Astounding Frontiers is out! The first chapters of “In the Seraglio of the Sheik of Mars” lays within! Buy it here! I’ll review it later, it’s great!
Astounding Frontiers is out! The first chapters of “In the Seraglio of the Sheik of Mars” lays within! Buy it here! I’ll review it later, it’s great!
My thoughts on it to follow.
Read this first: http://alphagameplan.blogspot.com/2017/07/competition.html
Go ahead and read more
The fallen nature of man is beholden to nothing but base desires and appetites and passes away as quickly. We who serve Christ are given cessation to those desires and needs, but only the edge of them. Consider, that before Christ, the only real choice an unsaved man can make is the acceptance of Christ or not. Any and all other choices fade with time. Those like the author of His Dark Materials are puppets dancing to their sinful appetites. They do not actually do anything to show free will through their rebellion to God.
The choice between McDonalds and BurgerKing or even between eating at home or eating out can be traced back to previous non-choices and to non-choices before that. The desire to diet isn’t itself a choice, but rather, the decision to overcome your deficiencies because those deficiencies became too much for your subconscious to bear.
To provide an example. If you are driving to work (which is by no means a statement of free will as you will not take the consequence of being fired for not showing up to work to demonstrate free will and you are not about to hike into the forest and live as a wild man) and are hungry, and a McDonalds shows up. Because you have previously associated McDonalds with Fast and Acceptable, you choose it, thanks to the marketing of others. You order from the drive through because, again, you are on your way to work. You eat on the way. Such thing is a matter of expediency, I’m sure. The choice of McDonalds over Burger King or others is meaningless because you are not trying somewhere new.
Even when you try something new it is because you have hit some marker in your subconscious that states you are tired of the same old. The choice to choose different was already made. What is a bit of a coinflip is what restaurant you enter, but if you have had no spicy food in a long time, it is reasonable for a man to choose a place that sells such. Then, simply by looking at ones wallet, ones spending habits, ones taste in restaurant, anyone can pin it down what you might choose with enough information. A man of middle class taste and wallet, but a desire for the familiar, will choose such a restaurant as to be a Mexican chain restaurant, or one his friends have already put into his mind in some conversatoin. A woman saying, “I just HAVE to try something new!” Likely already has what she means in mind and it is because someone she feels a need to emulate or equal has done that thing already. Or even baser, to one up the person who wanted to try that thing by having it first. They are no clockwork automatons, for those would not care about the spice of their food, but the choices they could make are predictable. They do not surprise the omniscient, and, honestly, they do not surprise those who know something of human nature.
When it comes to day to day living, I am utterly unconvinced the average man shows nothing that could be interpreted as free will. You might counter: “But he did not make such and such a choice, but another” The choice to not make a choice is not a part of free will in your day to day life. If you say to me, I could become a serial murderer but I didn’t! I will laugh at you, straw man, for your weak heart is incapable of psychopathy. A psychopath would read this and nod somberly, having already accepted the more extreme version of my thesis.
The only time an unsaved man may make a real choice beyond the mundane life is when the Holy Spirit as Conscience or the Still Small Voice works on him and turns his heart to things above or better. He might be turned aside to give charity. He might give a bigger tip out of pity or because the worker chose to be better than an automaton in his job. He might give an encouraging word instead of looking inward. He might choose Christ!
When the choice of Christ is made, the game changes from 2D to 3D, in a way. Now, you are not choosing along a line of depravity, but rather, the choice of the sublime or the subterranean. Take the choice for those who engage in sexual sin. For the unsaved, unless Love moves them, they are only seeking self-sexual gratification. Or, even baser, the woman seeks to trap the man with a child. The choice not to comes down to self interest, which is predicated on the thousand things you have done before. A habit of screwing club sluts means that you are likely not going to not screw club sluts if given the opportunity, until your subconscious gets tired of the repetition. I have not even gone into those who are ruled by society’s mores! That is simply more of the same, except instead of selfishness, it is based on how much shame or ridicule you can bear in your choices.
BUT! Say you are a Christian. Besides the infinite benefit of not going to hell, you are also given a stronger feeling of right and wrong. Rather than serve selfish interest or the selfish society, you serve Christ, God and the Holy Spirit. If you study, and even if you don’t, you will be given direction of a sort. Not the literal direction, I won’t promise that, but rather, the nudging and guilt that comes with your actions. Because you now know something of right and wrong, it adds depth. God is Holy, and because He is Holy, He has rules. Not the limiting sort of rules, but the rules that comes naturally to a station and to His Nature.
