As I mentioned earlier, I skimmed this book, so I’m sure I missed a lot. So rather than a real review, this is a report on the parts I did read.

Here’s the opening lines:

It was the stillness.

That’s what they remembered most about the beginning. A stillness that hung like ancient mold on the trees. But who could forget anything about Wind Sunday? The sharp acrylic memories painted themselves on their hearts and refused to dry. And ever after, touching the canvas brought tears.


1. Hanging mold? Perhaps the author means moss, as in Spanish?

2. The acrylic memories remind me of a talk I gave to one of my high school students recently about not extending a metaphor so far that it falls off a cliff, so to speak.

Divorce Wednesday.

For the children it was four years ago. A day that crackled with screams and tears and hatred.


The next few pages describe the coming of “a wind larger than a planet” and heap elaborate scorn upon the scientists who think this is impossible and the newscasters who downplay it. But animals know better!

Around the world scientific instruments measured it, but only the dogs understood what it meant. Untold millions of them began howling their lungs out.

Soon, like all prophets, they would be beaten to silence.


The children are blown into a bizarre world in which they enact a sort of Pilgrim’s Progress. The two girls have to lug a baby (innocence, or possibly Jesus) around, and get lectured on theology at every turn by beings with tin-eared names like Wanderspoon, Worwil, and Mr. Hydrogen, most of whom speak in italics, Portentous Capitals, or

Portentously Capitalized
and Tragically Italicized
Poetry.


Here, have a sample:

Sing wind
Of Star Curse,
Of blood-gorged rivers that rush to the sea,
Why did you answer the call that he gave you?
His song,
Boodsong,
Sing

[…]

Oceans of teardrops, the wombs are dying.


Alex, the boy, follows this pattern: He gets beaten to hell and back, experiences extreme agony, vomits, is taken in by a being (generally speaking in italics) who seems good but is actually evil, is wounded and beaten up, vomits, and is agonized. Rinse and repeat, with variations involving infected wounds, pus, bile, more pus, more bile, slime, lakes of blood, etc.

And when there isn’t literal pus, there’s metaphorical pus. Satan is repeatedly described, for pages on end, as a giant infected pimple that needs to be popped by the forces of good. Even hope is a pimple:

”However, there may be one glimmer of true hope, a single pustule the size of a rat dropping. […] If we hurry, there might be someone who can keep you from suffering inordinately as you disintegrate into a foul-smelling, deciduous stalk of wood.”

And then there’s this characteristic passage:

She felt invisible fingers groping, probing in her mind, peeling away layers of memory like scabs from a rotting wound. Slicing open every ragged scar. Squeezing the pus from all her rancid sorrows.

This fetishistic fixation on wounds and bodily fluids reaches its climax when the characters meet God:

In the Face of this King was a strange and terrible Glory, and that Glory was in His scars. So many! So deep! Scars upon scars! Scars within scars! […] Every wound given to the smallest and least of his children had become a burning wound within His body. [etc] And the worst of the wounds were still bleeding, for they were the wounds from the Pit of Blood.

Alex’s sister is given a necklace as a souvenir, but Alex’s gift is a scar:

Bellwind smiled. “The scars, yes, the scars from wounds of the King, are the greatest gifts of all.”

I am not a Christian, but I ask you Christians: this is theologically unusual, right? (In addition to gross.)

The thing about God’s blood made me think of Catholicism, but a cathedral is the center of evil (sorry, Evil), so I’m guessing not. Can anyone identify the actual sect of Christianity which this might have sprung from, or would its origin be the fevered brain of the author alone?

Satan, by the way, is the Painter of the Universe. (Art is evil?) Meet Satan:

The body of the giant seemed to go on forever and through its crystal flesh, he could see organs surging with blood the color of rainbows. But the creature couldn’t move. It was bound hand and foot with mighty chains of crimson, and horrifying wounds covered its flesh. From them flowed blood in steaming rivers that fell away into the abyss.

…In the hands of a different author, Satan the Painter and his rainbow blood would be pretty awesome. Here, not so much.

