I'm reading Tad Williams' DIRTY STREETS OF HEAVEN. Not only is this the latest novel from one of my favorite authors, it is officially the first novel I've ever paid more than $9.99 for, without some kind of asterisk attached1
Williams does a wonderful job building out a recognizable Judeo-Christian angelic hierarchy without necessarily committing to Judeo-Christion affirmation2
. Watching the bureaucracy and power games played out by Heaven and Hell not only against each other but also against their own foot soldiers adds a lot of layers to the book. I wonder how much research Williams did ahead of time and how much is just pure imagination woven together by an expert author.
There is one thing that's nagging at me, though. For all the questions put forth of how this works or that works, what do they do and why do they do it, one underpinning facet of our real life mythology is the understanding of God and the fall of Lucifer and those cast out of heaven that populated hell. That's a very Christian bit of religious mythology and one that isn't questioned in the book at all.
In fact, anyone writing angel stories (and they've exploded the last few years--so much so that I've abandoned my own fledgling idea for an angel story) seems to keep this one line consistent. God created the angels, Lucifer rebelled, there was a war among the angels, and the rebels lost. They were cast down into perdition to burn for all eternity.
But here is this book with all these wheels within wheels and political maneuvering and propaganda. Wouldn't it be interesting if Lucifer hadn't rebelled at all? If the Christian mythos of the fallen angels was all propaganda by the true victors?
There were five archangels: Michael, Gabriel, Raphael, Uriel, and Lucifer. Lucifer was the proudest of the lot and thought himself equal to God3
, so he rose up. But what if that's not true. What if he was the only one faithful. What if the archangels conspired against their creator and Lucifer was the scapegoat. The angels rose up, God was cast out of heaven and imprisoned in a shadowy/fiery pit (depending on your leaning toward the Judeo or the -Christian). The four archangels then spun their propaganda to the various choirs and armies and angels and the story spread. You might have the whole hierarchy of heaven operating on the perverted instructions of a long-absent deity.
And you might have that scapegoat spending the rest of his immortality dealing with the repercussions of everyone thinking him a monster and a traitor all the while he remains faithful and trying to free God from his prison.
I don't know what dealings he would have on earth to accomplish this goal, but that's where the story would likely take place, at least in part. And his name would be Luc. If I ever come up with the larger details of this plot, I will make it into a story.
I paid more for A DANCE WITH DRAGONS, but I split the cost with my wife, so really it only cost me $7. I paid more for THE MAGICIANS AND MRS. QUENT, but I used a gift card so really it only cost me $2. And I paid more for HitRecord.org
's TINY BOOK OF TINY STORIES, VOL. 2, but that's an enhanced eBook and if a book comes with videos, I'm cool with breaking my ten-dollar limit.
The main character at one point makes the astute observation that perhaps their understanding of heaven is only framed in a context that they understand from their experiences as mortals4
and that if they had been Hindu in life, they wouldn't have been given such Judeo-Christian terminology. That was interesting. I'd like to see that explored further.
A number of stories change his motivations to him feeling sorry for the lot humans were given or some other reason for breaking his fidelity to the highest, but originally it was just a matter of pride. One of the seven deadly sins.
I know the author gets to make the rules, but given the various shootings lately and the frequent use of the word angel, the pedant in me feels obligated to point out that angels are separate beings from humans all together and no one alive, according to current religious mythology can ascend to become an angel. That's like a dog aspiring to become a cat after it dies. Sainthood is the highest reaches for a human. Angels are something different. That's why Alan Rickman doesn't have a dick in "Dogma".