Because He is Holy, He cannot be unHoly. Because He cannot be unHoly, those things that are Holy may be defined by Him. Consider these verse from proverbs 6:
“16 These six things doth the Lord hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him:
17 A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 An heart that deviseth wicked imaginations, feet that be swift in running to mischief,
19 A false witness that speaketh lies, and he that soweth discord among brethren.”
These things are clear, an early look into the seven deadly sins. I like this better for an example because these are straight actions rather than a concept like ‘greed’. Basically, when you serve God, you have the choice to do these things. You know lying is wrong internally and externally. Internal is the soul and conscience, while the External is society, which teaches guilt and shame for actions and cannot bestow true freedom.
Adam and Eve had been given in the garden the most basic knowledge of good and evil. Twist the words to: “Eating of this tree is evil and will bring evil. It is the only evil thing you can do.” I use evil rather than sinful for clarity, but the words are about the same. Their freewill was binary. They did not have to make the choice, as by not doing it, they were keeping the commandment, and some may think that millions of years may pass between this statement and the snake tempting Eve into changing the binary choice of good to evil without being a heretic.
From them the choices expanded, but they are still binary. There is an insurmountable difference between good and evil. The only choice that matters beyond appetite is salvation, to the unsaved. Nearly every choice falls under a spectrum on whether it is in line with God’s Holiness or not. The unsaved may make a ‘good’ choice, but they never really break the chains of sin that bind them to hell. Consider that Catholic Dante puts the Virtuous Pagans in hell despite their virtue. Virtuous Julius Caesar may have crossed the river Rubicon to reach Rome, but he did not cross the stream called Forgiveness of Sins into the city Salvation.
The Christian may choose his higher nature or lower nature. Gluttony may now be thought of as being more than a way to ruin your good figure. Lying does more than hurt society and your relations with it. Greed is more than hoarding. Each of those things separates us from God. Free will becomes expanded. Now, instead of making choices based on the ‘choices’ that were made before, we can break the cycles of sin and separation from God.
The Pagans and unsaved can choose between non-pleasure and pleasure based to their nature. They can choose to do things that benefit society (good) or they can harm it (evil). But the saved now has that and the Holy Spirit. The formula changes to do those things that is to God’s Nature and His Desires (Good) and those that are against God’s Nature and separates us from Him (Evil).
Those who choose evil, saved or unsaved may be powerful for a time and may seem to exercise free will by defying society, but in reality, they made one choice, and now the choice is continued. But! Their choice is incontinent and barely lasts beyond the lifetime of the doer. Consider Hilary Clinton, her foundation has crumbled. Her dreams are crushed. They are putting up her daughter as if she has even half the ruthlessness her mother had. There is no hope but Christ for her. For her evil, may she be punished now or in the hereafter, as God wills, but let, even at the last breath of her life, she be still given the choice to beg forgiveness for her sins. And she is merely the most famous of the arch-villains of our time.
Counter point are the works of all the saints and the many missionaries. The dividends of the good works of the disciples ripple through society for all believers. The investments of good of the missionaries like James Hudson Taylor still gain great amounts of interest as the Chinese churches are bright lights before God. And he saw so very little of it himself! Those like George Whitefield, John Newton and Jonathan Edwards still shine like torches even after all these years. How many Catholics and others have been reinforced in spirit by the saints who came before?
They chose to serve God and because they chose to serve God, they have gained eternal rewards that shall not pass away from collective human record unless all reality is wiped clean, and not one scrap of their sermons, songs or works remain. Hilary Clinton sees the falling apart and collapse of all she works for in her lifetime, but the man who wrote Amazing Grace still rejoices in heaven with those it brought to salvation for all eternity.
See the difference in scale. See the difference in the use of their free will! See that the works of man fade and the works of God do not and grow greater. It is strange, as if the consequences for things have far reaching effects. As if we are no longer governed by our sinful appetites and given the choice to do more and do better. We can lay entangled in the roots of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, where we sleep matrix style. We can stay in the cave, where men guess at shadows. We can be content in only knowing what Pandora’s Box has left in it, or we can open it up! The knowledge of God and His Holiness is that hope that remained after all evil was released.
Repent, sinners! Embrace free will and save yourselves from Hell through the Blood of Christ Jesus! Rejoice, freedmen! We are not automatons governed by our base natures, but we have the higher and the greater!
Civic Nationalism is nothing as it denies Christianity as the only way to overcome all preexisting nationalities, genetics, personalities and desires. These chains are what Christ freed us from, beyond Sin. I will also make this statement, the only successful Black Man and White Woman relationships I have seen, personally and in real world, have been with Christian couples who have the real faith.
