Thursday, September 22, 2016

Nethereal, Chapters 43-48

Brian Niemeier was kind enough to correct one of my earlier observations as part of his discussion on Jeffro Johnson’s recent article on Nethereal.  He points out that:
However, any resemblance between Nethereal and Final Fantasy VII is largely coincidental. In the 2D vs. 3D video game debate, I come down squarely within the 2D camp. And when it comes to Final Fantasy, the 16-bit era is my hands down favorite.

As a professional courtesy to my esteemed reviewers, I advise taking a closer look at Final Fantasy VI. All of the themes that Nathan correctly pointed out were present in FF VI, and one of the reasons why FF VII is among my least favorite games in the series is that it blatantly copies its own predecessor.

Besides, Aerith is much better-looking than Ydahl is.
My fixation on the flower girls from Mithgar serves as an example of seeing patterns that do not actually exist.  It is a common affliction for reviewers, especially those of us who compare and contrast multiple works in the course of our reviews.  Please bear with me, I am learning as I go.

Although not recently, I have played Final Fantasy VI, and, like Brian, prefer it to Final Fantasy VII and its successors.  Now that he mentions it, I do see similarities, but it is far too early to discuss them at this point in the Nethereal read.  In fact, it might need to wait until after I read Souldancer.


Chapter 43: Navkin and Deim rescue Elena.  Jaren orders her to be plugged back into the ship.  Elena agrees, over Navkin's protests.  To make up their crew losses, Jaren decides to recruit from Sulaiman's Freeholders.  To do so, they must relieve a demonic siege assaulting the fortress.  Only a few Freeholders volunteer.  Navkin tries to convince Ydahl to join, but the girl declines as some souls deserve Hell.  Ydahl sees Elena and runs away, screaming.  Navkin swears to Elena that she will not share Ydahl's fate.

Navkin's maternal instincts come out in force, and the share Ydahl held gets fully transfered to Elena.  Hopefully, Navkin will be a better mother than her own.  And, like many a mother, she finds her daughter's suitor irksome.

Ydahl's words while she fled bring Revelation 6:16-17 to mind:
They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb!  For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”

Chapter 44: Despenser reports to Mephistophilis in person.  Mephistophilis's plans, including those featuring the Exodus and its cargo, are coming to fruition, and soon he will learn the secrets of the Builders, the beings that he once served.

Inside the cube vault, Teg admits to Jaren that Despenser's "cure" required that he enter Mephistophilis's service.  Jaren sees no issue, for the time being...

So Mephistophilis is closer to Sauron than Melkor.  That is, a servant exalted to higher station, and not the primordial evil. Who is Nahash?  Perhaps we will find out in the third book of the series, The Secret Kings.


Chapter 45: Navkin flies the Exodus from the Fourth to the Sixth Circle. As the ship crosses the gate to the Sixth Circle, she collapses as her connection to the ship is severed. The ship founders against the ground.  

Jaren and Teg follow Deim, who races for Elena's room. A vaguely human beast has entered the ship, and attacks Elena.  The men drive away the beast, who is killed by Vaun.  Teg identifies the body as his old one, transformed by the shadows' poisons.  Elena is wounded, and her cables rent.  Jaren and Deim rush the girl to the infirmary.

At first impression, I thought that passing through the gate caused the ship to founder.  Instead, it is Sulaiman's sabotage combined with the attack on Elena that disables the Exodus.  Assuming that Sulaiman's soul still inhabited the much mutated body of Teg at the time of attack.


Chapter 46: In tears, Navkin treats Elena's wounds.  As the quiet girl bleeds a strange clear fluid, inspiration strikes.  Navkin brings Elena to an airtight room and bathes her with liquid ether.  Elena's shredded flesh and metal sockets reknit.

Teg searches for his old body, but finds only ash.  Jaren and Deim attempt to fix the damage to the ship from the outside, stepping out into a green field that is uncharacteristic of Hell.  They find an unconscious Gen maiden, Eldrid, who, when awakened, takes a liking to Jaren.

Whatever Elena is, she isn't human. Granted, much of the story up to now implied that fact, but this is confirmation.  Navkin's fangs and other physical oddities are also mentioned more frequently at this point in the story.

Eldrid is the first Gen seen in Hell.  Up to this point, no other alien soul native to the Middle Stratum has been seen in the soul-prison.  We will learn reasons for both soon.


Chapter 47: Jaren boasts to Eldrid about his exploits.  The Gen maiden wonders at how well he managed being so far away from his tribe.  She tells him of Avalon, the Gen country in Hell, and about the history of how it was formed.  During the final Guild assault on the Gen fortress, an emissary from Mephistophilis offered refuge from the extermination, traded for the souls of ten Gen offered every generation.  Facing extinction, the Gen accepted the deal.

