Archive for November, 2012

Hades: Demons and Angels

Last time, I talked about the depiction of Hell in Alexandra Adornetto’s book Hades. Today I’m going to talk about the characters, specifically the angels and the demons.

Angels

Because of this book’s setup, we don’t see much of the angels besides Bethany, the main character, and I think that’s unfortunate because I really like the other two angels better than her. It’s not that she’s an annoying character, per se, but when I think of angels, I don’t think of characters like her. Of the three main angels, she’s definitely the least angelic, and it’s not just because she broke the rules when she fell in love with a human. I’m fine with that; it’s the part that makes the story interesting. It’s other things that just don’t seem right.

Let’s take as an example the beginning of this book, where she attends a Halloween party with her friends and they pull out a Ouija board. She keeps trying to talk them out of holding a seance, but her attempts seem feeble, especially since she knew that bad things could happen if they succeeded in summoning a spirit. She seemed more concerned about the fact that her friends would give her a hard time if she didn’t take part than the possibly very serious danger that could result if she did. Call me crazy, but I don’t think that a real angel would be susceptible to a mild dose peer pressure. “You know, I would go fight that demon, but my friends will kill me if I skip out on Jessica’s slumber party tonight!”

And that’s how she gets dragged down to Hades in the first place. And once she fails down there and seems almost perfectly ok (see last post), she does very little of what I might expect. Her initial reaction seems spot on, from telling off Jake (the demon who dragged her down there) to storming out of the hotel he brought her to. But then she runs into trouble and seems totally helpless until Jake comes to rescue her. I thought she had special angelic powers! We at least know that she has wings. It makes sense that while on earth she keeps them hidden, but as long as everyone in Hell knows that she’s an angel why doesn’t she let them out and fly out of the stupid, wingless demons’ reach?

I don’t know, I guess I was just hoping for more from her. I kept getting disappointed by little things like the fact that she drinks a couple shots at a club, seemingly just to prove that she’s tough, while at the high school party in the beginning she made a point of not drinking any alcohol. She seems much more like an imperfect human teenager than a messenger of God on a mission.

I was relieved when Michael the archangel made an appearance: finally! An angel who actually acts like an angel!

Demons

The demons in this story seem to have a completely different problem; they just don’t seem evil enough. Sure, they’re definitely undesirable characters. They’re also completely devoid of mercy or compassion, but they seem to have their sights set pretty low. For beings who enjoy causing pain and destruction, they don’t put very much effort into causing it. If, as I mentioned in the last post, they have complete control over the souls in Hell, why do many of them seem to have it so easy? I don’t mean the souls in the pit, I’m talking about the ones working in the hotel or dancing at the clubs. The ones in the hotel are servants, but they seem relatively well-treated. If the demons are so heartless, why should they treat their servants in a manner that’s anywhere close to decent?

In my head, I keep comparing these demons to humans. In theory, demons should be at least as evil as the worst humans. Take your pick out of all the people in history and imagine a group of them running the show down there. In my opinion, that’s what it should look like realistically. And if that’s too graphic for a YA book, I still think it could be just a little bit closer.

So what do you think? Do you agree with me, or do you think I’m totally off base? Let me know in the comments, and stay tuned for the third and final section, coming soon!

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November 30, 2012 at 10:18 pm 3 comments

A Literary Depiction of Hell (Or Hades if You’d Prefer)

Now, let’s take a look at the setting of Hades. Granted, it starts in a normal town, but soon the main character, an angel named Bethany, falls prey to a demon named Jake and is dragged down to the underworld as his prisoner. Jake calls it Hades but grants that angels like her probably know it as Hell.

Our first glimpse of it is pretty bleak in the sense that there’s not much there. Basically darkness and graffiti-covered walls, if I remember correctly. The air is hot and dry, which hurts Beth’s throat, but other than that, being in Hell seems to have little effect on her. True, there’s something thrown in later about the slow sapping away of angelic powers, but honestly I was expecting a little more. Call me crazy, but I thought that Hell was supposed to be… you know, unpleasant.

I was taught that Hell is the only place in the universe where you are totally separated from God, and the true pain comes not from any actual physical torture but from the terrible fact of that separation. After all, when you’re dead your soul is separated from your body, so it makes perfect sense to me that any pain you experience is spiritual.

In that scenario, Beth should have felt the pain immediately, assuming that it was possible for an angel to be dragged down there in the first place without having fallen, which I seriously doubt. Of course, I do readily grant that the story wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting if she hadn’t been dragged down, so I’ll willingly suspend disbelief for the purpose of having a plot.

