More by accident than design, other beings are created from the First Wave a term used to describe moments when chaotic force reasserts itself to wreak thoughtless havoc , and after much effort, create through force of collective will a physical boundary outside of cacoastrum, a place where they may survive until the next outbreak erupts. Fascinating is the concept of a force of chaotic energy that threatens survival, the stuff of life deriving from the very eruption of blind violence.
Through the second and third Waves of this chaotic energy, newer generations of beings go ahead, call them angels are created, and in each successive attack waged blindly against their safe haven by the universal flux, victims unable to resist or keep the primal force at bay are destroyed or transformed. A plot driven by desperate need, the pain of mistaken intentions, a growing sense of mistrust, and power thirst unravels with a sleek fluidity that makes the mounting tragic events almost painful oh, but so addictive to witness. Yaweh has a plan to forever preserve his kingdom and fellows.
A noble goal, and one which Satan is asked to aid in. As sort of a celestial foreman, Satan is to ensure that all the younger angels do what is expected of them, handing out discipline to those who defy the plan. Soon the alert reader notices the classical biblical themes of order and rebellion swarming amidst scenes of intrigue and palace-like conspiracy. With the finality and pathos of Tragedy, well placed deceptions, errors in judgement, and coincidence turn friend against friend as revolt explodes like a thunder clap. Losing valuable sleep because the damned bad pun intended thing kept me up, I particularly empathized with Satan, a figure whom Brust makes more lordly than the lord, so caring as to make you feel ashamed at the treachery and apathy with which his old friends most notably God treat him.
Although I knew from page one how the traditional tale was going to end, I had no idea when turning the pages to what a great extent I would empathize with the Devil, cheering him on like a demented cheerleader.
To Reign in Hell
Another is a dog. One of Abdiel 's tricks from experimenting with illiaster. He periodically has to apologize for carrying it too far. All of the manipulation and civil strife in Heaven is caused by Abdiel 's fear of possibly dying during the execution of the Plan. External Retcon Flowery Elizabethan English: Most of the angels speak modern English, but Beelzebub must speak in flowery Elizabethan flavor, like a character from William Shakespeare , due to damage from the Cacoastrum.
Ariel is compelled to speak in some form of verse and rhyme. Foregone Conclusion Gender Flip: Raphael is generally considered male but is female in the novel. Yaweh is the first among the angels, and technically their progenitor as his struggles against the Primordial Chaos caused others to come into existence.
He isn't above the failings his brethren are subject to, including pride and being a poor judge of character. God Karting with Beelzebub: God, Lucifer and Satan all of them, really start out as friends and brothers. Historical Injoke It's Personal: Several people on both sides admit they don't even care about the rightness or wrongness of Yaweh's big Plan to create Earth, but have their own reasons for taking one side or the other.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Mephistopheles, to go with being a Deadpan Snarker. He likes unsettling people in their assumptions about themselves, but often finds he goes too far and has to backpedal because he doesn't really mean to actually hurt anyone. He actually takes it upon himself to be the bearer of bad news to Leviathan, when Ariel is murdered while others are still grieving and trying to figure out what to do about the situation.
Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: During the last Wave, Abdiel was trapped for a time in a bubble of stability surrounded by raging Cacoastrum, coming inches from being destroyed by raw chaos. Now, faced with the possibility of dying during the construction of a new, stable world out in the flux beyond Heaven, he starts justifying every act taken to find a way out from having to ever face the Cacoastrum again, from lying to brainwashing to outright murder. He even ends up trying to start the Fourth Wave just to redirect everyone's attention from him and his misdeeds. Ariel is requested to speak in other than rhyming couplet.
But what we get feels petty bickering that goes way out of control mostly because no one ever learns to how to say "I'm sorry". In that light, the plot functions less as a consequence of tiny things going wrong and adding up to a much larger tragedy and more like a series of plot contrivances designed to get us to an already predetermined point.
