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Chapter 72: And Builds A Heaven In Hell’s Despair

If we are worthy, our Master will redeem us by justice, and if not, He will redeem us with mercy.
Rabbinic saying

Evening, May 14, 2017
Citadel West


Sohu pushed the heavy steel door open and entered the throne room.

“Hey,” she said.

The others ran towards her, hugged her, started firing questions at her. Even I ran towards her and hugged her, overcome with the spirit of the moment. Only Caelius stayed where he was, staring at his computer, occasionally reaching out a wavering finger to stab a key or flip a switch.

“You’re alive!” Nathanda said, sounding a little too surprised.

“Thamiel…not gonna bother us…for a while,” she said. “Summoned Uriel. He helped take care of things. I’m…tired. Anything to eat?”

It was hard to judge in the dim glow of the Luminous Name, but she looked drained. In the absence of the usual servants, I ran out to get her something. When I got back with a jar of cookies, there were a couple of soldiers talking to Nathanda.

“The Other King’s broken through the passes,” she announced to us. “Everybody’s retreating. Total rout. He’s flying here. Alone. Less than an hour. A few minutes.”

We were quiet. Sohu grabbed a cookie, jammed it into her mouth.

“While you were away, we’ve been reading up on this Acher,” Jinxiang told Sohu. “Elisha ben Abuyah. Strange guy. No obvious weaknesses. You know anything we don’t?”

“Always,” said Sohu. “But nothing useful.”

Caelius limped over, joined the circle, almost sunk into his chair. “She’s rebooting,” he said. “Don’t know how long it will take. Computer that size…” He trailed off. I couldn’t believe he was even still conscious. None of us dared suggest he leave. For a little while we all just sat there, quietly, in the dark. A few furtive glances at the entrance, as if the Other King was already through the big blast door and could walk in at any moment. Almost hopeful. Anything would have been better than waiting quietly in the dark room.

Finally, Nathanda picked up her book. “I guess I should talk,” she said. “There’s nothing in here about secret weaknesses or magic spells. But there are a lot of stories. There’s a story about how each year, on the Day of Atonement, a great voice would ring forth from the holy places, saying ‘Repent, o children of Israel, for the Lord your God is merciful and shall forgive you. Except you, Elisha ben Abuyah.’

“And the people went to Rabbi Meir, who’d been a disciple of Acher back when he was good, and who still loved him, because in those days people loved their teachers more than life itself, no matter what happened to them, and they told Rabbi Meir to give it up, that even God wasn’t going to forgive Acher, and Rabbi Meir just laughed, and said that the voice was a test, and that if Acher could repent, even knowing that God would not forgive him and it would gain him nothing, then that would be the truest repentance and all of his sins would be washed away, and he would rise up even brighter than before.”

Nathanda’s voice was hypnotizing. I felt myself falling away, I could see the scene, the old bearded Rabbi Meir standing in front of a Torah scroll, arguing with the people, defending his teacher even against God.

“And then I read – that one day Acher died, and the people said that it was not good, because he had never repented, and Rabbi Meir laughed and said that surely had had repented in his heart and was in Paradise. And then flames started coming out of Acher’s grave, and the people were like, we’re not rabbis, and we’re no experts in omens, but that doesn’t seem, to us, like the sort of thing that happens when you’re in Paradise. And Rabbi Meir said very well, but that God would relent and redeem him later. And the people said that, again, we’re no experts and you’re the one with the rabbinical degree, but a voice had very clearly rung forth from the holy places saying that wouldn’t happen. And Rabbi Meir said that very well, maybe He wouldn’t, but if God wouldn’t redeem Acher, then he, Rabbi Meir, would redeem Acher.

