Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Unhappy reading

The only reason I've been blogging so often is because the kids have started sleeping past seven, including the girls. Mixed blessing, what with mostly losing naptime.

Geoff and I are reading an urban fantasy series by one of our favourite authors (Tad Williams), about  a scruffy hard-drinking angel who advocates for people's souls after their deaths. It's called the Bobby Dollar trilogy. It's very self-conciously noir and sort of campy, and I tihnk Geoff enjoyed the first book more than I did. I'm not a big urban fantasy fan. I medium-level disliked the second book. Allow me to spoil the whole series for you? (Actually, I can't. Williams hasn't finished the last one or two).

In the books, Heaven and Hell have a kind of Cold War armed truce. The first book lays out a kind of murder-espionage mystery thing about souls disappearing and not being sent to either Heaven or Hell, and there's a she-demon for the main character to inappropriately love, and we get a few trips to Heaven, which is a really depressing place where everyone has their memories wiped and bliss imposed. The higher angels spend a lot of their time politicking and it's all murky. Most of the demons we encounter are really awful and gross and unlikable, and the angels are annoying. So there's the first book.

In the second book Bobby goes to Hell to rescue his girlfriend, and most of the parts I like in the first book are missing in the second- a lot of the humour, and the everydayness, and the self-concious ennui of the main character. I started skim-reading because I got really tired of depictions of torture and death and general vileness, and I had a constant screaming in the back of my head about the setup and theology. In Hell, everyone remembers their pasts, and knows why they were sent there. Hell has an actual ecology and actual characters, and many (well, some) of the characters are earnestly repentant and greatly desire forgiveness. They don't get it, at least not yet. I know it's not Dante or something, and it's the author's world, and he can do whatever he likes with his writing (I mean, of course), but I'm just having trouble with reading a world where Heaven is lacking free will and any real attractive quality, and Hell is full of repentant sinners.

I guess I'm having a hard time leaving aside any of my theology, because I fiercely believe that all who are in Heaven or in Hell choose it. I know it's just a book, and a sort of thought experiment, but I am just not enjoying it. Such a small eternity, to badly paraphrase Chesterton.


My favourite Heavens and Hells are of course Dante, and The Great Divorce, and the moment at the end of Peace Like a River, and The Last Battle. Any story that makes it clear that evil lessens us, and good increases our self-ness.

Nat keeps asking me if Aslan is real, and I tell him I am really hoping to go to Narnia when I die.

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