To that end, the incident that causes the initial problems more or less comes out of left field, with one angel basically brainwashing another for no reason that is articulated well in the plot, and then a series of stubborn decisions on the part of everyone compounds the issue at hand, when if everyone used their brain for thirty seconds it could have all been talked out in ten pages as opposed to ending up with armies crashing into each other.
In the book's defense the story does pick up quite a bit after everyone starts fighting but the motivations become so clotted as everyone dashes back and forth generally assuming the wrong things that it starts to operate on the level of farce. It doesn't help that large chunks of prose are conveyed through pure dialogue and none of the angels other than Beelzebub, who talks like a refugee from a "How to Write Convincing Shakespeare" workshop have distinctive enough speech patterns that to make any of them really stand out.
For the most part they have one personality and stick to it. But the end result feels more like a first draft than anything else, or some kind of Satanic fan fiction. As I said, I'm not sure what point Brust was trying to make with this. It never feels like a vaguely subversive take on creation myths, like a Biblical version of "Wicked" and while it may have been innovative for the time, years of stories depicting Lucifer as a shaded and somewhat misunderstood character have resulted in stories like this becoming the norm, to the extent that if he really wanted to be subversive, he would have written a story where God was right all along.
Steven Brust’s To Reign in Hell
Instead, he insists on "The Plan" so often you expect Built to Spill to show up, so a wacky series of misunderstandings results in Satan taking his fiery ball and storming off to Hell in a huff, a completely unnecessary outcome that the book paints as the picture of inevitability. But none of the characters ever seem to come alive in a way that can make their individual tragedies resonate with us, and instead of personifying human emotions and hope writ large and their continued existence in stories throughout the ages probably points to our ability to create people-shaped metaphors for all the forces of life that we're incapable of explaining, like Batman and the Joker, but with halos they come across as a bunch of people hanging out in a vaguely mystical zone that happen to share the same names as a bunch of famous Biblical characters.
The misplaced arrogance and tragic implacability of those involved comes across far better in other, superior works, like the the Lucifer of Neil Gaiman's "Sandman" series and Mike Carey's interesting take in his own solo series , managing to feel both epic and intimate, ancient and contemporary, whereas here it feels tossed off, like an idea that was never fully developed.
It's one of those things that you would ordinarily want to avoid recommending to the extremely devout for fear of offending a sensitive nature unless the title is just a nonstarter but the truth is there's little here they'd recognize and if you were looking to stir up controversy and trouble at your local Bible study group then you'd probably have to worry less about them chasing you away with pitchforks and more about being accused of not having very interesting taste in fantasy literature.
Apr 03, Eveningstar2 rated it really liked it. Like Zelazny, who wrote the foreword to this book, I didn't think Brust could handle it. A story about Satan's rebellion against God? There were so many ways this book could fail. It held together with a kind of chaotic intricacy, a huge mess of a plot that somehow holds itself together by virtue of its author's skill and ends with a gratifying finale. Brust doesn't take any sides here.
This book is not a thinly veiled postmodernist attempt to destabilize Chri Frustrating and brilliant. This book is not a thinly veiled postmodernist attempt to destabilize Christian theological norms, or an attempt at trendy irony by painting Satan as a protagonist. It is a meditation on humanity, and its cast is aggressively human in every possible way. Satan kind but marred by indecision and a tendency toward philosophical meandering. Yaweh loving but blinded by his own love. Raphael kind but passive.
Michael strong but lacking vision. Zaphkiel a visionary but lacking purpose. Abdiel a massive bastard. There is a real honesty to this book, and I respect that. The characters here are honest. The narrator does not smirk at the reader. There is good and bad in everyone. To that end, Brust's novel--and I hesitate to give it any real label--draws some inspiration from Neoplatonism.
To Reign in Hell - Wikipedia
Angels are not two-dimensional embodiments of virtue with a natural predilection for playing harps, but archetypes for human beings. They're super-human, saturated in humanity, with all the feelings and passions of you and I, but magnified. The plot itself is structured like a tragedy of circumstances, almost Greek in its tragedy, driven by epic levels of hamartia in its characters. No one is without fault save perhaps for Harut, whom I love , not even Satan. And no one is truly wrong, not even Yaweh.
