Monday, June 8, 2015

"And the Earth Was Filled with Violence"

By Jon Saboe.
Outskirts Press.
2011. 503 pages.
For sale HERE.
In the aftermath of the Family Wars, the Semyaz arrive from unknown lands with a message of peace and hope. Their advanced technology and wisdom helps to rebuild the fallen cities, and their teachings that all people are Children of the Light promises to ensure that such horrific wars are a thing of the past.
But there are those who don’t trust their motives—or their stated promise to improve the human race. Are the Semyaz altruistic benefactors, or do they represent the ultimate enslavement—or even eradication—of humanity as we know it?
The youthful and reckless Laméch is ripped from his comfortable city life and thrust into a centuries-old resistance where he discovers the true nature of the Semyaz and their multi-generational designs on humanity.
Numerous clandestine operations bring him face to face with their secret research facilities, his long-absent grandfather—and a beautiful dark-haired prisoner who teaches him the true meaning of love and sacrifice.
Laméch learns a new kind of warfare that entails trusting the plan established by his grandfather—even though it seems destined to grant the Semyaz certain victory.
— From the cover
Jon Saboe's latest book takes us back to a time before the Great Mass Extinction Event previously covered in The Days of Peleg.

It's pretty obvious Saboe has done his homework — and a lot of thinking — about what that time could have been like: the people, the customs, the politics, and the science and technology. In particular, he adds a new dimension to the phrase "pyramid power."
"And Laméch lived an hundred and eighty and two years and begat a son . . . saying this same shall comfort us concerning our work and toil of our hands . . ."
The result of Saboe's research is a big but compulsively readable novel, as much historical fiction as it is science fiction.

Laméch, the central character, is nicely delineated. His progression from a callow, self-centered individual to a responsible social leader — and, if you will, a "man of destiny" — is interesting to follow, in the grand tradition of the Bildungsroman.

At first, resisting the Semyaz is simply another way for Laméch, the spoiled rich kid, to indulge in daredevil action for its own sake, without any deep convictions; but gradually, through several encounters with his adversaries, he comes to understand that he hasn't just embarked on a grand adventure but is rushing headlong into a confrontation with pure evil. 

In so doing, he will experience emotions he's never had to deal with before: fear of dying, for one, and selfless love not just for his friends but also for people he hardly knows.
". . . and the earth was filled with violence . . . and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth."
As in Peleg, when it comes to depicting "action" Saboe excels. Reading Laméch put me in mind of James Bond, Alistair MacLean, and the Mission: Impossible team as often as it did of Moses or C. S. Lewis.



A Map of the Antediluvian World

Part I: Escape
Part II: Engagement
Part III: Elucidation
Part IV: Exchange
Part V: Extinction

Afterword: Fact vs. Fiction:
"In attempting to ascertain the technological potentials of antediluvian humanity, I came to the conclusion that the only form of technology that would not have been available to the ancients was anything based upon hydrocarbons or petroleum . . . ."

Appendix A: Danel's Soliloquy:
"Some day I am certain to enter the place that was specially prepared to provide torture and anguish for me and my kindred. I am now also betrayed by my masters, who assigned my corporeal mission, knowing this would be my fate."

Appendix B: Prelude to Aenoch's Third Disappearance:
"Far in the distance, to the east, were two columns of black smoke ascending into the sky. As they watched, the sun began to rise, its face bisected by the two dark lines. They both took a deep breath, contemplating the scope of their final mission."

Appendix C: Infant Prince Constellation:
"Everyone knows the dismay at being unable to actually visualize the characters that are supposedly represented by random grouping of stars [in constellations], and the idea that disparate, unrelated ancient cultures happened upon the same groupings requires vast reserves of credulity."

Appendix D: Catastrophic Plate Tectonics:
". . . we can see that the Earth's history has not been a serene, uniform one of gradual change, but rather one with great upheavals that are consistent with the universal stories of a global flood, found in all ancient and indigenous cultures."

Appendix E: Recommended Reading
Eighteen primary resources.

Appendix F: Glossary
Nineteen terms.


Chapter 1: Abduction:
“The irony of what brought about the end of the Family Wars was the realization that the abhorrent dehumanization inherent in those wars would be replaced by a surreptitious scheme to redefine humanity itself.”