There is no real plot, just a series of bizarre encounters which could have occurred in any order. Reading this was like reading an account of a highly religious, though theologically peculiar, acid trip, as recorded by someone unfamiliar with English capitalization:

An Ocean of Roaring Sweeping Down from the Sky…
An Ocean Crashing over her…


I realize how disorganized and incoherent this report is, which is unsurprising given the skim factor, but I don’t think it would be less so had I read every single word of the book, which is itself disorganized and incoherent.

I was so befuddled by this book that I looked up the author. He attended several Christian schools and a Christian college, fought in Vietnam and was awarded several medals for valor, and then became a TV producer! He sounds like a pretty interesting guy. Too bad none of his real-life experiences managed to inform his fiction in any useful manner.

Angel Fall: A Novel
oursin: hedgehog carving from Amiens cathedral (Amiens hedgehog)

From: [personal profile] oursin


Gosh, sounds like A Voyage to Arcturus meets the visions of those late medieval saints who sought out lepers in order to lick their sores as an act of mortification... plus extra batshittery.
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From: [personal profile] oyceter


Bwahahahaha! It sounds like Yuki Kaori, but sadly without any of the awesomesauce crack.

And with more pus.
rydra_wong: Lee Miller photo showing two women wearing metal fire masks in England during WWII. (Default)

From: [personal profile] rydra_wong


as you disintegrate into a foul-smelling, deciduous stalk of wood.

OH NOEZ NOT DECIDUOUS.
bravecows: Picture of a brown cow writing next to some books (Default)

From: [personal profile] bravecows


So ... both God and Satan are covered with terrible wounds? How d'you tell the difference between Glorious wounds and Satanic wounds?

From: [identity profile] ruffwriter.livejournal.com


... it's like he swallowed a study guide for the SAT verbal section and started vomiting up metaphors...

If this isn't self-published, I'm going to cry myself to sleep.

From: [identity profile] ruffwriter.livejournal.com


... (sob)

I'm going through the process of looking for an agent right now, and all I can think is, "How the hell did he pitch this?"

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com


The Christian bookstore market's tolerance for pus must be lower than anticipated.
ext_12512: Hinoe from Natsume Yuujinchou, elegant and smirky (happy chibi youkai!Hakkai in snow)

From: [identity profile] smillaraaq.livejournal.com


And yet the new editor's specific objections only mentioned PLAYING CARDS! Perhaps she managed to skip past all the pus scenes?

(I'd wonder just who, outside of serious gore-horror fans, he thinks are the non-Christian genre readers who are dying to read so much TL;DR about wounds and body fluids, but then I remember the horror stories I heard about the birth scene in Breaking Dawn and I want to curl up in a fetal position and whimper until the memory passes.)

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com


Playing cards? That's both hilarious and sad. I guess there are still a few Christians hung up on the whole "devil's picture-book" thing. (Is that still official doctrine of any denomination?)
ext_12512: Hinoe from Natsume Yuujinchou, elegant and smirky (585 embrace your demons)

From: [identity profile] smillaraaq.livejournal.com


I don't know if there are any major denominations that have official doctrine objecting to modern playing cards due to occult associations (although it's not hard at all to find webpages from individual Christians who believe that). But back in the 1980s I knew quite a few non-denominational fundamentalists who insisted that Christians should avoid both playing cards and dice because of their association with gambling -- the argument was that even if you were using them for the most innocent family-friendly games, Christians are supposed to avoid even "the appearance of evil" and be cautious about becoming a "stumbling block" for weaker persons -- that sort of philosophy is likely to be what's behind the new Zondervan editor noting that their "very conservative" readers "don't like playing cards".

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com


The anti-gambling thing makes sense, but I have never really understood the mindset that doesn't like even the slightest mention of "evil" things. And of course it's selective - I doubt many of their readers object to the mention of, say, a gun, even though you can use that to commit more grievous sins than gambling.

From: [identity profile] erinlin.livejournal.com


Wow, that sounds like a weird book. I'm (technically) Catholic, and I've heard of stigmata marks, which are wounds that correspond with the ones received by Christ on the cross. Buy I've never heard of some sort of holy/mystic scar.

