[BOOKS] ✬ To Reign in Hell ✶ Steven Brust – Oaklandjobs.co.uk The time is the Beginning The place is Heaven The story is the Revolt of the Angels a war of magic corruption and intrigue that could destroy the universe The time is the Beginning The place is Heaven The story is the Revolt of the Angels a war of magic corruption and intrigue that could destroy the universe. Before you pick this up you should know that it's blasphemous Seriously blasphemous Personally I loved that about it but you might not I'm looking at you people that picketed Dogma and you people that think Harry Potter is the work of the devil You've been warnedIn general I enjoy different takes on creation and theology from classics like John Milton's Paradise Lost and Dante Aligheri's Inferno to contemporary works such as Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens Christopher Moore's Lamb Tim Lahaye's Left Behind and Dan Brown's The DaVinci CodeSo just reading the jacket cover of this I knew it would interest me It started out a little slow and it was hard to relate to the characters in the beginning but once the story got rolling it was a compelling read and it had a mind blowing ending One of my all time favorite literary genressubjects is The Fall from Heaven; I eat that stuff up So I was really excited about To Reign in Hell But honestly I was disappointed in this book There is a lot going for it certainly it's a very novel approach and I like how Brust treated a lot of the characters But to parrot a review that I read online I can't stand a plot that hinges on Big Misunderstandings that are based on people not talking to each other And yes that's the root of a lot of Big Misunderstandings in real life but ultimately it came down to a philosophical difference to put it mildly and I wish that the plot had focused on that Oh where to start? I have to say that I was expecting out of this one It just didn't really do it for me The introduction by Zelazny only raised my expectations too I must say For him to say that he doubted that Brust could pull off what he set out to do but found that he was wrong to doubt and then decided it was good enough for him to write an intro for the story rather than just some cliched blurb for the back cover that made a change to my expectations The beginning started out well with this line Snow tenderly caught by eddying breezes swirled and spun in to and out of bright lustrous shapes that gleamed against the emerald blazoned black drape of sky and sparkled there for a moment hanging before settling gently to the soft green tufted plain with all the sickly sweetness of an over written sentence Nice I liked it so far so goodNow before we go any further I want to make it clear that I have never read the bible Old or New Testaments I'm not a religious person but I'm pretty open minded I think you kind of have to be open minded to read something like this and not have to hose yourself down in Holy water afterwards If you're a believer that is But anyway the point I'm making is that I'm not familiar with these characters on than a Hey that name rings a bell basis Yahweh check SatanLuciferBeelzebub check Lilith not the one from Frasier uhh I'll get back to you But my not being friends with these guys and girls on Facebook isn't super important here as far as I know because I don't think that these guys just assume this to include girls too are very true to their biblical representation One of the angels Harut talked somewhat like a southern waitress What can I get for you honey? Ok honey that's fine just leave the tip on the counter Sure honey one pecan pie coming right up I don't think that's how he'd've talked in the bible I'm sure there would've been a lot ands for one ;Anyway in the beginning beginning there was nothing There was chaos and raw energy and magic in two forms cacoastrum which is destructive and illiaster which is formative Through the magic of flashbacks we're told that somehow from the illiaster was created a consciousness and then form then from that form created another and another until there were seven Here we have Yahweh and the six Firstborn angels Satan Lucifer Leviathan Belial Raphael and Michael This was the first Wave The second Wave hit created some new angels killed some new angels Third Wave same deal With each Wave the new angels created are weaker than the last round This is where the story really beginsSo Yahweh loves everybody He has a plan to create a safe place for angels to live and be sheltered from the Waves that bring life and death with them Satan is depicted as a generally good guy Yahweh's oldest and best friend but just a bit on the indecisive side I can understand that I'm a Libra He's not sure whether the risks for going through with The Plan outweigh the benefits and he's not sure if it's right to push people to do it This is the crux of the story the jumping off point for all of the misunderstandings and miscommunications and discord This is helped along than a little bit though I'll get to that This is also where things start to go downhill for me First I fail to see why a whole NEW environment must be created in order to be safe Why not shore up what you have? This is never explained and seems to be a big plot hole But OK accepting that it's necessary why then not just tell everybody why it's necessary? It's like some big Upper Echelon Secret 'We'll get the peons to do the labor but we won't tell them why' So Satan's not feeling the program and isn't sure if it's the right thing to do Enter motiveless troublemaker to make trouble Check Troublemaker makes trouble confuses matters does what troublemakers have done since time immemorial Yeah the book was this repetitive too OK why doesn't the Big Man say to himself Hmm I just don't get why my oldest and dearest friend would turn on me like this It doesn't make sense Let me go talk to him and find out what's going on Right No story then I'm not a big fan of the whole It was all a big misunderstanding plot device It's sloppy It's annoying Because if characters or people for that matter aren't willing to think for themselves and use common sense they aren't good characters Sure everyone can be fooled