· 2 reviews · [ Original Fiction ] · by Scott Alexander
mature · completed · 233k words · updated 2 years ago
What if all that is written in the Bible was true, in the most literal way possible? Enter the world of Unsong: where the Universe is enclosed in a crystal sphere, the Names of God give power to those who speak them, and the armies of Hell walk the Earth, ready to engulf it forever in darkness. Aaron Smith-Teller works in a kabbalistic sweatshop in Silicon Valley, where he and hundreds of other minimum-wage workers try to brute-force the Holy Names of God. One day, he discovers by pure chance a powerful Name, and a chain of events sets in motion... By the way, this description has 666 characters. This is not a coincidence, as nothing is ever a coincidence.
submitted by Gan_HOPE326 · updated by Gan_HOPE326 · approved by God_Of_Donuts
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An amazingly entertaining epic of truly Biblical proportions
Gan_HOPE326 | 7 months ago *

What if everything written in the Bible was exactly, literally true? Wait, no, don't go away. This is not a new tactic to proselytise. It's the premise for one of the funniest, most intricate and well-written fantasy novels I've ever read. Certainly, the best one I've ever found on the internet for free. In the world of Unsong, as the prologue puts it, "it turned out there were far fewer things in Heaven and Earth than were dreamt of in almost anyone’s philosophy". The Earth is enclosed in a crystal sphere guarding the Heavens, and the first Moon mission went straight to crash on it. From that moment onward, all Hell broke loose - figuratively and literally. From the broken machinery of the Universe, supernatural powers leak on Earth; the Names of God become powerful spells at anyone's disposal, and Lucifer and his armies, free from their shackles, invade the planet. Years later, there's an entire industry dedicated to finding out the Names of God by brute force combinatorics (read: just trying to read out loud all possible letter mixes you can make up), and one day Aaron Smith-Teller, a tiny cog in this immense industrial machine, happens to find out a very powerful Name, which sets him and the world at large on a very dangerous path. The novel is amazingly well-written. Don't let the "rational" tag scare you, it flows pretty naturally and while it certainly loves to dabble in philosophical conundrums it's never to the detriment of the flow of the prose, that mixes breath-taking action and suspense with witty dialogue (get used to biblical puns, there's a lot of them). The style is reminiscent a lot of Terry Pratchett's - one of the angels even speaks in all caps, like Death - and I suppose the closest analogue and inspiration I can think of for this book is his and Neil Gaiman's "Good Omens". If you loved that, you'll love Unsong. It's also drenched in kabbalistic concepts, though wildly reinterpreted to fit the situation, and a lot of ideas from the Jewish tradition of Biblical interpretation. Heck, it even provides one of the most convincing arguments to explain theodicy (aka "the problem of evil", or why would a good God allow for a world where evil exists) that I've ever read, arguably better than most philosophers'. It's also a key plot point, so I won't spoil it. And if you like alternate history takes, you'll love this aspect of it too. This is our world after all, but it started diverging in the 1960s and from then on it only got weirder, while still keeping some hilarious parallels with the one we know. Let's just say, for example, that in this world the scandal that ousted Nixon from his place was something a bit less mundane than Watergate... So, yeah. Funny, awesome, at times even moving, always witty, and with a very original concept at its core. This is Unsong. Give it a try.

1 Gooey