Eta Cancri

I just finished Eta Cancri by Russell May. It was, surprisingly for an author who was not on my radar before, an excellent read chock full of delicious theology. It was a treat, to be sure. The characters are living and breathing with distinct personalities. The descriptions are on point. The science is a good medium-hard, with just the right amount of give for philosophical and theological conversations the teeth they need to grow. Ah… that more stories which pride themselves on science and philosophy would take this route!

The book switches through various characters’ POV. My personal favorites were Ed and June, along with the AI Archie. Each one has a solid voice and drive that breathes life into this book more than could be expected. Indeed, books that switch perspective live and die on this sword. I could tell that the POV shifted through the author’s choices in word play, character focus and other hints almost instantly.

The conceit of the story, which involves demonic possession, bacteria and genetic modification, was well done and quite unique to this author from my experiences. Though I have experimented and read up on demonic possession and stories about it, this is the first time I’ve seen it used in such a broad and interesting way. Nothing triggered any sort of violation of the suspension of disbelief. It holds up the story incredibly well. This is dreadfully important in this genre as Russell did it. If the suspension of Disbelief is violated, then the entire book will fall over itself and the threads that he depends on to carry the story forward logically will be lost, unable to be gained back.

Though there is no part of the story I groaned at the reading of, I did feel fatigue about halfway through on chapter 3 or 4 (?). The story before and after focuses on multiple characters, the evil of the Demon Legion, the science, philosophy and theology mix and POV shifts. This middle bit has nothing that really sticks out too hard. The story sticks to Pierce the techno-everyman and doesn’t shift too much. There’s just too much dialogue and not enough cool stuff to give us a rest between theological questions. Not that I was exhausted by the questions, I just wish the heady brew was cut a little with soda. Even a bit where Ed deals with his crazy and preps for the ship coming in, or June sees something which heightens our horror at the actions of Legion would do much for the pacing and general interest. I’ll point out that Ed has no reason to not succumb or struggle with Legion’s influence and a decent POV could have been written comparing and contrasting his belief in Dame Fortune and the belief in God, which is touched upon later but not to my satisfaction.

I’ll point out that, theologically, what we call Dame Fortune is the Will of God. That the saved man has free will is not something I debate or question. I question how much Dame Fortune impugns it. (I use Dame Fortune as a conceit from the story. Mentally, I use the term ‘Fate’) Does a belief in Fortune change how free will operates as we continue in Christian Free Will or Willfulness Against God? I think that there might have been an excellent few points to be made there between Ed and Father Justinian, more than was done in story. Though, there is a sequel in the cliff hanger, and I will be purchasing it as soon as it comes out.

I also wanted a little more debate on the nature on Transhumanism. I am not fond of it, as I believe that the body has the critical mass to keep the soul ‘Human’ and that, at a certain point, the ‘I as I’ that is ‘You as you are’ becomes warped into something that could be described as ‘ME’ 2.0. Also, what is morality to someone who is neither permanent or baseline human? (Though those points are touched on) June seemingly has no contrast in character, but rather is June personality as June soul is June without much debate despite much lycanthropy. Various ideas are presented with authority, but I don’t feel it is earned. The matrons producing ubermenschen in the asteroid belts are not properly repudiated in a manner that I call an argument. Rather, it is just presented as wrong. I dig, but I’m really hoping for a similar thing to Ed in the sequel.

I’ve not gone into the plot because it’s quite simple. A colony goes dark and a ragtag group of cyborgs, everymen and mercenaries go to figure it out and cleanse with fire whatever’s in there. Just about right, really. You don’t need fancy pants intrigue for stuff like this. Most of the characters are moral, upright and probably one of the best portrayals of Christians I’ve seen in Science Fiction. I’m sorry John C. Wright, but sort of randomly turning Mickey the Witch into the Space Pope of the Seventh Humans because of his wife without a redemption scene just doesn’t compare to baptism after flamebroiling demonic abominations with improvised explosives created by a literal Biblical evil. But it’s different scopes. That scene doesn’t compare to the Cathedral of Luna in the 4th book of Count to Eschaton. Ahhhh it’s perhaps differences in scale. But I’d be very interested in talking with Russel May some time to break down what he believes and what his reasoning is.

I wanted MORE, if you could believe it. I find that I have a hard time reading philosophy directly, so I have a better time consuming it if its regurgitated through literature, especially when the author provides examples within the story to provide a more definite framework for the reader to investigate. It really does wonders for the most artistically inclined philosophers, who may not be able to as readily read the great works directly. Of course, this assumes the reader is able to properly manage things that are presented vs. their origin points. Counter and counter-counter is appreciated through the characters of Archie, Father Justinian and even Legion. Legion’s absolute Nihilism is well presented without the usual tropes in plain evidence. There’s always a fresh horror from him. His unfetteredness and nihilism make an excellent baseline for the ‘evil’ of the universe. Nihilism is a hell of a drug, kids, and leads to madness.

I also think the book is missing a carnival scene. But then again, I’m a sucker for them. I also wanted more crazy bomb stuff fight scene flip outs from Michaud and Lars, but ah.

The combat scenes are fresh, well done. The weapons properly treated with excellent extensions of characterization through them. The creativity that Russell displays drives the story forward with brazen steps. Lar’s and the rest of the characters’ spirituality treated so delicately as to be art. Ah! There are few flaws and many boons to reading this book!

Overall this book is mos defs a purchase soft-cover, maybe hard-cover kinda book. Sadly, there are only kindle copies available at this time. It is worth a read! It is SUPERVERSIVE. I hope with fervent prayer that we are coming to an era where the dominant voice in Sci-Fi is Christianity! If Russell May joins the luminaries of the Superversives, Castalia House and others, shall not the glory of God be expanded in this genre of atheists, science worshippers and deviants?  DEUS VULT!

Environmental Hazards and Way Cool Posing!

Or: Why I feel conflicted by Mudras and Mandalas from the Vindication of Man .

In the Vindication of Man, several characters do battle through the use of Mudras and Mandalas. Now, before I say anything, the battles fall under “Way Cool” class literary tropes. For me, I’m perfectly fine with a fancy way for fight in the way cool sci-fi future. However, the problem is that some of them can be far to complex, unnecessary or any number of things that can suspend disbelief.

John C. Wright, the luminary of Science Fiction and my favorite author, wrote the Vindication of man about November. Sadly, I’ve been unable to write the review yet, but I will. In the story, one of the characters – who I will call Stranger-  has a series of fights with a mercenary band. In those fights, and a little before and after, various characters employ mudras to handle internal neuro-tech that they’ve all been emplanted with. Mandalas are also used as signs and information filled visual viruses to affect the viewer.

Now, there’s ways to use them offensively or defensively.

Offense Mudras: Make a gesture, and the victim’s neurology views the gesture and things happen based on the power put through that gesture. So, I’m fighting a metalhead. The metalhead uses the goathorns and headbangs. I have no defense to it! This overrides my nervous system and I start headbanging to a beat I can’t hear, or my body is fooled into thinking a metal concert is going on right now and I can’t see or hear anything but what I’m fooled into. I believe that there are also ways to cause physical harm.

Defensive Mudras: Make a gesture on yourself. You were once scared of that metalhead, now, you feel calm, like listening to Bach after a AC/DC concert. Now, the text implies that this is a dangerous technique to use on yourself, but the consequences are not touched on. Consider that forcibly changing your personality may cause irreparable harm to yourself as you in this base reality. I’m not talking about the soul, which cannot be destroyed, but how you view the world as your body brings in the information and how you bring out that information through your actions.

I’ll focus on Mudra’s for now. Mandalas will be covered later.

Now, something that I can’t really get the reasoning of, is that why would you want mudra’s in your body’s base programming? Is there a benefit not laid out or touched on by the text? Personally, besides the fact that I like I as I interacting with the world as I am, (though I have a hope that I as I will be improved in heaven for ‘I as Ideal I’ which I will talk about at a later date) I don’t like the idea that someone may be able to mess with me, even subtly through a mere gesture.

For an example in story, a literal monumental sphinx makes a gesture like an egg or a jewel, which calms down everyone after a hilarious scene. Now, let it never be said that Xewleer does not appreciate a good take on a modern sphinx, but I find it odd that just about everyone or everything has the ability to use mudras or the inanimate objects could have a mandala.

It’s akin, in my mind, to a backdoor opening on a server farm that everyone knows about and can use. The Stranger in the story has multiple personalities within one body. He modifies them with Mudras and they are affected by Mandalas. While the idea of having multiple personalities in one body works great, are all of them equally affected by mudras? One personality dies to protect him from seeing a mandala. I don’t see how this doesn’t destroy part of his ‘I as I’ ability to interact with the world?

Perhaps the stranger is too complex a first case. The problem is that the Mandalas are unused all of book 4 (that I could tell) and only used in one story in book 5. Now, because of the scales potential in book 6, I do not see how they could be used again. I won’t spoil the cliffhanger. But it’s a doozy. The kind of doozy that settles a space opera potentially to everyone’s satisfaction. But my writing intuition tells me that it’s highly unlikely that we’ll see them again. It feels like it might be forced in if we do. I wouldn’t recommend it.

Now, when Call of Duty or Battlefield bring out a trick for their players, it’s usually used for one mission, then forgotten or only brought up again once or twice at prearranged times. They are criticized for this. I worry that such a cool trick used, will never be seen again. Now, this trick can be unnoticed if you change environments, but the change has to be, for example, from Cyberpunk space Elevator to future Arabic Mars. It keeps a sci-fi theme, but it jumps across so far that it is reasonable not to see the same technology or villains/side characters.

In another way, I would recommend everyone to check out Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure. One of the jokes about it is that it’s 50% posing. Now, observe. This is demonstrably cool. Read the manga and watch the anime. Google search it. It is the coolest thing ever! It’s literally why I started reading Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure in the first place! Mudras are WEAPONIZED POSES! It almost made me want to go crazy. It wasn’t as awesome as the Cathedral on the Moon or the duel with Jupiter, but damn was it awesome. All of a sudden, POSE! You are afflicted with a status ailment or something! AND IT”S ONLY USED IN ONE PART. I’m going crazier! Bah!

Now besides the potential scene change, I will discuss a way to ease them in and make the reader go “Ooooh you scamp, you’re teasing us with something super cool to show up in the future, you rascal you!” Now, I won’t pretend to tell JCW his business, but it bothers the heck out of me! It’s literally one of those things I go back to think about, and how to use them myself. Why don’t the main characters use it? Why don’t they show up all over the place in late late parts of book 4? Fox Maidens wouldn’t exactly care about cleaning up old mandalas, I’d think.

