I hold that I’d be a very fun supervillain.
Anyhow, this time we’re back with ‘The Eighth Circle: FRAUD.’ Yup, that’s right—the last part, ‘VIOLENCE’ was only two chapters, one of which was super short. Chapter 33 (which oddly doesn’t give us a setting, but it’s all happening in the angel prison in Siberia) gives us a viewpoint character we actually haven’t had in ages—Merlin Godwin! In case you’d forgotten, he was the mad scientist who was a traitor to the angelolololologists, secretly working for their enemies, the Grigoris. When it was revealed he was a traitor, they did not leave him in a ditch or cast him out, they put him in charge of a secret prison in Siberia with his own secret laboratory that no one else can observe, and he (un)surprisingly was able to continue working for the Grigoris. Their actual plan was that since he can’t leave the prison, it’s also a prison for him. But the higher ups in the society know he’s dirty, and all the angelologists in Russia have rumors that he’s corrupt, but no one’s bothered to go down there and make him stop his evil ways.
As I’ve said before, angelologists are stupid.
Each morning he entered the tunnel via the south entrance, walking the thirteen hundred feet leading from the exterior to the interior chamber, his briefcase in one hand and a cup of coffee in the other. It was a dark and solitary commute. And while it lasted less than ten minutes, walking through the corridor gave him a few moments of total peace and isolation, allowing him to leave the normal world, where people lived without the slightest knowledge of the truth, and enter a place that seemed to him, even after twenty-five years, a place of nightmares.
So… doesn’t Godwin live in the Panopticon/angel prison/maybe Angelopolis? Like, that’s where he is. He can’t leave. That’s what Valko meant when he called him a “permanent resident” of the prison in Chapter 30.
So how does he leave behind the normal world every morning when he goes to work?
Godwin hasn’t been in the normal world for years. Since the 1980’s, I think. Unless he has? Evidently he has coffee wherever he is, which seems a bit of an oversight to me. And walks through really long tunnels. I guess they gave Magneto books to read and chess to play with when he was imprisoned in the X-Men movies, but they didn’t let him walk around too much.
But I forgot, I’m thinking as if someone in this book was using common sense.
So what’s the prison like?
It contained holding cells, examination rooms, laboratories, a complete medical center, and solitary confinement chambers for angelic life-forms and, when necessary, human beings who obstructed their work. There were facilities for intake procedures and facilities for disposing of dead creatures.
Guys, is it just me or does this all sound very Naz—
There was a crematorium.
I… I can’t, guys. I just… look at this! Look at this! The angelologists are Nazis! I don’t like invoking Godwin’s Law, even when it’s appropriate (like comparisons between Voldemort and Hitler), but… what else can be said? How else is this supposed to be taken? What other conclusion can I arrive at? The angelologists have set up a special facility so they can round up Nephilim, hold them up, perform gruesome experiments on them, and then dispose of them by burning the bodies.
We could all credit this to Godwin1, saying it would be much nicer if he wasn’t the one running the prison… but it’s all perfectly in line with what we’ve seen other angelologists talking about. It’s the natural conclusion to the way they work. Combine this with their obsession with different subspecies of Nephilim and how their genes apparently make some superior to others… it all paints a very ugly picture reminiscent of the Nazi party.
In short, the angelologists are all like,
I am baffled, because by all rights it seems as if the angelologists are supposed to be the good guys. We’ve spent almost the entire book from their point of view, and there aren’t many indications that we’re supposed to question their methods and their goal of eradicating an entire species. Like I said, I could be wrong, and Trussoni could have had them as Villain Protagonists the entire time and it just went over my head… but if that’s the case, she did a shitty job. There isn’t enough evidence to show us that the author disapproves of any of their actions, because the only character that does is Verlaine, and only for a little bit and it’s never brought up again.
What else is on the agenda to bitch about?
As the scientist in charge of this massive operation, every possible technological advantage for the containment of the enemy was at his disposal.
THIS MAN IS A TRAITOR. I cannot emphasize this enough. And yet the angelologists, in order to deal with his treachery, put him in a position of power. It’s not “Oh, we put him in some corner where we can watch him.” It’s “We put him in charge of an underground angel concentration camp with unlimited powers there, and give him a mad science laboratory, maybe he won’t misbehave.”
These people are stupid. So stupid it hurts me.
Wait, how the hell did they build this thing in the middle of Siberia in the first place? There is a mention that construction was started in the 1950’s, but how on Earth could they build in Russia like that without anyone noticing? How’d they get the money?
After two decades of fruitless attempts the society made a deal with the Kremlin to occupy the space directly below Russia’s largest nuclear facility in Chelyabinsk.
So basically, the Russian government was at one point aware of the angelologists, and sold them real estate.
[walks back in]
Wait, that’s not remotely okay! Is the Russian government still aware of the angelologists? Are any major governments? Does the White House? Or did the society approach the Kremlin as another group? I guess according to the books, the rich and powerful are—
Hang on, according to the books the Nephilim secretly control the world! So by that logic, world governments like Russia’s would be under their thumb. Why the flying fudgecopters would they be alright with someone building a giant angel concentration camp in Siberia? And if Russia’s not under the thumb of the Grigoris and other Nephilim… why not? The Russian Revolution was supposed to have kicked them out, but is Trussoni suggesting that the Nephilim just stayed out? Because the Grigoris are all over Russia in this book.
Trussoni, did you even try to do any worldbuilding when you wrote this novel?
