Friday, August 28, 2009
In the year 2012, Satan rose from Hell to install his infernal kingdom on Earth, but mankind thwarted him with the help of Heaven't most powerful forces. Jesus Christ's second coming revealed the truth of Christianity, and a thousand years later there is no other religion on Earth. [Jesus is the Grover Cleveland of religious figures--he gets a second term years after his first term ended.] The world’s united government operates by means of two power-sharing entities: the Church, who rule the economy, [They volunteered.] and the Sword of God, the Earth’s holy army. [What does Earth's holy army do, now that there aren't any non-Christians to kill?]
In 2993, Earth is challenged by a hostile alien race called Perfirians. The Sword responds violently despite the Church's protestations. The resulting war sets the Church and the Sword irreperably at odds, and the Sword's conscription initiative causes a firestorm of discord between war supporters and peace advocates worldwide. [If the world has one united government and one religion, how big an army do they need? Aren't all wars caused by differences between governments and religions?]
Seraph begins by following a few conscription letters to their young addressees. Matthias, a poor boy in the slums of Lesser New York, vows to personally end the war so he can return to his ailing mother. Kenneth enlists to escape a criminal trial after killing a man in self-defense. [If anyone who is about to go on trial can get out of it by joining the holy army, the holy army must be full of serial killers and other sinners.] [Is killing in self-defense a crime in the future?] The scrappy urchin Sic [Anagram: Sin Church.] embraces the opportunity to flee poverty and boredom, and the once-celebrated pianist Kate reluctantly accepts her best career option in a world increasingly disenchanted with the arts. [Historically, Christianity has inspired great music and art almost as much as it's inspired war, murder and injustice, so I find it hard to believe the arts are out now that Christianity has no competition. Didn't Jesus, during his second term in office, say anything along the lines of, "Lay down your weapons and learn to play the organ."?] Clement, a brilliant scientist and Kate's fiancé, wants a first-hand look at the Perfirians, and Genny, a statuesque and haughty blueblood, foresees a glorious future in the military.
After their training, these six youths proceed to the space station Seraph and into frothing conflict, where they are joined by Tib, an enigmatic outsider with something to prove. Months of side-by-side danger and excitement draw Sic and Matthias closer together. [What is this frothing conflict? Battling the Perfirians? Their war ships haven't defeated our measly space station after months? Klingons they ain't.] Clement, far removed from the action on a Sword research station, [You said all six were on the Seraph station.] fears for Kate's life. He consequently makes feverish progress on a weapon powerful enough to conclude the war before it claims her. [Did Jesus sign off on the policy of making more powerful weapons? Why didn't he ordain that all disputes be settled with rock, paper, scissors? I guess he could have said, in 2012, keep that weapon research going, you're gonna need some big guns when the Perfirians show up in a thousand years.]
The seven soldiers meet the evil Perfirian generals, among them Diomedes, who seizes a Sword ship in an attempt to infiltrate Earth's atmosphere. [Infiltrate the atmosphere? If you're saying he needs a Sword ship so Earth will think he's one of them when he lands, I find it hard to believe that you can seize a ship without anyone on Earth knowing it. Even our primitive communications are good enough to prevent that deception.] Kenneth is captured in the ensuing battle. After neutralizing Diomedes on Earth, Tib is absorbed into the Sword’s excavation of a sacred relic, headed by Genny. There he learns that the Pope has organized his supporters into a rabid militia. [Is the Pope on the Sword side or the pacifist side?] It’s only a matter of time before the Church and the Sword descend into all-out war, but Genny obliviously digs on. [What should she be doing?] A supernatural force compels her to the prize buried beneath the site. [It's the ring of power.] [Too much going on in that paragraph. Change it to a paragraph about what Genny's doing, and mention no one else.]
Sic is killed rescuing Kenneth, and it takes the shock of her death for the devastated Matthias to realize how much he loved her. While undercover, Tib sees the Church supporters' mobilization firsthand, but his desperate calls to Genny go unanswered. He returns to the dig to find everything destroyed...and a terrifying demon flying off into the distance. Thinking Genny dead, he pursues the creature, which leads him across North America to the Gates of Hell. [California.]
In her tireless search for peace, Kate discovers a conspiracy: the Sword is actively perpetuating the war in order to preserve its livelihood [Did we learn nothing from Halliburton?] and curtail the Church's power. Kenneth is ordered to silence her, but he cannot countenance the heinous act, so he performs a mock assassination and sends her safely to Earth. Kate then meets up with Tib, and the two soldiers battle the demon to prevent the Gates' reopening. In vanquishing him, they learn the Perfirians' true purpose: infiltrate Hell to establish an unholy trinity with Satan, their god. With Earth on the brink of civil war, Kate and Tib must persuade the Pope that peace is not an option. [This is going on too long. It feels like a list of things that happen, with little focus on the thread that ties everything together. Maybe we need to know earlier what the enemy wants.] [The only thing shorter than an editor's attention span is an agent's, so cut, cut, cut.]
Unbeknownst to Tib, Genny returns to Seraph with a shard of the demon corrupting her soul. Clement has at last perfected a weapon capable of neutralizing the Perfirian fleet, but the demon (using Genny's body) attempts to murder him in order to subvert its activation. Clement destroys the demon, killing Genny in the process. With her dying breath, Genny thanks Clement for freeing her. Clement [, using the transporter,] then sends the vengeful Matthias into the Perfirian mothership bearing the weapon, and Matthias sacrifices himself to cripple the enemy. Sic is the last thing he sees before he dies. [Why didn't he transport out at the last second?] [Lemme guess . . . He tried, but the transporter malfunctioned again.]
With their generals killed and their mothership captured, the beleaguered alien army retreats. Kenneth and Clement cooperate to bring down the Sword's corrupt higher-ups. Kenneth then recovers Tib and leads a contingent to pursue the fleeing enemy, while Clement joins Kate on Earth in the arduous task of reuniting the human race. [This time they decide to try it with zero religions.] Seraph's epilogue summarizes their success, and the novel ends with their long-awaited wedding.
You'd think once there was concrete proof that heaven exists, sinning would be almost nonexistent, except for adultery. Yet Kenneth has to kill someone who's trying to murder him? How stupid do you have to be to attempt murder when you know there's a heaven?
On the other hand, since there are people who think the Holocaust never happened after only sixty years, how is it that everyone believes the second coming happened after a thousand years? I guarantee there'd be second coming deniers within a century.
If the militant Sword goes to war against the pacifist Church, isn't the war over in about ten minutes?
What did Jesus do after vanquishing Satan's demons? You'd think he would have stuck around a while and straightened people out. With the crime and weapons manufacture and slums and civil war, Earth doesn't seem any better. Guess we'll have to wait for the second coming of Buddha.
How do the aliens plan to infiltrate hell? Can you go there when you're alive now?