Judgement Eve

In reviews,

Imagine the boulevards of Golgolundra on the world’s last day, and the angels circling like vultures above it. Everywhere is noise, and lights, and gaiety, and crime, and chaos.

To-morrow the angels drown the world.

In a science-fiction re-telling of Noah’s Ark, humanity faces judgement from the the death angels and has been found wanting. The angels are aliens that look like humans with wings, inhuman beauty, and amazing superpowers. The deadly sins that underlie and define humanity – hatred, anger, jealousy, and so on – have provoked the aliens to first sterilise and then massacre humanity once the last child comes of age. Dolphins are slated to become the new masters of the planet.

Only one family is anointed for salvation. One person, rather: righteous Deucalion. His wife is allowed to come along partially as a gift to him, and partially to reestablish the entirety of the human race. His son, Idomenes, is the protagonist. Idomenes has lived most of his life righteously, by somehow purging evil emotions from his genes, but falters and succumbs to his base nature on his very last day on Earth.

The story begins with Idomenes coming to persuade his doomed love, Lilimariah, to come with him to the stars and save herself. She refuses, because she is pregnant – an impossibility in this sterile world. The angel Azaziel comes to abduct her and take her to the stars as her new lover and the father of her child. Idomenes, betrayed and enraged, transforms into a mecha and attacks him. The prince of angels, Uriel, comes in to break up their fight. After some yelling about the ethical complexities of massacring humanity, Azaziel flies off with Lilimariah.

Idomenes has doomed himself with his wrathful action, but Uriel eventually decides to forgive him as a favour to Deucalion. While Uriel was deliberating, however, Idomenes has received a secret communication from Lilimariah where she confesses that she seduced the angel as a way to proliferate humanity on other planets to save them from extinction. Oh, and she really did love him. Salvation for Idomenes requires that Uriel to read his thoughts and thereby ruin Lilimariah’s efforts – so he chooses to join the mutated humans that have fled to the oceanic depths as a precautionary measure against the Great Flood.

I think I should have loved this story. It’s Christian and Greek mythology twisted up in nanotechnology and mecha. The language was poetic and grandiose, but not painfully so. In many ways, I think this leaned too far in a biblical direction in the sense that women are very much plot devices for the benefit of men. While Deucalion and Idomenes are names straight from the Great Flood myth in Greek mythology, a quick google doesn’t show me any meaning for the name Lilimariah. Instead, the name seems to point to Lilith, the demon from Jewish mythology and Adam’s first wife. The first mention of Lilith as his wife is in the Alphabet of Ben Sira, in which Lilith leaves the Garden of Eden after refusing to be subservient to Adam. By the 13th century, Lilith’s myth had extended to becoming the archangel Samael’s lover. Given that Samael is the main angel of death in Jewish lore, the parallels are too strong to be coincidental. I assume the -mariah part is a way to shoehorn Mary in as well as the mother of the saviour. Deucalion’s wife doesn’t even get a name or any kind of appearance in the story.

The role of both Deucalion’s wife and Lilimariah is to become the mothers of future humanity. Lilimariah also spends a good amount of time being sexily naked. I actually don’t think she is fully clothed at any point in the story. This pigeonholing of women into their sex is very true to the mythical origins of the story, I suppose, but it doesn’t make for very pleasant reading. And I didn’t feel that many instances of the exceedingly male gaze were necessary at all. When Azaziel first flies off with Lilimariah:

Lilimariah’s perfect bottom is high in the air; her shapely legs are kicking, but Idomenes sees her smile falter when she glimpses him over her shoulder.

Those are not the observations of a panicked man seeing his lover being kidnapped by an angel. When he chases after them and finally arrives:

Lilimariah is kneeling, her arms embracing Azaziel’s leg, her cheek against his knee. Her hair flows around her like long banners. She is not otherwise dressed.

Not really living up to her namesake, is she? The juxtaposition of this subservient and vulnerable pose with Idomene gearing up into powerful ultra-mecha mode is particularly illustrative of the roles given to men and women in Judgement Eve. Lilimariah has no agency in this story. Her dissenting actions are all dictated to her by her father. Literally her only act of rebellion is to tell Idomenes everything and place her fate in his hands.

The author is John C. Wright. He is now Catholic, but claims that this story was written before he converted and does not represent any current religious views. Catholicism is by far not the only general worldview that is predisposed to valuing women lower than men, but I do have to say that this story feels very Catholic in perhaps more ways than he intended.

I read this in Engineering Infinity (The Infinity Project Book 1), published in 2011, edited by Jonathan Strahan.