Mandalas are different, but similar. They are designs imbued with some energy that affects the nervous system. For example, some mandalas can be placed to security points to guard against meddling or from people seeing it. Or, offensively, they can be used to push out intense and complex designs to destroy the person they are directed against. Perhaps they push out a self-destruct sequence of the body/soul interaction? I am unsure.

Now Mandala’s I’m actually fine with over all. They are a more advanced land mine for the brain. I believe the SCP foundation would call it a Cognito-hazard, if I can communicate more easily to my readers.

Mandalas and other, similar techniques are an excellent way to add another layer of danger to any interaction. They are similar in tone to the colors of a poisonous serpent or a Magician’s coat of many colors. For example, if you put a ring of light about something, it shows off the same effect. Also, a shadow that’s far too big for the person casting it. Or a warping behind them, like a haze. Smoke, fog, hail of meteors, starlight through the clouds, witches’ brews, lightning and many other environmental hazards also have that a danger to the hero. A fairy mist may bedevil, a witches’ brew can poison, Meteors are a very interesting environmental hazard and Lightning is always great for drama! AH that they were used so sparingly! Not that there needed to be a mandala everywhere, but a little more judicious application would have been so nice.

Now, in story and in mention, the pair are only important once. Now, Norton of Rosycross from the fourth book is cut off from the Future Internet called the Noosphere, where you can upload your entire brain to the web. This means it’s reasonable that he isn’t affected by the Cognito-hazards of the future modern living. But that does feel like it’s begging the question, if the Mudras and mandalas have been around, in the glossary, for thousands of years before book 4, but why was there no mention of them at all in story? Did I miss a singular mention? Was the fact that Norton of Rosycross disconnected from the internet enough to make him immune? That strikes me of being very convenient. Now Norton is a great character, and the Stranger has grown on me, but still, why was the Stranger with all his defenses and willpower to the point he can figure out Fox Maiden manipulation, less able to defend himself against the Cognito-hazards than Norton? He seemingly ignored them, or was clever enough to talk his way out of being tricked by Fox Maidens later in the story. Early on he suffered misfortune, but no mention of mudras or mandalas are mentioned. Were the Mudra’s and Mandalas added later on to the Glossary and timeline?

Now, they didn’t need to saturate the story, but I think that once per tale, or at least mentioned in some way. For example, using characters from book 4.

The squire averted his eyes from a wall displaying a mandala designed to suggest that they were hungry and buy a certain food advertised next to it, now long out of business. The mandala was a subtle thing, mostly rubbed out by time, but still enough power to keep it active.

“Ah! A mandala, they are unable to used on Terra, mostly because of the madness in the noosphere. Besides, the laws of the Kings of the Long afternoon only permit them or their agents to use them any more. Such a thing is a rarity in these days. You must not be used to them, from being in space for so long.” And then the character can talk about it for a paragraph or so. “I cannot use them because of my disconnection from the noosphere. Not that I ever wanted to.”

Not that I’m criticizing JCW’s writing skills, but I do feel that, somewhere, there is a misstep that causes a bit of a trip up when first introduced. If I recall correctly, the original editor passed away suddenly, which is a damn shame. Perhaps that’s when the new fellow took over? I wouldn’t be surprised at all.

Nor am I saying that the fights aren’t awesome and well developed. I suppose my thoughts on the matter is that this is a fantastic tool which we won’t see used again. OH wow! Oh BABY! and back into the box it goes, never to be seen again. Oh maaaaannn…

The Superversive Blog

Hello, I know this blogs been pretty dead for the last year and a half. My apologies. I fell to a trap of personal peace and affluence. I am going to revive this blog and post more. I plan on starting in February, as I’m still catching up from some personal stuff for the last half year or so.

Until then, enjoy this blog:  I’ve been following it for a while and they’re good people and good writing.

Deus Vult!


Review: Somewhither by John C. Wright

I loved this book. Five stars.

This book is fantastic. The descriptions next to flawless. I never once thought, “Man, I have no idea what’s going on” or “Man, I wish I knew whether those giant winged statues are gilded or not.”  They are. The characters are great, personality oozing off of them so that they all become distinct and memorable, even the German archer ninja in the fourth quarter. They are all unique and driven.

The Plot itself and its vehicles are art. The debates of fatalism/quantum choices vs free will are answered here in a most wonderful way. Evil and good, and their adherents are given voice and in suberb style, they are given voice and power against both the protagonist and the reader. Not only are we given a choice between higher and lower natures, but that each give powers according to THEIR nature. And so on. Catholicism is very present, and in a universe of ‘active’ powers, becomes a fantastic argument for the ritual to focus faith on what is true.

SPOILERS. Oh, man, you are free to continue, but spoilers await. Will you work to your higher natures, avoiding the risk of great spoilers and a deconstruction of this piece even as I praise it? Buying it on amazon here Or will you read it and thus be so satisfied to never buy it. I visited a witch-woman in an alley in an unnamed suburb who says that you will. Defy your fate and buy the book! Then return.

The book begins with Ilya and his father. It is revealed that his mother is gone, his Father does business with Vatican black helicopters and his brothers are somewhere in Italy. He is stuck here pining for Penny Dreadful (Ah, what a name), whose mad scientist father needs him to pick up an interdimensional portal and bring it to him without activating it. His father gets this out of him, has Ilya take an oath and give him a father’s blessing. Ilya drives out on a jeep from God’s own street races to shut down the machine.

There he sees Penny Dreadful in the basement and holds the machine and she accidentally turns it on. Or purposefully. Ilya shoots down the portals that come out. One gets past him and, before he could shut this one down too, he gets sucked in. In a giant sea of ‘uncreation’, he attempts to get out. Penny shuts down the portal before he can, but not before he’s able to hitch a ride on a train between dimensions. He is stabbed and revealed to be immortal of the Wolverine variety, as well as being unkillable in general.

He is put into prison, designed with a hole in the middle which he can jump out at any time to futilely escape. There are spikes which expand and retract randomly to stab him, and a hole at the top to torment him with escape. He meets Lord Ersu, or rather, Slaughterbench in English. He is the high astrologer here, and it is revealed that all are slaves to fate and the stars. All actions are predicted celestially and will and fate subject to prediction by those stars. They threaten Penny, who they captured, with torture unless he submit to them, which he will eventually, and do great evil for them, crushing the last of their enemies. Ilya defies them, and attempts escape one last time.

He fails but is eventually released by Abby, a ninja who is invisible to the stars. Rules for being invisible to the stars, acting on your higher natures, is discussed while he pulls himself together. They are separated after combining to save Abby’s teacher and Penny, which are indexed in one of the hall of records. They are separated in a fight, and Ilya comes across a revengeful mummy, who gives him a flail with powers over uncreation to fight the dark tower. He meets an engineer, who convinces Nanaksu, a member of a headless species of man in the dark tower, to take him to an appropriate level. Ilya is stopped for questioning, being naked, with Nanaksu. He escapes because no one thinks he’s immortal and kills him. Freeing Nanaksu, they decide to head to the hall of records where Abby was headed.

They meet up with her again, with her master, Ossifrage, who can make people levitate. The group are told where to go by Penny’s familiar, her falcon.  They fight, then spare some ear-winged men who go to stop them because they summoned the falcon and head out through the secret tunnels that interlace the Dark Tower. Coming, eventually, to the ‘fated’ weapon storage, where they get another member to the party, Ilya’s old friend Foster Hidden. They get the sword, kill some mooks, and armor up for the finale.

They find Penny in a harem with a bunch of other girls from all worlds conquered by the Dark Tower. The guardians have already been killed by Penny, who is stuck in the harem via a collar of living metal which will strangle her should she stray too far from the chambers. Ilya sends the group to get a life draining vampire they captured earlier while he remains to guard the harem against capture. He fights one of his own world, another immortal, and defeats him by tricking him into crashing into a gate made of liquid pain. Penny keeps him down until the vampire shows up and they ‘kill’ the immortal by having a vampire eat him. They then use the vampire to free the Harem girls. And escape. However, the Dark Tower predicted this and heads them off with their Capital Ship, which houses Slaughterbench and The King of Heaven and Earth, general of all Dark Tower forces. Ilya defies them and causes the escape of the group, harem and all. Ending the first book!

This is, of course, by memory. It is unable to properly show the great amount of the care John C. Wright put into this work. Not a proper scene set but is described and given meaning. The loot of the thirty odd worlds the Dark Tower conquered are represented in the great stories and floors Ilya must traverse. Everything has a place and a burial ground and the slaves who take them there already waiting for the predicted death. The slaves are wretches, the astrologers bored and insane. The servants of the Dark Tower creatively drawn from legends and myths as well as alternate earths. Each one worth its own novels and adventures, from the world of Nanaksu and the Lamia/naga to the world or the wrathful pharaohs trapped within the tower, forced to only see the setting sun of a world not theirs.

There could be a meta discussion that the stars and characters know not where John C. Wright will take it. The characters, on strings of the strongest substance of their world, ink. The stars are the greatest of the villains of the story. Their agents, the Astrologers of the Dark Tower are themselves slaves. Despite being the masters of slaves, there are no free men in that tower. From top to bottom the only free men are the ones who defy the stars. Or rather, defy their lower natures.

Low nature, sin nature are interchangeable. Sin is the acceptance and promotion of what is evil inside the individual, or rather, what is base. My default state is one of base, gluttonous self-indulgence. To avoid work and exercise, genetically, drunkenness and waste of life and time. I could be a slave to all this, and succumb to temptations that tempt me as do all men. Others can be wrathful or lustful or prideful, so on. There is no escape but death, so the stars tell us. You could be a virtuous pagan. Fulfilled and lawful in this life, denying yourself for no good reason but to give that life meaning, that which can give you pleasure. The stars represent the corrupt world which will deny us nothing we set ourselves to.

Except for those powers which work for God, there is no hiding from the stars. The higher nature is the good which one can do against what would be base or paganically virtuous. Ilya is best example of this in the book, being the most self aware and most human, despite his immortality. His actions are both predicted and not because of his acceptance of Christian doctrine despite his sinful nature. His unlawful murders are predicted, while his saving people like Nanaksu from jail are not. What he does unthinking are predicted, as our default state is base sinful. When he acts according to his better nature, like doing honor to the vengeful Pharaoh and receiving the Twilight Flail or calling on the Name of God to Abby to help himself escape are not. When he betrays his word to the vampire, his low nature comes out and thus the stars know where he will be and how he will act.

