Cold War in Heaven
By Cheryl Morgan
Many writers, perhaps most notably Ted Chiang, though I rather like Lyda Morehouseís version, have wondered what life on Earth might be like if angels actually put in an appearance here. Just how powerful would they be, and what effect would they have on human politics? Lavie Tidhar is the latest person to tackle the question, and he does so through the medium of the spy thriller.
His novella, An Occupation of Angels, published as a chapbook by UK small press Pendragon, has the Cold War escalated by the presence of angels on either side. Behemoth lurks inside St. Paulís, Metatron has occupied Notre Dame. Azrael, as might be expected, prefers the atmosphere of the Lubyanka. They add an extra dimension to the balance of power. The trouble is that someone has started to assassinate them. Each side blames the other. The threat of nuclear war looms. The chaps in MI6 seem to think this has something to do with the disappearance of a lowly but rather smart cryptographer.
I donít read a lot of spy fiction, but Tidhar seems to have all the right elements. His heroine, Killarney, gets shuttled around the capitals of Europe, has informants shot dead in front of her just as they are about to spill the beans, and has a fight to the death with nameless Aryan thugs on a speeding train. It is all entertaining stuff, and suggests that God and Satan might really want to be more careful before tangling with those devious humans.
The only complaint I have is that the story has a tendency to switch timelines without the customary blank line to indicate that the scene has changed. I thought perhaps this was just an artifact of the proof copy I was working from, but editor Chris Teague tells me that Tidhar asked for the formatting I saw. Iím all in favor of complex structures for stories, but I think it is possible for the author to ask the reader to work a little too hard.