Sunday, February 14, 2010

Divine Inspiration

Not too long ago Stewart Sternberg put a post up on his blog predicting the resurgence of angels in popular culture. Literally within a week I started receiving angel-themed books in the mail for review. Who knew Stewart was such a prophet of popular culture? But I can't complain. I love religious themes in fantasy fiction. I don't particularly mind whether the author chooses to follow a path of revering or reviling religion as long as it's thoughtfully done. Stereotypically bashing religion, as Stephen King chose to do in his new book, doesn't appeal because it's too easy. But give me something new and I'm hooked. Currently I have Angelology by Danielle Trussoni in my happy hands and if the rest of the book is as good as the first 150 pages, it could end up as one of my all-time favorites. A thrilling epic about an ancient clash reignited in our time- between a hidden society and heaven's darkest creatures "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 bore children to them." Genesis 6:5 Sister Evangeline was just a girl when her father entrusted her to the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration in upstate New York. Now, at twenty-three, her discovery of a 1943 letter from the famous philanthropist Abigail Rockefeller to the late mother superior of Saint Rose Convent plunges Evangeline into a secret history that stretches back a thousand years: an ancient conflict between the Society of Angelologists and the monstrously beautiful descendants of angels and humans, the Nephilim. For the secrets these letters guard are desperately coveted by the once-powerful Nephilim, who aim to perpetuate war, subvert the good in humanity, and dominate mankind. Generations of angelologists have devoted their lives to stopping them, and their shared mission, which Evangeline has long been destined to join, reaches from her bucolic abbey on the Hudson to the apex of insular wealth in New York, to the Montparnasse cemetery in Paris and the mountains of Bulgaria. Rich in history, full of mesmerizing characters, and wondrously conceived, Angelology blends biblical lore, the myth of Orpheus and the Miltonic visions of Paradise Lost into a riveting tale of ordinary people engaged in a battle that will determine the fate of the world. So far Trussoni's book is outstanding. Mixing scripture with suspense and juxtaposing it with events that occurred during WWII, Trussoni has a real flair for setting up a story. I believe this is her first foray into fiction (her last book was a memoir) and she is a natural. Film rights for the book have already been purchased and apparently a director has already been assigned to the film. I can't wait. Another angel-themed book to cross my path this week is and Falling, Fly by Skyler White. I haven't had a chance to start this one yet, but the good news is that I have an extra copy--so you'll be seeing that in a giveaway soon. In a dark and seedy underground of burned-out rock stars and angels-turned- vampires, a revolutionary neuroscientist and a fallen angel must put medicine against mythology in an attempt to erase their tortured pasts...but at what price? Olivia, vampire and fallen angel of desire, is hopeless...and damned. Since the fall from Eden, she has hungered for love, but fed only on desire. Dominic O'Shaughnessy is a neuroscientist plagued by impossible visions. When his research and her despair collide at L'Otel Mathillide-a subterranean hell of beauty, demons, and dreams-rationalist and angel unite in a clash of desire and damnation that threatens to destroy them both. In this fractures Hotel of the Damned, Olivia and Dominic discover the only force consistent in their opposing realities is the deep, erotic gravity between them. Bound to each other finally in a knot of interwoven freedoms, Dominic and Olivia-the vision-touched scientist and the earth-bound angel, reborn and undead-encounter the mystery of love and find it is both fall...and flight. One recent release managed to sneak in some angelic characters through alternative dimensions; The Better Part of Darkness by Kelly Gay. Atlanta: it's the promised city for the off-worlders, foreigners from the alternate dimensions of heaven-like Elysia and hell-like Charbydon. Some bring good works and miracles. And some bring unimaginable evil.... Charlie Madigan is a divorced mother of one, and a kick-ass cop trained to take down the toughest human and off-world criminals. She's recently returned from the dead after a brutal attack, an unexplained revival that has left her plagued by ruthless nightmares and random outbursts of strength that make doing her job for Atlanta P.D.'s Integration Task Force even harder. Since the Revelation, the criminal element in Underground Atlanta has grown, leaving Charlie and her partner Hank to keep the chaos to a dull roar. But now an insidious new danger is descending on her city with terrifying speed, threatening innocent lives: a deadly, off-world narcotic known as ash. Charlie is determined to uncover the source of ash before it targets another victim -- but can she protect those she loves from a force more powerful than heaven and hell combined? I need to finish this one (I got sidetracked by some books I had to read for review purposes) because it's pretty darned good for your run-of-the-mill paranormal fiction. I'm not sure if the mythology of the off-worlders is explored as much as I would like, but the main character is more grown-up than what I'm used to seeing in this genre--having both a child and real-world responsibilities. I found myself really drawn to her as much as the angelic storyline. A book by Thomas Sniegoski also landed on my porch this week. Sniegoski appears to also be as prescient as Stewart when it comes to resurgence of angels in paranormal fiction as Where Angels Fear to Tread is the third book in his Remy Chandler series. Six year-old Zoe York has been taken and her mother has come to Remy for help. She shows him crude, childlike drawings that she claims are Zoe's visions of the future, everything leading up to her abduction, and some beyond. Like the picture of a man with wings who would come and save her-a man who is an angel. Zoe's preternatural gifts have made her a target for those who wish to exploit her power to their own destructive ends. The search will take Remy to dark places he would rather avoid. But to save an innocent, Remy will ally himself with a variety of lesser evils-and his soul may pay the price... For me, this is a fairly pedestrian series when it comes to an intriguing topic. I tried to get into it but it seemed like it was trying to be a Harry Dresden novel rather than anything seriously exploring its biblical inspiration. If this is any indication, angels might rival vampires in popular fiction before long. I know they outnumbered the vampires this week. But will it be well done? I'm willing to bet it'll be about as reliably well done as it has ever been seen in the past-- which is to say that "Angelology" will probably be the best attempt at mixing scripture with pop-culture as I'm likely to ever see. So while I won't hold my breath, I might cross my fingers in hopes that I'm wrong. Bring on the Seraphim. Which reminds me of another series....


Stewart Sternberg said...

It's hard being a prophet.

I'm more determined now than ever to attack my angel novel. And it won't be divine.

Avery DeBow said...

Well, we all know Stewart is a god. And apparently a jedi.

I'm now very interested in "Angelology" (but more so in reading it than saying it fast three times). I'm not usually one for angel books, but if a subject matter is well handled, I'll bend my mindset to accommodate.

I love the title, "The Better Part of Darkness". It's one of those that makes me wish I had thought of it.

SQT said...

Stewart-- I can imagine the struggle, though I don't suffer from that problem. I can't wait to see what you do with the subject. I think you know I'm particularly drawn to dark subject matter.

Avery-- Angelology (and a tongue twister it is) isn't really about angels as much as their fallen children. Very intriguing.

And I thought the same thing about the title of "The Better Part of Darkness" the first time I saw it. Great title.

Audrey M. Brown said...

This seems to pop up trend-wise in comics a lot too. I think it's an enjoyable one, but like anything else can become tiresome. I for one am kind of ready to move on from vampires for a while.