In other words, it is only through Christianity that all things the Alt Right supports, can be realized. Because Christianity serves the God who respects no one, no boundaries and no laws but His own, we are granted the same rights to overcome all things. Genetics are nothing to the one who made us in the womb. What are the boundaries of man and his kin to the one who made the earth?
Perhaps the failure I have seen of those who discuss such things is to continue to demand that the Christian benefits of lacking any requirement to follow the law but render to Caesar what is Caesar’s – but to continue without a Christian concrete morality. In other words, men like Milo or Stefan Molyneux, for all their boldness or wisdom or Je ne sais quoi must eventually repent of their sin and be baptized for them to truly enter into the national spirit that may rise up from the current events, besides entering into heaven, which is greater.
I am not insulting them, nor saying that we should disestablish them from any desire of their heart. Simply, I am saying that Stefan is wise, and I see him touch on the faith like a blind man feeling something before him, but he must bow the knee to be anything more than the last true Roman. (for Rome still lives in the hearts of men). As for Milo, he claims Catholicism, but if he was ever saved, he has become so profligate as to allow speculation of his salvation. My God catch him, even at the last breath.
On the other hand, I have always found the neo-Nazi’s to be an odd bunch. White supremacists as well. I do not vilify them. I live in a black neighborhood. I am aware of the differences between white and black, to say the least. I was in STL during Ferguson but haply had good fortune to have a military outpost about 200 feet or so away from my own home, and so I only rarely heard screaming, laughter and gunshots during those sleepless nights. I am also aware of Asian to White and so on differences. I have been friends with a Vietnamese fellow for years and I still don’t understand his thought processes, nor he mine.
Perhaps the biggest difference in philosophy out of EVERY SINGLE race of man is the concept of freedom. Christians seem to understand the ideas of Free in Christ, but they do not translate well outward to non-Christians. My Vietnamese friend does not know why I defy people who think they might have some hold over me, nor do I understand why he willingly allows things to burn out for a simple benefit he could take for himself with a pinch of effort. Simply, his view of freedom is not the same as my view of freedom, and part of that is his personality partially inherited by race as mine is.
Somewhere along the line, Christianity became inseparable from the culture of the Europeans, down to their inherent racial view of Freedom. In France/Germany/Italy/England it was early on, we’re talking 500-800 here, depending on the area. The Crusades could not happen in a society that even pretended to be secular or thought itself beholden to powers outside of Christ. Neither could the learning that Christian universities made possible without a wholehearted acceptance of the tenets of Christianity that promote learning and the freedom to study the natural world.
The Reformation was not a disagreement of what worldly things should or should not be accepted, but rather, was a statement that the Roman Catholic Church was too secular to see to the spiritual needs of the people. Heretics like Johann Tetzel, who sold the souls of men for mere gold on earth, did more direct harm to the Roman Catholic Church than the controversy of Pope and Anti-Pope decades earlier!
Indeed, 2 of the 95 Thesis are attributed against him. Luther is not my favorite Protestant, but I will not call him a heretic or much mistaken! From Infogalactic:
27. They preach only human doctrines who say that as soon as the money clinks into the money chest, the soul flies out of purgatory.
28. It is certain that when money clinks in the money chest, greed and avarice can be increased; but when the church intercedes, the result is in the hands of God alone.
While sources do say that certain parts of Tetzel’s work was acceptable to the Roman Catholic Church Doctrine (TM), the fact that Luther, who created a church that might as well be called Catholic Lite, attacked this directly should say something to the danger of his work! Corporate worship is not nor shall be corporate salvation! The European ancestors during the Reformation were not denying Christianity or God, but rather, the Church, which could no longer be counted on to care for their souls more than the lesser servants like Tetzel cared for money.
The Christian identity within Europe is such that it is a reasonable thing to say that when the Catholic homogeneity under the Catholic Church crumbled, so too did the Holy Roman Empire. It would not survive but as the pickings of other empires, eventually devoured by Prussia. If I serve the Bavarian Prince and he doesn’t believe as I do, then how can I trust that he values my freedom? But if I live in Bohemia and my Prince believes as I do, then I can trust that I will be free when it comes to me and Christ.
To take this to modernity, I have seen Christians more and more take the red pill. That term is a little old these days but it still has legs. Christians have a sixth sense for truth, if it is not dulled. I would think that if a man came boldly, crying the word of the Lord in truth and with power, Christians would flock, but would lack the fighting spirit. Easy living has bred the fight out of most Christians and by proxy, most Europeans. No one is willing to be ‘offensive’, but rather, seek to ease people into Christianity. Now, that method does earn converts.But does it enforce the soul against the depredations of the devil?