Doesn’t mean Ilya isn’t thick though. He is a big argument for ‘achievements in ignorance’. He has no idea how most of it works and when people try to explain it he starts to zone out or just get around whatever blockages were set up. Wolf-men with impregnable fur? Beat the furless parts! Smash their gums in! A vampire sucks life out of everything around it? Obviously it’ll kill living metal and otherwise unkillable mook lieutenants. He understands things very simply, but he knows how things work. He is able to call on the Name of the Lord and cause towerquakes because he instinctively knows that the Lord will respond on a true servant at the right time and place. He knows the earlobe men will not betray them because they are slaves, and were spared by him while he declared he would cast the tower down, freeing them all. He doesn’t really start to get it until Foster Hidden starts to translate it to DnD rules and tropes. Funnily enough, the more he gets to know, he adds clothing to his person. He starts poorly dressed, realizes he knows nothing gets naked, then as he gets it in the armory, he puts on his full armor.

His love of Penny is sort of crush gone crazy. He is aware that he has to go save Penny, and the travails that he goes through only prove it. He’s a bit of a white knight, but when push comes to shove, he blasts through Penny’s tests and verbal sparing without a breeze. He doesn’t expect anything, so he binds her by promise, if he kills an immortal, she’ll kiss him. She’s fine with it and owns up to it after he actually does it. She comes around to him after he sticks with it and defies what SHE predicts will happen, as she thinks she knows better than the stars.

The rest of the cast follow different thought patterns. Foster Hidden is pretty relaxed about Ilya’s shenanigans and understands a bit more than he lets Ilya know. Nanaksu is amused by the Tower minions attempts to keep to plan and just plain likes to fight. Ossifrage is frustrated by the kids and their kid actions. Abby hates herself, and is coming around to Ilya’s brute force method of dealing with low self-value. Penny thinks she knows better, but does not comprehend that what she envisions in her own mind are star level, nor the danger that she is in.

I did not much care for Penny’s personality. She does not properly fight the powers around or inside her. Instead, she relies on herself and her ‘waterbending’. It’s a know-it-all attitude that well complements Ilya’s know-nothingness. It is sort of jarring that she, who is part of the fight against the Dark Tower, a literal 3 and a bit earth cubic diameters tall citadel to evil which predicts all actions against it, more or less. Did she think that she was immune? Or that their evil had some sort of limit? Was she a slave to pride, that the Dark Tower did not even care. A tousand servants may fall, but the Dark Tower never to her. Whatever her reason, which made sense to her at the time, it never took into account that there is no escape. Ilya has no problem accepting that evil exist and infects everywhere, even if he surprised every time he’s reminded of it.

The only counter to this sort of evil is a reliance on God. Ilya’s healing speeds up when he goes through Hail Marys and Paternosters. Actions that not only not-sinful but straight up good actions that defy ‘logic’ are required. Rather than worrying about your own life, you have to worry about others and save THEIR lives. It takes effort, rather than just going with the flow. What good is it to save you’re own life to lose your soul? Could the soul be equated with free will? Could this entire book be a long winded declaration to love your neighbor? Yes.

This book is almost the perfect book. I want the deep philosophical questions, the damsels in distress, the sword fights. I was getting frustrated when Ilya was having trouble getting through the various troubles in his way. Not in the bad way, but rather, just a sort of ‘Come oooonnn, maaaann!” sorta deal. Towards the end, especially at the Fated Weapons Armory, he starts to get it, and the book improves greatly in terms of the Main Character department.

A great read, a great thinking piece and great villains in one package to benefit of all. We are not slaves when we do good! So buy the book!

PS. Should Castalia House put out a hardcover as they did with Awake in the Night Land, I would buy it in an Instant!

Review: Nethereal by Brian Niemeier, or, Hell and Back again, a Necromancer’s tale

I have just finished Brian Niemeier’s Nethereal, first of the Soul Cycle. It’s alright. Short Form: I liked it quite a bit, but not 18 bucks for a paperback quite a bit. Buy it here for kindle.

As usual, I’m not going to relax on the spoilers. I read the kindle version at the advice of the Wright Married Pair at Scifiwright. I did purchase it, etc. So that’s how we got here.

Now my title has a parody of the Hobbit, or There and back again etc. I assure you, that the tale is much more convoluted than what I just described. Unless you are of a liberal nature, and spending money to support an author on a soulless capitalistic website like amazon is going into hell and back again. BAM.

Space Opera time.

A synopsis, Spoilers! Review after.

Our Opera begins, after Nakvin’s Shadowbeast Aria, with Teg, who is shot and recovered by the mysterious figure in black, Fallon. Jaren, the pirate who hired Teg, sings of his dead father and his hatred of the guild. Teg returns, telling of the mysterious figure and saving himself, Jaren, Nakvin and Priest-acolyte Deim, with the space pirate chorus. After some hijinks, they go to a shipyard hidden in a wrecked and ruined planet. Malachai is given a brief song before hand, and in a fine tenor, declares his hatred of pirates and all enemies of the Guild and that he would hunt them like Sirius across the stars.

After the riveting Stellar Barbershop Quartet, we are treated to the Exodus, with loving musical hints to future character, Elena. The Necromancer Vaun, who is always heralded by deep Bassoons and Cellos, skulks ever in the background. Exodus is shown, descending from the ceiling, while Craighan and his soldiers have a dueling chorus against the guild singers and Malachai.

The Ship escapes, but Craighan dies. Deim and Nakvin sing their duet about Hell and Heaven, Void and Prana and magical law. Various adventures happen, and the ‘Baal’ Gibeah, played by famous ICP member Violent J tricks them out of their ship through a demonic Rapping Juggalo (honk) played by none other than famous ICP member Shaggy 2 Dope. They meet Sulaiman, a priest of Midras, and here played by famous Soprano, Jacob Bellavoiche. Vaun and Fallon have a ‘dueling bassoons’ piece and kill the remaining pirates, again. Vaun reflects ‘I just wanted to be an internal decorator using internal organs.’ They free the ship after Gibeah has a solo about the secrets of the ship and what he expects to find ‘Greed’s Fire’. This song also introduces Mephistophilis and hints at his goals. Elena is introduced after Gibeah’s death and she sings the ever famous ‘Ships Song’ with Vaun as back up.

The next major event is their visit to Despenser, the Fifth Circle Baal. After the Momento Mori, Karun’s Break Dance, each of group give up some precious part of themselves. Despenser recites poetry about the goals of Mephistophilis and the cargo that ship contains. The poetry is horrible and a good chance to go to the bathroom. The Faceless Walrus chorus almost makes up for it. Teg is now played but not voiced by Sulaiman’s actor in a brilliant directorial move. The intermission is marked by Mephistophilis’ villainous crooning and the most exquisite set pieces known to the operatic sphere, ‘Demon’s Aria’.

After the intermission (it is customary to go to the bathroom and get snacks. Popcorn being traditional) the story begins in the Sixth circle of hell. Jaren meets Eldrid, who sings with him a song in an unknown language, but so full of longing that many a man of a womanly disposition has been moved to make tumblr blogs about this one song and it’s thousand remixes. They meet the Gen King, and the ship is repaired. This part is marked by the many recitals of Englyns (an Olde English version of a Haiku) and trumpet calls. They take off again during Jaren’s biggest song “My Father, Cubed”. Mephistophilis’ ‘treachery’, though only to Jaren and other Gen, is revealed. They escape thanks to Elena, who reveals herself to be Nakvin’s daughter and kills Fallon. This leads to the heartrending ‘Unknown Daughter’.

Now in base reality and not hell, Vaun and Elena sing a brother and sister duet. Vaun takes her heart, on stage and retreats to sing the ‘Void Solo’. He is now played, by the end of it, by ten tenors, each deeper than the last and a second behind each other. Truly creepy. Malachai comes onto the stage again, and declares he has not had his fill of violence, nor hatred of Jaren, though they have blunted his ambition with promotions. He leaves, and Elena and her ‘father’ share a quiet song, ending in his death. They meet some survivors from the earlier parts of the play, now played by a Barbershop Duet, and plan to attack the guild.

Jaren, desiring to free his father, takes the ship back to hell in a stunning move to kill Mephistophilis. They ascend his temple, only to have Eldrid betray them. Mephistophilis triumphantly sings the ‘Door Concerto’ as part of the Orchestra. Eldrid is killed, but Jaren’s father is dropped into the abyss. Here, Four songs are sung at once and in the confusion, Elena sings her a song with no name, but can be described as such: “Mother, I am complete and it should scare you”. Revealed as a potentially evil goddess, they get back to the ship and return to Mithgar, where a battle between the rebels and the guild takes place. All seems hopeful for Jaren and the rebels, but Malachai returns and sings a song of triumph and violence.

The Exile, now played by an elephant, now Eleatha falls apart and the elephant is allowed to trumpet several times, knocking over stage parts. Flash photography is punishable by death during the elephant parts. The crew go to a golden stage, where they sing “End of the Mobius Strip Line”. Mephistophilis arises in contempt and attacks them. Jaren and Mephistophilis kill each other and Vaun goes for the Words of Creation, which have been the goal for all parties, even if they didn’t know it. Deim sings “Twenty Generations of Crazy For This Moment” and attacks him, barely succeeding in ‘killing’ the elephant Eleatha.  Nakvin and Teg escape alive, leaving Elena. Elena sings the final song with Vaun, betraying him in the last, before escaping herself.

Thus ends the first part of the Opera. You may now leave the theatre, you’re families will be returned to you once you fill out a survey. Your families will not be harmed based on the results.

The review/criticism

I enjoyed this book as an Opera. I read it slowly and quickly in turn. Pacing was a bit of a problem, but not too much of one. Characters fell into archetypes, which I appreciated, as every character had clear or hidden agendas, and could, if called on, sing about them. The author was clearly aware of Tropes as Tropes, which lead to a certain flavor and shorthand I could appreciate. Overall, a good read, kindle money, certainly.

The story is a bit long for the shortness of the climax, which lasts quite a few less chapters than, say, the fourth circle or the early bits with the asteroid pirate hangout. Over all, I have a problem with Pacing, BUT it isn’t empty pacing which is something to be proud of. There are ideas and thoughts in every chapter I find interesting. Something happens every ten pages. The sympathetic Wheel is a big one, being a direct connection between pilot and ship, especially a ship like the Exodus. The magic system was interesting, but bare bones in the good way. I was also a big fan of any of the fight scenes, which were a joy, they were tight, violent and always had something on the line. A long cutscene of fighting is grueling to the reader, something short and violent as it is here are exquisite. Thus, the book moves fast enough that boring bits can be gotten over quickly and onto something wonderful and interesting. Like Juggalo demons or fight scenes.

