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on Sep. 28, 2012 :
Overall: It’s funny that I don’t consider this an angel/demon novel when 90% of the characters are either one or the other. To me, it felt like a science fiction novel, only the setting was with Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory. There is no religious bashing, outright preaching, or moral values hidden beneath the ink waiting to subconsciously sink their teeth into your brain and suck out your vices (or was there? *cue Twilight Zone music*). Atheists and Christians alike can enjoy this novel from Terra Whiteman. Also like a science fiction novel, there is great emphasis on making the different places and characters feel as comfortable to your mind as your own hometown. I can picture each scene as easily in this novel as I could if it was a movie. It doesn’t have the shock value that I like in many of my favorite novels – but I still enjoyed nearly every moment reading this book.
Characters: It’s clear from the first meeting between Leid and Alezair that these two have met previously, but since Alezair has no memory of his former life, he doesn’t know what kind of relationship he used to have with her. Throughout the novel, his instincts drive him to both lust and hate her. Leid rejects him over and over again and yet you can’t help but think each time that maybe this time Alezair might have a chance with this deadly woman. Leid surprised me in her unique response to each situation. I adore her more than any heroine as of late. She’s like a tiger – beautiful, exotic, but dangerous for your health in close quarters. I have 10 or 15 different texts highlighted in my Kindle of the awesome verbal exchanges between these two characters. The author doesn’t give into the chemistry sizzling – no, every time they meet is like a hit and you can help but turn page after page looking for that next high.
Plot: The book begins with Alezair on just another mission from the Nexus to kill people, which he is very good at doing, and with no recollection of who he used to be. On this mission he meets Leid and he is struck by how familiar she is to him. After following Leid, she decides to make him into a being like her – and Alezair becomes a nearly invincible enforcer between Heaven and Hell. Not all is what it seems, as the beings of Heaven and Hell seem to recognize him, but no one will say how. Alezair’s body draws him instinctively to Leid and he has no idea why. Although the mystery of who Alezair really is unravels at a snail’s pace, there is plenty of action and a very intricate world to keep you entertained as the mystery unfolds.
Ending: I don’t get the last 10% of the novel. I could accept the novel as over (with a sequel expected) when Alezair stops narrating. I didn’t find out everything I wanted to know, but I was okay with drawing my own conclusions for now. But, the last 10% is written in various points of view that flash back to earlier scenes in the novel, only from a different perspective. I didn’t connect with these people. I didn’t learn anything new about Alezair – only that people were damn scared of him, which I could guess from his point of view. Without the last 10%, I would have given this novel 5 stars. With it, I had to knock off a star for killing the mystery and allure of some of my favorite minor characters from the novel. Regardless, I still am planning on reading the rest of this series.
This is a great book for those who like books about Angels and Demons without the influence of the author’s religious beliefs.
*I received a copy of this book from a FMB tours in exchange for my honest review.
(review of free book)
on Sep. 16, 2012 :
Good read. I wasn't crazy about the excerpt chapters, was confusing. I will say the the overall book was very good and I am going read the series. Character build was healthy and consistent, good flow thru the book. Very enjoyable read.
(review of free book)
on Dec. 05, 2011 :
This review was first published on my blog, Violin in a Void: http://violininavoid.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/the-antithesis-by-terra-whiteman/
Alezair is a super-human soldier from the Nexus, available for hire to powerful beings in the collection of parallel universes known as the Multiverse. While on a mission Alezair is attacked, nearly killed and later recruited by a beautiful girl named Leid (pronounced ‘lied’). She takes him to her home in Purgatory, and makes him a member of the Jury, a tiny governing body that oversees the Eternal War between Heaven and Hell.
Alezair is transformed into an even more powerful, near-immortal being called a Vel’Haru. For over a century Leid trains him to be a Judge, whose duties not only include presiding over the legal cases of Archaeans (angels) and the Fallen (demons), but travelling within the Multiverse and executing beings who are in violation of the Code. According to the Code, Celestials are forbidden from directly influencing their creations in a bid to win their souls. This includes things like “demon possession, and even that stunt Heaven pulled with Jesus Christ”.
