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10:12 am: ANGELOLOGY Ascends Toward the Heavens, But Falls, Crashing



I have discovered something. I really like books with hope in them. Books with a glimpse of hope shining through the grimy darkness. I will read a whole book because of just a little promise of hope.

Really makes me sad when that promise is betrayed.

 

Tuesday Night, I was in Barnes and Nobles and I saw a book called Angelology by Danielle Trussoni. Not a info book like Dragonology or Wizardology, but a novel. It looked wonderful. It looked splendid.


More particularly, it looked like a Muse had given another author the same instructions she has given me, and now I could read how this author handled the same assignment differently.

 

It was all about angels, Nephilim*, Gregori**, and secret societies fighting for good. All stuff I am familair with and write about. Almost exactly the kind of thing I have planned for my some day to be written Against the Dying of the Light series.

 

It sounded perfect.

 

 

I bought it. I NEVER impulse buy hardback novels by unknown authors. I’m lucky if I can scrape together enough for a paperback. I usually only buy hardcover if its an author I really love (ie: Mary Balogh, Jim Butcher, or George R.R. Martin.) But I bought this one.

 

When I got to the top of page nine, where the constant, two hundred year constant prayer by the nuns at St. Rose was described I fell in love.  Then came some interesting but not inspired parts. Then, 168-172, with a really neat analysis of how the Nephelim had destroyed the modern world by separating the intelligent from the religious. So cool!

 

But….Sigh.

 

The promise just was not kept.

 

There was beautiful writing. There was compelling storytelling. There was eeriness and that heady sensation that modern writers attached to vampires, but which really fits better with fallen angels than with blood suckers. (Anne Rice had a speech about how angels and vampires are related in the human psyche and how their fads are intertwined…she thought the angle fad led to the vampire fad and that another angel fad would follow.) All this was done very well.


But there was nothing holy.

No glimpse of Light beyond. The hope that is mentioned and glimpsed in the early chapters does not come to anything. There was even a scene where a real angel, not a fallen one, appeared—which I had REALLY been hoping would happen. (I'm so sick of all angels being evil...but that's a different post.) But there was nothing to it but plot and action. Angel comes, solves problem…there was no awe, no holiness, no wonder.

 

I am not even concerned with the utterly ridiculous unhappy ending tacked on in the last two pages for no reason. The author set up a romance very nicely with no hints that it might go awry, gave the hero all the info he needed to be able to decode what finally happened, and then had him freak out and act like an idiot for no reason on the next to last page. 
 

I just discounted that. Was not worth my time to get annoyed about. No, it was the lead up to the last pages, the final climax, that fell so short of what it could have been. 
 

Donald Maass talks about the most powerful elements you can put in a book. These are the things that really move people, the things that the best books of all have:

 

Forgiveness and redemption.

 

This was a book that cried out for moments of redemption or at least forgiveness. It screamed for it. It hinted at it. There were sad, heartbreaking ways it could have been delivered that would have been so effective.

 

But…nothing.

 

Just petty characters making uninspired decisions. Many things could have been better. The worst was that the villain had once loved the heroine’s grandmother. He has even has a dream in which she whispers that she loves him…something no human or nephilim had ever said to him in his long immortal life. And…she had loved him! 


But he kills her without conversation or interaction. It was a scene that screamed for something…a chance at forgiveness? A chance at forgiveness repulsed? A moment of redemption or regret? A last exchange of love? No…nothing.


I felt…

 

Can’t put it in to regular words. Must use analogies:

 
I felt as if I danced with other maidens beneath a pavilion with rain and darkness all around us, each of us holding a little burning lamp (Kind of like this.) While the others stayed in the security of the pavilion, I and my sister stepped out from safety to bravely light the darkness. We carefully tended and protected our little lights, daring to go farther than those behind us. Then, as I stayed faithful to my trust, I looked over to see Franchezzo’s ancestor***, his proud and handsome face partially rotted away—though he was unaware of it, whispering into her ear. And, before I could stop her, or even cry out, she leaned forward over the little lamp that was our sacred charge and blew it out.

 

Or like: imagine a Cliffside upon which a great winged man is bound. His body secured with steel chains and leather straps. His head down, long dark hair over his face. He raises his head revealing a face of incomparable beauty, fierce and glorious, undaunted. Gathering his strength, he pulls. He breaks free of his restraints. With a triumphant shout, he shoots upward, airborne and free. Amidst unending blue, he soaring, flying heavenward and home. Except that his great wings buckle, and he plummets downwards, crashing onto the waves below. His broken body is found later washed up upon the shore.