I deeply enjoyed the sense of unease about the ship that was constant through out. It’s green eye, the corridors that weren’t the same length every time and the shadows never quite working right… Outstanding, slowness done right. We walk through the haunted halls and sense a living, breathing ship. Slowing down the pacing for people like Despensor or Mephistophilis or others were excellent. Certain parts involving Stochman, Sulaiman and the Rebel Mithgardians could have been a might better made, especially in the beginning and towards the end, as the climax was coming fast, but the excitement was a bit of a jump from ‘rebels’ and the capture of Elena’s father to Mephistophilis was sharp. I get that character tension was to be built up in these areas, but I could not properly appreciate it, as things like Nakvin’s revelation of Elena being her daughter or her problems with Jaren’s irrationality were abrupt and bumpy, keeping me separate from them.

I was also in love with the geography and stellar bodies. He described them excellently, and a new wonder awaited every page. The circles are distinct and terrible. The ships themselves, barring Exodus, could have used some more description. I understand the use of ether and the like, but the actual movement was a bit lost on me, and I couldn’t get a feel of distance while in space. Everything was too close, or too fast. If it was fast or slow, should have been a bit more clear, so that one feels the gravity of flying through space. Operas can have comedy or handwave certain logics, but running across the stage in the ship and being their before they can catch breath for the next song is a bit much for the audience.

Characters, as mentioned before, are archetypal: Jaren, the young, revenge driven pirate, Nakvin, his mysterious vampiric sister, Teg the strong arm, Deim the fanatic priest, Elena the mysterious waif and Vaun, the power mad sorcerer, among others. This is not bad. It’s good. These are not special snowflakes, these are people who follow paths set down. Fated, in a way, to be certain things. It is Man vs. Demonic nature, the world and self defined so that a well-read child can understand. As such, certain characters can waver, come on weak, strong in turns. How crazy Deim is is never properly defined, and warbles in and out. This isn’t bad, and in fact helps the reader believe in it. Jaren and Nakvin’s relationship is harder to pin down, and while much was told, I wasn’t convinced by what I saw. It slipped from potential romance to brother-sister, nephew-aunt, crazy unaware single mother – crazy pirate captain.

The same with Nakvin’s emotional bond to Elena. Never QUITE sure where she was on the ‘Mother and mother make baby deal. Which I am okay with! I just wonder when they got it. It’s handwaved a little TOO easily. Handwaving works for technology, lesser plot points and Deus ex Machina. Elena makes the plot go ’round and may be a potentially evil goddess in story. Hopefully this will be addressed in the sequel, but too little info sorta dragged me out of the relationship.

The trope usage was top notch, and it’s clear that Brian Niemeier has a respect for the genre. He allows ‘rule of cool’ proper reign, and lets badass be badass at appropriate times. This spreads into all aspects of his work, which allows for a break down of his work piece by piece, though not in a bad way. You can know what something is by simply knowing enough tropes, so that one is never surprised by quirks or actions. Though, I was surprised by Eleatha, and thought his being the ship was more metaphorical.

Overall, a fantastic read. I look forward to the next book, and will buy it on kindle when it comes out. Anything in the book I didn’t talk about negatively consider a positive. Brian Niemeier has put out a strong first piece, and we hope to see more of him in the future.

Architect of the Aeons: Intelligence Unbound and Unrestrained

I am the Millennial King, before I go into this review, I will say that this book and the Count to Eschaton series has earned a choice place in my bookshelves, which I took for a song from a dying church building. Over them, I place my Bible, which I take out to read at day and night break. NO MATTER WHAT I SAY ABOUT THIS BOOK, NEVER FORGET IT IS WORTHY OF MY BEST SHELF. Five stars, fantastic, no real complaints about craft, direction or any other number of things,  a really great work. BUUUTTT I do have things to say about it.


I will summarize and intermingle my summary with personal thoughts as to what was and wasn’t done well. The wasn’t done wells are nitpicks – but still deserve notice. It should be noted I only have a slightly above average IQ and the actions of some of the characters are a little over my head in general. I am a man of writing ambition, and through that lens I will interpret these things I have read. I stated these things in hopes that you might understand my own thought patterns.

The Architect of the Aeons begins with the Judge of Ages, Menelaus Montrose and his arch-nemesis, Ximen Del Azarchel, once and future Master of the World traveling about in their ship, The Emancipation. They go to earth and learn about what happened when the Living Gas Giant ‘Asmodel’ showed up to conquer earth. It didn’t end well. A Swan, a second tier of humanity improved via techniques derived from the alien MONUMENT, tells them their ass got kicked. They fought it, but at every turn Asmodel got around it. The pair then go to the moon. It should be noted that Ximen has a sword ‘Ultima Ratio Regnum’ which I was just tickled pink by.

This is the beginning part of the 3 best written passages in this book. The description of the ‘fight’ with Asmodel is fantastically described. The Siege of Earth is well written, and, though I had no prior knowledge of how such a siege should be done (though, logically, blocking out the sun and starving them out is simply the most efficient way there is. if you’re a gas giant) yet I never thought that it was simply too far fetched. The Hyades tactics are bound by rules, and, even knowing those rules, there was nothing we could do. There is more later, to this long scene, and so wonderful it is.

I felt that the end result was hideously wasteful by Asmodel, not just in lives lost, but in the random chance of it. There were consequences later, but this brings up something kinda stuck in my craw about the series. Why would a superintelligence made up of smaller than nanite tech leave so much to chance. None of the colonies survived for long. None of them were profitable to anyone. They had plenty of stuff in a weird mud they could work with in a unanchored Space Elevator called a Skyhook. But that was an ‘intelligence test’ and killed more than it helped. I don’t know how much those skyhooks cost, but that must have been a terrible return on investment. They needed to do something more than seed like a farmer who’s given up on being good at his job. Intelligence brings greater thoughts, and while I am under no opinion that it brings enlightenment, it should at least cause a man to say: What could go wrong? Or, in the case of the humans, isn’t there a saying: Beware Greeks bearing gifts? (or future equivalent). Personal Theory: This was Asmodel’s last chance at being profitable to the Hyades, and bet on desperation. It failed and he paid for it, but that’s what he gets. Even if we are insects, we still cultivate bees and in some cases, ants. Perhaps their separation from organic thought-structures brought it on? who knows.

They go to the moon, which has a basilica for Luna, now Selene, is a holy nun, and has set up shrines for the apostles and even the two rivals, Master of the World and Judge of Ages. She teaches them many things,  enhancing their intelligence, and tells them to speak to Tellus the earthmind, which they do. All mankind come to beg that what Tellus asks, the creation of Jupiter as a Gas Giant mind as was Asmodel, not be done and mankind be allowed to die. However, their request and the Judge of Ages desire, to see his wife Rania, are equally selfish, but Menelaus is willing to sacrifice, mankind is not, so he helps the Master of the World create the Jupiterian mind. (So ends the first part!)

The description of the Basilica brought me to tears. I can say nothing less. It tapped into the part of me that loves art, and I could see it. Every part. Those who have no love for Christianity, you may understand part, and the more then better! but it is not the same as having your own iconography portrayed beautifully and properly. This is not a piss-crucifix, but magnificent statues and art pieces with music (read it to Rimsky Korsakov’s Scheherazade!) lovingly detailed. Best. Scene. In. The. Book. Hands down. The plea of the first men to Menelaus is also moving. All bowing to him, so that he does not destroy an era of peace. Problem is that their children’s children will pay for it. They are not willing to pay the price. And so he creates the Jupiter brain. Well made and well done. Mr. Wright created a true moral dilemma, but at the end of all things, when it comes to how a man views liberty and slavery. Liberty has a cost and someone has or will pay somewhere. And sometimes the cost is immense pain for a time.

The second act follows Menelaus being awoken by a series of Third Men (Swan’s being Second Men) called Myrmidons, who wish him, in the absence of both Jupiter and the Master of the World (who is creating an empire elsewhere in the galaxy), to help them fight Cahetal, a vast cloud who is from the Hyades and will be the next colonizers. Menelaus does so, but, due to reliance on tech from Asmodel, they are defeated easily. Menelaus has created copies of himself, including a giant created of some sort of Computer Crystals (I never really figured them out) with 10k+IQ. Cahetal takes it over and an agreement is reached between the two. Mankind will recolonize (on a stronger footing) and Cahetal will prevent total Jovian domination.

I have mixed feelings about this part. It is well written, and Giant Menelaus is a fantastic character, with pitch-perfect descriptions. I felt that, while Mr. Wright went a little ‘rule of cool’ on us, but didn’t back it up properly as he usually does. I felt that all parties except Cahetel had issues. Namely, no one thought to question murk seriously. It’s handwaved in that (to paraphrase) “We don’t have the tech to know what it is or make our own” which is like, to me, using someone else’s unknown gun in a duel. It ain’t gonna work, buddy, it isn’t battle tested. My main issue is that this is a harsh departure, for me, from Wright’s usually tech style. He’s what I call ‘medium’ hardness. It’s got a lot of decent and well laid out science, but things can be handwaved. Murk is a little to ‘soft’ for me when used in this setting.  It doesn’t really show up in the first part, except as weird forces of nature, and I worry that it was a bit of nonsoleum logically needed to make the plot move forward. Now, I don’t doubt it could exist. BUTTTT… no one questioned the fact that the Hyades agents just left the damn stuff without purpose or reason. No one thought, dang, is it a good idea to fight someone with their own stuff they base a lot of tech on? Giant Menelaus turned it around, but it was a giant build up for a giant fizzle and if that was the entire story, Excellently written, but I didn’t get my money’s worth.

Now, until this point. When Cahetel the character shows up and haggles mini-montrose about the future of the race, and the death of Giant Montrose, fantastic scene. The myrmidons were handled well, even if I think that their dependence on the Master of the World’s thought templates a little dumb and not nearly fleshed out enough, a told not shown deal. However, Cahetel makes up for it. I am a sucker for Kempler’s Rosettes, ever since I read Ringworld.