But Son-of-God stunts aside, Hell has a huge lead on Heaven in terms of soul points, even without Code-violations. Sinful things just tend to be instinctual and neither the threat of eternal suffering or the promise of eternal bliss has proven particularly persuasive. So when lesser demons start committing a few suspicious Code violations, Heaven tries to use it to their advantage in Court, proposing a new law that will have a drastic effect on the Eternal War. Alezair finds himself caught up in a tumultuous time, and he hasn’t even finished his training. He’s also plagued by an attraction to Leid that suggests they once had an intimate relationship. However, she only ever treats him with cool, efficient indifference, revealing nothing about herself, or the history of how the Vel’Haru ended up in Purgatory.
This is a difficult book for me to rate and review, because I’m not quite sure what to make of it. Firstly, there’s a lot of information and characters to keep track of, and since I have a tendency to read several books at the same time, I didn’t give this as much focus as I should have. I also think that in general, it’s a bit confusing, so on the whole I feel like I didn’t get as strong a grasp on it as I would prefer.
The story unfolds through multiple worlds – it begins in Jerusalem in 1180 AD, the characters time-travel to Japan in 1560 AD, and then to the 20th or 21st century. From there Alezair is transported to Purgatory, where most of the scenes are set, but there are also scenes in heaven, hell, and a few other worlds in the Multiverse.
Whiteman has reconfigured Heaven and Hell to suit the parallel dimensions of the Multiverse. Heaven and Hell have influence over some of these worlds, collectively known as the Atrium. What’s more interesting is that she’s also rewritten Christian mythology about the two realms and The Fall, combining religion and mythology with politics and biology. Although Leid and the other Vel’Haru look human, the concept of the species is based on on ants (as the author explains in her notes at the end of the novel) with whom they share traits like having a Queen who is the only reproducing female in the population. Genetics plays an important role in the Eternal War, which began because of the racism of the angels, who discriminated against and enslaved the demons. The angels, notably, look very Aryan. I won’t reveal more details of the rewrite, for fear of spoiling the book, but what I like about it is its moral ambiguity. Heaven and Hell, angels and demons can’t be categorised as good and evil. If anything you’re much more likely to sympathise with the demons, in the same way that you would sympathise with Satan as he’s portrayed in Paradise Lost.
What I didn’t like about the rewrite was how much Heaven, Hell, Purgatory and the angels, demons and Judges so closely resemble our world and humans. They do things like wear human clothes (shirts and ties, jeans and T-shirts, high heels, etc.) although in some cases (demons in particular) the outfits are a bit more outrageous. They all look human, and have human occupations such as drinking wine and smoking cigarettes, throwing a house party, directing a play, going to work in a car, taking a walk in a park and buying a drink from a vendor.
Which brings me back to my original problem – I don’t quite know what to make of this. I think it could have been much more inventive, but nevertheless it didn’t bother me too much. Maybe I was in a good mood, because some of the more ludicrous things, like an Archdemon describing himself as “a complete cheerleader for Team Hell” seemed really funny at the time, rather than totally stupid. You could also argue that the Celestials being so much like humans emphasises their flaws and makes it easier to understand their behaviour.
You see them all through Alezair’s eyes, and not for a moment does he revere any of them, with the possible exception of God and Lucifer. He scoffs at them, looks down on them, makes fun of them, gets frustrated by their many imperfections. Alezair himself is a deeply flawed character. He’s cocky, temperamental, and undisciplined, with a tendency to handle difficult situations with shouting and violence. He also develops a pretty serious drinking problem in response to the stress of his training. I didn’t like him that much, but I nevertheless shared some of his frustrations, and this helped me empathise with him. Leid, Adrial and Zhevraine keep a lot of important information from him. They do so because there are unpleasant things they just don’t want to talk about, but I also think that the author keeps them silent because she’s trying to maintain the mystery of why Leid seems so familiar and so attractive to Alezair, not the mention the presumably catastrophic events that put the Vel’Haru in Purgatory.
It’s fine at first but can get quite irritating. It’s some time before the puzzle pieces start to fall into place, and be warned that you won’t get all of them in this book. The Antithesis is the first in a series, and at the end it doesn’t just hint at a sequel; it requires one. Although some secrets are revealed, nothing is resolved and new conflicts arise. Towards the end the structure of the book changes completely, switching from Alezair’s perspective to chapters from the perspectives of some of the major characters, revealing what happened in the past, or during the other events of the novel. It leaves you with many questions and dizzying cliffhangers.