From: [identity profile] rushthatspeaks.livejournal.com


He's pretty clearly a fairly right-wing evangelical, based on the theological things you've mentioned. The wounds of Christ as holy is a long-running thing-- look how many saints manifested stigmata-- but the evangelicals can be fairly obsessed about them, and I'm pretty sure it's an evangelical idea that every sin anyone commits on earth becomes an addition to those wounds.

Sadly, there is indeed an art-is-evil thing in that sort of denomination. The clearest description of it I've seen is in Craig Thompson's autobiographical graphic novel Blankets, where the young Craig is being told about Heaven in Sunday school. He asks whether he will be able to paint in Heaven, because painting and drawing are the things he really enjoys. The teacher tells him that the only purpose of drawings and paintings is to glorify and praise God and to try to show reflections of God's perfection in an imperfect world, and since Heaven is the perfect world and the Bible says that everyone there glorifies God through singing, he will have neither the ability nor the desire to paint. Craig becomes very upset by this and she tells him that his desire to make art is a vanity and a sin, because if art is not a reflection of the glory of God, then it's trying to improve on God's creation, which is impossible vanity and also evil. Then for about the next ten years everyone watches him all the time to see whether he's drawing ungodly things, and when he goes to art school he has to partially break off with his family.

So Satan as a painter sounds plausible for that sort of thinking.

I don't know where they got the idea that trying to create things oneself is evil; I've never heard the citation and it runs directly contrary to several theologians and apologists I've always thought that sort of sect paid attention to.

In other news, the excerpts you've included from this book are so mind-meltingly horrible that my brain refuses to process their existence. Congratulations: you've found a book so bad I don't want to read it just to laugh.

From: [identity profile] lizw.livejournal.com


It's a little odd, but mostly for the style rather than the ideas, from the excerpts you have here. Coleman Luck is a graduate of the Moody Bible Institute, which is evangelical and relatively mainstream, as these things go. Evangelicals do have a tendency to talk about "being washed in the Blood of the Lamb" and that kind of thing, but the tone of this seems a bit different. The idea of wounds as a gift is one I associate more with medieval Catholicism, with people praying for stigmata etc.

From: [identity profile] icecreamempress.livejournal.com


Wow.

I think that, just in the passages you quoted, he manages to commit every single one of Fenimore Cooper's Literary Offenses.

Thanks for taking one for the team (or in this case, for the Virginia Avenue Project). I am off to donate in memory of the brain cells you gave for this worthy cause! (Salutes.)

From: [identity profile] samhenderson.livejournal.com


OK, I totally read that first line as "It was the silliness."

From: [identity profile] jinian.livejournal.com


What the fucking fuck? Also, Spanish moss is closer to mold than to regular moss, but I think that's purely a stopped-clock accident.
brownbetty: (Default)

From: [personal profile] brownbetty


I think, with the Cathedral as the center of Evil, you're looking at a particular stream of anti-Catholic Evangelicalism.

The scars thing is a unique metaphor so far as I know, but I can see how you'd get there from Matt 25:31. Usually, Christians are more keen on experiencing Christ's scars., cf. Julian of Norwich, etc.
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From: [personal profile] zeborah


I think my brain stopped working because all it can think about is the "foul-smelling, deciduous stalk of wood". Because. What?

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com


The idea that the physical world (and particularly the human body) is disgusting is one that I've heard crop up in American Christianity before, albeit usually not quite so... graphically.

My uneducated impression is that it's an idiosyncratic viewpoint, not one really pushed by any particular denomination, but I could be wrong.

Here's a Something Positive comic on the subject.
ext_12512: Hinoe from Natsume Yuujinchou, elegant and smirky (Saiyuki Gaiden: sakura of doom)

From: [identity profile] smillaraaq.livejournal.com


Looking through his blog and website, he identifies as an evangelical Christian, presumably non-denominational -- definitely not a hard Dominionist, as while he also talks about being conservative he's got a lengthy essay going into his objections towards that wing of the Christian Right that hitched its wagon to the Republican party; he seems to hold big government and evangelical megachurches in equal suspicion. Some of his beliefs -- Biblical literacy, the coming end times, Satan and evil spirits as real forces, seeing Mormons as non-Christian cultists, etc. -- lean towards the fundamentalist side, but given his mix of attendance at secular and religious colleges, his years working in mainstream TV and talk about big genre franchises like Twilight and Lost, he doesn't seem like the sort who thinks Christians need to fear and shun all secular media as inherently corrupting.