 

It hurt.

  --------------------------

 

*Nephelim – “There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bare children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” Genesis 6:4 The word translated “giants” here is Nephelim. In Jewish lore, the Nephelim were the offspring of angels and humans.

 

** Gregori – Greek for Watchers. The angels that fell in love with mankind and disobeyed God to help them. Very much like Prometheus. (Interestingly, this writer 1) Picked Japeth son of Noah to be the one who fathered the Nephelim race (or rather the guy who killed and replaced him did.) and she mentioned Prometheus several times…but she never brought out the connection…that Japeth is thought to be the same person as Iapetus, the titan father of Prometheus.

 

***From Wanderer In The Spirit Lands –Franchezzo meets an ancestor in Hell who claims to have been whispering in his ear during his life, influencing him to do bad and prideful things. In particular, he offers to teach Franchezzo how to influence writers and get them to serve Hell’s purposes.




Comments

From:geeklady
Date:March 22nd, 2010 03:01 pm (UTC)
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I don't know if you watch Lost at all, but there was a very good moment of this kind two episodes ago. Even if I had liked nothing else about the series, I consider that one scene, really just two or three lines, to make the whole series worth it. I don't want to describe it too much because I don't want to spoil it for anyone.

And then I read a blog that talked about it as "a chance for [character] to earn redemption" which makes me think people don't get the concept of redemption anymore, and that's why these redemptive moments are so rare.
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From:arhyalon
Date:March 22nd, 2010 03:08 pm (UTC)
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I do not watch Lost. John and I are waiting for it to end...if friends still like it once it's all wrapped up, we may watch it.

I think redemption has a big and a little meaning. Characters can earn redemption in the eyes of one character but not in the eyes of another, for instance. Or they can be Redeemed, in the BIG sense.

But then, having not seen the scene, I don't know if this thought applies. ;-)
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From:marycatelli
Date:March 22nd, 2010 04:53 pm (UTC)
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there's no use bringing a loaded gun on stage unless you fire it.
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From:arhyalon
Date:March 22nd, 2010 05:08 pm (UTC)
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Exactly.

I also didn't like that, like a Gothic, all the women main characters seemed helpless most of the time.
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From:cdenmier
Date:March 22nd, 2010 05:09 pm (UTC)

Redemption

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Stories that seem to offer hope or redemption only to pull it away drive me nuts. I know, some folks will say that this is real life: some people struggle only to become a Judas and who rise up only to collapse in the end...but I don't want to read stories about people that flirt with heaven only to end up in hell (main characters anyway...protagonists).

This makes me think of this chilling and dangerously beautiful quote by C.S. Lewis: "All your life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness. The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it—-or else that it was within your grasp and you have lost it forever."

The risk of losing everything has to be there--the game must be real--but who wants to hear a story where all potential and redemption is lost in the end? Where the horror of a condemned soul is the centerpiece? Where goodness is lost and light extinguished and all things were to no end?

I can imagine your frustration!
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From:arhyalon
Date:March 22nd, 2010 05:13 pm (UTC)

Re: Redemption

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> "All your life an unattainable ecstasy has hovered just beyond the grasp of your consciousness. The day is coming when you will wake to find, beyond all hope, that you have attained it—-or else that it was within your grasp and you have lost it forever."

Wow.

Even a little forgiveness without redemption would have been fine. Or, barring that, some understanding without even forgiveness would have at least been satisfying!

I'm just so tired of every angel being evil or bland. They are all Saten or the Angel Islington.

They are ANGELS, for gosh sakes!
Re: Redemption - (Anonymous) Expand
Re: Redemption - (Anonymous) Expand
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From:marycatelli
Date:March 22nd, 2010 07:06 pm (UTC)

Re: Redemption

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Stories that seem to offer hope or redemption only to pull it away drive me nuts

I don't like it either, but that's because I hate unhappy endings. Sometimes it's the Right Thing To Do, aesthetically.
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From:juliet_winters
Date:March 22nd, 2010 05:17 pm (UTC)
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Sorry you wasted the money. No chance of returning it?

Similar experience when rereading The War Hound and the World's Pain by Moorcock. Summary from Wikipedia (I am lazy today) here:

"The book is set in Europe ravaged by the Thirty Years' War. Its hero Ulrich von Bek is a mercenary and freethinker, who finds himself a damned soul in a castle owned by Lucifer. Much to his surprise, von Bek is charged by Lucifer with doing God's work, by finding the Holy Grail, the "cure for the world's pain," that will also cure Lucifer's pain by reconciling him with God. Only through doing this can von Bek save his soul.