Continuing then, Jake and Beth go deeper into Hell by gaining admittance at the door. Just as in Harry Potter The Leaky Cauldron serves as an entrance to Diagon Alley, apparently to get into Hell you have to pass through a club called Pride. Perhaps it’s a hat-tip to the saying “Pride goeth before the fall.” And yes, it’s an actual club, the kind with music and dancing and alcohol. Apparently the people there are doomed to dance for all eternity. I wonder what they did to receive that as their punishment.

As Beth sees more of “Hades”, it becomes apparent that this book’s depiction of Hell is a strange crossing of Dante’s Inferno and Sin City. One minute the characters are talking about the nine circles and the next they’re heading back to their fancy hotel penthouse.

For those unfamiliar with Dante’s Inferno, I’ll try to briefly sum it up. The basic idea is that there are different levels of punishment for different types of crimes. The worse you acted while alive the worse your sentence. Below I’ve provided a diagram of the nine circles. The innermost is the worst place to be while the outermost is the best (although it’s still Hell).

Dante’s influence in this book can be seen most clearly in the place known as “the pit” where horrible tortures of all kinds are carried out and in the fact that the devil is said to live in the ninth circle.

The parts that are clearly not from Dante’s Inferno include those graffitied walls I mentioned earlier, the various clubs, the abundance of shady or threatening characters who frequent these places at their leisure (of which the women all seem to wear racy clothing), widespread alcohol and drug abuse, the existence of some form of gambling with stakes that I never quite picked up on (was it for their souls? How would that work anyway?), and basically the entire fancy part of town.

In my opinion, these two views don’t quite mix. For example, one thing that I took issue with was the fact that if any souls in the outer circles did something the demons didn’t like, they could get sent farther in as punishment. Dante’s idea of punishments suiting the crimes you committed in life goes out the window if demons are allowed to shove a “virtuous pagan” down into circle seven or eight because they do a good deed. (Because apparently when you’re in Hell, the cardinal virtues become cardinal sins.) Dante’s system is all about what he imagines to be divine justice, and I’m sure a scenario like the one above would not fly with him because it is entirely unjust. Either Hell is a place where punishment is meted out according to God’s judgment or it’s a place where the punishment is just being there and everyone can have a free-for-all. Not a little bit of both.

So, having set forward my issues with the setting, tomorrow I’ll move forward to discussing the characters. If you made it all the way through this post, though, I’m curious to know: if you believe in Hell, what do you think it’s like? I’d also like to hear your thoughts on its depiction in this book, especially if you’ve read it. Leave your reactions, ideas, whatever in the comments section, and stay tuned for the next segment!

November 27, 2012 at 2:11 pm 2 comments

Taking a Break From NaNo

Yes, yes, I know there are only five days left of NaNoWriMo, but I feel like I’ve been neglecting my blog all month long. I apologize to all my readers. I’d planned to post so many interesting stories about my NaNo struggles: the ups and downs, the trials and the successes. And it just didn’t happen. As I said in a previous post, NaNoWriMo was clearly not made for college students.

Thanksgiving break finally did afford me time to write, and I did continue my editing, but it also sidetracked me. I walked into the room I share with my sister and saw this sitting on her bed. How could I resist? Because of NaNo, I’d been taking a break from reading, so it seemed like such a long time since my last book. Plus, I knew that my sister had checked it out because I had previously recommended Halo, by the same author, telling her that I’d read it and it had a really pretty cover. This book was the sequel to Halo, and I’m a sucker for a series.

One immediate attraction that the book posed was that it was a quick read. It’s been a long time since I’ve read any Young Adult. The last YA book I read was Graceling back in July, and it’s been a stream of (mostly) list books since. Books on the list are usually of excellent quality, but every once in a while it’s wonderful to have a book that you can easily run through in just a couple sittings without feeling overloaded or sacrificing comprehension.

That being said, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have liked. After finishing, I only gave it 2 1/2 stars, the same rating I gave Villette. There were several big reasons for this, and I think that each of them would make for very interesting blog topics, so I’ve decided to take a short break from NaNoWriMo in order to write a 3 part series. Part of this series will be strictly based on the book, but I will also be using the framework as a jumping-off point to larger topics. The first part, to be posted tomorrow, will discuss the main setting of the book: Hades, known to most of us as Hell.

November 25, 2012 at 4:34 pm Leave a comment

I’ve Got the Editing Bug

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I’m back! I’m finally back! After way too many days without any writing at all, I’m working on my novel again. Unfortunately, although I’ve been working for a couple hours now, my word count hasn’t increased very significantly. That’s because I’ve been editing.

I know, I know, you’re not supposed to edit during NaNo. And that’s the exact reason. But, personally, I feel that I’m achieving a lot of good through my editing today. You see, as I considered the last big section I wrote, something about it didn’t seem right. One particular character was just kind of floating there.