Chapter 2: Discovery:
“The savaged, broken masses who survived the Family Wars welcomed the civilizing philosophies of the Semyaz as a drowning man welcomes air. It required subsequent generations who had never known the horrors of war to realize that the Semyaz were patiently engineering their own pervasive and furtive agenda.”

Chapter 3: Curse:
“Until the advent of Aenoch’s city design, establishing settlements was always fraught with the difficulties of holding the ever-encroaching growth of the thick forests that blanketed the planet at bay. By laying a marble foundation that rested upon the invariably soft soils and erecting surrounding walls which separated societies from the elements, large cities and centers of commerce were finally able to flourish.”

Chapter 4: Research:
“For centuries, the Librarian class provided the repository of all human knowledge and culture. However, as inscribing became more popular and necessary as an economic tool, the proponents of writing claimed that now mankind need never forget anything—to which the Librarian would reply, ‘Not so. Rather mankind will remember nothing’.”

Chapter 5: Ambush:
“Following the advent of Aenoch’s walled cities, humanity became less and less concerned with the vast forests and jungles that surrounded them. Commerce was conducted by sea and the untamed and forgotten wilds were thought to be uninhabited—save for occasional malcontents and recluses.”

Chapter 6: Destination?
“Although the Semyaz believed in their right to control the world—and its ultimate outcome—they failed, initially, because they simply did not appreciate the vastness of the planet. Their focus on controlling people politically eventually had to be replaced. Their new focus became the control of their minds.”

Chapter 7: Revelation:
“The enigmas surrounding Aenoch are plentiful. His renown as the world’s greatest architect and city planner has since been overshadowed by his two major disappearances. The first was a period of more than eighty years after his completion of Matusalé City. Upon his return, he had transformed from a brilliant engineer into a mad prophet of impending doom.

"His dire warnings were, unfortunately, unheeded.”

Chapter 8: Mission:
“The Haermon Mountains are a great geological oddity. Jutting directly from the northern oceans of the Western Sea, they rise higher than any other on the planet, and are covered with almost no vegetation. They merge with the planet’s bedrock and are comprised of pure granite, but give the appearance of having been split apart by some cosmic catastrophe—as if half of the range had disappeared, falling away into the oceans below.”

Chapter 9: Infiltration:
“Centuries before the Family Wars, the Semyaz were abducting children, using the piracy that always proliferates alongside shipping and commerce. These children were conformed into the isolation and servitude of the Semyaz social structure; and the first Emissaries at the end of the Family Wars were their descendants. After the Family Wars, the descendants of refugees who escaped into the forests provided a new supply of abductees—and test subjects.”

Chapter 10: Atrocities:
“Two inescapable facts slowed and impeded the Semyaz in their research, adding untold decades to the realization of their objectives. First, they shared their acquired knowledge with few outsiders. This led to endless, regimented trial and error experiments which lacked understanding and intuition. Secondly, although the Semyaz had great mental prowess, they lacked a fundamental knowledge of the material world, which those they sought to subvert understood innately.”

Chapter 11: Obsession:
“The location of each of the world’s cities was not determined by random nautical commerce or logistical convenience, but rather by a multitude of geological and geographical requirements that were often contradictory. For example, a modern city had to be coastal for access to the tidal forces needed to energize its Power House, but it also required a solid landscape for its foundation, which was rare (particularly in coastal areas) due to the pervasive subterranean streams and hot springs that carved out constantly changing channels that weakened the ground.

"Seldom were these two requirements met, and as a consequence, distances between cities were much greater than one would expect from colonization and expansion.”

Chapter 12: Rescue:
“Despite the instability of wars, insurgencies, societal collapses, and even the occasional famine, one industry, somehow, managed to persevere through the centuries, surviving—not unscathed—but remaining viable. This was the wine industry, located by necessity in the grasslands between Irad and Jaebal.

"The most famous—and costly—of these was Jaerad Wines, founded long before the Family Wars, and it continued—and even thrived—until the last days.

"Since no one was willing to risk the disruption of its flow, these vineyards—and the surrounding grasslands—remained untouched, and their proprietors allowed to develop great wealth.”

