Welcome to Weekend Talk Among Yourselves, where I talk about behind-the-scenes stuff and things that have nothing to do about Avalon or whatever I’m recapping, and you can comment with whatever you want.
Here’s what’s happening on my end:
* Who saw that shameless plug coming? I did. This is also the last shameless plug for a while, because I’m going to be editing the damn thing before posting the back half.
* Some behind-the-scenes stuff: I finished taking notes on The Girl of Fire and Thorns and The Shadow Cats. The next couple months of recapping should go rather smoothly. Honestly, the hardest part of the whole recapping process is the note-taking.
* More behind-the-scenes stuff: I’m debating whether I should post my Goodreads profile, or create a Flickr / Instagram / Twitter account for this site. Post your thoughts below.
* WHOO! HOCKEY SEASON IS BACK! And … I don’t think anyone else around here follows it. Aww. I just made myself sad.
* It’s time for another Book Rant! This time I’m ranting about The Fallen, a YA book series that shares a similar publication history as Avalon: Web of Magic. Fair warning, though: the series contains ultra-violence and abuse towards autistic children. Follow the cut if you want to read my thoughts on the books and a lot of video clips.
Series: The Fallen (originally 1, 2, 3, 4; later 5, 6, 7)
Author: Thomas E. Sniegoski
Reminds Me Of: The Prophecy meets X-Men meets the post-apocalyptic episode of American Dad meets Left Behind.
I really wanted this to be recap bait. Seriously. But this series has a male protagonist in its original run, and no female POVs show up until the back half of the now-expanded series. Also, it’s really freaking violent for a YA series. So unfortunately it’s been relegated to a tiny-ass Book Rant.
A quick note about the series’ publication history: the first four books were originally released in the early 2000s. I remember buying the original run back when I was collecting the Avalon books. Unlike Avalon, this series actually had an ending, and it was rather satisfying. Fast-forward to the 2010s, and suddenly the original run is re-released in two omnibuses, and a sequel series (of sorts) is published! I never checked to see if the omnibus release of the original series was changed; I guess if I was serious about recapping them, or a bigger fan, I would’ve done that.
Anyway, let’s get down to business.
Aaron Corbet used to be an orphan. He lives outside Boston with his foster parents and his severely autistic foster brother Stevie. Suddenly, on his 18th birthday, Aaron gets a massive migraine … and discovers that he can understand every language ever. And by “every language ever,” I mean every human and non-human language. So he can hold conversations with his dog Gabriel now.
Aaron’s social worker thinks that Aaron has some sort of neurological problem. That ends up being far from the truth. Aaron’s actually a nephilim, the offspring of an angel and a human woman. (All angels are male in this series.) And in this universe, being a nephilim is a Very Bad Thing, because that makes him the target of a caste of killer angels called the Powers. The Powers are supposed to destroy everything that is an affront to God, and that includes nephilim. And that’s only because Verchiel, leader of the Powers, heard a Generic Fantasy Prophecy that states that a nephilim will have the power to forgive all fallen angels, allowing them to return to heaven.
Now here’s where things start getting bloody. Or I guess start smelling like burnt flesh, since the only things angels can do in this series is control fire. Whatever. Verchiel believes that Aaron is the Chosen One mentioned in the Generic Fantasy Prophecy, so he leads his Powers on a massive rampage outside Boston. And by “massive rampage,” I mean that they burn Aaron’s social worker alive in his office, kill Aaron’s foster parents in front of Aaron, burn his house down, and kidnap his foster brother.
Now that Aaron has a Doomed Hometown to leave, he departs with Camael, the former leader of the Powers, and Gabriel, who is now sentient after a little magic misfire. Their quest: find Aerie, a sanctuary for nephilim and fallen angels; save Stevie; and learn who Aaron’s father is. (Why not his mother? Because she’s dead, that’s why.) Aaron is briefly sidetracked when he has to free a small fishing town from the grasp of the Leviathan, a Lovecraftian aquatic creature that eats angels. Think a poor-man’s “The Shadow Over Innsmouth”. During this brief adventure, Aaron finds the archangel Gabriel, and learns something about his father’s identity.
While Aaron is out fighting eldritch abominations, Verchiel’s angelic sorcerers use a magical super soldier serum to turn 8-year-old Stevie into the twenty-something angel killing machine Malak. Think Captain America meets Rain Man. Malak then goes on a massive fallen angel killing spree, summoning weapons from hammerspace and just massacring everything.
