Bad Life Decisions: Chapters 7 & 8

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice.

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June 18, 2015

Imperator Furiosa, you are the only one who understands me.

Current totals are $1,545/$2,000–which gets me to page 309 or the end of Chapter 21.  If we can raise $455 more, then we can start working towards this awesome stretch goal. And I’ll have to read all of Theodore Beale’s Eternal Warriors™: The War in Heaven™.

Let’s make this happen!

War in Heaven, Theodore Beale

Chapter 7: Evil Counsel

(musical interlude)

So, yeah. Pretty much nothing happened in that chapter except Kaym lied to his boss about the forecast and Christopher used his extensive Warhammer experience to devise a strategy for a bunch of demons. Christopher also admired Kaym’s armor and rummaged in his robes for his key.

I am trying to understand Beale’s choice to completely skip writing about the battle. There’s no narrative tension in this book at all–we all know how it’s going to end, at some point Chris is going to realize the error of his ways blah blah blah so why don’t we at least get some awesome fight scenes?

As I said in one of my tweets: I am starting to wonder if this thing was edited or not. Because I’m no great shakes at editing fiction, but even I can see glaring flaws in the book. Was Pocket hoping to capitalize on what they hoped would be a religious fantasy trend? Were they hoping to get people who’d read Left Behind to read these? I don’t know.

Then there’s the fact that a lot of this chapter sounds like a scene from Office Space except with fallen angels.


Chapter 8: Breath of the Cherub

The epigraph here is in Latin: Vere magnum habere fragilitatum hominus securitatum dei, attributed to Seneca in Bacon’s “Of Adversity”. I will note that when I googled this, I did not find anything with this spelling and google tried to correct the spelling for me. I don’t read Latin, but I’m willing to bet that Francis Bacon spelled the words right.


(musical interlude, not worksafe)

So there was some fighting here, but not a lot. The big fight between Kaym and the Cherub basically involved the Cherub blowing at Kaym and Christopher and the redshirts with them and Kaym holding up an invisible shield to protect them.

And the way these last two chapters were written were really confusing–Beale uses “angels” to refer to both fallen and unfallen angels, so it’s hard to follow the action and who was stabbing whom.  It turns out that Baal Chanam is a different fallen angel than Lucifer is–I’ve done some cursory googling but can’t find out specifically which fallen angel/demon/false idol he’s supposed to be and I can’t figure it out. I would say just Baal, but Beale is essentially using it as a title (which is not incorrect).

Kaym swears by Dante’s Seven Hells at one point and well. Well.  There are NINE circles of hell according to Dante. NINE. Which two have you decided don’t count, Beale? This is really really basic shit, even people who haven’t read Dante know that there are nine. You fail at basic research.

And I don’t even know if I want to talk about the fact that Christopher turns into a unicorn. A unicorn.

This book is just. I don’t know if I can really properly put into words how lifeless the prose is.  I don’t care about any of the characters, the plot is predictable and there is no sense of urgency in the narrative at all.  All this completely unexpected supernatural stuff is happening and the text doesn’t convey the strangeness or the sensawunda aspect of the setting or characters at all–or, rather, it tries to through Christopher’s reactions, but is wholly ineffectual.  Christopher comes across as completely amoral: you’d think the fact that he’s killing angels would cause him some pause, but it doesn’t. He is taking lives and those lives are meaningless and their ends are strangely non-bloody (a couple folks on Twitter pointed out that the angels poof much like the vamps did on Buffy and that this may have been written before there was much realistic blood in video games).

For a book which is explicitly about religion and specifically a fundamentalist and evangelical type of Christianity, it’s weirdly passionless. Where is the personal relationship with Jesus or references to being saved? There’s hardly been any mention of Jesus and the way Heaven is described, it’s like Beale decided to lift the wackier descriptions from the Middle Ages wholecloth. And everything is literal; it’s not that the Cherubim are impossible for humans to really comprehend, it’s that they actually do have six wings according to the narrative.  I think it’s the bloody-minded literalness of the book that I find the most frustrating. Where is the sense of the numinous, of awe?