The agreement was controversial among the angelologists—
HOW? Bruno’s comments seem to imply that he had no idea the place existed? Was it once common knowledge in the society? Why isn’t it now?
Also Godwin briefly mentions that there are death cam—I mean, angel prisons in the US and China as well, but this one’s the biggest. So yeah, in case you didn’t have enough trouble sleeping at night, the systematic extermination of the Nephilim is a worldwide phenomenon.
Trussoni describes the Panopticon in more detail than I actually care about, but I’m reminded that “Panopticon” is also the name of an episode of Person of Interest and I’d rather everyone was talking about that instead of this shitty book. Really, it’s not that it’s boring, but that it’s disturbing that the whole ‘make these angels think they’re under constant surveillance and torture them when they don’t obey and torture them when we feel like it’ is just so disturbing.
There were no blankets, beds, or toilets, nothing more than what was absolutely necessary to sustain the creatures.
Recently captured creatures, the hope of release still burning in their eyes, stood whenever Godwin came into view. The gesture was so pointless, so pathetic, that Godwin had to stifle the urge to laugh.
So just so we’re clear—the Nephilim locked up here have no toilets or beds or even blankets, and the angelologists in charge do everything in their power to break their wills through years of torture and abuse. These are the protectors of humanity. No, Godwin’s not a perfect angelologist because he’s a traitor to the society, but the methods used here? The construction of the facility? None of that is his idea. He’s running the place, but he’s just continuing the angelologists’ methods.
But if he’s been running this place for twenty years or so, and he’s in the enemy’s pocket… wouldn’t Godwin have freed all the prisoners or something? The idea is that he’s supposed to be using it as a cover for his experiments, but are we seriously saying he has more resources at his disposal in a prison than anywhere else? Are the angelologists so inept that they put him in a position more powerful than kicking him to the curb and leaving him on the street?
…yes. The answer is probably yes.
So Godwin thinks about how he’s a traitor and the depths of his treachery and how much of an asshole he is.
He blamed the baser elements of human nature, of course. He was greedy, vain, and power hungry.
Alright, Trussoni, having your villain mention how much of an unlikable asshole he is doesn’t change the fact that he’s an unlikable asshole. There really isn’t anything to him other than that. He mentions that he once tried to please the angelologists, and how he might be subconsciously rebelling against his angelologist parents, but he doesn’t have any other motivation other than being an asshole, like all of Trussoni’s villains.
Listen, I don’t always ask for villains to be sympathetic. They don’t have to be. But I do like for them to be complex. And having a villain contemplate about how much of a douchebag he is on the way to work in the morning isn’t complex, it’s almost childishly simplistic. We had some discussion of this in the comments for Apep’s City of Ashes sporking I think. If the rest of the book had been better I wouldn’t be this hard on his characterization, but… this book doesn’t put me in the mood to be merciful.
Godwin talks about the angel virus and how he helped Angela Valko make it way back when, and only recently created a temporary treatment for it, though he still can’t cure it. And then we get this:
For several years he had been riding on the promise of his first and only triumph: The twins were an impressive feat of breeding, genetic manipulation, and luck. The successful cloning—twice over—of the late Percival Grigori—using frozen cells harvested from Percival during his lifetime—had bought him carte blanche with the Grigori money.
Remember how I said that Armigus and Axicore Grigori, the twin Nephilim villains, were pale imitations of the last book’s villain, Percival Grigori? Not only are they that, but they are literally clones. That’s right, Trussoni couldn’t come up with an original Nephilim villain, so not only did she bring in these cousins who had never before been mentioned, but they are cloned from the last book’s villain.
This hasn’t been hinted at in the slightest before now. Yes, it said they looked a lot like Percival, but so did Angela, and Verlaine remarked that everyone in that family had a distinctive look. They’re family, so of course they’d look alike.
And this entire thing raises so many questions. Why did the Grigoris pay for Percival to be cloned? Why twice? How did they get the money to Godwin in the prison? What is Godwin going to do with the money, since he can’t leave the prison? Why did Percival not mention he had clones? Do the twins know they’re clones?
And this isn’t really brought up again. No really. This has no real part in the plot, other than that Godwin’s doing genetic experiments. So why is it here?
[shrugs] I dunno.
And so we end the chapter with this:
Godwin always felt an odd, phantasmagoric sensation when he traversed the moat of concrete surround the observation tower. Thousands of eyes trailed his movements, and he couldn’t help but feel the unnerving power of their gaze. Sometimes it seemed to him that their positions were reversed, and that he had become a prisoner, a spectacle paraded out for the pleasure of the Nephilim. Each day he had to remind himself that he was the master, and they, these beautiful beasts whose bodies were stronger than his own, were his prisoners.
Basically Godwin’s like this:
That’s how it sounds! Seriously, how else am I supposed to take “an odd phantasmagoric sensation” other than that he feels arousal at the power he holds over others? I can’t imagine anyone using the phrase “phantasmagoric sensation” to mean anything not sexual. It’s not just me, is it?
So yes, we get an extended look at our villain, and what did we learn? The good guys are incompetent Nazis, the traitor has freedom to do what he wants in a facility made by the organization he betrayed, and he gets hard-ons at having power over others.
That about sums it up.
Join me next time, as we team up again with Bruno, Verlaine and Yana, as they enter the Panopticon! Will anything well-written happen? Probably not.
1 I have no idea if the name is supposed to be connected to Godwin’s Law. Given what we’ve seen so far in this book, I think that gives Trussoni too much credit.