“And the people said, what, that doesn’t even make sense, is redemption not reserved for God alone? And Rabbi Meir said that wasn’t exactly true. That what we do during our lives echoes forward into history, and that good deeds that seemed tiny when they happened might grow and grow until they consumed the entire world, and if the recording angels had discounted them when they first reviewed the case, an appeal might be lodged. And that one day, when he was studying Torah under Rabbi Elisha ben Abuyah, Rabbi Meir had gotten something from him, some tiny spark of goodness, and that was what had inspired him to be good himself throughout his life. And so he would train his disciples to be good, and they would train their disciples to be good, until the world was safe and free, and all of it would be because of this one man, Acher, a wicked wicked man who would not repent, and God would be forced to credit those deeds to Acher’s name, and he would rise into Paradise, unrepentant still.”

The ground started to shake, as if someone was pummeling the mountain from afar, but Nathanda didn’t stop talking.

“And the people asked, huh, how does that even work? and Rabbi Meir said that this was all playing out on hidden levels, that the point was to redeem the sparks of divinity that had gotten caught among the klipot of the world, and that each of our actions changes and redirects the flow of subtle currents upon which the sparks are borne. And even though Acher had died without repenting, even though everything he did seemed to the material eye to be evil and without merit, behind the scenes the sparks had been pushed into new configurations, whole fiery rivers of sparks, flowing through Rabbi Meir and through all the other people he had touched in his life, and that when all those rivers met and reached the sea, we would get Moschiach, the savior, and the whole world would be reconciled to God. Say not, he told the people, that anything has worked only evil, that any life has been in vain. Say rather that while the visible world festers and decays, somewhere beyond our understanding the groundwork is being laid for Moschiach, and the final victory.”

The shaking intensified. I thought of that poem again, Erica’s poem. Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne, but that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown – standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.

“I guess that’s what I have to say to all of you today. Father’s gone now. We all thought he was Moschiach – we knew he was Moschiach – but now he’s gone, and sometimes it seems like he’s never been. We felt like we had this burden, of salvaging his legacy, taking what he made and finishing his work instead of letting it come to nothing. I…am not sure that we will. Maybe this strange experiment, this new intrusion of Heaven into history, is going to come to an end with us, and everything Father built will be torn down. But even if that happens, we’ve done good. The world may not remember it, but we’ve done good. The sparks are moving in a different pattern now, I can’t see them, none of us can see them, but maybe they’re moving in huge fiery rivers because of some of the things Father did, maybe if we could peel back the veil we would just see this amazing endless light, this inevitable tide, ready to sweep over everything, this tide that all of us helped draw. That’s…that’s what I think Rabbi Meir would say if he were here.”

I would never have dared follow Nathanda, never have dared to speak at a solemn council of the Cometspawn, except that Sohu felt my thoughts and prodded me on. [Yes, Aaron,] she thought. [Speak.] And then when I still held back, she stood up. “Aaron has something he wants to add to that,” she said. Then sat back down.

“Um.” Four pairs of eyes watched me. “When I first learned the Vital Name, my friend asked me what I wanted to do with it. And there were all of these possibilities, you know? Um. Get rich. Take power. Run for President. I told her we couldn’t do any of those things. I said…I said I wanted to become the next Comet King.”

I waited for the Cometspawn to laugh at me. They didn’t laugh. Far away, I heard a terrible crash.

“I said that, because I’d heard about everything your father did. I’d heard about him standing up to Thamiel single-handedly in Silverthorne. I heard about how he stopped the Drug Lord. I’d heard about his Crusade, where he marched to Yakutsk with a million men to try to save the souls of the damned. Everyone heard about these things. In a world that had the Comet King, it was impossible to just want to be rich or famous or important. You wanted that same thing he had. Call it goodness. Call it holiness. It was the most powerful thing I ever encountered. Acher might have inspired Rabbi Meir, but your father inspired everyone. And so did you. I’m nowhere near as good a kabbalist as any of you, but the sparks that you guys have kindled aren’t even hidden. They’re in plain sight. I’m glad I got to know you and I’m glad you existed. For whatever it’s worth.”

Then the door shattered and the Other King entered the room.