The really weird thing, though, is that his blog posts and essays all have pretty straightforward, coherent prose, no Portentous and Tragic random formatting or anything. Maybe some of the general incoherence comes from the book being something he worked on off and on for 25 years -- I can imagine it could be tricky to keep everything focused and consistent with so much elapsed time in production. But the stylistic quirks seem like they must have been a deliberate choice... *blinks*

From: [identity profile] coraa.livejournal.com


I actually do think this is intended as a metaphorical-fantasy version of the fairly common Christian 'spiritual warfare' genre. The children wind up in a fantasy land; there they need to be able to distinguish good people from 'hidden' demons; if they don't, the result is blood, pus and vomit. Under that kind of framework, Alex's torture/vomiting/etc. isn't just over-the-top unfortunate circumstances, it's his 'due' for not being able to recognize and counteract the demons.

That said, it's a weirdly skewed, trippy, nonsensical view. Most spiritual warfare books are thrillers, not... semi-surreal metaphorical fantasy.
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From: [personal profile] vass


I've heard (this was in an Anglican church) the theme of hiding in Christ's wounds. That grossed me out at the time. This is worse.
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From: [personal profile] snarp


[livejournal.com profile] rushthatspeaks sounds right to me about the genre - though in all the weird violent stuff they gave us in Christian Ed class, I don't recall anything quite so fascinated with the wounds. This person may have issues! Maybe!

This reminds me faintly of a cartoon they made us watch when I was about seven where there were these two kids - again a girl and boy - who somehow ended up in this nightmarish world where there were various locations that symbolized the ten commandments.

So the kids would go from place to place, and at each place one of the kids broke the commandment or made fun of it or something, and there would be a musical number abusing them for it. I found these the musical numbers utterly terrifying as a kid. I don't remember how or if the thing handled "adultery" or "murder", because these were grade-schoolers, but I remember that they did do "graven idols" - the place was full of posters of rock stars and stuff, and the boy ran around gazing at them with a deranged look on his face, and the girl looked scared, and meanwhile this creepy, sarcastic "rock" song played shouting at him for his sin.

(There was a talking fountain in there, and I think that's why I'm to this day so uneasy around statuary in fountains. Like - I find the idea of going to the Palace of Versailles unappealing, because I know there are fountains with friggin' statues in them around there someplace. I'm subconsciously convinced that these fountains will start talking to me about sin.)

From: [identity profile] tool-of-satan.livejournal.com


Ah, but at Versailles, the fountains are in favor of sin.

From: [identity profile] madam-silvertip.livejournal.com


Just briefly, as to whether this is typically Christian/Catholic:

No.

Which is not to say you couldn't find examples of it in such a population. Indeed Catholic Europe in the Middle Ages was fascinated with bodily remnants as holy objects, on the theory that these were remnants of saints. But there is nothing in Catholic theology that requires a particular fixation on wounds and skin diseases and the like, or on blood coming from wounds. (Some German Protestant hymns get quite excited about blood from the wounds of Christ, but again this appears to be a particular, dated cultural quirk.)

The point about flesh and blood in the Christian tradition is that Christ referred to the bread and wine of Communion as the body and blood of the sacrifice at the Paschal feast, with Christ Himself being the sacrifice. There is a lot to suggest that this was not meant literally as an eating of flesh but as a reference to the existence of Christ's community, understood later as the Church, in the persons who would carry it on and who would together become the Body of Christ (as a community). The imagery and the theology are complicated, but they have a lot more to do with community than with a chicken leg.

Pre-Christian European religions seem to have given dead bodies religious significance in a variety of contexts, and the fascination with relics may represent a continuation of these beliefs. But they, and the wounds of Christ, are not the same thing as the Body and Blood, which is the "main event," so to speak.

Which isn't to say one doesn't hear all kinds of weird stuff about it and the crucifixion and on and on, but it's more of a case-by-case thing--as in, this person could have heard some weird stuff or made it up himself. One never knows.
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