but this is over and over and over and over And it comes to a point when I just no longer have the patience to stick by and accept that kind of foolishness Especially not from someone who is supposed to be the omnipotent Creator of existence Overall it just seemed that the good guys here meaning Yahweh and his team were too willing to see ill intentions when they are supposedly innocent of that kind of knowledge Yahweh loved everybody but the first time a friend doesn't show up at his doorstep on time he's like Why does he hate me? Just too many holes in this one for me Speaking of Yahweh's love I did uite enjoy seeing how he eventually morphed into the jealous vengeful God we're used to from the Old Testament stories I would have liked to have seen about thisactually Brust's writing style here was very dialogue heavy and very minimalist in everything else A lot was left up to the reader to fill in Especially during the fight scenes For example here's a fight scene between Michael and Satan If you don't mind let's get on with it I have things to do here and I'm sure you do also SatanAlright try this then MichaelNot bad I see you've learned to aim so that you won't hit the eek ground if you miss You can't keep retreating forever you know I suppose not Tell me Michael will your eh will your sword save you from my emerald?Find out if you dareI will if you'll give me a moment to uh here we go then There Ah I see your sword helped a bit anyway or you wouldn't still be alive I'll be going nowI'll getyouNo doubt Michael no doubt It works although it reads like someone forgot to add the pictures from a too staged Batman comic But yeah it works; I just like a bit meat to my fightscenes Bloody gut strewn messes Not Oh you're killing me Please Sto yawnI will say that the end the very very end was good I liked how the opposition was set up for it to be God vs Satan on earth Pretty clever there But all in all I was pretty let down by this one Gloss on Milton demonstrates that Hell contra Sartre is a self inflicted woundSetting is the formless chaos of Genesis 1 wherein cacoastrum the toxic stuff of formless chaos is transformed into illiaster Unchaotic however our ability to trace this name through its etymology which might well be ‘shit of the stars’ or so Paracelsus otherwise derived the term ‘yliaster’ from hyle matter and astrum for alchemists in search of the philosopher’s stone this is prima materia “The flux creates the essence of order which is illiaster which was the staff of life before bread had the privilege” 11 Is it “Conscious? Sentient? Self aware? Perhaps these things exist only for an instant only to be lost before they can begin to understand” 12 But eventually one random formation of illiaster is born with “an instinct to survive” so it “strives to hold itself together And as it strives cacoastrum and illiaster produce illiaster and consciousness produces consciousness and now there are two” 12 Thus are born Yaweh and Satan who partner amid the flux of chaos and eventually through their labor produce Leviathan Belial Michael Lucifer and Raphael in the first wave of genesisIf the language of this genesis highlighting struggle and labor and consciousnesses seems Hegelian it’s probably something of which Marxist author is keenly aware The Hegelian stuff is fairly plain “Yaweh remembered the beginning how the two of them had perceived each other almost before each had perceived himself” 59 Despite his proclamation in a propaganda speech that “the beginning was when I came to be” Yaweh “wasn’t really aware of the very beginning he couldn’t remember when he had become aware of himself as such” 153 Basic narrative is that after the first wave a second wave of lesser angels was produced by struggle against the cacoastrum Gabriel Lilith Mephistopheles Beelzebub Asmodai Abdiel and a bunch of others; and then an even larger and lesser group was made in the third wave Story opens with expectation of a fourth wave wherein the first wavers debate whether the first wave has the right to coerce the third wave into fighting the cacoastrum in the imminent fourth wave Satan is “unsure” whether the right to conscript exists 15 16 From Satan’s mere doubt springs the principle conflict up to and including civil war Actual rebellion arises much like the consciousness of the principals in mutual recognition with inchoate authority as Yaweh was not the maximum leader initially nor was Satan and his eventual seven samurai rebellious than mere uncertainty might imply Authority thereafter increased in direct relation to the increase in rebellion that it perceived from its center mostly as part of a comedy of miscommunication whereas peripheral rebellions coalesced as they perceived the enhancement of totalitarian authority somewhat achieved through deliberate sabotage on the pro totalitarian sideSome amusing uirks Beelzebub speaks Elizabethan and Ariel speaks only in rhyming verse Abdiel is presented as a scheming loser much contrary to Milton’s presentation whereas the Mephistopheles is Marvel than Marlowe Yaweh presented as interested in the universal welfare but increasingly totalitarian in achieving that end including the creation of the traditional orders of angels thrones principalities c in contrast to Satan as uncertain on whether proletarian third order might be conscripted he is something of a Hamlet one supposes Yeshuah is created as an act of state propaganda at a totalitarian rally and is as a presentation of doctrine heretical to the extent that he is not co eternal with YHWH and is apparently homoiousios rather than homoousios OH NOS arrianism I suppose a close reading could draw out as many heresies here as Milton endorsed in the De Doctrina ChristianaHard for me not to like Brust; he’s charming as a writer and has left politicsRecommended for those who reject the law of heaven persons who see that Yaweh will want to be worshipped whereas Satan will be content to be accepted and readers whose essence of unity meets the essence of sundering whereupon a transformation occurs and oneness becomes disjunction I initially rated this 4 stars but that is not sitting well I love Brust's originality and his lack of