Chapter 13: Survival:
“The floating forests provide the world with several important environmental benefits, including a traveling source of transpiration across the large spans of otherwise arid oceans. Of greater interest, though, are the strange and numerous life forms which exist on these islands which are never found on the fixed continent. In addition, the unusual hollow constructs of the plant stems and roots are perfectly designed for a mobile terrain that must be knit securely together, but which cannot bear great weight.”

Chapter 14: Antiquity:
“In addition to seasonal and annual timekeeping, the earliest generations used the stars as fixed reference points for storytelling and maintaining cultural cohesiveness. Oral traditions and entire epics could be recalled with nothing but a simple finger pointed towards a constellation. The first of these recounted the story of the infant king who would someday come and restore creation to its original perfection.”

Chapter 15: Sacrifice:
“It was commonly assumed that the Semyaz possessed an advanced technology and, perhaps even, a heightened intellect. The truth, however, was quite different. They possessed, only, an advanced evil, which manifested itself with the unprecedented ability to swiftly expand the defining boundaries of human malevolence—all the while maintaining the façade of benefactor. Ultimately, this resulted in an ever-increasing capacity for allowing the unthinkable to become palatable.”

Chapter 16: Beginnings:
“There is no end to speculations and theories concerning the structure and system of the thousands of hot water springs that are found everywhere on the planet. Despite attempts to plumb their depths, the source of their heat, water, and reliability remains a mystery. The occasional underground channel of near boiling water has been found, but this only contributes to the question of their origins.”

Chapter 17: Breakthrough:
“In the decades preceding Aenoch’s final disappearance, the escalation of clandestine resistance against the Semyaz evolved into a most unusual conflict. Although the Semyaz increased their own covert incursions with proselytizing and subterfuge, they allowed no public acknowledgment of any resistance, preferring instead to present a unified, hopeful, and optimistic future to the cities of the world.

"Later centuries would refer to these skirmishes as the Perception Battles—the precursors of the final Replacement War.”

Chapter 18: Extraction:
“The news of the attack on the Matusalé Power House traveled swiftly from city to city and reawakened the horrors of the Family Wars in the minds of those old enough to remember. It provoked an almost panicked determination that the chaos and carnage of those wars should never be repeated, and demands were made to fortify and increase defenses. However, such demands went beyond the resources of local enforcer units—and city treasuries—and it initially appeared that sufficient protection would be impracticable.

"However, Semyaz emissaries soon arrived with their solution.”

Chapter 19: Homecoming:
“Cities were always built with future population growth in mind. Even years after Aenoch’s final disappearance, there were still many uninhabited apartments and places for businesses. In Matusalé, this was because it was the only city to be built after the Family Wars. For the remaining cities, their unused living space was due to the incredible reduction of their populations during those wars.”

Chapter 20: Variance:
“The First Power Houses were simple tidal generators, only providing direct energy at specific times during the day. However, with Aenoch’s creation of energy coils and development of storage methods, continuous power was now able to be broadcast throughout a city. Subsequent improvements in efficiency permitted construction in equatorial regions where tidal changes were less pronounced, allowing the founding of his own city and that of his son’s.”

Chapter 21: Discernment:
“Centuries before the Family Wars, numerous expeditions were undertaken to try and locate the lost Garden of the First Ones by attempting to determine the correct rivers and head upstream. Although most were never heard from again, those who returned reported mass disorientation, navigational anomalies, and differing accounts of massive magnetic disturbances, great barriers of fire, and even stories of fellow crewmen going mad.

"None ever claimed success.”

Chapter 22: Betrayal:
“The apparently random attacks by the Semyaz on the numerous Forest People’s communities were not understood at first. Even decades after they had ceased culling them for their experimentation subjects, the destruction of villages seemed arbitrary and essentially meaningless.

"Only after the realization that the cities had been used as control groups in the Replacement War was the true purpose of these assaults understood. The forest communities were simply unwanted variables—and had to be eliminated.”

Chapter 23: Ascension:
“The governing structure of a typical city rested on the premise that the one who founded it also owned it. Although a Founder did not own the people within, it was often very difficult to separate the laws of the Founder from the free choices of the city’s residents. Generally a city’s wealth and productivity were directly proportional to the contentment and well-being of its citizens, but some Founders discovered this only after decades of failed management. Naturally, the citizen was always free to leave, but the suggestion to ‘go and found your own city’ was never as feasible as it was inviting.”