The third part is a shift of character, with Norbert the Assassin being our main character, but with a focus still on the relationship between the Judge of Ages, Master of the World and the Swan Princess. After discussing that Jupiter is betraying all three (especially its maker, Master of the World) by not sending out the braking laser needed for Rania and instead creating a back up in the Hyades, they infiltrate a carnival (I AM A SUCKER FOR CARNIVAL DESCRIPTIONS) and meet the Judge of Ages and Cazi, Queen of the Kitsune. Here we meet the Fourth Race of Man, the Fox Maidens, or kitsunes. They are the masters of genetic manipulation and are a sight sexy. There are hints of a fifth race, called ‘patricians’ but not enough is said that I’ll say anything about them. The Master of the World is revealed to be Norbert’s squire. Jupiter is summoned by Norbert the Assassin, and is dueled by the Judge of Ages. Jupiter itself is slain and dissolves itself, as both duelants put everything they had on the line, no backups. Rania preserved, Cazi, queen of the Kitsune, decides to marry Norbert. Judge of Ages and Master of the World declare pax for the next 10k+ years until Rania comes back and settle down to wait. Hot damn. What a ride.

The description of the carnival and the duel with Jupiter make up the second best and last of the three great scenes (Asmodel’s siege, Selene and the Plea of Man, Cahetel’s negotiation for the human race and Carnival, Duel and Death of Jupiter) of this book. Jupiter is suitably arrogant and proud. His intelligence counts him nothing, for though a gas giant, he is not anything more than a pretend man who thinks himself a god. He fails because of his pride. Outstanding. Over all, Jupiter was a character I wish I saw more of, but was glad to see him die. Perhaps a little more flesh would have suited him better. He is feared and made in part 1, reticent in part 2 (but feared and stated to have been breeding humans) and in part 3… he goes down. Dang. The Hyades, the Master of the World and, I would suppose, M3 (depending on how Rania gets back) would be major villains, but even Ull and the Hermeticists had more going for them character wise. In the second book, there is an entire chapter devoted to their beliefs and how they will manipulate mankind. Jupiter doesn’t get that treatment, and I feel that that’s a missed opportunity to make a bit more felt his influence. Still impressive, mind.

Norbert and Cazi are excellent, being bit characters compared to the other 3 in their chapters. The flying monkeys were well received. Mr. Wright well captured the spirit of tricksy fox girls, making them both feminine, dangerous and powerful yet obviously human if they were a little more sane. So, women. They are characters who left the biggest impression next to Selene, Cahetel and Jupiter, who are in the minor character range. Norbert’s descriptions of other worlds is suitably detailed and enjoyable. I wasn’t really sold on the premise of this part until the Carnival showed up which made me very sold indeed. The Forever Village was nice, but I’m having a problem remembering it as well, but that might well be taste. I also tamely enjoyed the bureaucracy and rules of how the star-farers treat earth, and that Oaks are sacred to Jupiter was a perfect touch.

This series is heading into one thing. The final duel between the Master of the World and the Judge of Ages. And sometimes, while waiting for the climax, books like these have to be written. These books fill in gaps and flesh out a universe that would otherwise be missing very important points. How the two change are important to how the climax will turn out. It must be done or else we will not know the stakes.  All 3 of the parts could be their own book (though the second one would leave me disappointed as a whole), but are made stronger because all three are moving into one another. Dots must be connected, and there’s no way in hell that the Master of the World just let the Judge of Ages sleep until Rania comes  back. It was worth the read and the buy.

This end the normal review.

So, two things bother me, but accept as matter of course.

First, intelligence. Now, I know there are peeps smarter than me, just as I know I’m smarter than some other peeps. But here’s the thing. What was stopping people from going “No, screw you Jupiter” and not doing what he says. All they have to do is block his signals with materials they have access to. Most of Jupiter’s power derives from agents and whatnot. What did the others see or know that I won’t see for 2 or 3 read throughs? Being only slightly above average, it strikes me that it’s in my best interest NOT to work with Jupiter. What influence did he have over them? It’s implied that, later on, he controlled certain rings and power supplies, but couldn’t Selene or Earthmind Tellus do the same? I recognize that Selene was a nun, but still. There’s some step I’m sure is there but I don’t know it.

My take on intelligence is this, that they can take the step. Take Rabid Puppies, promoted and planned by Vox Day from the Sad Puppies template to be a Xanatos Gambit, so that no matter the outcome he and his goals win. I laughed as soon as I saw it – I saw it as soon as he said ‘Xanatos Gambit’ but not before – and what outcomes there could be and would likely be. Personally, I’m betting on them burning the Hugo’s down, but then, as an aspiring conservative author, a reshuffling of the powers would be in my favor. However, I’ve never been comfortable with authors voting for awards their books are in the running for. But I promote the idea of ‘slates’ as an alternative. Of course, I might not be intelligent enough to properly support the ideas. Hell, most of what I think comes down to ‘I don’t think we can trust corrupt man to fairly judge his own made books’ and ‘Because man is corrupt, allow a system by which vote rigging can be recognized and countered. If all support a slate, it is a good slate. If there are divisions on slates, then there might be an entertaining war of fandoms or too many works are unworthy.”

Intelligence, especially, machine AI intelligences, have never been properly managed without that wonderful human intervention. Mr. Wright has done it wonderfully, as I believe nothing can be ‘coded’ Ex Nihilo to have a soul. Selene was created and made sentient (can’t quite remember how, but based on Rania/monument stuff) and immediately cannibalizes the predecessor Diana. She becomes a nun in grief of her sin. She murdered, and recognized it as such. Making her human. Likely, more human that any of the other of the planetary body based intelligences. It was one of my favorite parts, above much I have read this year. This could have only been conceived by someone with a deep understanding. I have not read its like, if it exists elsewhere,  I would love to compare.

I still don’t understand why Asmodel did the things he did so wastefully.

The second bit is all the changes that go on. People are desperate to be not normal humans, mostly. It bothers me a bit, as mankind lost sense of self and too easily gave into the like of Jupiter. The main characters start the series as the most intelligent peeps around, but by the end they describe themselves as children… well, boyos, sorry to bust your bubble, but you kinda messed with everyone else and outwitted Swan, Myrmidon and the Fox Maidens are allied to the Judge of Ages as much as they can be. You killed Jupiter. I’m having a hard time agreeing with you. Now mind, if you are children, I am a battery driven video game console. I.e. Game boy. Generation 1. And I could see things coming faster than the augmented individuals so proud or humble of themselves. People get more intelligent but become more extreme with who and what they are. The Fox Maidens are mad, and give birth to the Patricians, who are implied to be intractable because they can manipulate or understand Cliometry or, Psycho-history. Why? What makes those people tick? What were the foxes but perfected Witches nymphs and Hormagaunts? What were the Myrmidons but perfected Ghosts and Savants as one with a hint of chimera for taste? The Swans the culmination of the Noosphere being mind? People are nature and nurture, but I would suppose that Cliometry affect nurture and genetics affect nature so that man is perfected. But man is so dedicated to find his own future that a Fifth race, the Patricians, are made to handle and create new destinies?

To me, this thought stream is culminated in the Plea of Man, where all man begs Jupiter not be awakened, though it must be done. None are as another, and a good 7-11 species are represented in the plea. But why did they not just kill the Judge and Master of the World, and so definitely prevent the awakening of Jupiter? Or rather, was the Plea to find another way? But they were not willing to change then, in the bad way. Rather than try to preserve themselves by actions, the Giants being an equal to either main character IN THEORY and the Swan being superior by a power IN THEORY, they can do nothing but beg. They forgot that a man would move mountains for a woman. And so they doomed themselves.

Who the old hag was? I dunno. Doesn’t really matter. she was a Momento Mori, but rather, not for Immortal Menelaus Judge of Ages, but for Rania herself. But no one said, is there another way? But no, binary choice was offered and taken. Or maybe that is part of their curse. The lessers can’t take the steps they can, just I did not even dream of what Vox was up to, other than an explicit loading of the board in books he and the Dreaded Ilk deemed worthy, until it was explained. But then again, greaters have the weaknesses lessers cannot have due to their intrinsic stratification. In that, Pride, being biggest of all, multiplies as the powers of their intelligence do. Jupiter’s fall was pride and stubborn mindedness. But could not Jupiter have waited, done both, gotten Rania back and thus both Judge of Ages and Master of the World, off his back however it happens? Is there something he can see that terrifies him.

Why are the intelligences acting impatiently and even against their best interest? The least of them, Mother Selene, is able to not work against herself and even set up Neptune as a growing power later on by simply sending out a person to due penance in the outer rim. It doesn’t come back to bite her, as far as I could tell. Because Pride changes a man, no matter his intelligence, which only feeds it, man refuses or too easily changes. So, something like the Church, which Mother Selene more or less runs, and promotes humility, counteracts that pride. Neither Jupiter, Menelaus or Master of the World had it, each having goals of their own and unable to accept anything but the end they personally desired. This is something to ponder.

These two thoughts bother me, in my own way. Transhumanism is still in the beginning stages, from fantasy to reality. Pride is dripping from the ceilings. Supposed intelligences are congregating on Tumblr shores to laugh and mock at great bonfires. And others more truly do battle or leave or just laugh. Wars are fought online and in real life and everywhere I see new generations, war, man and machine. My bloodlines are of the soil and the soul, and so I feel urges to return as such. Dig myself in and use what means I can to earn land and tie it to my blood. Wait out the battles and sieges and counter-marches. But of course, that is a foolishness. Did not man attempt that to wait out Asmodel? And did not Asmodel cast a piece of the sun at earth, driving man out to be captured. There is no victory for a lesser when powers, principalities and the rulers of this world do battle.

These books inspire me. I look forward to the VINDICATION OF MAN. I look forward to Castalia House’s SOMEWHITHER a trifle more eagerly. May John C Wright’s sword-cane be sharp, the virgins lemony fresh for the dark sacrifices and that his pen never run out of ink.

If you’ve read this long and still don’t own the book, go buy the sucker. On sale if you have to. If you’ve read my ramblings you can read the damn book!

Civilizational Authenticity

When is self-awareness detrimental and where is it needed? We have ideas of authenticity via being true to ourselves, but was that accurate, since the philosophers who advocated it (like Kirkegaard) were in a definitive Christian civilization, where one could say that a civilized man’s natural state could very well be goodness. It was easy to say the African savage eats the hearts of his enemies and kills members of the tribe to old to be of use because he is a savage and that is his nature. BUT if he were civilized… Why! he would be as a civilized man and defaultly good. Both of these were recorded of the Zulu tribe by various writers, especially missionaries.

There is a problem that we face, that ‘civilized’ man has neither civilization or the need to be. What then, is authenticity? Is it Homestuckian irony? Both knowingly making terrible things then laughing at them for being terrible, or being good, and saying they are terrible in obviously false ways, or taking terrible things and making them good through sarcasm? Is that authentic, is it character based? Is it like the hipsters, hyper-uniqueness, such that an hour’s care goes into a beard or aging a pair of used stockings for that perfect 60’s look? Or whatever look they are going for. It is a look, by the way, that translates to a sub-culture. It has always existed some how. Perhaps the hippies were simple a more extreme version, for do they not eschew all hints at non-pagan culture, and seek a return to Natural Man? Or rather, the noble savage with health care benefits and the finest drugs your tax dollar can buy or corrupt hick can grow.

