Now we’re getting back to Vera, and she’s going to visit Dr. Valko with Azov and Sveti. They’re taking a helicopter. What kind of helicopter? Trussoni’s glad you asked!
Azov’s chapter embodied just the sort of mixture of cultural references that inspired scholars like Vera to go to work every day. According to Sveti, the Vietnam-era machine had been lost by the Americans—abandoned by a crew after it crash-landed in Cambodia—and ended up in Azov’s possession by dint of various trades and handshakes over the past three decades. It had been confiscated by Communists, repaired in the USSR, and sent on to their Bulgarian allies during the seventies. By the time Azov got his hands on it, the cold war had ended and Bulgaria had joined NATO. Now, watching Sveti grip the cyclic control between her knees, Vera wondered what kind of realigned world children born today would grow up to live in.
This is the very first paragraph of the chapter, and already I’m bored. None of this makes any difference to anyone reading the book—this is extraneous information that doesn’t come into play of the plot, and I can’t imagine if anyone reading was wondering about this. There’s no reason we need to know the history of this particular helicopter—it’s just thrown at us because… I don’t know! This isn’t really that well researched; the historical term ‘Cold War’ isn’t even capitalized in the book. So it doesn’t even sound smart. Maybe we’re supposed to understand something about the helicopter, but it’s gone in two pages. It could have been any old helicopter but Trussoni gives us this history for no reason other than to pad out the word count.
But woe befalls our heroes! On their way out, they’re ambushed by a trio of Gibborim!
What are Gibborim? I’m not sure, because this book doesn’t really describe them very well except that they have red wings. So I went to the last book to find a description, and didn’t get much more; they’ve got red wings that are sharp and they look hot and androgynous and shit. So… razor wings is their super power, basically. From the comments made by Grigoris, it sounds like they’re like footsoldiers/scouts.
Kind of lame compared to Emim who can zap people or Raiphim that have coming back from the freaking dead as their thing1 but whatevs. They attack the American-but-crashed-in-Cambodia-picked-up-by-communists-and-shipped-to-Bulgaria helicopter.
“You didn’t mention that St. Ivan Island is being guarded by Gibborim,” Vera said, glancing at Azov.
“It isn’t—they must have followed our jeep from Sozopol,” Sveti said
You know Vera, you’re pretty calm about enemy troopers approaching your decades old vehicle, especially given that you’re in the air and they have the advantage.
Why are they attacking you? Why were they following you? Did the Grigoris hire them? Did other Nephilim? Or are they just there and decided to attack this helicopter because their assholes? No one really explains, so for all we know this gang of Gibborim was just drifting around looking for angelologists to kill. Not that I blame them, given that the angelologists are seeking their extinction.
I’d also like to note that these Gibborim could totally just get into the helicopter and yank the angelologists out, but instead they opt to just pass by and use their razor wings to tear it to shreds. I get that it might also be effective, but just throwing people out of a helicopter is probably faster. But no, that’d kill some protagonists, and that’d be bad for the Plot.
one of the creatures swung against the windscreen, its red wing brushing the plastic and leaving a streak of oil behind.
…I don’t quite understand how that works. Are they tearing into vital components that leak oil? Or does Trussoni think that scratching into plastic makes oil? Or do they just have oily wings?
Azov declares that they must outrun the Gibborim, instead of fighting, and I’m left to wonder… aren’t angelologists equipped with guns? Or is that just the select few of them who are angel hunters? Because if any of them had a handgun and were any good with it, these guys are close enough to drop them. Or, maybe since they’re wealthy enough to fund expeditions across the Black Sea, maybe they’d have some defensive measures installed on their aircraft, given that, y’know, the distinguishing feature of their enemies is that they have wings.
What happens instead, though, is that two of the Gibborim grab the bottom of the helicopter to bring it down, and Sveti lowers the aircraft so that they can tangle the buggers into some power lines and gets them off. They go and land safely.
Wait a second, there were three of them! What happened to the third? Did it just fuck off? It’s not mentioned again, so I guess it did.
I swear this book is as clear as a kaleidoscope.
The angelologists take the rest of the way by jeep to avoid more air attacks, because they’re less likely to run into Gibborim patrols on the ground. And once again, I ask: why were they attacked by the Gibborim? I don’t know—there’s no explanation as to whether or not by the Grigoris, or if they are associated with Eno or anything. So I suppose in the world of Angelology there are just roving bands of angels that attack angelologists on sight. And that’s not bad world-building, but I would have liked for some explanation as to why they’re being attacked.
Dr. Azov explains that Raphael Valko has become pretty private about his work since his stepdaughter’s death (something the text won’t really display because the Plot needs to move), but Sveti says they don’t have much choice but to try given…. I don’t know. I don’t think there’s really a time limit on working out that Book of Medicines thing, is there? I guess they’d want to figure out the Nephilim poison fast, given they’re genocidal maniacs, but I don’t see why they need his help now.