“What would she do next?” I asked myself. And I had no clue whatsoever.

“Why is that?” Because all the stuff she did in the last scene doesn’t really make sense. I mean, what was she thinking during all that? How is she feeling about this situation?

So you can see that I had a problem.

Now, my theory of writing is that each event builds upon the one before it, all the way back to the beginning. That’s why whenever I write, I have to do it chronologically, beginning to end, no skipping around. If things in chapter 20 aren’t turning out the way you wanted, you might have to reach as far back as chapter 2 to make the change that will lead to the result you want. And if you have enough things out of whack, you might as well just rewrite the entire thing. That’s the way I do it, anyway.

Now, when I say I’m editing, it’s not like I’m going back and nit-picking over every single word. I’m targeting specific sections where I feel that my characters got off track and pushing them back on. Of course, in doing that, if I come across a typo or realize that a sentence would sound better this way, I can’t help myself. So I’ll admit that there is a side to it that’s not strictly necessary at this point, but all together it’s giving me the vision that I need in order to continue. I’m just trying to follow the way of writing that works for me.

November 17, 2012 at 3:27 pm Leave a comment

So Guilty

I haven’t written a single word for NaNoWriMo since Tuesday. And even that was about two sentences.

Things were going so well! Last Sunday I wrote 1711 words, above even the NaNo daily recommendation for people trying to get the full 50,000 words. (As opposed to the about 37,000 I’m aiming for.) I was feeling good, thinking about doing a bit of editing before I moved on to the next big scene.

And then homework reared its ugly head. I’m still working on the big speech I have to present on Monday. I have homework and studying to do for a Calculus test on Friday. And I haven’t even started my Databases homework that’s due on Monday, much less the Lit research paper due Thursday.

It’s official. NaNoWriMo was not designed for the college student. If it was, we’d all be doing this in July or August.

November 10, 2012 at 5:13 pm 3 comments

NaNo Day 3: I’m Beginning to Feel Like a Creature of the Night

That would be because the light in my dorm room hasn’t been working since Thursday. Flip the switch, all it does is buzz and give off a faint glow. I put in a work order. Who knows when they’ll fix it. I was hoping that they would on Friday, but it didn’t happen. So I’m sitting here with only the light from my laptop screen, which is the same as it was last night when I was working until Midnight on NaNoWriMo.

I got a fair amount of writing done this afternoon: 874 words by around 3:30. And then I got overconfident, I told myself that I had plenty of time to get the rest of my 1200-ish words for the day, so I took a trip to the grocery store, ate supper, watched some tv, and finished Wittgenstein’s Mistress. And now it’s 10:30 at night. So much for that.

Still, I do get an extra hour tonight from turning back the clocks, and I did leave off in a pretty good spot for picking up again tomorrow. We’ll see how it goes.

November 3, 2012 at 10:29 pm Leave a comment

Wittgenstein’s Mistress

I’ve taken a few breaks from my NaNoWriMo work to finish this book. As I have mentioned, it is unlike any other that I have ever read. It has a forward motion in a sense, but it also circles back to bring forth observations that the narrator has already made or memories she has already mentioned. Often she uses the same sentences. Sometimes she uses those sentences in a form that while altered just slightly produces an entirely different effect.

There is no real plot to speak of, and yet it kept me engaged all the way through in a way that other books that have traditional plots have not been able to do. This made me wonder often what it was that was keeping me reading. The best answer that I could come up with was that I wanted to know more about this woman. I wanted to hear how she had come to where she was. I wanted to understand her mind.

She fills her life with all these thoughts of art and artists, writers and books, philosophers and philosophical thoughts. I wondered what purpose these served for her, whether they were roundabout ways of addressing subjects she didn’t want to think about or whether the loneliness and silence of her life created a void that needed to be filled with so much noise, like a hermit or a castaway talking to himself.

Really, I don’t understand it. At least not in any real and meaningful way, like the guy who wrote the afterword. Although there certainly is something there in my mind. It’s as though I’ve picked something up from this novel that I can’t quite see, like it’s a bit of a blur and if I only put on the right pair of glasses it would jump suddenly into perfect focus.

It’s put me in a rather thoughtful mood, as you can see. I’m writing this just having finished the last page. Whatever mood I’m in now is at least partially what the book has inspired in me.

One thing I keep turning to is a line by Michelangelo that the narrator quoted only twice: “You will say that I am old and mad, but I answer that there is no better way of being sane and free from anxiety than by being mad.”

Think about it.

November 3, 2012 at 10:05 pm Leave a comment

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