I don’t know if I’d thought to contribute to the fight somehow, but the symbols and energies flaring across the room from both sides the moment the door began to creak disabused me of the notion instantly. [Spectral Name!] Sohu thought at me, and I spoke it faster than I’d ever spoken anything in my life and become invisible. The Other King floated almost leisurely through the mystical armaments hurled against him, pausing only to wipe away a few incantations here or there with a crimson sleeve.

Nathanda leapt onto the Black Opal Throne and traced a mem, lamed and kaf. Melek, meaning “royalty” or “kingship”, but also reminescent of malak, meaning “angel”. A powerful double meaning, the natural weapon of a queen descended from Heaven.

The Other King didn’t even flinch. Just pointed, adding with his finger a single dot, changing the vowels. Moloch, the god who accepted child sacrifices. The evil King Ahaz had offered his sons and daughters to Moloch, inciting the wrath of Jeremiah and causing him to prophecy the fall of Israel. The forces twisted, the symbolic meanings changed. The children of kings slain by demonic forces. A great nation falling. Nathanda gasped, collapsed to the ground, and before she could recover the Other King struck her with his bare hand. She screamed something unintelligible, then it became a gurgle, then her eyes closed.

At almost the same time, Caelius dragged himself up from his chair. He was barely able to stand, but still he stepped into Yetzirah. Moloch, god of child sacrifices. He drew upon the thread. Sacrifice. Here he was, broken, almost dead. He would offer himself as a sacrifice, sacrifice his life for Colorado and victory. Sacrifice. Korban. Kuf, resh, bet.

Without even taking his eyes off Nathanda, the Other King crossed the threads. Kuf, bet, resh. Keber. Grave. No sacrifice. Just a miserable death. Caelius opened his mouth to say something, then dropped to the floor. He crawled behind THARMAS, trying to use the supercomputers’ bulk to shield himself from the killing blow. The Other King pointed at him, and computers and Cometspawn alike burst briefly into blue flames before settling into ashes.

Jinxiang stepped back out of Yetzirah then, faced the Other King. “YOU MOTHERFUCKER!” she shouted. “YOU KILLED MY SISTER! YOU KILLED MY BROTHER! FUCK YOU!” Sohu was doing something with her hands, muttering to herself, bending the energies, quietly funneling power into Jinxiang, watching warily. “WELL GUESS WHAT? I HAVE YOUR TRUE NAME!”

The Other King didn’t answer, just stood there, as if waiting to hear her case.

“You’re Elisha ben Abuyah! You saw a kid steal a sparrow from a fucking tree and felt like it was some big deal and so you declared war on God! Well, guess what? When I was nineteen years old I saw my father drop out of the sky! You know why? Because you fucking killed him! And then you motherfuckers tried to keep his body, and I had to kill a hundred of you just to get him back! My father is more valuable than any sparrow! And instead of declaring war on God like a fucking maniac, I told myself I’d just kill the fucking hell out of everyone involved! Nathanda, all she ever wanted was to be a good wise queen! And Caelius, he just wanted to build nice things that made people happy! And you killed them! So now you’ve got me! And me? All I ever wanted was to plunge my magic sword into your motherfucking skull! So come on, motherfucker! I HAVE YOUR TRUE NAME!”

The great sword Sigh was in her hands, and she lunged at the Other King. Sohu’s magic spurred her on, and a thousand Hebraic and Enochian symbols whirled around her. She looked like a shooting star as she flew across the room, lambent with magic, sword fixed in front of her like a lance.

Somehow she managed to miss the Other King entirely.

[ELISHA BEN ABUYAH IS NOT MY TRUE NAME] thought the figure in scarlet.

I saw Jinxiang pick herself up, dust herself off, no longer sure of herself.

“Who are you?” she asked.

The Other King reached back and pulled the hood off his crimson robe.

What I remember from that moment was the total lack of surprise on Jinxiang’s face when she saw her father, as if she had known it all along on some level too terrible to mention.

Sigh flew from her grip, leapt into the hands of the Comet King. He lunged at her. She was unarmed. She jumped away, tripped, fell. A slice of Sigh. She screamed as she died, cursing her father’s name.