Azov said, “Valko lives within spitting distance of the Devil’s Throat Cavern for a reason.”
The Devil’s Throat. He lives right next to it.
Okay, refresher if you don’t remember from my recap of last book: the Devil’s Throat Cavern is the cave deep under the Earth where the Watchers (the fallen angels locked under the Earth for mating with humanity and teaching them forbidden arts) are held deep under the Earth. And Raphael Valko apparently lives right next to it.
That seems… unwise.
But also, it wasn’t brought up until now. Why would the angelologists put up with a guy who doesn’t like to communicate with the rest of the of them stationing himself at quite possibly the most important place on Earth to them? He’s got access to the proverbial Holy Grail of angelological studies, given that he can just go cave-jumping and talk to some (fallen) angels. And since he’s not talkative to other angelologists, he’s apparently keeping all of that knowledge for himself. And apparently the other angelologists are just… okay with that.
What is he doing up there anyway? Vera guesses that he’s mining the angelic metal, Valkine, but Azov says that he doesn’t know for sure, and that “Everyone has their own ideas about what he’s doing up there,” which is maddingly unhelpful.
He’s up there with only the most essential modern conveniences. No telephone line, no electricity. He heats his house with wood and carries water from a well. He’s nearly impossible to get to.
…given his first wife and second wife, stepdaughter and son-in-law were all killed by the Nephilim, him living off the grid kind of makes sense. But what doesn’t make sense is him living off the grid… at a location that is possibly the most important place on Earth to these people. It’s like if Harry Potter decided he’d retire and hide from Voldemort by living at Hogwarts the one place the Dark Lord’s guaranteed to come to, regardless of whether or not he’s looking for him there. Seriously, why wouldn’t Valko become a hermit anywhere else in the world? Isn’t the whole point of living a low-key lifestyle that you’re not noticeable?
Azov also adds that Valko is “tough as nails even at one hundred years old” and Vera acts astonished, even though she herself is the first person in the book to casually mention that Valko is alive despite his advanced age when talking to Bruno in chapter thirteen. And so we finally get an explanation as to how Valko’s so old and still kicking—Noah’s gardening.
“The first time I met him, in 1985, he looked every bit like the seventy-six-year-old man he was. Later, after we began sharing the antediluvian seeds, he had the appearance of a man no older than fifty. Now he lives with a woman who is forty-five. She became pregnant with his child ten years ago.”
Yup! See, Azov, for whatever reason, began sharing some of the old-as-dirt seeds he found from Noah’s time, and Valko was apparently able to grow them or use them to make himself the elixir of youth. And now he has a healthy sex life, because… I don’t know, Trussoni thinks that even isolated hermits need to get laid or something.
Instead of sharing his Fountain of Youth with the world, or even with his fellow angelologists, Valko chooses… to keep it all for himself. I’d understand if he thinks the world isn’t ready for it, or something like that (I agree), but he doesn’t—when we see him later he’s perfectly willing to show his colleagues everything he has and let them taste the stuff he’s grown, but for whatever reason he’s kept these plants that could potentially solve the world’s problems to himself for all this time because… I don’t know. And I’m willing to be Trussoni doesn’t either.
I also have some issues with this because it seems to imply that before the Flood the world was just crawling with magic plants that would solve all the world’s problems. There’s not really any Biblical evidence for this, other than a quick mention of the Tree of Life2 in the Garden of Eden, which could apparently give eternal life. I mean, I get the appeal of the idea that the pre-Flood world was much different than the world we live in today, but “different” doesn’t equal “magical answers to all the world’s problems,” especially given that the world (Biblically speaking) hasn’t been the perfect magic place since Adam and Eve got kicked out of Eden3.
Also, random fact! Ten years ago, when his child was born, his wife had just died after the events of the last book! Just so you know.
Vera suggests that maybe Gabriella, Valko’s wife, and Evangeline’s grandmother might have had some of that youth juice which is why she was so active while being a senior citizen, but I don’t know if there was any indication of that in the last book. She was in good shape for her age, but she wasn’t described as looking younger than her age. Then again, if we have magic plants in the equation, who knows?
Our “heroes” discuss the possibility that he’s already figured out the Book of Medicine’s… medicines through experimentation, but they don’t know, because despite his marginal contact with people like Azov, the fact is he doesn’t talk to people that much and is retired from angelology. Which explains why his being alive isn’t something most of the members know (but it’s not classified, either, given that Vera just casually mentioned it to Bruno).
Dear God this organization sucks. It’s like SHIELD if SHIELD was put together by Norman Osborne when he was drunk!
They park at Valko’s place, and Azov ends the chapter by voicing the hope that Raphael Valko will receive them. Although we know that of course he will, because otherwise the Plot wouldn’t move.
1 No, I’m not going to get over that!
2 Not to be confused with the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, though it often is.
3 Oh, we will get to Adam and Eve/Eden. That will come up later.