You know right away that this is science fiction because the theme is "If I were God." If I were God is a particularly old and well-used SF theme. It is sophomoric, but no more so than many others (including the currently popular "If everyone but one pair of teen-agers got blown up in a nuclear war"). And think of what pure gold other writers (such as Theodore Sturgeon, Brian Aldiss, Ursula Le Guin and especially Philip K. Dick) have spun from this thistle!

Greeley doesn't fare so well with it. "God Game" goes like this: A nameless narrator agrees to test a new "interactive fiction" game designed by a friend.

This test, for no convincing reason, involves hooking up the narrator's home computer to the satellite dish on his roof. Then a bolt of lightning hits the computer and the adventure begins: A medieval world pops up on the screen, and the man at the keyboard gets to be God just by spelling out his wishes: "ZAP TROLL," etc.

The inhabitants of Greeley's world "were not quite like us and their world was different from ours, in the sort of tiny ways that an SF writer would not imagine. They wore clothes that were early medieval or late Roman but made out of some synthetic material that is beyond our capability. They fought with swords and spears and primitive zap guns, but they had techniques of visual and audio communication that none of us could figure out or even perceive as operating."

We are not told how our narrator managed to test the synthetic material over TV. In any case, no further mention is made of zap guns, supercommunicators or any other wonders. The pretense of SF is dropped. Although there are multiple moons in the on-screen world, it is otherwise a conventional, even networkable fantasy:

The armies of the Duke and the Duchess are ready to make war on one another. Then Greeley comes up with the notion that if the Duke and Duchess can only be persuaded to make love instead of war, all will be well.

The Duke and Duchess are helped by good guys and gals, including a gamin who plays a flute and turns somersaults, a vacuous young man and a middle-aged couple whose marriage might be on the rocks. It all sounds perfectly suitable for TV, and kind of like "Dallas."

The opposition naturally includes a cardinal, witches and mad scientists -- but don't worry, none of them gets anywhere with his skulduggery.

So much for the story. The narrator seems to be an Irish priest and a bestselling novelist living in a beach community near Chicago. Though his being Irish or a priest has nothing to do with the story, it does allow him to do "Irish" things like sip Bailey's Irish Cream.

* The priest's endless blather is a problem:

"Thus we are all storytellers, narrating the story of our own lives and finding in our religion, whatever its overarching symbols, the cosmos-making themes that give final purpose to our existence.

"Even if we insist that life has no meaning, if like Jacques Monod we think it is all chance, we still explain who we are by telling stories.

"Fiction doesn't imitate life. Life imitates fiction.

"Sometimes life imitates fiction imitating life."

This is what comes of Bailey's Irish Cream. Greeley needs to fire this character and replace him with a good honest whiskey priest.

The reviewer is the author of "Roderick: The Education of a Young Machine" and "Tik-Tok," which received the British Science Fiction Award.