Chapter 24: Solitudes:
“Prior to the Replacement War, the world was clearly divided into two distinct and separate societies. There was the network of forest communities whose daily lives were one of survival from the onslaught of the Semyaz attempt to eradicate them for no apparent reason. Then there were the cities that grew and prospered under the tutelage—and apparent protection—of the Semyaz. The city inhabitants were completely unaware of the existence of the forest communities; disbelieving any rumors to the contrary. The forest communities, however, were fully aware of the affluence of the cities, and it was difficult for them to not resent what could easily be construed as collusion.”

Chapter 25: Surrender:
“Aenoch’s second and final disappearance created a powerful but short-lived backlash against the Semyaz, who discovered the unexpected surge of resolve that a martyr can bring to a movement. Powerful, in that large numbers of people throughout the cities who had never seriously considered Aenoch’s warnings before, now began to heed them and work towards spreading his message and admonitions. Short-lived, because soon after, arrests and eventually executions of those who spoke out against the Semyaz became common-place.

"If a cultural icon and Founder like Aenoch could be removed for sedition, what hope did the average citizen have?”

Chapter 26: Legacy:
“Common to all family cosmogonies was the view that things were created at a point in time, prior to which, nothing existed. They all credited a ‘Creator’ with this act, but few could agree on the nature of this unknown—and perhaps unknowable—entity. Rarely did one contend that no creator existed, as this either required the emergence of existence of its own accord from nothing, or demanded that the universe had an unchanging and eternal past. Since holding either position rendered the disciplined study of origins futile and absurd, none would do so publicly and thereby demonstrate one’s intellectual laziness.”

Chapter 27: Sabotage:
“In the decades after Aenoch’s final disappearance, there was a shift in the purpose and function for prisons in the cities. Previously, prisons had been final holding cells for repeat offenders awaiting their imminent executions. Now, in response to anti-Semyaz protests, they had greatly increased in number and were used to detain political dissidents—often for many years—for interrogation and deterrence. Soon, all protests ceased as the residents were encouraged to forget about those who were hidden away—and justifications for imprison-ment continued to expand unchecked.”

Chapter 28: Sacrifice:
“Over the years, Replacement Day festivities in the cities grew to become an event that closed businesses, launched lavish parties, and prompted the exchanging of gifts in celebration. The entire city would come to the docks or line the walls to cheer for the transport that brought replacement Semyaz Security Troops. Joyful and thankful crowds applauded their arrival, and although there was often some sadness as relationships with departing troops were severed, the excitement and security that everyone felt was a source of great merriment.

"The possibility that the Semyaz ambitions cared nothing for the protection of the city or its inhabitants never occurred to anyone.”

Chapter 29: Purging:
“The term ‘Replacement War’ was, in actuality, a euphemism created by the victors in an attempt to glorify and exaggerate the enormity of the successful fruition of centuries of planning, and also from the desire to feel victorious.

"In reality, the term ‘war’ can hardly be used to describe such a one-sided conflict that barely covered two days.”

Chapter 30: Imminence:
“There are some anomalies regarding the technological advances that developed in the centuries following the Replacement War. Electromagnetic transmission of information became commonplace, smaller and more efficient engines were developed for transportation, and simple, but weak, anti-gravity lifts were designed for convenience and construction.

"However, in spite of these advancements, the Semyaz never shared their secrets of platform propulsion, nor did they ever knowingly divulge their proprietary process of generating energy.”

Chapter 31: Consummation:
“The agonies and sorrows of losing one’s world are only partially—and unsatisfactorily—allayed by the premise that a greater plan or purpose exists. Although it is a commentary on human nature that the loss of one is often more painful than the loss of thousands, it is also a vestigial reflection of the Creator’s nature within us that we can agonize over the plight of an individual.

"Is it this nature that we crave—and for which we were created? Perhaps it is more needed than arbitrary morality, or more necessary than law, which serves to remind us of our inadequacies, but provides no remedy or resolution.

"One can only hope that this nature will be among the innumerable benefits to accompany the promised Seed, for without this hope, I can see no expectation for humanity, creation, or eternity.”

- We previously discussed The Days of Peleg HERE.

Category: Historical fiction shading into SF

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