Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½ ☆
Date Read: October 15 to 19, 2015
Read Count: 1
Available on Tor.com
An angelus gun is a weapon of annihilation used by avenging angels to shut down rebel uprising on various planets the angels have conquered. Thea is a retired angel warrior who goes on a quest to find her brother. She finds him in the middle of a rebel faction on the eve of war.
The story begins by dropping you into the action with barely any set up or background. By the end, you feel a little winded but not really satisfied because there’s still so much of this world left unexplored and unexplained. Although there is closure, so much potential is still left hanging. Too many loose ends for my liking.
This story, as lovely and lively as it is, reads more like a teaser for a longer work than a short story. Many aspects of it feel incomplete. Max Gladstone has more than enough here for a full length novel, or maybe a trilogy, and I hope he returns to expand on these ideas some day. The angels’ universe seem full realized, but not much about it is explained apart from Thea’s quest and the characters she meets along the way. We only get to see a sliver of this interesting universe, but that is enough to want more.
The characters, their universe, technology, mythology, politics, and even their current plane of existence are fully formed–or they give that sense anyway–but not expanded on enough to let you see or give you a feel for the scope and breadth of the story. Nevertheless they make you want to find out more. Unfortunately you can’t because this is a short story and that’s all there is to it for the time being.
Gladstone has a nice way with words, and this story/teaser reads a lot like poetry. There’s an operatic quality to it that resembles the angels’ songs. Here are a few of my favorite quotes, very spoilery though.
The rebels made music. The rebels made love. The rebels roasted meat and sang songs and danced and practiced war. At the park’s outer edge, someone was killing oxen, imported probably from deep inside the timestream. They’d brought works of art here too, from the museums, bits of genius saved from obliterated worlds. One of the dragonflies’ dream arches glinted million-colored beside a Gnathi obelisk. Again and again, she saw a slogan, on walls, on the sides of buildings, on paths and statuary: Gardens Do Not Grow.
Stars thronged the sky, all moving, all singing, between a ring of eclipsed suns. The guns must have drifted through the shield wall in the night. Stars: an infinite horde of builders kitted out for war, wings flared white with absorbed radiance, power gathered in rainbow cascade. Eclipsed suns: the Angelus Guns pointed down at Michael’s Park, lips aflame, the darkness inside them deep. After so much silence the fleet’s music deafened, washes of consensus and rage, righteous hunger and restrained wrath and sorrow passed through tachyons and entangled particles, along meson and microwave, the song conducting itself.
She flew past him, out over the gap and down, away from the city, into the marbled sky. Before she slipped from timeless space, she heard, in the far distance, a familiar voice. Gabe. The soldiers of the host sang telemetry songs, and he added his voice to theirs in secret, directed out to her.
So, as she flew and wept, she looked up through his eyes from Michael’s Park, and saw the fire of the guns’ lips build to burning, and their black mouths open. She raised her hands, and once and forever she died.
That night, Thea snuck to their fire with the book that was not hers, and opened it, and read, as she had many times before, the thick letters her brother’s pen had carved into the paper. No memory, no vision, nothing for Zeke to find when he sang through her. Just letters. Just a story with the end missing.
But she knew the end. She drank tea from her cup, and drew her pen, and finished her brother’s work.
Someday, she would read it out loud where the lizards could hear.