But is that authentic? One questions it. Is authenticity JUST inside of us, or rather, is it also imposed on us by society? It may be authentic for my personality, what with a family history of going on crusades on my mother’s side, to burn down a mosque being built. But would it be authentic in a society that does not value me crying ‘Deus Vult!” and burning buildings? That is all they view them as, those liberal quislings, just buildings. Of course not, that would not be authentic to my raising, which has not even taught me how to make a bomb or how to properly fire a gun. It would not be authentic for my faith, either. God has not yet willed it.

But would their be a time it would be? I would say yes. Should there come a driving out or pogrom, it would be authentic to culture and faith to do so. Does that contradict the fact that I was not taught to be violent. Or does how I raised fall servant to my own heart’s desires? Of course, faith contradicts, the Bible is clear: The Heart (as in, the thing liberals want you to follow all the time, that tells you screwing that girl who has those strange sores in the bar is okay, because it feel right and hey, Mr. Penis AGREES) is desperately wicked, above all things. Perhaps, the other things I mentioned, faith, culture, nurture, as well as a dose of healthy personal will, keeps ‘the Heart’ in check. Thus, a person is authentic to the civilization. When a person is both decently authentic to themselves AND to their society, they become a higher class, patriarchs and matriarchs, doers, movers and workers of high quality. It is better to be both, than one or the other, and especially neither, for neither is be worthless, and to be one is to deny the other.

Is civilization a higher good and can IT be authentic? To define, can it have a set of rules, actions and reactions that are native to it and can be pursued, as a whole, without undue stress to the group. Of course it does. The Apollo Program (and space programs in general in American Civilization) caused no major stress, pain and did not violate or create ‘negative’ responses to any of the things I mentioned earlier. Of course, one can argue it, as well as what were the causes, so on, but it’s American glory days. The culture has adopted the event into the mythos. The doubters are mocked and is not Neil Armstrong and the rest of his crew heroes? Similarly, the Civil War is largely considered a negative part of our history. It’s not what it was fought for good things, but that it was suffering. All the bad stuff, slavery, state vs. nation, incompetency of past leaders, was brought to a head, and like a body dealing with trauma or a disease, there were fevers, coughing, and a limb being sawn off by a drunk doctor. No sane person (no true Scotsman) would say that the Civil War was a happy awesome time to be an American. It was terrible, but necessary, perhaps even being authentic. At the end of the day, if civilized people discussed something and no one fixes anything, then the action is authentic, if terrible. We can say the Civil War was necessary, willed by God or the people or whatever, but there is nothing to say that Americans, who lived at the frontier of civilization, were not capable of violence.

The best example of of inauthenticity in a civilization is Liberalism itself. Why? Because, Civilization being the body and I a cell, you a cell, everywhere a cell cell… something that is telling those cells not to work together, but rather to fight and be weak. Of course, this is simplification. Communism failed, as did anarchism, which is both leftist badthink. Feminism is a particularly virulent and modern strain, of course, there will be more after it. It attacks the female and male portion in different ways, while forcing people to think that they are healthy. If they are not healthy as Feminism defines it, they, then must not be healthy, and must be destroyed. Fortunately, this breed of feminism is a paper tiger, unable to kill other cells, directly. The worst of it is the subversion, the ideology forces people to be inauthentic to the civilization and even actively work against it. This hurts it and combined with other diseases, quite deadly.

All civilizations can be considered viruses when in contact with one another. Some work well, for example, Japanese culture coming into American culture (video games and anime), or Scottish culture and Calvinism, kind of. Scots working well with anything is nearly impossible, but it stuck and I have Scotsman on the brain. Islam to Christian culture and English vs. Mandarin Chinese bureaucracy are examples of cultures that did not jive well. Islam fundamentally strikes against Christian ideas of Grace Salvation and liberty. English imperialism (authentic for English culture circa 1900s) did not like that the Mandarin class that ruled China via bureaucracy (authentic for Chinese culture. To wit, they have never, in recorded history, been without it someway) both wanted their money and their goods but did not like the negative affects opium has on the populace. Mandarins lost in the various Opium Wars.

Now, bringing this sorta full circle, but we’re not done here. I’ve talked about self awareness, then defied authenticity, civilization authenticity and talked about Calvinists. We’ve covered a lot. We’re going to cover more. Take a shot, relieve thyself and maybe take a nap. This is part 2.

The Manosphere is a civilization anti-virus or white blood cell. Not a vaccine, and not a supplement, the vaccine is Christianity, which is Authentic to American and European society, and is a generally benevolent, culturally, to societies it has invaded. example: Christianity, when it began to take over India, it gave reason as to why Suttee, widow burning, is bad, rather than the reason “The British Said So”. It is left to the highly conservative Hindu culture.  The supplement is the Red Pill, which helps men deal with our sick society as it defines the rules we men must play by.

The Manosphere needs to be defined, in general terms. The Manosphere is an overarching organization of men who are heavily invested in authentic western culture. Christianity is accepted as necessary for the masses, and a foundation, among others, such as Rome. The Red Pill has also been taken, or is in the middle of being taken. A good example of a proto-manospherian is found here: LINK  Examples of a deep thinkers are many, but the few that I deal with the most are Davis Aurini and The Dark Lord, VOX DAY. There is a spectrum, and not all agree with all. What is personal Authenticity is up for debate, but for myself, so long as some conditions are met, atheist vs Christian is immaterial, so long as we agree that Western culture must be preserved against its enemies and what those enemies are. A man who says that Bronyism is the greatest foe, I cannot agree, for is not feminism among us and Islam at the gates, trickles heralding a flood?

(Note on Bronyism, it’s a lifeboat in an authenticity storm for those who haven’t got the strength, for it does take strength, the body is sick. And if you haven’t strength, Come Wayward souls, Who wander through the darkness, There is a light for the lost and the meek!)

The Manosphere is aware of what is Authentic and what isn’t. Rather than declare something that is false is true, they state that there is truth, and it should be known. Rather than lull others to sleep and that unhealth is health, the Manosphere states that personal authenticity must be active, and exercised. The various members, of course, are human, no one doubts. Reason and stoicism are valued, and weakness is cursed. And, rather than celebrating the weak, the manosphere gives tools to become strong, should one actually want to have them. In other words, the Manosphere is no woman hating cess-pit of virgins, as its enemies, who are actively subverting the civilization to something inauthentic.

The enemies goal, to recreate the civilization in their image, while valuing others above their own, is unattainable. Beyond whether actions are authentic or not, they serve madness dressed up as kindness. The infected individual may act authentically pure, envying and hating as to their nature. But their logic is flawed when applied above, to either God or civilization. The removal of standards and the promotion of anti-standards, such as feminism or Islamization do not work with the cultural values of Western Civilization, nor are members who join from these ideologies or Muslim territory able to fully embrace the original spirit. This anti-valuation of wrong beliefs to the detriment of valuable portions of productive members of this Civilization, men, whites, heterosexuals, Christians and patriots. Did not Zimbabwe fail miserably after casting out the whites and promoting the undeserving to positions of great power in the name of justice?

Let us chart decline – There is a period of authenticity. The nation works and its peoples are contented. There is time enough to play and work and think without undue threat to life. Then, a new thought comes, a reaction to some stimulus. In Feminisms case, it is the perceived patriarchy vs perceived injustice. Whether true or not is immaterial, the great, ‘unknowable’ powers of philosophy, immorality, liberalism and pride made it so, no matter reality. But the people who ruled the land had no reason to stop them. The ideas of speech freedom, kindness and justice for all are authentic to the American civilization. So, like parasites, they wormed in and corrupted, finally reaching the common man. Then, society begins to become inauthentic. Whatever people might think of themselves is, like an ideologue’s ideals is immaterial. The civilization becomes ill because no one has successfully fought the disease.

America is blessed, because, unlike nearly all other civilizations, it is accepted that one thinks for themselves. The Chinese are slaves when put into sufficiently large organizations. Indians are beholden to class. So on. There is a system in place and easily reached to fight against the disease. It’s why people like me have hope.

Society as inauthentic is unnatural. And there was a reason for all my ramblings and metaphors! Man is a part of nature, and nature corrects itself. Because man is natural, and because many men make up a civilization, Civilization will correct itself. What helps us, is that, rather than depending on a rival ideal, a la Naziism vs Communism in Germany, 1930s, we are aware and depending on a certain awareness. This awareness makes the manosphere much stronger than most anti-viral activities. Life itself follows tropes and cliches, and knowing them and accepting them is power. To deny them and get everyone to agree is a power, but not in the same way. It is a false power. Because it is false, truth outs, and a group actively fighting the false powers will be vindicated and civilization will begin a turn to authenticity once again, or, because I am the author and I like metaphors, the body, will be healthy.

Responses to death

Death is something, no matter what creed, religion or oaths, to take seriously. Everyone will die. Even if I am brought up to the clouds on Judgement Day, I will still suffer an ‘earthly death’ of no longer having functions on this current level. So, one wonders, how one will die.

Or rather, one should not think that. Obviously, this is an ideal, but not the rule. When one is fighting a disease or in a war or contemplating the great beyond, as I’m  doing now. I do not know how I will die. What I like to think, is that I will die well. stoically facing old age. Relaxing even as I feel the disease that ravages me begin its grim work. Not screaming, though I feel pain.

What brings this on are two things – first, that I’m having a miniature crisis of how to treat my faith. I am not abandoning Christianity, but I am unsure how to go about it. I have studied much and know much, but the next steps? Secondly, a friend died. She was part of my cardfighting group, and those who knew her are taking it well. I suppose it would be strange if someone wasn’t.

But there is a very real thing – Momento Mori. This is what it is to all. I am not a grieving man, for anything, and perhaps, my emotions are stinted do to some flaw or power of personality. Doesn’t matter too much to me, either way. We all die. Physical glory passes away and all things disappear to entropy. I am 24 years old. I celebrate half and full birthdays, the half is just to remind myself.

But her death is greater cause for a type of morbid brown study. She was Catholic, but likely, not saved. If this is true, then she was died and gone to hell. And I did not witness like I should. This is serious. Could I have done something about it? Could i have made a statement or thought to change that?

This post is mostly to deal with it, and then not think about it again. But my own death? My own actions. I will die. I must write, and do things. I must perform deeds of renown, without peer. Because I could die. I should witness, because they could die. So actions are given meaning through death.

