Bastet's Lair

News, book reviews, essays, interviews, fiction writing, politics, and my view of the world

August 1, 2010

Angelology tries to answer puzzles of Genesis' giants

Passages in Genesis, Chapter 6, Chapter 1-2 , have puzzled theologians for centuries with some simple yet strange words: "The Sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair and they took them wives of all that they chose."

The "sons of God" were in Hebrew bene ha elohim, which is usually translated as "angels." Later, Genesis goes on to say:

"The Nephilim (sometimes translated as 'giants,' especially in the King James Version) were in the earth in those days, and also after that when the Sons of God came unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them: the same were the mighty men which were of old, the men of renown."

The words have puzzled thousands of readers throughout history, no less Danielle Trussoni, author of Angelology. An apocryphal Book of Enoch, popular in the Middle Ages, described a whole history of fallen angels — separate from Satan's flock — who left the Watchers God sent to keep tabs on humanity. Instead these angels mated with human females to beget a race of giants, also called the Nephilm (or fallen ones). And the Nephilim were so powerful and so lacking in human kindness that God had to wipe them out with Noah's Flood.

Danielle Trussoni
Enter, then,  Angelology.

Many books have dealt seriously with the subject of the Nephilim over the years, although not many authors wanted to consider that the beings were really angelic in nature. One excellent book asking the question of who these giants were is From the Ashes of Angels by English writer Andrew Collins. He produces pictures of totem-like giant heads from Mideast cultures and quotes copiously from the Book of Enoch (which can be read in The Other Bible). Clearly, he doesn't believe in mythic beasts, but he does believe there is something to the story of the Nephilim that gave rise to the Biblical passages.

So what does Trussoni create in her obviously fictional creation? Well, angels. Really, really bad angels. Her scholarship is top-notch and she researches the very beginnings the beliefs in the Nephilim. But where a writer like Collins allows archeology to take him to ruins in Turkey or to turn to myths of several Mideastern lands, Trussoni allows flights of fancy to create ruling families of Nephilm that populate Europe. (One family name is Grigori, which is Greek for Nephilim — all very clever.)

A few critics called Trussoni's work similar to Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, but nothing could be further from the truth. This is an extremely well-written book, whereas Brown's work, with its three-page chapters, was largely pop trash.

Trussoni takes religion seriously, for one thing. She also is careful to to not only create characters, such as the protagonist Evangeilne — a young nun with a past that is revealed slowly and deliciously — who are believable and true to their cause. Their goal is to wipe out the Nephilim before the enemy wipes out humanity.

The author maps out villains who do what they must from their perspective. There are no pure killing machines here. The fallen angels have their own feelings and own needs. Surely the best villains are those who think they are doing the best, for who truly thinks they are wrong? Trussoni does a great job of getting into the heads of the Nephilim, repellant as they are.

The plot blends into the story of an aged nun, Celestine, who turns out to be a former anti-Nephilim agent. She supplies necessary narrative mid-stream when Evangeline's memories are lacking. All in all, the strategy works smoothly despite the change of narrator. Only the robo-killer angels at the end are a bit too much. And the apotheosis at the culmination strained credibility for me. Some might go for it, but I rolled my eyes.

Still, the novel stands head and shoulders above anything with the word "angels" that has appeared in the fiction category in long time. Too bad it can't answer what Genesis, Chapter 6 was talking about after all these years, for I hardly think Europe has been run by Nephilim for centuries. But then, after eons, no one can has a handle on the fallen angels yet. Why not Trussoni?

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Article first published as Book Review: Angelology: A Novel by Danielle Trussoni on Blogcritics.

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