Also while all this is going on, the Powers find Lucifer, who is now trying to serve penance for causing the war in heaven. I should note that Hell is not a place in this series. No, it’s actually all of the pain and misery caused by the war, all contained in Lucifer’s body. Now with Lucifer captured, Verchiel plans on releasing Hell on Earth because reasons.
In the next book, Aaron finally finds Aerie and meets other fallen angels and nephilim. The only ones you really need to know are Lehash, who is basically Clint Eastwood from Unforgiven, and his daughter Lorelei, the resident magic user. Aaron finally learns that his father is Lucifer, and that Vilma, the girl he had a crush on back in his Doomed Hometown outside of Boston, is also a nephilim. Aaron saves Vilma from the Powers, even though it was obviously a trap.
In the final book of the original series, the Powers find Aerie and attack! And lots of characters die! Aaron even has to kill his foster brother! The Powers almost release Hell on Earth! It’s freaking bloody and stuff! But the Powers are defeated, Verchiel is “killed” by Aaron using his Power of Forgiveness on him, and everything is fine and dandy. Well, except for Lucifer remaining on Earth to train the next generation of nephilim in defending Earth from eldritch abominations. The end.
Okay, I lied. It’s not the end. Fast forward a few months, where Aaron, Vilma, Lorelei, and Lucifer command a small band of nephilim. The only ones you really need to know are Cameron, Melissa, and Jeremy. And they’re important because they live throughout the entire back half. (Jeremy is also mentioned at the very end of the original series, so of course he must be important.) A totally needless love triangle is also inserted involving Aaron, Vilma, and Jeremy. Lorelei learns new spells, but all her spells are cast from hit points, so she weakens significantly each time she casts a spell. Oh, and Gabriel suddenly learns angelic spells because of that magic misfire that made him sentient.
Anyway, it’s suddenly revealed that the Architects, the angels God created to create the world, are trying to cause Armageddon so they can create a perfect world. Also suddenly revealed is the existence of Satan, who is basically a non-corporeal Cthulhu living beneath Lake Vostok. Even more suddenly revealed is Dustin “Dusty”, the blind teenage bearer of the Instrument that can summon the Abomination of Desolation, a massive angel who lives on the moon.
Now, I don’t really remember the order of things that went down in the sequel series, so bear with me. Basically, a sleeper cell of Powers angels is awakened to kill Aaron’s band of nephilim. The neo-Powers are defeated, but half of the nephilim are killed, and the Abomination of Desolation is summoned and severs the ties between heaven and Earth, signalling the beginning of the Apocalypse. Also, Lucifer seeks out Satan, but ends up getting possessed by him and turning into the ultimate evil. Oh, and Verchiel somehow returns because God wants him to serve penance for nearly completing his genocide of the nephilim. So it’s like that time in X-Men when Magneto ran the Xavier Institute.
Also while all this is going on, a Very Important baby is born in England, and Jeremy helps his mother kidnap it. Why? Because the baby is the reincarnation of the human aspect of Metatron, God’s manifestation on earth. Unfortunately, they’re being pursued by agents of the Architects, which are really Neanderthals in Chinese stealth armor from Fallout 3. Jeremy’s mother dies a horrible death, leaving Jeremy to take care of a rapidly aging baby.
In the next book, eldritch abominations roam the Earth, a strange temple rises from the sea a la The Call of Cthulhu, and the surviving nephilim run all over the Earth trying to destroy the Fear Engines, a series of machines that magnify the power of darkness and make a person’s fears reality. Of course, the machines are destroyed, but Satan!Lucifer attacks the surviving nephilim back at their HQ, kills resident magic user Lorelei, and severely wounds Aaron. The rest of the nephilim split up. Vilma takes Aaron back to their Very Doomed Hometown, but they’re kidnapped by Aaron’s mom and a group of fallen angels called the Unforgiven.
But wait! Didn’t I say that Aaron’s mom died? Well, everyone lied! Aaron’s mom faked her death so the Powers wouldn’t kill her. And she joined up with the Unforgiven — who are angels with magitech wings — to help them defeat the Architects.
Oh! Also, Satan!Lucifer rezzes the dead nephilim from earlier and sends them out to kill the rest of our heroes.