Dwelling on the New Year

It did not feel like Christmas, nor did it feel like a new year.

I don’t know whether it’s my problem dealing with time. Is it the problem that I cannot separate legalism of Christian Culture with the personal service and love of Christ. I study and think, sometimes pray, someday, I’ll understand. but that’s the thing, it’s a transitory problems. The journey is real and so is life.

So what has the journey been for me? A year off and on exercise, getting intense recently and gaining me 100 pounds (from empty bar) and losing me about 40 pounds, 300-260. I’m no faster than I was, and I’m still bulky with a tendency to fat, but it’s a step. Main deal I don’t read many exercise blogs is because I don’t really see it for me. I will get to their high level, some day, but my goal, as of this writing, isn’t so much to become thin, but rather to lift heavier things and walk up three flights of stairs without losing breath rather than two flights. Big dreams!

My writing only continues to improve. I have finished the novella, and only do the remaining editing. Namely, add some detail to the fight with the helicopter and maybe a gym scene or something. I’m not sure what. Something. I need to bring up the level of character improvement from point A – Beta Drunkard with nothing to B – Less beta kidnapper of his son. You know, progression.

I’ve also begun to work on the Skypirates of Jupiter: Escape from Earth. I’ve written ten pages and not likely to stop. I’ve been planning it out. 10 pages is enough for introductions to the city of Greater Space Elevator. I’m pretty pleased by the descriptions of Miss Spider and Granny Ladybug, the AIs in charge of educating the children. I’m also happy about the Silicon Soul Society (inspired by Silicon Life, the villains of Blame! by Tsutomu Nihei) Men-Machines who search for the boy because he holds key to flesh-machine hybrids. And I’ve finally gotten the name down: Jaspers Silver. Jaspers. SILVER. yessss. Am I a hack combining everything together from various other experiences/worlds for my own benefit? Yes. Yes I am. But it’ll be awesome.

I’m not really feeling it right now. The superversive movement is going strong. I’m enjoying the decline better than I was before and I’m doing things because I want to rather than because it’s expected of me or because it’s required. And that’s not bad. I’ll write more later.

Aili the NPC

An offering of a short story while I do other things. Aili the NPC, by the Millenial King etc.

I am killing goblins on a quest to save my NPC wife from her kidnapper, the Goblin king. I and fifteen million other players are stuck in a video game, whether our bodies are unconscious or we were transfigured into the game itself, the method doesn’t matter. I’m stuck here, level one hundred, max in the game, killing level fifteen goblins.

You might say. “Well, Samurai Thunder, Conqueror of the Underdark, why are you so hung up on a chunk of data?” Hurr hurr, look at me, I still have flesh and can distinguish reality objectively, rather than subjectively. There’s a damn good answer to that. So sit still and shut up, I’m going to tell a story.

Imagine you are part of the beta for the biggest Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Game released on western shores. Fifteen million players from all over the world on the greatest server ever forged by the mad engineers of Silicon Valley. All the greatest gaming, information crunching and software technology available to all civilization had been put into this game, and it was damn good. It was the dream.

We all logged in on opening day and fell unconscious. We woke up in the world itself. A million of us in one area, fourteen million in other areas waking up and realizing they were participating in an anime. Great. I’m a jaded guy, and immediately began grinding my way up the ranks. While others panicked or despaired, I had that hope that I’d find something in the end game content.

I met her during the grind up. She was walking about town and talking to people. I had drifted into the unpopular areas of the game. Places people just breezed through so fast you don’t really have memories of it, unless you make them there. This was about twenty days into it. Some players just gave up, others became ravenous beasts. I became anti-social. Some wanted to create a society, and good on them. I hear they did quite well.

Most of the NPCs were believed to have souls. Most didn’t act like it. A shopkeeper in the beta acted like a shopkeeper in, what, real life? I still don’t know what to call it. Farmers still worked fields in a strange, unproductive fashion, yet still had crops they harvested in a second. It all tasted like the same, terrible slop, so I didn’t question it. They never answered anyway.

But, as I was low level questing through Oak Valley l found her talking to her fellow NPCs. I had taken out a small goblin army and saved the city. I think it was a quest line, anyway. There was a reward from the town and title “Defender of Oak Valley” for saving the town. I’m not sure where the quest line begins. After I got the title, everyone became more friendly, but still, there were problems.

They interact with me, as if choosing from drop down menus. They respond the same ways to me, but I’m observant. I see hints of personal interaction between those NPCs. A gesture of the hand or a wink, but never to us. Never a chance for human interaction with them. So when I saw her actually interacting with others, I talked to her too. Her name, which I can taste on my tongue, was Aili.

Aili was dressed like a German peasant. All browns, greens and whites with an ankle length dress and a neckline. Her clothing was restrictive, but hinted at a healthy figure, just the right proportions everywhere, like every other woman of the ‘4’ body type. She had a wimple. That head gear hadn’t been in vogue for, what, five centuries? But it was becoming on her. I had dealings with females in the past, but who knows in the game world who is a real girl and who is a GIRL, guy in real life? Not a chance I want to take. I’m a straight shooter, so to say, and could never even stomach the thought of myself with a guy, even with a girl’s body.

So, it was nice. She played coy, and I followed her along. Did some things for her. Killing moles and plucking the fruit from the venomous and living People Eater plant. Then we’d have a conversation. I had been the only one of my social circles back home to play the game. These conversations became longer, and we’d spend more time together. Aili was a sweet girl, and she treated me like a human.

We talked about whatever we wanted. My old life, what her childhood was like and how I dealt with this new reality. She had a lilting voice, that rose and fell with her amusement and seriousness. A high titter to a bad joke was as pleasurable as a low question. I treasured what experiences I could gather.

No one coded the texture of dirt or the taste of an egg. The NPCs could, and did enjoy those senses. To see them enjoy the simplest piece of toast, or roll tobacco for a cigarette, would send me into paroxysms of envy. It was one of the few murderous feelings I’d feel for them. I could send my fingers through the earth and feel only the resistance. I was a bit of a sense freak back in real life.

You can taste certain things with your fingers. You could feel that grease from a fried drumstick. I could feel all the little different rocks and minerals in a pile of dirt. It was a pleasure I did not appreciate. Taste I did appreciate, but somehow I missed it less, as I could smell some of the foods. I could stick my hand into lava, and only feel the damage being done to me, though I could smell the sulfur. Sticking my mits into the guts of a treasure laden beast felt like sticking hands to jello, no smell. More like going into the local church’s haunted house and sticking your arms elbows deep into ‘brains’ or rather, spaghetti.

The shock of checking your first dire wolf’s stomach for a gold ring loses its effect after gutting your five hundredth goblin. I was counting. You realize there’s no smell, and nothing to distinguish the textures and then you’ll gladly eviscerate an elder dragon for his horde.

I went onto the next area when I could gain no more experience. People went through the major areas. From the Mountain of Beginnings to several different choices, each layer had more choices to go. I once met some sort of map maker. He said that the world was at least the size of Russia. He figured it out by measuring the angle of the sun-shadow at different locations with pillars he had erected at certain places.

All I got from that is that the size of our world is analogous to the largest country back home. Tells me a lot. I left him to his work. Because Oak Valley was the most peaceful zone of the game. The quests were just glorified fetch quests, “bring us twenty fae bear asses” and “any step towards the goblin genocide is a good step”. Most people tried it, then left when they could.

The next levels overlapped with Oak Valley and its sister regions, meaning you didn’t have to stay even a quarter long as I did. The place I went to when I moved on was Cyberopolis. From the idyllic life of villagers in the middle of the forest to the concrete jungle. It was not a great step. Too much of a shock from one environment to another. If it wasn’t for the soul sucking thing, that would knock a star and a half off their rating.

“The game was great and all, but poor level progression, too much focus on end game raids and a high level of grind means that you’ll be stuck forever figuring out the unifying themes, the overarching plotline, if there is one and figuring out a way to escape this gilded cage. The good points is that the combat seems very real, the graphics are life-like and there is plenty of loot to be found on the grind. 8.5/10.”

I had made myself with the strongest and tallest looking male figure, with black hair and eyes that could pierce your soul. Squinty of course, I ‘named’ myself SAMURAI THUNDER. I could not help but give myself an Asian looking character. There was hue and cry about the character design being racist. Then the developer said that it would be racist to remove them because of it. They said it’s still racist, then they added a thousand layers of detail to the face at 90 FPS and put it next to the picture of a human they modeled it after. Wrong fifty percent of the time. I remember laughing my behind off at the live showing.

It only brought more people in. Seems like it doesn’t matter any more though.

At level 100, I finished up most of the quests and started toiling through the endgame content. That’s where I heard the legend of the Underdark. Rumor had it that players went in, never to come back again.

I think that something was keeping players from respawning. I don’t know whether it’s the final death that all face at the end of their lives, or just a temporary inability to respawn. Did they find a portal to the real world, only to find that their bodies had perished? I didn’t like thinking about it. Only rumors and the wild gesticulations of those who found religion to deal with despair.

The Underdark could not be ignored forever. It had something to draw us to it. A siren call that brought the best players to test their mettle. Forty at a time, led by some encouraging individual. Hundreds lost to the depths and the darkness within. I joined a group eventually. There was nothing else to do. I had covered everything, wore the best gear. I had to find something.

The raid leader, Mud’Dibe, a Bedouin looking psychic, hired me on for my crowd control abilities and general tankiness. My class, samurai, had a series of high-damage, high area of effect skills and could switch styles between fighting hordes of creatures and just one at range with a bow or with my legendary katana. I had no magical abilities, nor could I heal. I would be the vanguard, taking out lesser foes with ease, scouting for the main body. Suicide squad, but I didn’t care. I wanted to live, but I didn’t want it that badly. Going down fighting was a warrior’s death.

The great gates of the Underdark lie in the Land of Shadow, home to most of the end game content. They depicted demons feasting on the souls of mortals, as well as the torments that lay within. I had gone past them many times, they closed when forty people had entered it that day, and opened in the morning. No one had come out, no one had heard anything.

The Underdark was popular in those days, and there was a waiting list. We had prepared ourselves, potions drunk and mana topped up. I buzzed on the power ups given to me through my comrades. I myself gave the ‘mind of steel’, which provided a little resistance to fear.

I could hear everyone who came daily to watch who would go in chattering around us. Another group, so soon after the first. Yes and so many famous people, like by Mud’Dibe. There’s AXslippus, the warrior healer. There was Ranger Dan, a bowman of renown, skilled even without his abilities. The enchantress, Medea, whose spells were of the highest quality, so on.