The Comet King advanced on Sohu.

I saw her marshal her powers. Symbols blazed around her, circling like fireflies, shooting off ten-colored light in all directions. I felt the mountains shake as she gathered strength. Whole passages of Torah, entire facets of Adam Kadmon multiplied and congealed around her, patterns of dizzying complexity.

“I don’t want to do this, Father,” she said. “I don’t want to fight you. This isn’t you. Stop.”

He kept advancing.

“But,” she said, “I swore to you I wouldn’t die before you did. See, Father. I won’t break my promise.”

Then she loosed her power, and I was briefly knocked over as a wave of ineffable white light filled the room. It crashed into the Comet King, stripped away his clothes and skin and muscle, left him a skeleton. But he didn’t fall. Slowly, painfully, the muscle and skin and clothes regenerated themselves out of light and magic, and he kept coming. He raised his sword.

“The prophecy says I’ll die screaming and cursing your name,” she told him. But I’m a celestial kabbalist. I stand above prophecy. You can kill me, Father, but I won’t curse your name. I trust you, Father. I won’t curse you. I won’t – ”

I closed my eyes in horror, but through the telepathic connection I still felt her die. It was awful and excruciating and sudden, but she didn’t curse him, even in her mind.

I opened my eyes.

The Comet King was staring straight at me.

“Aaron Smith-Teller,” he said.


He sat on the Black Opal Throne like it was the most natural thing in the world. He had taken off his scarlet robes, and now wore the familiar black and silver. “Come,” he said, and I moved slowly, foggily, like I was in a dream. He’d always used chashmal as the Other King. Never spoken aloud. Because his voice was sorrowful and wise. The voice of the Comet King. No one could ever have mistaken it for anything else.

I sat on a chair, right in front of him, feeling naked before his deep brown eyes. “Aaron,” he asked me. He sounded kind, compassionate, he sounded like a good person, like I wanted to give him everything he wanted even though I’d just seen him kill all four of his children, and it made no sense and the tension made me want to burst, but terror held it in so I just sat there and stared at him. “Aaron, do you know the Name?”

Of course I knew it. I’d heard the true version during Sohu’s ill-starred attempt to ensoul THARMAS, now destroyed. ROS-AILE-KAPHILUTON…

“Not that Name,” said the Comet King, reading my mind. “The real Name. The Shem haMephorash.”

“No,” I said.

“Hmm,” said the Comet King. He looked concerned.

As far as I could tell, my life was still in danger. The laws of physics had been broken and the world was crumbling all around me. And my childhood hero had suddenly appeared in the middle of all this, in the most horrifying and spectacular way possible, killed everyone, and was now watching me intently. This was a situation that required immediate decisive action.

I broke into tears.

I cried and cried and cried. Everyone was dead. Nathanda, Caelius, Jinxiang, Sohu. Even Ana and Erica were dead, I could feel it, a loosening of the links to where their minds ought to be. Bromis was dead. Sarah was dead. Uriel was dead. And they’d been ready for anything but this. Nathanda had pretty much said that as long as they could still keep their good memories of their father they could die happy. And then this! No, he was dead too. Everything was dead. I cried and cried.

By the time I stopped crying, the Comet King was kneeling in front of me, his hand on my knee. “Aaron,” he was saying, “Stop crying. We’ve won. Aaron, we’ve won.”


He pulled up a chair, not the throne, just another chair, sat right in front of me. “Seventeen years ago I tried to speak the Shem haMephorash and destroy Hell. I failed. I was too far. I thought I could fight my way to Lake Baikal, and then I’d be near Hell and I’d have a clear shot. It doesn’t work that way. Hell’s not just a place. It’s like Milton said – the mind can make a Heaven out of Hell, or a Hell of Heaven. I was in Hell, but I wasn’t of it.

Isaiah says that the Moshiach will be counted as the worst of sinners. I realized I wasn’t going to destroy Hell from the outside, but getting into Hell is easy. Millions do it every day. I could do the same. Wipe out a lifetime of accumulated good deeds through terror and oppression.