So what do I make of it? I still don’t quite know. On the one, somewhat objective hand, I feel like I shouldn’t like this book because of the things that bugged me. It’s too long, the writing can be… odd (eyebrows are “lofted”, eyes “soar” in all directions), I don’t think the characters should be wearing jeans or having coffee and danishes for breakfast, and I’d appreciate it if Alezair didn’t always act like an arrogant jock. On the other, subjective hand, I have to admit that I had a fairly good time reading The Antithesis. I love mythology, the Eternal War is quite entertaining, the portrayal of the Celestials and their realms wasn’t great but at least it was funny sometimes, there’s plenty of cool action, and I always appreciate a good dig at the false dichotomies of religion.
(reviewed long after purchase)
on Nov. 01, 2011 :
(Cross-posted from the Adarna SF book blog)
The Antithesis is impossible to peg to a subgenre. The tropes are a mash between seinen action manga (Japanese comics for a 20+ demographic) and supernatural urban fantasy. I’m a sucker for gorey over-the-top Rule of Cool fight scenes, so when I read the scene where Alezair gets turned into a Judge and can turn his hands into scythes, demolish armies, and regenerate lost limbs by eating dirt and convulsing painfully, I knew I had to read this book.
The original take on the battle between Heaven and Hell is thrilling to read. It’s a world where angels and demons are more akin to other creatures (ala humanoid races in space opera) rather than idealized ethereal beings. The demons are the former slaves of the angels, and the war they wage on the souls of lesser beings (such as us. We’re just one portion of a multiverse and we’re not very important) is essentially a giant (rigged) chess game to sort out the politics of these two groups. Judges are another kind of creature whose role is to keep score. It’s a messy shades-of-gray universe where the angels seem like jerks and you can’t help but sympathize with the demons, and I have to give kudos to the author for the fresh perspective.
This is a badass book in many ways. I liked many of the demon characters, I’m awfully fond of the crazy fight scenes, and there’s some interesting worlds in the multiverse (including a weird west one) but I couldn’t completely get into it for two personal reasons. Firstly, vampire-like urban fantasy tropes don’t interest me, and secondly, I couldn’t suspend my disbelief for some of the world-building.
There aren’t any vampires in this book but the tropes are similar. Alezair gets turned into a Judge because he lusts after Leid and he becomes her guardian. Judges live for hundreds of years, have to kill a lot of people, and some even mourn the fact that they’ve turned into monsters. All the higher creatures have hierarchical societies, they drink wine and smoke constantly, and there’s a lot of intrigue and unrequited love angst. I know a lot of readers like these tropes, but I generally just can’t bring myself to care about these kinds of conflicts (especially the love angst) and unfortunately this book wasn’t the exception.
All the higher creatures act like 21st century North Americans, complete with desk jobs and alcohol abuse. It humanizes them, but there wasn’t an explanation as to why they all organized their societies in this specific way, so my brain often kept on questioning it instead of enjoying the story. Even a wry comment like “Once the multiverse developed the art of bureaucracy, it engulfed everything in its path and escape was impossible” would help with the suspension of disbelief, but it doesn’t exist.
The other dimension I couldn’t wrap my head around was gender. The narrative asserts the biological and historical differences between these creatures, but they did not vary in gender dynamics and they dealt with femaleness rather strangely. Leid is the Commander of all the Judges, and according to the narrative, she’s highly respected and feared, intelligent, and physically powerful. So I raised my eyebrow at the fact that she could be cornered to a wall by a male subordinate and be paralyzed with fear, and there’s an after-the-fact horrified reflection on the man’s part that he could have raped her. But why does a woman like Leid have to fear rape if she’s as powerful as the narrative asserts her to be? She’s a hands-turn-into-scythes killing machine. I wouldn’t expect that the Terminator could be harassed in the same way, so why would she by virtue of her being female?
I know other readers will find this book very enjoyable, but because of matters of personal taste, I can’t say this is one of my favourite books of year. World-building is one of the most challenging parts of speculative literature, and it’s much easier to do so when it’s based on common settings, and much more tricky when from an original secondary world. Like I said, the points I raise about the world-building are very subjective, so don’t let that stop you if you won’t find them distracting. If you like over-the-top fight scenes, intrigue and tragedy akin to vampire tropes, and a unique concepts on the battle between heaven and hell, then you might consider this worth a look.
Note: a free review copy was provided by the author
(reviewed long after purchase)