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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

[User Picture]
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!
[User Picture]
From:cdenmier
Date:March 22nd, 2010 05:33 pm (UTC)

Re: Redemption

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Spot on about the angels. Very apt to compare them to vampires.

The popular portrayal of angels, particularly in movies, is one of my big pet peeves. I don't know why, it just drives me nuts. They are not just supermen or demi-gods, they are pure spirit and will unbound by time and space. They are not waging petty wars or vying for the girl or making silly plans to retake heaven; every angel does not give out bland bits of wisdom and every demon does not tempt men with the obvious while wearing a suit and looking like Al Pacino. The business of angels is very serious; their war for creation--for the souls of people--is quite real. There is so much potential there!

I planned to have one, maybe two, brief passages in my novel in which an angel was present. But as I write it, angels and demons keep popping up everywhere. Like background noise, they are fighting the invisible war that my characters are fighting visibly. From quiet thoughts and inspirations to a sudden, violent storm to an actual apparition, I'm starting to think that the main characters in my book aren't who I thought they were. Funny how that happens.
[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:March 22nd, 2010 05:38 pm (UTC)

Re: Redemption

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> I'm starting to think that the main characters in my book aren't who I thought they were. Funny how that happens.


Yeah, funny how that happens.

There are quite a few appearances by angels over the course of the three Prospero novels (only a story about seeing one in the first volume.) I've tried my best to remember that they are awesome...in the old sense (as in my God is an awesome God. ;-) glorious, and more powerful than the demons!
[User Picture]
From:cdenmier
Date:March 22nd, 2010 05:56 pm (UTC)

Re: Redemption

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As author and professor Peter Kreeft would say, there is a reason why angels in the Bible often have to say "Do not be afraid" when they first appear.
[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:March 22nd, 2010 06:13 pm (UTC)

Re: Redemption

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John used to point that out a lot, even back when he was an atheist.

(He discovered Peter Kreeft recently and loves him!)
[User Picture]
From:cdenmier
Date:March 22nd, 2010 06:31 pm (UTC)

Re: Redemption

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Kreeft has a fiction book coming out titled (appropriately enough for this thread) "An Ocean Full of Angels."
[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:March 22nd, 2010 06:40 pm (UTC)

Re: Redemption

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Cool!
[User Picture]
From:baduin
Date:March 22nd, 2010 08:29 pm (UTC)

Re: Redemption

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I have not read your book, and consequently what I write below is not a criticism of it.

In description of angels (and demons) there are two common and radical mistakes, cause by insufficiently careful lecture of Aquinas and Pseudo-Dionysius.

1) Starting with jelly angels of Milton and earler with Gnostics, angels are described as having "ethereal bodies", "bodies of light" etc. It seems difficult for people to understand that angels are pure form with no matter, and have no physical extension. They can manifest a sensorium, can appear to spiritual vision as human-like figures, and perhaps even control artificial bodies (as a kind of remote-controlled robot), but they themselves are immaterial and immortal.

2). Angels are not coldly rational like computers. In fact, they have no use for computer-like logical ratiocination. They learn things by direct revelation.

3) There is also a third, less important mistake: That there is only a few angels. In fact the number of angels is extremely great, and much greater than the number of men.

http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1111.htm
http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1107.htm
http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1059.htm
http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1057.htm
http://www.newadvent.org/summa/1050.htm


http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Miracles/Miracles_003.htm
[User Picture]
From:cdenmier
Date:March 22nd, 2010 11:50 pm (UTC)

Re: Redemption

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#2 is a really, really good point. I find it hard to write realistic dialog with angels--or assign them personalities--without falling into this exact trap.

Peter Kreeft has a great little book on angels set up as 100 or so common questions with answers solidly grounded in Christian teaching yet easy to understand. It's a great resource.

Thanks for the links!
[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:March 23rd, 2010 12:47 pm (UTC)

Re: Redemption

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Aquinas and Pseudo-Dionysius can be fascinating, but they are latecomers. The primary source for Angels are the Bible and the Book of Enoch, from which we know:

1) Angels can be scary.(There's a reason that they have to say "Fear not" whenever they appear.

2) Angels can be physical if they wish--otherwise the Sons of Heaven could not have lain with the Daughters of Men to produce the Nephelim and the angel who would not share his name could not have wrestled with Jacob.

3) Some look like flaming wheels and really weird stuff.

Everything else is spectulation. ;-)
[User Picture]
From:marycatelli
Date:March 22nd, 2010 08:21 pm (UTC)

Re: Redemption

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There's a phrase I use called "The Valley Full of Clouds." Writing a novel is as if you are going off on a journey across a valley. The valley is full of mist, but you can see the top of a tree here and the top of another tree over there. And with any luck you can see the other side of the valley. But you cannot see down into the mist. Nevertheless, you head for the first tree.

Terry Pratchett


Hardly odd to find -- unexpected creatures wandering in the mist.
[User Picture]
From:cdenmier
Date:March 22nd, 2010 11:52 pm (UTC)

Re: Redemption

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Great quote! And very accurate description...writing in that way is probably why many people find it hard to outline whole stories in detail before writing them (and shouldn't feel forced to).
[User Picture]
From:marycatelli
Date:March 24th, 2010 03:45 am (UTC)

Re: Redemption

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Eh? You don't have start building your trail into the valley. You can head out there with a can of spray paint in order to blaze your trail before you actually set about building it. I've met all sorts of wonders in mist while outlining.
[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:March 24th, 2010 01:07 pm (UTC)

Re: Redemption

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Some people can do that...it's amazing. ;-)

From what I hear from writing teachers, about half the writers out there are outliners and the others are not.* Donald Maass says that those who do not often rewrite more--basically using their first draft as an outline--but that the end product can be equally good. Neither group dominate the bookshelves or bestsellers lists.

*-Not merely don't like to outline, but cannot outline. Outliners seem to think non-outliners are lazy, but it is a matter of how the imagination works. For non-outliners, usually once they do outline, they cannot work on that project anymore. It is the fact that the mist is out there, that they don't know what is coming, that makes the writing possible. (To quote Roger Zelazny "Why would I want to write it if I knew what was going to happen?") Obviously, for outliners, that is not an issue. ;-)

Edited at 2010-03-24 01:08 pm (UTC)
Re: Redemption - (Anonymous) Expand
Re: Redemption - (Anonymous) Expand
[User Picture]
From:arhyalon
Date:March 23rd, 2010 12:48 pm (UTC)

Re: Redemption

(Link)
Exactly!
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