Elena is bothered by the greenery around her.  The Sixth Circle is filled with prana, where the other circles were saturated with Teth.  In her melancholy, she reveals that her body is 150 years old, but will never age past 16; frozen by the processes that prepared it to be the vessel for her composite-soul.

Eldrid bids Jaren to visit the court at Seele, both to fix his ship and learn more about his people.  But before they can leave, Avalonian lancers circle the ship.

The last two chapters brought Evangelion to mind more than any previously, between Elena's unaging nature (Asuka's Curse of Eva), her role as a vessel for another being's soul, the strange blood seeping from her wounds, and the mention of Seele, the German word for soul and an organization in Eva roughly analogous to the Arcana Divines.  Many, many essays have delved into the elements of Eva, so I will avoid adding to that list here.  Besides, seeing the name of Avalon caught more of my interest.

The names of the Gen tribes invoked Hesiod's Ages of Man, however, Brian Niemeier has stated  elsewhere that the model is instead Ovid's ages.  The names of the Gold and Fire tribes suggest an alchemical organization instead of metallurgical, which would be in line with the alchemical organization of the Nethereal universe.  (For the sake of simplicity, gold, light, and aether are treated as synonymous to the fifth element found in the various alchemies derived from Aristotle's writings.)  Whether this guess will be true remains to be seen.

I've mentioned before that I found the Gen to be space-elves.  The tithe to the demon Mephistophilis only makes the comparison stronger, as a similar elvish tithe is found in the "Ballad of Tam Lin" and other Scottish legends.  That the decision to accept the tithe in Nethereal was given to the Last Queen echoes the Queen of Elphame of those Scottish legends.  Furthermore, other descriptions of the Gen have a Tolkeinish quality, as the Gen are intelligent beings who do not die naturally and the teachers of civilization to men. 


Chapter 48: After a crash course in royal protocol, Jaren meets King Gelwin of Avalon.  After an exchange of pleasantries, the king departs and Jaren returns to his ship.  With Gen workmen repair the Exodus, Jaren worries that Gelwin knew too much about the delivery for Mephistophilis.

Vaun makes a deal with Elena.  In exchange for the fragment of his soul inside Elena, Vaun will teach Deim the ways of Teth.

Fallon crosses the river dividing the Fourth Circle from the Fifth.  The ferryman rows over to stop him.  Fallon tosses his sunglasses into the boat and walks on, while the damned rise up from the bottom of the river to swamp the ferryman's boat.

While Teg, Elena, and Navkin enjoy the festivities of Seele, Deim's initiation into necromancy begins.

Avalon in myth is the home of the Fisher King, a wounded ruler who is charged with keeping the Holy Grail.  Heroes such as Percival, Galahad, Arthur, and Merlin, from the Arthurian Matter of Britain, and Holger Danske from the Matter of France, have resided in the Isle of Apples.  Unfortunately, the name of Avalon has also been associated with rather generic and idyllic fantasy lands.  The Avalon of Nethereal does not draw from the Arthurian or Carolingian roots of its namesake.

Elena starts to play her own game now, rather than accept whatever fate Mephistophilis intends for her.  Whatever designs she has, they will not be kind to Deim, as he will be introduced to the soul-corrupting evil that is Teth.  He should really find a new god...


At this point, I lost a night's sleep because I had to read until the end.  There's no better praise I can think of for a book. 


  1. "...seeing patterns that do not actually a common affliction for reviewers... Please bear with me, I am learning as I go."

    No justification is necessary, sir! The herculean efforts you've devoted to analyzing my work have earned you the benefit of the doubt, at the very least.

    Professionalism dictates that I am the one who should explain himself, for it is widely considered poor form to argue with one's honest critics.

    While it's true that I did not have FFVII in mind when writing Nethereal, my book is no less likely to have been affected by subliminal influences than your review may have been.

    Besides, if letting the style and themes of FFVII inform your reading of Nethereal enhances the pleasure of your experience, it is not my place to gainsay you. Carry on.

    "At this point, I lost a night's sleep because I had to read until the end. There's no better praise I can think of for a book."

    Nor can I think of any greater praise from a reader. Thank you for the fine compliment!

  2. " I've mentioned before that I found the Gen to be space-elves. The tithe to the demon Mephistophilis only makes the comparison stronger, as a similar elvish tithe is found in the "Ballad of Tam Lin" and other Scottish legends. "

    Agreed, which is why I think "Seele" owes more to thes "seelie (happy, blessed) court" of faery lore.

    1. That would better fit the vaguely Celtic and Saxon naming of the Gen than the German Eva explanation.