As Crusader opens, Roberta Ritter is at work, assembling an imposing “Crusader” figure as a promotion for the newest interactive video experience for her family’s struggling video arcade. In this virtual-reality game, players score points by “killing” hordes of “Muslims.” When one of the mall-shop owners, a Muslim, objects to the premise of the game and explains the actual history of the Crusades, Roberta confronts the difficult truth that good and evil are inextricably bound in the human character, that ignorance breeds prejudice, that prejudice leads to hate, and that hate expresses itself in violence. It is the beginning of her education into the wisdom of tolerance. It is also a lesson in the need to confront even the most painful realities. Roberta herself has spent seven years insulating herself from the implications of her own mother’s death—knifed during a robbery of the family’s previous arcade—by telling herself that her mother had died from a heart attack.
In a novel whose multiple plot lines hinge on the deception of surfaces and the complex reality of good and evil, Bloor tests the need to confront, the ease with which difficult realities are ignored, and the disparity between appearances and realities. Nothing is as it appears—Roberta, as an intern for the local television station, learns techniques for splicing videotape in ways that create entirely new “realities.” The mall where she works struggles to stay open while pretending to be prosperous, even launching an interior renovation centering on a showy fountain that is ironically connected with ancient, rusted pipes that end up leaking sewer gas. Dawg, a muscle-bound football lunkhead, is blamed for the rash of hate crimes because the police are certain that he “looks” like a redneck. Railroaded, Dawg is outfitted with an electronic monitoring device but, refusing to be framed for something he did not do, he runs deliberately into highway traffic in a stunning act of suicide. His friend, called Ironman because of his bulk and his T-shirts...
(The entire section is 843 words.)