Random Firings of Neurons

The rest of your life is going to be spent getting back up after life has knocked you down again. You might as well just get used to it.

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Location: Round Rock, Texas, United States

Sunday, March 13, 2005

On To Reign In Hell

To Reign In Hell, by Steven Brust, is a fantasy novel about how The Fall of Satan may have occured. I bought the book because I've read most of the Vlad Taltos series by Steven, and enjoyed them immensely. So, picked up this book to see if his other stuff was just as good.

It is.

As Roger Zelazny said in his forward, The Fall of Satan isn't exactly what one would call a "safe topic" to do a novel about. One would have to walk a very fine line to keep from offending a significant portion of one's readership. Milton may have done it, in Paradise Lost, but few would even dare to try and recreate that success. Steven does, and not only walks that fine line between canon and heresy, he walks it, and doesn't stumble in the least.

The central plot of the story is that Yaweh and Satan are basically tricked into The Fall, by a rogue angel. The scheming and plotting that takes place between the two sides is set into motion by an angel that is jealous of Satan. So, he contrives to knock Satan down a notch by setting him up. Events quickly spiral out of control, forcing both sides to openly declare their hostility towards each other, and each side doing what they MUST do, to insure their survival and success.

Yaweh is not a simpleton, nor is he an autocratic ogre. He is a leader who forces himself to look at the greater good, and then forces himself to make the sacrifices neccessary for the greater good. He is so consumed with love for his "subjects" (he's really more of the first amongst relative equals), that he is willing to sacrifice some, possibly many, of them to insure the survival of the greatest number of them. It is a decision he doesn't like, yet, it is one he HAS TO make, because of his love.

Satan, on the other hand, is Yaweh's best friend. While Yaweh was first, Satan came second. So, Satan and Yaweh have known each other for longer than any of the other angels have existed. The act that created Satan also created Heaven and the other angels, so, Yaweh and Satan are the first amongst the angels. When Yaweh asks Satan to do something that Satan doesn't really want to do, it immediately causes strife within the hosts of angels, because if Satan doesn't want to do it, it must be bad, yet, would Yaweh really ask Satan to do something that bad?

None of the angels, with Yaweh or with Satan, are really portrayed in a bad light. They are more like people, who react to situations, AS THEY SEE THEM, in the best way they know how. Mephistopholes, in particular, is a rather enjoyable character, who is quick of wit, and slow to judge. His choice, in the end, is more forced upon him than chosen.

In all, I seriously rank this book right up there with I, Claudius for the scheming. It's not quite as good, but, the characters are more enjoyable, and the scheming is a little better to keep track of. If you like fantasy, or like light theology, or just like a good political scheming tale, I think you will really enjoy this book.

If you are a Christian, it could cause you to look at Satan in a different light, and Jesus as well. Not an Earth-shattering, loss-of-faith light, but, a different way of looking at the two of them. They are enemies, not so much because of any personal animosity towards each other, but, simply because they have completely different goals, and viewpoints, that do not lend themselves to compromise with each other. In essence, they are enemies because they HAVE to be enemies.

If you aren't a Christian, it's still a good read, and will give you a glimpse into why God allows bad things to happen. Yaweh's reasonings for why he allows things to happen is logical, and based on caring, rather than autocracy and dictatorship. I'm not going to say it will convert you, but, it will give you an idea of why God allows bad things to happen.

Semper Fidelis: Always Faithful, to God, Corps and Country