It is a meditation on law and chaos rather than good and evil. On bad things from good intentions and good things from selfishness. I had one issue with the book which kept me from giving it a full five stars: Can you have a Deus Ex Machina in a story like this without being intentionally or otherwise ironic? Either way, it felt like a cop-out to me. Nonetheless, I enjoyed this book. I was frustrated with it at times. Frustrated because--God, how could these characters be so stupid?
How could they not see? But then I realized Brust was taking me along for the ride. Frustration and gratification are intermingled here. This is not a book about atheism and theism. This is not a book about Satan and God and Jesus. This is a book about order and chaos, about the Gods of Iliaster who slay the Titans of Cacoastrum.
Chaos creates order by rebelling against itself; order resists the encroachment and chaos and grows, but in doing so, sows the seeds of its own disunity. Entropy destroys order and the cycle recapiculates. Saturn devours his children, who then break free of him. Heaven emerges from the primordial chaos, only to break apart, and then rebuild itself. It is eschatology and creation myth. Feb 01, Jesse rated it it was amazing Shelves: It made me think. Seldom do I find a book that makes me think, and allows me to picture heaven in the following way: Yaweh To Reign in Hell took a fictional story we thought we knew, and turned it on its head.
Excuse me then while I go part that ocean over there so that talking, burning bush can get to the other side without getting its leaves wet--whereupon it will still be held in higher esteem than any Rating: Excuse me then while I go part that ocean over there so that talking, burning bush can get to the other side without getting its leaves wet--whereupon it will still be held in higher esteem than any woman, despite the fact it is a fucking bush. Brust reversed the roles of Satan and God somewhat; Satan the unintended martyr without the death part , and God the power-hungry, self-created-image-obsessed, morally-bastardized angel who may or may not have come first and accidentally created the other angels.
I imagine, if he did, it went something rather like this: Let there be angels! This novel made me consider not religion, but people and the things we do that are terrible and wrong, telling ourselves all the while that we act for the greater good--the lies, the wars, the deaths, the betrayals; all of the "justified" evils. I loved this novel. It may be joining my "favorites" shelf very soon.
Jan 04, Duffy Pratt rated it liked it Shelves: And given Brust's politics, that makes Satan the doomed hero. There's much that is clever and likable here, but it wasn't profound, nor and much worse was it a lot of fun. There were some wonderful moments, and Brust leans very heavily on history having been written by the side of the winners. The main problem I had is that none of the characters were very interesting.
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But I think that's also a problem with the source material, so I don't count that too much against this fanfic. Milton had similar problems, and managed only to make Satan interesting, and his take on this stuff was much less fun while, in my opinion, not being much more profound. Brust also leans very hard on two devices that I don't like. One is having conflict rise from a failure to communicate.
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And the other is the device of having characters meet to make plans, and then hiding the plans from the reader. Both appear here in abundance. I loved the idea that Satan's pride stemmed from his refusal to lie in the service of Yaweh. And I enjoyed the blasphemous portrayals of Yaweh and Yeshua. But, for me, this is the worst of the standalone books that I've read by Brust. It was still good, but if it had been the first thing of his I had read, I doubt I would have ever made it to the really good stuff.
Feb 11, John rated it did not like it Shelves: When I saw this book, I immediately bought it because the concept seem like a "can't lose" proposition. It started OK, but then just got slower and slower. I kept thinking, "Put this turkey down. But no, what if it gets better? It never gets better. The primary action in the story appears to be shrugging. It is by far the most prevalent verb. The word shrug is probably used about 80 times I'm being conservative in my estimate. And that that about sums it u When I saw this book, I immediately bought it because the concept seem like a "can't lose" proposition.