After many adventures, von Bek eventually finds the Holy Grail, and discovers that it will set mankind on the path to self-redemption through rationality, without the help of God or the hindrance of Lucifer.
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The most charming characters: von Bek the hardheaded, good-man-who's-done-bad-things soldier and a most verbose, handsome, and contrite Satan--whose contrition turns out to be completely unnecessary.

Bah! Sometimes I think Alcott's March girls had it better when they play-acted Pilgrim's Progress.
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From:arhyalon
Date:March 22nd, 2010 05:25 pm (UTC)
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There were many things I enjoyed in the book, particularly seeing another author, a good one, playing with ideas I like or am familiar with. So, I would not want to return it.

I'm just disappointed because it could have been so much more.
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From:fpb
Date:March 23rd, 2010 12:20 pm (UTC)
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How much did you know about Moorcock before you set out to write this book? Because, having read some of his essays and his "Behold the Man", I would always have expected him to deliberately bugger the whole thing. In "Behold the Man", Moorcock tries to explain away the historical description of Christ's death with a science fiction jumble of time travel and other nonsense that is far less credible than the Gospel account itself. He is the very incarnation of artistic bad faith with regard to Christianity: he aches to rip it down by any means possible, but he cannot keep his mind away from it.
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From:noahdoyle
Date:March 22nd, 2010 06:07 pm (UTC)
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Someday I have to run a good In Nomine game, just to get this right.
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From:johncwright
Date:April 5th, 2010 02:14 pm (UTC)

NOBILIS and Gnosticism

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I have the same problem with the NOBILIS game I ran. The description of the angels given is the rulebook is like the type of angel Alan Moore or Neal Gaiman would write: basically a creepy winged being with no particular moral compass.

The premise of NOBILIS is that heaven and hell have made an alliance in order to overcome a mutual foe, titans springing from the chaos older than creation called the Excrucians. (It is one of these games where there is supposed to be a balance between Good and Evil, an idea I've always thought was stupid, like having a "balance" between quiet joy and groin-ripping torture with hot irons.)

In NOBILIS, you play an spirit or demigod in command of one idea or portion of creation: the goddess of the moon, or the angel of the annunciation, or Father Time, or the elf in charge of chicken soup, something like that.

In addition to heaven and hell, there are two or three other pantheons you can be a member of, such as nature spirits, or Gaiman's "The Endless", Moorcockian "Lords of Law", things like that.

In the rule book, the angels are precisely the opposite of what Christianity says they are. They are forbidden to love mankind. If you bow to one, they do not say "See thou do it not, for we are fellow servants!" the angels say, "Bow lower, worm!" and push your head deeper into the mud with this gold-sandal'd feet. It's absurd.

What I ended up doing was what I assume most moderators do -- I made the "God" described in that game into a Gnostic version of God, an evil deceiver in league with Hell, something like a giant Pharisee or the Wizard of Oz hiding behind a curtain or like "The Authority" of Phillip Pullman (except I made him a badass, not a wimp like Pullman's).

Meanwhile the real God was "hidden in plain sight" walking the earth in the form of a Jewish carpenter, telling people to be concerned with the state of their souls, a spiritual battle with evil, rather than with the physical battle with the titans and the forces of chaos. If anyone walked up to Jesus in my game and asked him where God the Father was, he said "Who looks on me looks on the Father" and would upbraid him for his lack of faith.
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From:fpb
Date:March 23rd, 2010 12:13 pm (UTC)
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That's the problem with Buffy - everything that is supernatural is evil, except for the unexplained snowfall when Angel wanted to commit suicide. But at least there the heroes are fighting for the right, even if they don't realize that there is any supernatural goodness at all. What you see here is basically artistic cowardice: a writer who has not had the nerve to follow her own ideas through to their natural conclusion, because if she did the usual load of ignoramus critics and bookstore owners would have placed it in the "religion" shelf next to the Left Behind stories. But if you don't have the nerve to follow your own ideas to their own conclusion, you should not be a writer.
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From:fpb
Date:March 23rd, 2010 12:16 pm (UTC)
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Oh, BTW - "Gregorios" for Watcher is not Latin. I think it's Greek.
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From:arhyalon
Date:March 23rd, 2010 01:45 pm (UTC)
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D'Oh! Of course! Sorry.

I fixed it.
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