fear to take such a well known story and shape it to his own ideals which I think I actually agree with But I thought maybe that was over done I kept thinking really? are these characters supposed to be this stupid? Can they really not see what is going on? The plot moves along due to miscommunications and near misses by deceit and sheer ignorance I guess that might have been intentional but it was just than I could handle in many scenes The world building is very well doneThe beginning was promising the middle was exciting and the ending kind of dropped off which I found disappointing Very few of the characters were likable in any regard Mephistopheles Satan and Leviathan were the main characters that interested me Most of the characters were uite despicable childish and dumb as dirt Yet this book was uniue and I am very happy to have read it I look forward to discovering what else Brust has written 40 to 45 stars A fantastic retelling of the Fall of Lucifer from his point of view An original intelligent and very enjoyable novel 2 12 I was mostly saddened as I read this book I didn't really get a lot of the light heartedness or humor that it's purported to have Some have said that the ending seemed dark compared to the rest of the story but I started being kind of depressed by what was happening as soon as Abdiel started meddling and it just got progressively worse from there and I had no hope for a happy ending because we all know how this story ends Though I was pleased with the ending than I would've been had it gone a few other possible waysI was expecting a lot wit and snarkiness Instead of a waffling Satan I think I was expecting a sort of Al Pacino in 'Devil's Advocate' or Lucifer from 'Sandman' andor 'Lucifer' Still a sympathetic character but one who brazonly chooses rebellion not one who's half tricked and half forced into itI did like that he distinguished between Satan Lucifer and Beelzebub since a lot of stories sort of conflate the names and that always kind of irritates me And Beelzebub was definitely one of my favorite characters though it took me awhile to not get annoyed by his speech I liked Ariel's poetry tooSo yeah I was mostly sad but I was also happy when Yeshua was destroyed even though it was sort of noble I guess because he was almost as big a douche as Abdiel I also sort of wish that the falling out happened honestly without all the behind the scenes machinations Even if Satan wasn't a willing rebel it would've been nice if he disagreed with Yahweh and Yahweh pitched a fit and then it dissolved from there I would've preferred to have both sides be sort of wrong and sort of right on their own without all the string pulling It sort of cheapened the story somehowOh though I was glad that Michael stood on some sort of principle at the end since he disagreed with Yahweh a lot but went along with it anywayI was expecting a bit wit snark sass and mostly I was left feeling kind of sad and disheartened That said it was a uick read and a bit of a page turner so I can't say it was bad it just wasn't what I'd bargained for I thought about 3 stars for this but it honestly had me too captivated for that TRIH was well written but not deeply written The story never really reached its full potential to me It could have been truly epic in scope with the material Brust had to write fromThis seemed like a social comedy It wasn't slapstick silly humor though there was the occasional subtle joke that had me laughing It was written to be very dialogue heavy and the shifting scenes made it a uick readI wasn't disappointed that it wasn't epic It was uite enjoyable and compelling the way it was The characters were drawn pretty well though could have been explored deeply in a longer work There were some scenes and even some characters that I never really understood the need for And the ending was after so much of the book was about anticipating what was to come very abrupt The climax of this book was one that I was looking forward to from the beginning and it left me sort of blah It wasn't bad; the last few pages worked just find It just seemed to go from the final battle to the aftermath with hardly a breath That after it took Satan 34 of the book to decide what to doabout anythingBut that little criticsm aside TRIH was a very enjoyable read It's a keeper one that I might pick up again some years down the road if I want a good not overly serious look at the War in Heaven The story here is too thin to do much to shroud the scaffolding of Brust's politics Add a pile of misunderstandings grown from people failing to speak with each other my least favorite kind of plot and a focus on Christian mythology a subject of no interest to me and you get a book that just doesn't do much for me however smooth the writing Boring juvenile prurient unimaginative flat characters predictable plotting lifeless proseBut on the other hand this work is stacked up against Dante Goethe Milton Blake and a galaxy of lesser writers that have all taken Xtian myth into new and interesting environments To even try your hand at this takes moxieThat it fails miserably is almost to be expectedbut then it is just genre fictionwhich is never meant to be literary or thought provoking in any significant mannerBut stillit is not a book that I would recommend to anyone who wants a good story interesting characters thought provoking ideas etcNOT RECOMMENDED Of course there will be those teenagers mostly if only emotionally that will embrace this book and that's great I hope they find something compelling to inspire them normally it will be those fed up with saccharine Xtianity but I would recommend John Milton's Paradise Lost and Wiliam Blake's The Marriage of Heaven and Hell as a good place to beginbut be prepared these are complex and occasionally opaue works that reuire a serious investment in grey matter to get to the heart of what is going on Oh yes before I forget do not forget to read JW Von Goethe's Faustnow that's a freaky riff on desireBut I always enjoy transgressive works that attack society's central beliefs and tweak the noses of our sacred cows Hambugers anyone??
- To Reign in Hell
- Steven Brust
- 08 September 2015 Steven Brust