By Alexandra Jacobs
Updated September 05, 1997 at 04:00 AM EDT

Not to get too cute or anything, but whatever possessed Ira Levin to birth, after 30 years, a sequel to Rosemary’s Baby — the most satisfyingly cohesive work of a career in urbane horror? C’mon, Ira, give. Was it a fit of nostalgia? The lure of chilly cash? Or could it be…Satan?

What makes this media event swaddled in novel’s clothing all the more distressing is that Son of Rosemary spills from a novelist who, Sliver notwithstanding, gave the English language the tonic phrase ”Stepford wife”…whose A Kiss Before Dying has been made into not one but two movies within his lifetime…who crafted Deathtrap, Broadway’s longest running thriller. A man who should feel cozy enough about his place in history that he needn’t have resorted to this sort of sensational, almost parodistic self-plagiarism.

But the millennium approacheth, so all bets are off.

Yes, sirree, it’s 1999, and just as the last member of the old Bramford coven kicks the bucket, Rosemary Woodhouse awakens with a start from the three-decade-long coma into which she was conveniently cast (a few years after the previous novel ended). And what a shockaroo she’s in for. As are we.

You see, the world has become a spiritually blah tangle of tackiness, terrorism, and tabloid talk shows — which quickly dub our heroine Rip Van Rosie. Civilization’s only hope, she discovers, is her son, now charismatic young peacenik Andy Castevet, who’s busily organizing a worldwide candle-lighting ceremony for the upcoming New Year’s celebration. Everyone — aside from ACLU activists, Ayn Randies, and one suppressed clan of nuts who think the guy’s actually devil spawn (nah!) — worships Andy as if he were a latter-day Jesus.

Rosemary, who recovers with remarkable aplomb from her time warp — in fact, she’s considering hosting a talk show of her own — adores him too. ”Had any mother, anywhere, ever had so much reason for pride in a son?” she muses. Never mind that in between group hugs, Andy occasionally tries to thrust his tongue in Mom’s mouth: ”You’re the only woman, the only person, I can be myself with!” (What is this, The Kiss?) Never mind that a pretty, Scrabble-playing secretary he beds shows up murdered in a totally Bible-icious scenario. Never mind that… okay, maybe the kid — who is, of course, half Lucifer’s — has something up his sanctimonious sleeve.

There’s one genuine surprise turn in this book (which is dedicated — wistfully? hopefully? — to Mia Farrow) and one so-wretched-it’s-fun splat of an ending that cribs from a certain infamous Dallas episode.

The rest is senseless balderdash, a pity when you consider how gracefully Rosemary’s Baby flitted between the real and the fantastic, the paranoid and the paranormal. This resurrection only besmirches a devilishly good author’s track record. D+