By A.A. Bavar
This book is not like anything I’ve ever read before; a great premise. This is (as the title suggests) about the archangels, and this works really well, especially the first half which tallies nicely with the Book of Genesis. Part of me wants to believe that this is how Genesis plays out, but I know that’s not true – this is a solid modern fiction novel with borrowed context. It’s great.
Without giving too much away (but nonetheless giving some away), this book follows Az, the Angel of Death, as he struggles to balance his duty to deliver mankind to heaven, with his distress at the depths to which mankind is able to descend – something that his archangel brother, Lucifer, is obviously keen to take advantage of. The ultimate question is thus: “is there enough ‘good’ in mankind to keep the grim reaper on the straight and narrow? What a great conflict. What’s not to like?
And the pace of the first half of the novel is absolutely electric – right up my street. We span notable millennia in mere pages (including the creation of Mother Earth herself), and the chosen backdrops for the story development are well chosen. I raced hungrily through the first half of the book as a consequence of this excellent recipe.
But in actual fact, despite the pace, the story is actually more static than this, narrated as it is by Az from a point in the future – the Angel of Death is reminiscing! It never feels past tense, though, and the action is right in your senses; which is great. The structure is actually a bit like a novella I’m writing, and it’s good to see it done so well. Nice work.
And indeed, just as the Angel of Death is on the edge of despair, he finds salvation in a very personal exposure to the goodness in Man. This central part of the story quite reasonably slows down, and you can start to see the weave of the forthcoming chapters. We are moving towards the finale. And a great finale at that.
It ends in 21st Century NYC – there’s nothing wrong with that! But although the second half isn’t short of action, it didn’t seem to quite have the pace of the first. This may be simply a function of the vast spectrum of time covered in the first half vs. the more contained period in the second, but there is something intangibly slower – but to reiterate, it is still packed with action.
And we are moving towards a fitting and cleverly constructed showdown finale, which is exactly where we want to be.
This, however, leads to my main problem (a relatively small one at that); and it is a structural one. The “finale” chapter is very long in comparison to all the others (c. 5 times I think) and this presents a problem. We have been set a tone – and a fast paced one at that – and we therefore have expectations on the key timings within each chapter. But when a chapter is then so much longer than all the others, our radar is out, and we don’t know when we are expected to pause and reflect (which we’d do naturally after a chapter). Perhaps we’re not meant to reflect, though that would leave us breathless.
Of course, this could be considered a somewhat pedantic observation, but I raise it because it was the only time in the book that I scanned forward to get sight of my journey. And of course – different length chapters is absolutely reasonable, but this only resonated because it was a single lengthy anomaly in a series of high octane pockets. It just stuck out.
But alas – though this is my main concern, it is still a small one. I managed to find my own breaks and enjoyed the finale very much; very cleverly constructed with lots of twists and turns (arguably one too many twists in fact!) A really interesting read, and great imagination at the end.
So, what were my favourite bits of this? Here’s a list:
- The writing is very well done, and it appears to be well edited too. A solid foundation for any novel.
- The pace and the energy I have already talked about – excellent.
- The characters are well formed and individual, and Lucifer is particularly good fun; not as I would have necessarily painted him, but a great representation.
Were there any other things that I didn’t like so much? Maybe just a couple:
- I may have actually been a bit tired of hearing about humanity’s failings by the end. It’s a central tenet of the story, and therefore entirely forgivable, but there’s only so much morality bashing one can take!
- As briefly mentioned above, there may have been one too many twists and turns in the ultimate stand-off.
But another thing that was really nice in here was the subtle references to historical literary figures (and their relationship with the Angel of Death!) Some examples that are lodged in my head are: Shakespeare, Dickens, and Stephen King – but there are many others.
All in all I really enjoyed this book, and devoured it in very short order. A great read and thanks to the author.
And to continue my theme of pairing books with music, this requires a faster pace but a very grand context from a musical perspective. I have gone for Meltdown, a fabulous track by Orbital from the album the Altogether.