The only thing that stood in my way was my own conscience. I couldn’t accumulate sin in order to get into Hell. I’d be doing it for the greater good. That itself would make me unworthy of Hell. A perfect paradox.

I would have given up then except for Robin. She saved me. She sacrificed herself to give me a chance.

Do you understand what I’ve done? I didn’t become a genocidal tyrant to save the billions of souls in Hell. I did it to save her. Fifteen years of murder and oppression, and I never once thought about anyone else. And if there had not been a single soul in Hell besides hers, I would have spent those fifteen years just the same. Do you realize how wicked that is? I damned myself, Aaron. Where all my angelic powers failed, my human weakness succeeded. My father must be laughing so hard right now.

I found the shreds of a defeated death cult in Las Vegas, made myself a backstory out of their ramblings. I borrowed a golem from Gadiriel, killed myself off, took on the new identity, and never showed my face. If they’d known it was me, they would have figured out my plan, and gone willingly to their deaths. There would have been devastation without suffering. It wouldn’t have worked. I thought I could do it. Conquering the West was easy. Killing people…easy, once you…get used to it. But part of me always knew it wasn’t enough. A million lesser sins don’t sum up to abomination. There was still good in me. I didn’t want to kill my children. I thought I could avoid it, thought if I just committed enough other sins, or studied until I found a loophole, I might still avoid it. Then you arrived. If your computer idea had worked, Colorado would have become invincible. I wouldn’t have been able to stand up to it. My children would have ushered in a new golden age, there would have been peace and plenty for everyone, and it would have been the greatest disaster the world had ever known. None of it would have mattered a hair’s width as long as Hell stayed intact, do you understand? They would have beaten me, I would have revealed myself or died a saint, and Hell would have continued regardless. I couldn’t let that happen. I was like Acher, pushed past the point of no return. My poor Robin, taken from her nest. How could I let God let that pass?

So I did the only thing I could. My uncle knew all along. I got in touch with him, told him to destroy the project. Then I destroyed Uriel’s machinery to prevent them from trying the same thing again. Then I came here. I couldn’t let Thamiel kill my children, I couldn’t. If they had to die, I would do it myself. And here we are. They died screaming, just like I always knew they would.” He was quiet for a second. “I despise myself, Aaron. I despise myself and I want to die. I’m not worried about not going to Hell. I’m in Hell already. But – when I first decided to do this, the archangel Metatron got angry, said that I was profaning the Name, that I couldn’t hold the Shem haMephorash in my head and be a murderer. He said that at the end of everything he’d give it back to me, if there was still enough left of my soul to speak it. I think there is. I think I am bound for Hell, that I’m utterly, atrociously evil, that pull every loophole he will Thamiel can’t keep me out, but that I still have the divine spark, the love of goodness. I can still speak the Name. But someone needs to give it to me. Have you ever read the Sepher haBashir?”

I nodded weakly.

“God writes the Shem-ha-Mephorash on the forehead of the high priest Aaron. And here you come, an Aaron, at the end of everything. Too many coincidences. Too strange a path that brought you here. You have the Name for me, whether you know it or not. Think!”

He said it like a commandment. So I thought. For some reason I thought of the poem, how they enslave their children’s children who make compromise with sin. I thought of Las Vegas, where I’d glibly quoted it, used it to justify risking the whole world to save Ana. Quoted it to convince myself that allowing any evil, even for a greater good, was a compromise with sin. I thought of the Comet King. Who in one sense had just confessed to striking the greatest such compromise of all time. But who in another sense might have been the only person in history never to compromise with sin at all. He’d decided what was right. Then he’d done it. No excuses. No holding back. Just a single burning principle followed wherever it might lead, even to Hell itself. I thought of what Ana would think.