They were all top tier, and I had done quests with them in the past. I was the only one who came out of those doors in the morning, coming out into the open as the first sunrise the Land of Shadow had seen in one hundred years.

The great gates swung open too slowly. They creaked at every milimeter, as if they were reluctant to open themselves. I walked forward, ahead of the team of five that were there to support me and add their own damage.

The Underdark was well lit by willow-the-wisps and Saint Elmo’s fire. Green light shown from all the walls, which were inscribed by demon runes. I could not understand them, but to look at them caused headaches. The magician could read them, and he would not say a thing about them, vomiting. Skulls were on every lintel and door frame, and there was red fire in their eyes. The floor was made of large, evenly cut stones, which held esoteric symbols.

I halted them at the entrance, there were still the bodies of many adventurers like me piled in the center of the foyer. I saw that this was a group, or multiple groups that had rushed in at once, and were slain by some devilry. I tossed a Skull from which no fire glowed, and it was hit by a bolt of hellfire from the skulls above the lintel for the next room. With careful tread, I avoided all stones that had ashes or a body on them and marked my way for the main party.

We encountered and slew some minions of the Underdark. Orcs and Goblins as big or bigger than ourselves, and cunning fighters. Were it not for my abilities to slice through many ranks of flesh, we would have been overcome. I cut my way with the rest of my party to the next room, as the main body came behind us to clean up.

The next room held a torture chamber upon which things with the figure of a man were being tortured, screaming for mercy. I saw that the bones and loot of adventurers was about their torment tables, and I drew my bow, slaying those demons who attempted to deceive us. They burned when struck, and turned to dust when killed. I left warnings not to touch the loot and moved on.

The first true boss was a elephantine horror that slew Medea with a thrust of its tusk. She could not be resurrected. The elephantine horror dropped nothing, but a treasure chest bit off the grasping hand of Mud’Dibe as he reached into to pull out loot. It is lucky that he did not feel pain as he would as a normal human.

The next room held pits of acid. Another held a room where if you stepped on the wrong tile, a spider would reach down and grab you up, screaming. The next rooms held a maze. The solution was to find the opposite wall from where you came in, and to break through the walls. After that was the minotaur boss, he was easy, and slew no one. Again, there was a treasure chest, but no one touched it.

Through out, a room would take one of our number, or someone would touch a gold piece that would turn him into gold himself. Another died after blasting at the spider with fire balls, thinking it a boss. I pushed through. Ever cautious, it was my ability to read how the unfortunates before us died that kept the main group together.

After slaying the Fire Drake that stood guard over the final room and the immense treasure horde that was certainly cursed, we came to the throne room. On the throne, which was gold and blood rubies in the shape of a skull with the seat the lower jaw of its hideous grin, sat the most hideous demon in the whole game.

The commoner says that Lucifer is ugly, yet the Bible states that he is a Prince of Light. This was ugly satan. A ruler of hell  covered in horns, warts, wounds, the limbs of players before and maggots poured out of his mouth with every word. His eyes were sulfurous yellow, with red in every other spot. In his hands, he held a sword, an orb, a scepter and a scroll. Each glowed with power, though in the orb I saw the souls of the damned swirling. It took all my will to stand against this awful presence.

He laughed at us. Anyone who asked a question was told their deepest shame. He stood and we readied for the fight. I began directing the battle, noticing channels that smelt of brimstone and others that were covered in slick blood. Yet, in that moment, Mud’Dibe, maddened by what he saw, and what secret was revealed of him, screamed and directed everyone to attack.

The arch-daemon laughed and spewed leeches from the scroll. I saw, as with the other bodies, that they fell like so many others had. Those who survived banded to me, but Mud’Dibe, who entered a psychic battle with the arch-daemon until his eyes bled and his bones melted. I directed them as best I could, but one by one they became exhausted and fell. Some were pulled into a river of blood that flowed suddenly from his left foot and others were drowned in brimstone, that came from his right foot and pulled itself up their armor and down into their lungs.

I survived, but barely. I could not except this fate. I had to leave to tell others. The demon, after a time, got off of his throne. “SON OF ADAM, YOU ALONE HAVE CAUSED ME TO STAND.” His words cut my ears like glass. “YOU WILL JOIN ALL YOUR COMPANIONS IN THIS ORB, AND BE FORGOTTEN. AFTER ALL, YOU ABANDONED FLESH, YET KEPT YOUR SOUL.”

I don’t remember the rest of the fight. Every word smote my mind, and every dodge or attack threatened my life. It became arrogant, but still formidable. It threw my dead companions at me. I had to fight their reanimated bodies. He summoned a demon lion, whose roar would send me flying. Everything was ugly and I could not stand it.

I fell to my knees after a long time. I could not move. My health was full, but my will was empty. The arch-daemon sauntered up to me, each step leaving claw marks and vapors. “I WILL STEAL YOUR SOUL, SON OF ADAM. LO, EVEN AS YOU YET LIVE.” I felt my soul begin to leave my body. My health slowly fell.

I nearly gave up, but at a certain mark, my abilities changed, and I received increased health and stamina, and freed me of all despair. I found strength, leapt up and away, the arch-daemon roared to the sky. I saw a chink in his skull-armor. I charged  forward, plunging my katana deeply into the being’s face. The roaring became higher pitched, and the Arch daemon fell backwards, dead, onto its throne. The body dissipated in a black mist I guarded my nostrils and mouth from. The orb was the only thing that remained, and I shattered it on the stone slabs of the floor.

The Underdark changed character. Blood waterfalls were replaced by silvery streams. The will’o the wisps became fairies. The bodies disappeared, leaving their belongings. I fell senseless onto the throne. I did not know anything for, I think, a day. Fairies had been ministering to me, and I felt rejuvenated of body, but not of spirit. I looked at all the death with despair. I took, though, all the gold, gems, armor and weaponry that was in the dungeon. The demon itself had dropped armor for me, which I de-cursed in the silver-water waterfalls by the direction of the fairies. The daemons in each piece screamed under the silver water and fell silent.

Thus arrayed, I walked out. I had bag of holdings, and in it, I put everything I could, even the fairies. The great gates remained shut, and this time, they held carvings of me slaying the arch-daemon, though every other wall showed the tragic deaths of all who had come before. I pushed them open and walked into the waiting crowd. We had spent five days in the Underdark. And only I came out whole. The rest had to begin from level one, as new characters. Some sort of reincarnation. I waved them off, and distributed the wealth and information I had gotten to those around me.

After that, I walked away. The sun was rising over the Land of Shadow, but I could not feel the warmth. I couldn’t feel anything. You need time to recover after that sort of travail. I had saved everyone, but it was hollow as I had borne the full brunt of the arch-daemon’s malice in those final seconds. I wanted to kill myself, but I knew it futile.

I walked into the Land of Crystals to the Forest Always Twilit. I feasted with elves, who attempted to mend my soul, but could not. They offered me passage to their heaven, which lay to the West. I denied it, though, asked them if I found nothing to live for, could I join them on one of their Ships of Twilight and pass into the Healing Islands and the Neverwinter shores? They promised me that. I kept moving through the places I quested while leveling, searching for something to trigger any other than what I felt now. Everywhere I went, I was congratulated. Nothing.

Then I traversed the Mountains of Ice and Fire. From there, I crossed the Canyon Fields. I touched upon the Red City, which promised me every decadence. I refused, I could only see what was real, and escape seemed cowardly. I went through zone after zone, land after land. Until I came to Oak Valley, where I was told that I had one quest left. I touched it with my mind.

It told me to go to a certain part of the massive forest and release the fairies that had come with me from the Underdark. Simple enough. I walked through Oak Valley, and the shopkeepers waved at me, I found I could wave back. The mayor clapped my armored shoulder and said what a tribute to this town I was. I wandered off to that spot when I could.

There, in a glen, was a small house. It was surrounded by flowers. Upon their request, I released them to the flowers. One knocked on the door, and Aili came out. She was not wearing her wimple, and golden hair streamed down below her back. She was smiling at the fairie, and held a pot she had been cleaning. She was wearing an apron over a simple brown dress and white blouse. Barefoot. I would never forget this.

Aili followed the fairie’s line of sight and saw me. She dropped her pan and put her hands to her mouth. I stood their. I must have looked terrifying. I was wearing the armor of the arch-daemon, which, despite having no curses, still put out a black shadow, much bigger than I was. My own face was gaunt and drawn compared to what it was when I had left her to continue the adventure.

She ran forward and grasped me, and kissed me. It tasted like a holy chocolate from God’s own bon-bon box. It soothed something in my soul and I didn’t feel as tired as I had been. She’s been with me ever since.

I don’t know what happens after Underdark, I don’t care. I’ve kept an ear out, and while nothing has popped up, that hasn’t stopped fools from going back into the Underdark when everything respawned, but I hear that a few others have actually succeeded.

So you can imagine why I am particularly attached to this NPC named Aili. I had us married by the Mayor six months after I came back. Ring and everything, I killed a dragon for it. And now, as part of the ‘marriage quest line’, I have to rescue my Aili from goblins before midnight. It is our marriage night. I’ve been playing things traditional, and I am in no mood for this. Level FIFTEEN Goblins stand between me and our consummation. You get me? I step on one and it kills the blighter. I shout “ZANTETSUKEN”, and my blade flashes, killing one hundred in a blow.

I kill the three lieutenants, make it through the maze and finally, to the Goblin King. Who is a David Bowie from the Labyrinth parody. I am not happy. I can see the outline of his crotch in his over-large codpiece. He is singing and dancing while I am temporarily immobilized. His eyes are so dead, yet his nose so shapely. His buttocks is perfectly defined by gray-white yoga pants. His hair bounces with each flouncing leap he makes. His crotch is thrusting at me. This is dreadful. I would say I’d rather fight the arch-daemon again, but at least maggots aren’t pouring from his cod-piece. It is purple and throbs. I am not sure it is an article of clothing.

He is singing that, as a babe, she was promised to him as a bride on her coming of age day, which, apparently, coincided with our marriage day. So, he whisked her away to his mountain lair, where he has tested me and tried to keep me away with the Labyrinth and his lieutenants. I tell him that I’m kind of overpowered for this quest, and that if he releases us both, I won’t cut his head off. He laughs and goes into a song about how powerful his magics are.

I am freed from the stun for the fight and cut the bastard in half with a single blow. He erupts into bubbles, and Aili and I find ourselves back in the glen. She starts giggling at me. Apparently she found the entire thing funny. I had been stunned kicking the door open with a determined look on my face.

I sigh and pick her up, walking into the house on the glen.