I’m still working on that Hounded sporking, but I decided to get on this while I still had time before NaNoWriMo.

After finishing all the available Nightside books by Simon R. Green, I decided to move on to his other series, Secret Histories, starting with The Man with the Golden Torc. The book is pretty much to spy stories what Nightside is to detective stories, so I enjoyed it quite heartily even if it was, much like Simon R. Green’s other books, not perfect. It told the story it set out to, all the while introducing the reader to delightfully colorful characters with ridiculously over-the-top names like ‘Mr. Stab’ and ‘Janissary Jane’ that you’d want to revisit (but only through the barrier of reading fiction because they’re also quite dangerous).

And weirdly I got Angelopolis flashbacks.

So spoiler alert, after being declared rogue by his family, our protagonist Eddie Drood decides to try going to the Drood family’s enemies for help. One of them is a large well-funded organization calling themselves ‘Manifest Destiny.’ When Eddie tours their facility, we see that Manifest Destiny intends to destroy all magic in the world, seeing it as an aberration, and to do so have rounded up as many magical creatures as they could and have them pinned down, vivisected, and then disposed of.

Eddie Drood, upon being shown all of this, his completely horrified and disgusted. Many of the creatures he sees are monsters, the types of creatures that he’s fought and killed before. But to see them pinned down and tortured, and for the stated goal of the organization to be their complete eradication, is too much for him. Parallels to the Nazis are drawn. Eddie Drood instantly sees how monstrous of an organization Manifest Destiny is and refuses to join. And first chance that he gets he fights against them and frees all of the captives he sees.

Now let us compare this to Danielle Trussoni’s Angelopolis. In that novel, the angelologists’ society, of which our leads are all members, partake in all of the above-mentioned evils on the Nephilim, and they’re the good guys. Yes, our protagonist Verlaine begins to question if maybe their methods are a little too harsh, but by the end of the book he’s swayed that the angelologits were right all along and he’s with them. Angelolololologists go so far as to collect feathers from the Nephilim they’ve killed and put them on display, and this only makes Verlaine a bit uncomfortable.

The angelologists claim that all they want is peace and that they’re being unfairly persecuted, despite their intended goal is to wipe out an entire species. One video the heroes watch has one of their scientists claim she only wants to be left alone while torturing an enemy and injecting him with a killer virus. At one point Verlaine’s mentor Bruno finds out that the protagonist of the first book, Evangeline, is a Nephil, and upon seeing her wings had to “suppress the instinctual desire to destroy her” without her having actually done anything wrong. We have a chapter from the point of view of Eno, a Nephil mercenary, and we are told that many of the angelologits that capture her become obsessed with her beauty and actually rape her, only for her to break free and kill them afterwards. Verlaine sees a bunch of weaker Nephilim huddled under a bridge to get out of the wind, and thinks how if it were a normal day and they weren’t busy, they’d capture them, tag them, and send them to one of their concentration camps.

You would think that someone somewhere in the story, either hero, villain, or third party, would raise their hands and say, “Hey, this is all really Nazi-ish, you know?” But no one does. For them, it’s all part of the way the world works. Yes, the Nephilim and angelolologists oppose each other, but the fact that one of them is essentially hell-bent on enacting genocide is never really brought up as an arguing point. It’s just maybe being a little too harsh in their methods. There isn’t any serious introspection, no moral outrage…nothing. It’s almost as if Danielle Trussoni didn’t realize that the angelologits are Nazis. You’d think it’d be pretty difficult to accidentally write one the factions in your novel as Nazis, but evidently Trussoni and her editors missed it.

And then Secret Histories deals with this in just a chapter and includes all the appropriate reactions and awareness that the situation requires. The main character thinks about joining a secret society, gets the tour, finds out that the laboratories are basically an extermination camp, and decides they’re the bad guys and destroys said the headquarters. This all happens within a chapter or two, and henceforth Manifest Destiny is referred to as one of the books’ antagonists.

There are some parts of novel-writing in which Simon R. Green does not excel, and still some problematic moments in the novel. But it’s mostly pretty self-aware throughout. Not that it would take much self-awareness to realize that the characters in your book are genocidal maniacs, but apparently that can be lost on some people.

So…some advice for aspiring writers: think about what you write. Please, for the love of all things holy, think about the morality of the actions your characters, think about precisely what it is that they’re doing, and how a normal human being would react to it. If you are writing or editing a book, catch this stuff, and be aware that having sympathetic characters running concentration is not a thing that is okay to write. That’s how you avoid writing protagonists who are genocidal maniacs.

This is one of those things you’d think you wouldn’t have to tell people, but there you go.

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Comment

  1. Cay on 28 October 2017, 18:08 said:

    Thank you – very good essay. That might be why Trussoni is taking so long with the final book – she realized, Whoops, my heroes are actually skunk-butts.
    May you get the most out of NaNoWriMo.

  2. Juracan on 30 October 2017, 18:07 said:

    That might be why Trussoni is taking so long with the final book – she realized, Whoops, my heroes are actually skunk-butts.

    It might be. In the mean time, she’s written a couple of other books that are completely separate and unrelated, so maybe she’s hoping to just move past Angelopolis altogether. I hope so, because I don’t think she’s that terrible if she puts her mind to it.

  3. Apep on 5 November 2017, 12:16 said:

    I read a good chunk of Green’s Nightside and a few of his Secret Histories. They’re alright, but I have to admit that it’s a bit annoying how his protagonists tend to wade through so many enemies with little to no difficulty. I think the last thing of his I read was the more straight-up fantasy, Blue Moon Rising, which starts as a sort of Fractured Fairy Tale, but then gets really, really dark really fast.

    That said, I can appreciate his stuff on a purely pop-corn, junk food level.

    I’m doing NaNoWriMo as well. Good luck!

  4. The Smith of Lie on 5 November 2017, 13:30 said:

    I read a good chunk of Green’s Nightside and a few of his Secret Histories. They’re alright, but I have to admit that it’s a bit annoying how his protagonists tend to wade through so many enemies with little to no difficulty.

    Hah. This is exactly the reason I gave up on the The Man with the Golden Torc about 20% in. The protagonist just felt sort of like a Mary Sue to me and it discouraged me very strongly.

    But at least he was not a genocidal psycho, like Angelologits.

  5. Juracan on 5 November 2017, 15:18 said:

    They’re alright, but I have to admit that it’s a bit annoying how his protagonists tend to wade through so many enemies with little to no difficulty.

    I think that’s a totally valid criticism of Simon R. Green’s work, and it’s one reason I don’t think he’s necessarily as good as some other urban fantasy writers. The difference though, I think, is that the stories tend to be so over-the-top ridiculous (I mean look at the names I mention in the article, for one), and are more in tone meant to be taken as popcorn fiction rather than taking itself too seriously. They’re not great reads, by any stretch of the imagination, but they’re fun books if you’ve got some free time on your hands.

    Which is why I was all the more surprised that I could compare it favorably to Angelopolis, and that even an author I didn’t think was particularly brilliant handled the plot point a thousand times better than Danielle Trussoni.