The Secret of Heaven by Felix Alexander

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I received this book from Booktasters in exchange for an honest review. If you’re interested in reading my Quotable Moments from this novel, click here. Click here to view on Goodreads and click here to view on Amazon.

Aiden Leonardo’s life is wild. When his closest friend is murdered, he is tasked with finding the reason he was killed. This leads him (although he’s clueless about almost all of it for 90% of the book) into a world of dangerous secrets, not to mention secret societies; Alexander has attempted to pin some of the greatest acts of violence onto one specific group of people (think Illuminati) who have been guiding history for centuries. If you’re into conspiracy theories, you’ll enjoy this. This novel was very thought-provoking. While some outlandish claims were made about certain events (in recent history, especially) it did force me to question the influence of men of means in the world.

I have some issues with the characters and their development. For one, none of them talk like real people (except maybe Nagi). They’re constantly using a wider vocabulary than exists in a normal person’s lexicon. This renders many of them cold and without distinct personality. When they’re not speaking liking they absorbed an entire thesaurus, they’re using millenial pronouns, like Dude and Bro tp refer to each other. For two, there are so damn many of them; and many of them have such similar names. It was an exercise in patience and memory to keep track of them. I understand that this novel was not meant to be character driven, but still. I’d like to see some kind of development over a 300 page novel.

There seems to be a lack of understanding of what the audience understands before beginning this book. There is a lot of exposition of characters or culture that are unnecessary; they don’t further the story and most people are already aware or can deduce it without a paragraph telling them about it. However, the premise of the novel was challenging for me to grasp because the closest I’ve ever come to Catholicism is watching The Da Vinci Code. I am not overly familiar with the mythology of Christ and his apostles, and not much of the basic story was told in the book (because many of the characters were religious or had studied religion) so understanding the story that I was being told was very difficult. Eventually, through simple repetition of the concept, I understood what “the secret of heaven” is, but it shouldn’t have been such a task.

TL;DR

  • 3/5
  • Not great character development
  • Some great quotable moments
  • Very thought-provoking
  • A lot of over-explaining, but also a lot of under-explaining.

 

XOXO

-Bookie

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Quotable Moments from The Secret of Heaven

To understand life, one must know the consequence of death.

– Mamoun

 

No creature possesses a greater capacity for deception than humanity.

– The Magistrate

 

Philosophers have argued for centuries that humans invented gods, and in line with that thinking, it stands to reason that humans invented demons and the Devil.

– The Magistrate

 

The Morning Star is not the Adversary

The Messiah is not the Son of Men,

When a convenient lie is preferred to an inconvenient truth.

– Lazzaro de Medici

So, Jesus Christ gave authority to a religion that did not exist in his time?

– Professor Milton

To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that in seeing they may not see, and in hearing they may not understand.

– Luke 8:10

Redemption begins and ends with the fallen.

– Lazzaro de Medici

I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

– Isaiah 45:7

A necessary evil becomes an essential ingredient when a religion preaches redemption.

– Professor Aiden Leonardo

Embassytown by China Mieville

9265453This novel was recommended to me by my current roommate, for whom it was required reading in English this term. She loved it, and I agree! Click here to view on Goodreads and click to view on Amazon.

Language – our language, not Language – is how we think and how we communicate those thoughts. It comprises our identity. Without it, without our ability to speak to each other and collaborate and share ideas, we as humans wouldn’t have survived. Humans evolved alongside their language, and the same is true of the Ariekei and Language.

Language, however, is unique in that it involves more than just organized noise. “When they speak they do hear the soul in each voice. That’s how the meaning lives there. The words have got… the sould in them. And it has to be there, the meaning. Has to be true to be Language.” The Ariekei are unable to lie in Language, and this is incredibly limiting to the Ariekei. Some of them spend the novel (and the years before these events take place) trying to break free from those constraints, even celebrating those who could at the Festival of Lies.

The Ambassadors – two people whose minds were just close enough to be understandable – are the unspoken rulers of Embassytown. They were constantly exerting the power they held as the only people who could communicate with the Hosts on this planet. Only they could trade with the Hosts. Only they were invited to parties with the Hosts. They chose not to assert to the Hosts that humans were speaking; that there was language in the world besides Language. The role of the Ambassadors, and their unwillingness to acknowledge the relevance and sentience of Embassytowners, is the root of many problems.

What’s interesting about the Ambassadors is that they never truly spoke Language. They made the right sounds and words, and they thought together well enough that the Hosts could understand them, but the meaning was never there. To the Hosts, Language was reality, truth and thought. Because they were sentient beings, the Ambassadors could communicate well enough, but Language wasn’t thought to them. Which means it was never really Language at all.

lot of this book is exposition, but China Mieville is such an incredible world and character builder. He provides vivid descriptions of Embassytown and its inhabitants. He even does an excellent job describing the Hosts, who look and behave nothing like anything terrestrial. But because of all the time he spent setting up the drama and the turmoil, it took a lot of time and effort for the plot itself to build and to peak. Additionally, Mieville’s prose is gorgeous. It’s rare to see someone who is such a plainly good writing.

This book isn’t incredibly character-driven; it could have been anyone doing these things and fulfilling these roles. Avice’s role as a simile is important, but it could have been any simile who felt the way she did. It could have been any girl who become the girl who was hurt in the dark and ate what was given to her. To be fair, Avice isn’t really like the other similes; they revere Language the way that it is, unchanged and always full of truth. Avice, on the other hand, is indifferent to the evolution of Language until it becomes necessary for the survival of Embassytown.

Give me a moment to geek about some of the things in the book: I’m impressed with the concept of biorigging, where every technology isn’t machinery; it’s alive. I was also amazed at Mieville’s ability to develop a language possible for humans to understand, but one they could never speak, and the depth to which he was able to develop it. It’s also very human of the characters to push so hard to communicate via a language that’s impossible for a normal human to use.

This novel gets pretty heavy. We lose a lot of characters, and we lose each of them for a different reason. The farther you read, the more Embassytown feels like a battle narrative than a novel.

 

TL;DR

  • 5/5; will definitely read again
  • Very important, very thought-provoking and very well-written
  • Language, not language, is truth
  • Ambassadors = trouble
  • Lots of exposition
  • Event-driven
  • I’m dying to talk to someone about this book, so if you read it, send me your thoughts!

 

 

Quotable Moments from Embassytown

“This is what I excelled at: the life-technique of aggregated skill, luck, laziness and chutzpah that we call floaking.”

– Avice Benner Cho, Embassytown, China Mieville

“What I saw there was dissent, and I understood it.”

– Avice Benner Cho, Embassytown, China Mieville

“Language was the unit of Ariekene thought and truth: asserting my sentience in it, YlSib made a powerful claim. They told them that I was speaking, and Language insisted then that there must be other kinds of language than Language.”

– Avice Benner Cho, Embassytown, China Mieville

“I don’t want to be a simile anymore. I want to be a metaphor.”

– Avice Benner Cho, Embassytown, China Mieville

“We want to decide what to hear, how to live, what to say, what to speak, how to mean, what to obey. We want Language to put to our use.”

– The Ariekei, Embassytown, China Mieville