In the final book, things really go crazy. Melissa finds a way to defeat the rezzed nephilim by bombarding them with memories of their former lives! Cameron finds an ark filled with nephilim in stasis pods, harvested by an agent of the Architects so the new world would be repopulated with the ultimate perfect creature! Jeremy and the Very Important Baby infiltrate the Architects’ headquarters! Lorelei returns as a ghost! Dustin merges with the Instrument, becomes omniscient, and manipulates all the main characters! Verchiel forms an army out of eldritch abominations who hate Satan! Vilma helps Aaron wake up from a Perfect Ending! Aaron temporarily becomes the Metatron!
All the main characters meet up at the field of Megiddo, location of Jacob’s Ladder, the conduit between heaven and Earth. And there’s a massive battle between Satan and Aaron!Metatron. And then when Lucifer finally gains control of his body, he leads all the eldritch abominations down a fissure to the center of the earth. Very Important Baby then becomes Metatron, Dusty ceases to be human, and together they reforge the connection between heaven and Earth. Heaven literally appears in the sky, and all is well with the world.
In the distant finale, the nephilim settle outside the field of Megiddo after Israel gives them the land. Aaron and the nephilim monitor the world’s safety and the hole outside Megiddo. Vilma is pregnant with Aaron’s babies. Everyone gets magitech. Verchiel and his monster army roam the earth killing evil creatures. And Aaron’s mom moves into the massive hole to spend the rest of her life with Lucifer. The end.
Argh. That was hard to summarize! I skipped over a lot of side plots and other stuff. Anyway, let’s start with the problems I had with this series:
- The writing left something to be desired. I ate it up when I was a teenager, but now I found it rather simplistic.
- The excessive ultra-violence. Seriously, this series is so violent that I doubt I could properly recap it on this site. And though I enjoyed the hell out of it when I was younger, it disturbed me a lot upon second reading.
- What’s the deal with Stevie? He’s an eight-year-old autistic kid who doesn’t appear to attend school or alternative education program. Why isn’t he in some sort of special program? Why doesn’t he have doctors and behavior specialists helping him?
- Sometimes characters are introduced, barely fleshed out, and then killed. This is especially true with the nephilim in the second half of the series. I barely cared when they died, and then when they were rezzed I was like, “Well, this would’ve had more impact if actually gave a shit about these characters.”
- The whole reveal with Aaron’s mother. During the original series, it’s heavily implied that the mothers of nephilim die during childbirth. But in the sequel, you learn that all the other nephilim’s mothers survived giving birth to half-angelic offspring, and it just kind of feels like a massive continuity error.
And here’s all the stuff I liked about the series:
- Gabriel the dog laments his new uplifted status!
- In Aaron’s “perfect future”, he goes to the same university I’m currently attending!
- Lucifer isn’t evil — at first.
- The Lovecraftian elements!
- The surprising number of Portuguese speakers in this series! (I didn’t appreciate this until I moved to Boston and discovered that, yes, you’ll hear Portuguese more than Spanish out here.)
- Aaron actually tries to research what nephilim are when he learns about them!
- Not something I liked, but I thought it was funny there was a character named Dustin “Dusty” because I knew someone with the same name in real life.
- Another funny thing: there’s another nephilim character named Kirk, and he often hung out with Cameron. So I kept imagining both of them as Kirk Cameron. Yeah.
- The most obvious jokes are made! For instance, Vilma notes that Metatron sounds a lot like “Megatron”, and God Himself makes the “what if D-O-G spelled GOD” joke.
- The monster design! This is one of the rare series that makes me want to bust out a sketchbook and draw those eldritch abominations. For instance, the Architect sounds like an awesome thing to draw: it’s head is just an eye, and it has fiery wings covered with even more eyes.
Now, there was also a basic cable TV miniseries loosely based on the books. And by “loosely”, well:
- Verchiel is now female, and she’s killed in the first episode.
- Aaron’s family isn’t killed, and Stevie isn’t turned into an autistic evil Captain America wannabe.
- There’s a subplot where Vilma is kidnapped by a professor who studies angels.
- Lucifer (played by a pre-Breaking Bad Bryan Cranston) is no longer a penitent angel. Instead of wanting Aaron to forgive the sins of the fallen angels, Lucifer wants him to rule the earth at his side, or start Armageddon or something. I guess ABC Family thought audiences couldn’t handle Lucifer being a good guy.
Okay, I admit, I only watched the first episode and the end of the last episode. So I learned about most of these changes from TV Tropes. And I don’t remember if the miniseries was any good.
So, would I recommend the books? Well, if you don’t mind simplistic writing and lots of violence, and if you like your Biblical fantasy mixed with Lovecraftian influences, then this book is probably right up your alley.