Are we the same sort of people who would go to war and die by the hundreds of thousands over the freedom of our own souls?! Not at all. I might be willing to dread naught the threats of joblessness and societal pariahship. I might be willing to risk much saying “I’ll pray for you and your daughter” When I am told of a little girl that is brought to STL for our superior hospitals and child care while I am on the job and may be fired for it. But are others, the normies? No, they are more concerned with culture than faith.
And I laugh, for it is not a risk at all. Shall not all suffering be repaid me? Shall I, who moves as fearlessly as I am capable of (and I am a man who is tempted not by men or money, but by the temptations of the heart which is more insidious than mere greed) if I am maimed, tortured, forsaken, loveless and a thousand other things, be remembered for each one by an unforgetting God? Yes, a thousand times yes. To die is gain. I am a freeman.
The Alt-Right does good work fighting for that freedom, but it will be all for naught if it is not God’s work. Like the black man and white woman couples I have seen, who seem to be in Christ rather than in the lusts of the flesh, the Alt-right will not have nearly the chance of success without Christ over coming all things. America worked, even when diverse in the 60s to the 90s, because all men worshiped God. Even the Asians who came to America in the 1860s had churches and missions they attended, if only to seem more like the whites whose nation they inhabited. And indeed, were the Aztecs not freed from the blood sacrifice in the tens of thousands that their gods demanded to keep the sun lit?
Indeed, the Satanic victories of Abortion, Globalism and Feminism were won because Christians were not fighting for the freedoms they had. Christians became unwilling to fight for their beliefs. They could not discern good from evil. Every man did what was right in his own eyes but they at least thought themselves Christians, and so did much parallel to what God wills, though they served Him in the same way a shotgun blast may hit a supposed intruder in the dark.
When evil came creeping with the modern world, with new tools, new attacks and new dreams that we did not have before, that new spiritual tools and arguments had to be reforged for an era of technology, television and internet. And they have been. Sin won with Abortion because people could not reason as to the real cost and purpose. Sin won with Globalism when people did not have the tools to count the costs of free trade, diversity and movement. Sin won with Feminism when people were too gentle minded to understand authority or law that is made by God and not man. All these things must be 100% overturned before we can be called a Christian nation again. Before we can say we have a Christian foundation, rather.
The Christian foundation allowed Blacks to have greater life than they had ever before and gave them a morality better and freer than the thuggery and superstition of Chiefs and Shamans. It allowed Whites to forget our grudges and blood oaths and death love. It allowed Asians to be free of the thousand laws they bind themselves to from Castes to Confucianism. I am not a man to decry diversity, but I will say that war follows those who serve themselves and not Christ. If they do not have the Christian foundation and with it, Christian Freedom, Diversity+Proximity=War. Every. Single. Time.
A Christian foundation is more than just a political, ethnic or religious foundation. It is a foundation for world view, love, political motivations, heart, law, soul, monetary policy, aesthetic and freedom. Every single thing under the sun is under God’s purview. We do not serve ourselves, our blood or our people, we serve Christ. Nothing is outside of God’s will. As such, the only success the Alt-Right can hope for, is literally, if God Wills It. And, I think He does. Let us pray and give thanksgiving that there is a light in the long night. We are not Erich Zann fiddling at the window of the endless night, where laughter is heard in the background and souls dance in, but never dance out.
Finally, I’m reviewing The Iron Chamber of Memory by John C. Wright.
Alright, silliness aside this is the one of the best written books of this century. My life changed after reading this book. It was a coalescence of much of how I have been raised and consumed as a child. I read King Arthur and fairy tales voraciously, until I found the love of my life, crazy-weird science fiction. To say I could name most of the mainstream knights of Arthur’s court when I was younger is not an exaggeration. Even now: Lancelot, Gawain, Gareth, Agravain, Mordred, Bedivere, Percival, Galahad, Bors, Kay, King Pellinor, Tristan and the Saracen/Moor Palamedes. (Now Palamedes I had to look up the spelling but I’m counting him) I received baptism through their literature long before I was properly baptized! I literally ask dates (semi-humourously, I do it to judge what level of literacy they actually are on. Lots of girls ‘read’) whether King Arthur exists or not, and if he does, is he dead or sleeping. I have been very dissatisfied with my answers so far.
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!
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…
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: http://superversivesf.com/ I’ve been following it for a while and they’re good people and good writing.
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!