And then I thought of Ana. Memories not my own came flooding in. She had gone to the Captain’s cabin, confronted him, told him he was the Metatron and she wanted answers. He had asked her if she wanted the Explicit Name. She’d said no. I knew she would have said no. She’d always only wanted one thing. She demanded the captain produce the answer to Job she’d always wanted, and he’d given it to her. God is the summum bonum, the ultimate good, an unstoppable force maximizing joy and perfection among everything that existed. But in order to create, He had to withdraw; the more He withdrew, the more He created, endless forms most beautiful bought with those two silver coins of wickedness. The world was a delicate balance between a perfect good empty of thought and a multiplicity so unhappy that their scraps of goodness seemed a mockery. The created universe itself was set with fixing the balance, and when all the sparks had finally been sorted out, the good and the evil placed back in their respective vessels and every color pure, we would decide anew and the cycle could begin again.

“Oh God,” I said. “I’m so sorry. My friend Ana was supposed to get the Shem haMephorash from your ship, the same one you took, but when she found Metatron she didn’t want the Name, she asked him about theodicy instead. He never told her. Now she’s gone.”

But the Comet King was smiling.

“Yes,” he said. “I read your mind. It’s all in there. I had figured most of it out myself, but it is good to hear it spoken.”


“Because any good enough description of God is also a notarikon for His Most Holy Name.”


“God is One and His Name is One. God is One with His Name. People always say God isn’t a person, but then what is He? To me, He’s always been a sort of logical necessity. The necessity for everything in the cosmos to be as good as possible. Understand goodness and you understand God. Understand God and you understand His Name. Understand the Name and you can remake the world. That’s the kabbalah. The rest is just commentary. Excruciating, unbearable commentary that kills everyone you love.”

He stood up, started walking to the throne. “If anyone ever asks you what happened here, tell them everything. Don’t whitewash any of it. Tell them they screamed when they died.”

“Sohu didn’t scream.”

He stopped for a second. “No, I guess she didn’t. Faith is a strange thing.”

He sat on the Black Opal Throne. He took the great sword Sigh in his right hand, pointed it at his breast. Held back for a second, stared at it, black metal coated with blood.

I saw it as if in a vision. He would die. He would go to Hell, go for real this time. He would stand on a pillar, looking out at the fields of flame below him, hearing the screams for the last time. He would speak the seventy-two letters of the Explicit Name of God. The flames would cease. The cages would crumble. He would point a finger, and his wife would fly towards him. They would stand there together, above the wreckage. Rain would fall. Rivers would flow through the broken landscape. Flowers would spring from the ground. The people would limp forth, and by the waters they would sing the same song Miriam had sung at the Red Sea. ‘Sing to the Lord, for He is highly exalted. The Lord reigns, for ever and ever.’

I saw all of this, and at the same time I saw the Comet King on his throne, holding his sword. Afraid, regretful, broken-hearted – any of a million things could have been holding him back. I thought of the old verse from the Rubaiyat, the same one I’d thought of when Ana read Job to us, long ago:

Oh, Thou who burns in Heart for those who burn
In Hell, whose fires thyself shall feed in turn;
How long be crying, ‘Mercy on them, God!’
Why, who art Thou to teach, and He to learn?

Then the Comet King muttered to himself, almost too soft to hear: “Somebody has to and no one else will” and he plunged the sword into his heart and died.


The sound of my breath rose and fell. The blood made little rivulets, as if exploring the terrain, then settled down into irregular stagnant lakes. I just sat there, stunned. Sat in the chair, staring at the body of the Comet King, until the light of the Luminous Name dimmed and went out and everything was black. Nothing stirred. I wondered if the other inhabitants of the citadel had all run away, or if the Other King had killed them, or if they cowered in their chambers behind locked doors. The quiet and solitude were like a womb, or like the emptiness before Creation. In the beginning, the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep. Then the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters, and God said…

It was a faint voice, almost too faint to detect, audible not to the ears but to the innermost chambers of my thought. Had the darkness and silence been any less complete I might have missed it entirely. And the voice said:

[Blowhole-y of holies.]

End of Book IV.
An epilogue will be published on Wednesday.

