[Şerban Andrei Mazilu, The Angellove Society: Crux, WheelMan Press, 2013]
by Ştefan Bolea
1. Let me start this off by saying that Mazilu’s English is extraordinary – I never felt for a moment that this book was written by a non-native English speaker. I was impressed by the range of his vocabulary and I even looked up many words in the dictionary. From my perspective, a writer who created such a good dark fantasy novel directly in English has two more challenges (and perhaps two “duties”) left: to write a similar novel in Romanian (except Crâznic’s celebrated Gothic novel, I don’t see much competition) and to write a non-fantasy (“serious”) novel in English. I’m not in the habit of saying grand words but with his level of English, he would be able to able to emulate – let’s say – Nabokov. So as far as I’m concerned, Mazilu owes us at least two great novels.
2. The foreword written by Dana Dorian makes an interesting and supported claim: “[Andrei] takes you by the hand, but doesn’t lead you to a quiet spot in the library; instead, you suddenly find yourself transported in a live cinema …” It is true that Mazilu’s writing is highly visual and that his novel could nicely be turned into a movie. Directors like James Cameron (Avatar) or Tom Tykwer (Perfume) are suitable for the subtlety and originality of Andrei’s mythology. To continue this sci-fi line of argument, the star from Vampire Diaries, who also played in a TV series related to the story from Crux (Fallen), Paul Wesley would be a good choice for some of the human characters. I’m not sure that I would cast Nina Dobrev (Elena from Vampire Diaries) in Kara’s part, although there are several similarities. On the other hand, I don’t see a better Akaba than Jason Momoa (Conan) and a better Maar than Chris Hemsworth (Thor).
3. I would say that the book has two definite achievements. The first one is the chemistry between Kara and Maar. In the chapter My Personal Guardian Devil, the two characters have a sort of telepathic encounter, where Maar’s essence (anger) is revealed: “She nodded smiling and pulled him close, placing her palms on his face and staring into the Nephalem’s burning eyes. As gently as possible, Kara began absorbing his essence … In his blue eyes she saw the need to hunt and kill and enjoy that feeling. She saw a monster roaring to come out and bring waste to anything in his path … It was obvious that this … man was engaged in permanent battle. A David versus Goliath encounter where he actually managed to hold his ground.” (137-138)
4. The second achievement is the depiction of the demonic mentality, which feeds on horror and pain and becomes stronger as it destroys its targets. “[The captors] looked like men, but as if pure hatred coursed through their veins. Their eyes buried deep in their skulls, dripping fluid red smoke from the corner of their eyelids … To Kara, they were evil made real … Uniformed in their armored black tunics, their faces burned with hatred, consumed by an eternity of inner torment … They wandered away from any concept of humanity …” (24, 68) The spirituality of the Fallen is a combination between black metal and Nazism – representing extreme (right wing) Evil; the devils want to produce a Holocaust and destroy all the half-breeds such Nephalems …
5. The idea of a supreme creative Goddess (Innanna) reminds us of the higher purpose of Venus from Culianu’s The Emerald Game (“God is a woman!”): “Innanna herself was said to be a creator in her own rights, for Crux was her child. As the legend went, she left the Creator’s side after the birth of the Creation, searching the Universe for answers to questions she did not know, exploring and finally reaching the point where space and time joined in perfect harmony. It was there that she used her power to give birth to Crux, a world made of celestial magic …” (39-40)
6. In the end, I would like to point some of the weak sides of the novel, too. There are way too many characters and I would have dismissed some of the second hand characters that are not useful for the plot – let’s hope that they are more useful in the sequel. Therefore, (sometimes) the story is pretty hard to follow. I don’t like the ending at all – it is too “American”, too happy. The trick Balittian does to save his son is so deus ex machina – and we have to remember that Euripides was the weakest of the great old tragedians. Moreover, I repeat, the ending needn’t be so happy – a touch of suspense or anxiety is good for the sequel. We shouldn’t abandon all the characters in absolute contentment and satisfaction – it is better if we are a little afraid for their fate. I don’t like some of the dialogues, who seem to come from a Hannah Montana gone Emo: “What’s that? Looks like a pig, a whale and a sea cow had an orgy, then they aborted the baby! … Answer me this, Burger King Kong: why do zombies hate fast food?” (64, 72) I understand why the author introduced them – they give some sort of American “authenticity” but I wonder if in a dark fantasy universe there is place for such vulgarities.
7. I must say that I enjoyed the novel and the depiction of the demonic is splendid: evil is energy and activity (as William Blake showed). Now I feel like playing Warcraft 3 and I am hesitant with which race should I play: either Orcs, or Undeads. I would definitely use my shamans and invoke Bloodlust. There can be only one! Vae victis!