Monday, February 17, 2014

The Devil You Know: The Villains of Among the Dead ~ Virtual Tour, Author Post, & Giveaway ~ Pathways of the Dead (Among the Dead, Book #2) by Jonathan D Allen

Jonathan D. Allen ~ Welcome to Sapphyria's Book Reviews:

The Devil You Know: The Villains of Among the Dead

Hi there and thanks for joining me on the Pathways of the Dead virtual book tour. As always, I’m humbled at the chance to share with a new audience and thank our gracious host. With all the doom and gloom of winter in my neck of the woods, I thought I’d talk about the villains of Pathways of the Dead. Of course, I find that you cannot talk about villains without first discussing their context. Every good villain is a function of his or her environment and my characters are no different. 

The Among the Dead Cycle (of which Pathways is book two) focuses on an ancient race of supernatural beings known as the Aetelia who have long had a hand in the affairs of multiple worlds. On Earth, they are known as the angels of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. At some point in the distant past, the Aetelia appointed a sect of their own to oversee the evolution of human civilization on Earth, creating a group known as the Watchers. Corrupting their mandate, the Watchers built an empire on the backs of humanity. As the humans became more restless and rebelled, they caught the notice of Aetelia’s ruling government, ultimately seeking their help in overthrowing the Watchers. This resulted in a battle that reshaped the Earth. It came to be known as The Flood, forming the basis for the Bible’s story of Noah.

The Aetelia sealed the Watchers in a dimension far from our own for several millennia. Through a series of events that occur in Corridors of the Dead, Pathways of the Dead, and companion piece Room 3, the Watchers are freed from their prison and begin to orchestrate the overthrow of the Aetelia government. As for what happens from there...well, that’s left for the series. 

So where did the concept come from? The Bible, essentially - or rather the lesser-known, excised Book of Enoch. This book names the angel Samyaza as leader of the Watchers. In the original text, he lusts after human women and convinces other, like-minded Watchers to band together so they can do what they want and take God’s collective wrath rather than facing it on their own. In the process of this transgression, the Watchers also shared forbidden secrets with humanity, ultimately facing God’s judgment and dying in Noah’s flood. 

Enoch’s Samyaza provided tantalizing clues, but I needed more. The idea of throwing away Heaven simply for a few moments of pleasure with women is pretty typical fare, but it didn’t resonate. Wouldn’t the rebel angels want more? I pondered Samyaza’s nature and, in so doing, the nature of evil itself. I decided that he would be a dictator in the making, someone who justified his actions in the name of overthrowing the ruling class. But could he simply believe in the ends justifying the means? Did that hit the notes that I wanted when talking about the forces aligned against our heroes? 

Of course not. The problem came with the nature of evil itself, namely, its multiple facets. I had to examine what evil meant to me and how to best represent it in the series. 

You must imagine the three prime antagonists of the series (minus Azazel from Corridors of the Dead, who was Samyaza’s patsy) as three facets of evil, a corruption of the Holy Trinity. A very particular, cruel creature, the huge and monstrous Samyaza represents the authoritarian face of evil, the one that believes in process the orderly creation of inhumane and cruel plans. He is the evil of mass genocide (“ethnic cleansing”), the casual indifference that leads to death, and corrupt systems that execute the innocent and protect the guilty, all carried out in the name of power and what is “right”. 

The second prime antagonist of the series is a wispy, white-haired Aetelia named Jazshael who walks the line between being a Watcher and maintaining complete autonomy. Functionally insane, Jazshael sits on the other end of the spectrum from Samyaza; he is a radical individualist who only aligns with organizations and causes as his ever-changing whims suit him. He is reckless, impulsive, disorganized, and yet highly intelligent, cunning, and dangerous. He is the evil of the serial killer, the random drive-by, and the scientists who align themselves with corrupt governments in order to indulge their darkest impulses. Part Ed Gein, part Josef Mengele, with all the malice of both.

Of course, talk of rebel angels leads to the big one: Satan, who the Aetelia refer to as Lucifer. He is very much alive and well and represents the third face of evil, unknowable evil, the ultimate form of chaos personified. His motivations forever remain his own (though the reader will come to understand them long-term), and his methods for reaching goals at times seem inscrutable as his thought processes work vastly different than any other being. Lucifer represents the arbitrary nature of the universe itself, which is not per se evil but still strikes with no rhyme or reason. The flood that kills untold thousands, the earthquake, the brick that falls from a building and strikes a random person, killing them instantly. 

Put these three together and they cover the gamut of evil that I wished to convey within the story. They sometimes work in tandem to amplify misery and other times conspire against one another in pursuit of their ultimate goals. Their natures afford an ever-changing landscape of threats. Much like life, I believe that evil (or misfortune) finds a way to survive even in the most hostile of environments. That may be the cynic in me speaking, however; I’d like to think that the world is better than that, but I can’t quite get there. In the meantime, I can face these demons within the pages of my stories.

About Pathways of the Dead (Book 2):

Pathways of the Dead
(Among the Dead #2)

Matty doesn’t want to end the world. Unfortunately, she has no choice.

Through a series of harrowing events, Matty DiCamillo discovered that she is the heir to an ancient prophecy, destined to destroy her own reality to save countless others. Now she finds herself locked away and interrogated by beings known as the Aetelia, who are out to force the apocalypse to their liking. After a breathless escape and an attack by the band of rebel Aetelia known as the Watchers, Matty must not only cross worlds but time itself to elude capture and face her destiny on her own terms. Aided by her lover Kristy; Tommy, a man trapped in a boy’s body; and an ageless woman named Omarosa; she must face death itself to reach the City of the Dead.

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About The Corridors of the Dead (Book #1)

Long ago, a mysterious being known as The Lost Aetelia crafted an elaborate series of Watchtowers, along with their resident guardians, the Aetelia, to watch over the Universe. In time, they sent a select group of their own to Earth, tasked with watching over the fledging human race. This group used humanity to challenge the established structure of the Universe. A bitter war ensued, and these rebels, who had come to be known as Watchers, disappeared from history.

The time of the Aetelia – now known as angels – is returning. After a fateful night of violence, Artist Matty DiCamillo finds herself drawn into this world by a mysterious savior, who becomes a driving force in Matty’s new life.

Both driven by and fighting the words of prophecy that lay out her destiny, Matty, her lover Kristy, and her best friend Daniel, follow this mysterious savior on a journey from Northern California to Las Vegas on a path that crosses through the boundaries of time and space.

As Matty struggles to understand her destiny, she discovers that her savior may not be what she seems, and that even the denizens of this twilight world have no idea what lurks behind the stage dressing of reality. Matty finds herself not only racing to rescue the woman she loves, but learning that she herself could be the cause of the Universe’s day of reckoning.

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About the Author:

Born and raised in the rural Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, Jonathan wrote his first fantasy/sci-fi novel at the age of 13. After studying writing and communication at James Madison University, Jonathan turned his passion for writing into a full-time technical writing career in the DC Metro area, working for companies like Sprint/Nextel, Time Warner Cable, and Sirius XM Radio, where he had an opportunity to combine his love of music with his love of writing. He may have drifted away from fiction at times, but it was always his first love – and he always returned to it. Now living in Bethesda with his wife, two cats, and two quirky guinea pigs for which his publishing company is named, he crafts the kinds of stories that he had always hoped to read but just couldn’t quite find.

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