. The story requires careful attention, the way Dickens’ stories do. It’s a fast-moving, many-layered tale involving veiled historical and literary characters, spy-craft, science, archaeology, philosophy, and mythology.

CWR: What’s the connection to Toward the Gleam?

Doran: All of the big questions posed by readers of Toward the Gleam are answered in Kataklusmós. And some big things are revealed that were contemplated when  Toward the Gleam was composed (2005-2009). I still have an unpublished chapter of Toward the Gleam that hints at secrets revealed in Kataklusmós. For Toward the Gleam, I spent countless days researching and matching the prehistoric era of the book with known biology (flora and fauna), geography, climate, anthropology. And as this prehistoric civilization affected characters in Toward the Gleam, so characters in Toward the Gleam continue to affect characters and events in The Lucifer Ego and Kataklusmós.

CWR: What was your greatest challenge with this book?

Doran: I’ve read multi-volume series that didn’t live up to the promise of the first book. So, my greatest challenge was imagining, and then composing, an ending to the series that measured up. That means Kataklusmós went in directions I hadn’t imagined when I embarked on the story. Readers will decide how well I succeeded.

CWR: Are you working on any new projects?

Doran: I’ve been working on short stories in vastly different genres: mystery, thriller, humor, children’s story, science fiction, historical events, dystopian, explorations of memory: inspired by very different “muses”: Mark Twain, Jane Austen, Rod Serling, Hans Christian Andersen, George Orwell, Kazuo Ishiguro, Gene Wolfe, Flannery O’Connor, G. K. Chesterton, C. S. Lewis.

One of these stories, “Mr. Tanner”, will soon be published by Catholic Arts Today. Perhaps the collection of stories will be published someday. Regardless, composing these tales has been a joy and a challenge.

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1 Comment

  1. Frodo Stuart will invoke Tolkien’s trilogy as does the theme naming good and evil rather than avoid it as in most literature. Any novel that addresses the distancing of science from faith, from this writer’s perspective beginning with Galileo and the Church, and eventually philosophy for multiple reasons primarily the Reformation and the methodical doubt of Descartes, Descartes’ premise adopted by science then scriptural exegesis, consequently theology – if not comprehensively for a novel, at least with insight is worth a read. I’d be interested in whether there’s a ring or similar. Tolkien’s ring capable of great good possessed power human nature couldn’t handle. Science sans religion? My best to the Stuart brothers in their mission to discover the why of the Kataklusmós we suffer. Whether they discover it, that is, the cause I’m confident Doran will come up with something, we have the solution in Christ.

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