And that that about sums it up. Lot's of pointless dialog between chatty demons, lots of indecision, and tons of shrugging. Epic conflict between Heaven and Hell? Not here, my friends. By the boat load. Spend your hard-earned dollars elsewhere. Apr 15, D. Logan rated it really liked it Shelves: This book didn't keep my attention as well as the Taltos Series by this same author, but it was interesting to read. It was definitely a unique take on the war of heaven. All of the ties to what we know where there, but in a unique way that made it into it's own unique story.
I imagine there are some who would be offended by the book, but if you read it as the pure fiction it is, it makes for an entertaining read. Jan 23, Kevin Dobill added it Shelves: Not what you'd expect exactly Great creation story, great concept of how all could come into existence. Feb 13, MichaelK rated it it was ok Shelves: Brust's book is a fantasy novel set in Heaven, before the creation of Earth. Brust's Yaweh is not omniscient or omnipotent; he is the first of the Firstborn Angels, not a god. Heaven is a fragile island in a sea of chaos; Heaven's inhabitants are constantly worried about the chaos beyond the walls, which threatens to destroy them all.
Yaweh comes up with a plan - the creation of Earth - to save the angels from chaos, but it transpires that many angels will have to die to carry out the plan. The ideas in the novel have a lot of promise, but the execution is so irritating and disappointing. It feels like an early draft, an unripe fruit, a story born too premature from Brust's mind-womb. The plot is carried along by Big Misunderstandings and Communication Failures.
The war could have been avoided if the important characters actually spoke to each other a little bit more. Without speaking to Satan, Yaweh decides that his best friend is definitely out to get him. As the misunderstandings build up, the plot becomes irritatingly farcical. The characters are not developed. This review compares TRIH to a high school drama: Add to this underdevelopment the fact that some of the characters have irritating gimmicks.
Beelzebub is a golden retriever who speaks in Elizabethan English for no reason "Methinks all is not well, milord. Ariel is an owl who speaks in rhymes "O mighty one of the salty sea, word has come you've need of me. Harut speaks like an American waitress "Sure, honey. It often feels like Brust is trying very hard to be hilarious. The dialogue is irritating: Like the poor character development and plot progression, it makes the story feel like a high school drama: But everybody is supposed to show up. When reading, our mind converts the words we read into a movie in our heads, sort of.
For sake of argument, assume that a page of the book would be 1 minute of screen time in an adaptation. Chapter 12 of TRIH is Imagine how irritating all these transitions would be; imagine if Game of Thrones switched between characters this frequently: This novel is so irritating. Despite all this, I did manage to finish the novel.
All the way to the end, I was tempted to give up. But I was curious where Brust would go with it; there are moments in the novel which suggest that if it had been redrafted a few more times, been left to ripen, been kept in Brust's mind-womb for a bit longer, it could have been spectacular.
I would love a novel which retells the War in Heaven myth as the story of Heaven's transition from a quasi-egalitarian society to a military dictatorship, but where both sides are treated sympathetically: That was what was so hard to come to terms with. We don't wish to be, but to do what we have to do, we must tell, not ask.
And to tell the angels to do something, we must be ready to back up our words with force I had to either abandon the Plan or become a tyrant. I have decided to oppose Yaweh's plan. I think he's wrong, and dangerous, and the events of today have proven it. I mean to oppose him. I wish to see him cast down from his Palace, and I wish to see him no longer able to force his will on me, or the hosts of angels who are now under his dominion.
At best, it is worth reading as an interesting failure. For enjoyment, Anatole France's The Revolt of the Angels is more successful and enjoyable, and Milton's Paradise Lost is one of the best things ever written. Jun 23, Amanda Roelant rated it it was amazing Shelves: I knew from the very first line this would be something special, "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.
This was so well written, and it made me sick with how well it articulated the total absurdity of war a WOW.
This was so well written, and it made me sick with how well it articulated the total absurdity of war and how needlessly complicated things get with high emotion. Aug 07, Audrey Crompton rated it really liked it. Very slow moving in the beginning, both with plot and world building. Once the action picks up, the book really becomes a page turner. Clever writing and a mostly fun read. Sep 30, Jake rated it it was amazing.
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