Add to that confusing descriptions, constant references to Warhammer, Christopher’s massive sense of entitlement combined with toxic masculinity (which is jarring for me, as I listen to J.D. Robb novels in the car and the murderer in the current one is basically Christopher but ten years older and meaner)…

In conclusion:

sisko facepalm

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  1. delagar

    As much as I am enjoying watching this happen (like a fiction train wreck!), I am so sorry you have to endure it.

    I’m reading His Majesty’s Dragon, by Naomi Novik, which somehow I have managed to miss, all these years. SO MUCH BETTER than Theo’s dull and stupid writing.

    • Natalie Luhrs

      Oh, yes. Those are a DELIGHT. I have Justine Larbalestier’s “The Battle of the Sexes in Science Fiction”, Cixin Liu’s “Three Body Problem”, and Jo Walton’s “The Just City” going on right now. Thinking about getting Ken Liu’s “Grace of Kings”, too. So I’m certainly not lacking for good reading material. Thank goodness.

  2. Sharon

    Some variations in Latin spelling are okay: how classical or how medieval are you feeling, basically. These change the meaning of the sentence enough that it’s hard to construe. “hominus” is nominative, whereas the saying has genitive -is. “fragilitatum” and “securitatum” are genitive plurals in place of accusative singulars (-em). Bacon’s version works out as something like “It’s great to have the fragility of a human, the security of a god.” This version is something like “It’s great to have a man of the frailties and securities of a god,” which is as awkward in Latin as in my English. It’s not quite right, and you’d expect “-que” or some other “and”-type marker if “fragilitatum” and “securitatum” are newly parallel.

    In fairness, minor mods to aphorisms are commonplace in Latinate contexts. (This may be the only time I attempt to rationalize something Beale has written.)

  3. Sharon

    @Sharon: In fact, I’ve messed up my own thing because one’d need “hominem” to make my revision work. The remarks about gen. pl. and so on are right.

  4. hapax

    Y’know, I keep thinking of Charles Williams’s WAR IN HEAVEN — it may be ten thousand varieties of effed up, but it *is* compulsively readable.

    I don’t want to lean too much on minimal data points, but all the religious fantasy I can think of written by Roman Catholics (okay, and Anglicans and Mormons, too, but this fits in with my thesis, wait for it) may be problematic (even loathesome), but is never dull; while that written by Protestants may be worthy, but is just boring*? Even pointing and laughing palls after a while.

    I would suspect it has something to do with the low-church disdain for education (which bestows, among other gifts, practical writing tips) and even more, suspicious of all sensual pleasures. It’s hard to write a gripping fantasy when you are worried that evocative description of scents or flavors, etc. will send your readers straight to Hell.

    *Counter-examples gratefully received

  5. Megpie71

    “And the way these last two chapters were written were really confusing–Beale uses “angels” to refer to both fallen and unfallen angels, so it’s hard to follow the action and who was stabbing whom.”

    This is where a background writing slash or porn might have helped. Good slash, yaoi, yuri or femslash writers quickly learn that when you have two participants in a scene who can both use the same pronoun (or other non-nominative descriptor) doing things to each other, NAMES HELP in determining who did what with which to whom. Means your poor unfortunate reader doesn’t have to go back over the same paragraph three times trying to figure out the dynamics.

    Of course, this would mean he’d have to learn something from either a) fan fiction writers; b) women; or c) non-Americans, which concepts would probably break his brain.

    “There are NINE circles of hell according to Dante. NINE. Which two have you decided don’t count, Beale?”

    I’m willing to bet he doesn’t feel defamation and slander are crimes which deserve being sent to hell (out of pure self-interest, of course). I also suspect he doesn’t really count the fraudulent among the residents of hell, because otherwise his dear old dad might be in for a bad time in the afterlife, and that would never do. Especially since Teddy appears to have swallowed a lot of Daddy’s moonshine before he started making, and drinking, his own.


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