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316 Responses to Chapter 72: And Builds A Heaven In Hell’s Despair

  1. Longtimelurker says:

    Well, that was an ending.

    • Longtimelurker says:

      Oh, by the way, First.

    • RavenclawPrefect says:

      Was it ever. Nice to see various theories confirmed, and thanks to Scott for the excellent read. Not sure I get the final whale pun, though; is the voice coming from God, or Ana-as-God, or something else I’m not understanding yet?

      • Matthias says:

        Isn’t it just Ana through the SKABMOM chain?

        • Fujikoma says:

          Well, it was connected to Sohu, as well as Erica by extension through both Sohu AND Ana, and Sohu added Dylan (or I could be mistaken), Uriel, Sarah, and strengthened the connection with Erica… or at least that’s how I interpreted it, more a web of distantly related parts than a series of independent connections, but until the author explains that, I won’t know.

          • Matthias says:

            Oh sure, the SKABMOM chain is complicated, but I feel pretty confident another whale pun coming through it is from Ana, divine or not.

      • Rand says:

        Clearly not god: God only talks in ALL CAPS

      • Keshav Srinivasan says:

        It’s Ana speaking through SCABMOM to Aaron. She could be in Heaven and praising God in a Neil Armstrong-like fashion. Or she could be “a Heaven in Hell’s despair”, to quote the chapter title, i.e. the Comet King spoken the Shem Hamephorash and turned what used to be a place of despair into a San Fransico-like Paradise, and it’s from that redeemed place that she is praising God in a Neil Armstrong-like fashion.

  2. TPTT says:

    …Holy crap. (in an entirely non-kabbalistically significant way)

  3. Ninmesara says:

    So… Ana became God?

    • chris says:

      or god scabmommed into the chain

    • Unbalanced Diagram says:

      My understanding is that she became immersed in divine light, like Neil Armstrong did, but she retained enough herself to add a whale pun to “holy of holies”.

    • 75th says:

      No, she was just resurrected, and managed to make a pun out of her compulsion to praise God.

      • Eric says:

        It’s possible that all the souls in Hell were resurrected by TCK. It’s also possible that Ana, who made it to Hell first with the Shem HaMephorash, pulled something more devious.

      • Keshav Srinivasan says:

        I don’t think she was resurrected at all; remember, SCABMOM allows you to communicate from beyond the grave. I think she is either communicating from Heaven, or from a “Heaven in Hell’s despair” (to quote the chapter title) created by the Comet King’s chanting of the Shem Hamephorash. I think the fact that she’s still dead would explain the fact that her voice is so faint and hard to hear.

    • If Ana became God, her first order of business would be to repeal the laws of economics.

      • Simurgh says:

        Which one first? That people want things? That they want some things more than others? Or that people do what it takes to get what they genuinely want (at least in the moment)? To steal a phrase from UNSONG, the rest is commentary.

    • Anonymous says:

      My interpretation is that Aaron was just daydreaming about the Genesis story, and mind-hearing Ana’s voice snapped him out of it.

    • Amy says:

      Reminds me of this:

      And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him. [Genesis 5:24 KJV.]
      This Enoch, whose flesh was turned to flame, his veins to fire, his eye-lashes to flashes of lightning, his eye-balls to flaming torches, and whom God placed on a throne next to the throne of glory, received after this heavenly transformation the name Metatron

  4. Zarquon says:

    TOK = TCK indeed.

  5. summer says:

    i hope the epilogue clarifies some stuff. i am massively confused by this ending

    • Ninmesara says:

      Me too… At least it confirms my theory that it was “impossible” to finish the story on the 72th chapter in a satisfactory way :p

      • Decius says:

        Comet King turned Evil to get to hell, not for good reasons but only to save Robin. To become evil enough to go to hell he had to kill his children (For unclear reasons). Now that he’s evil enough to go to hell, the description of God’s answer to Ana through Aaron is a description of God’s intentions, which are identical with God, which is identical to the Name on a level that T[CO]K can understand.

        He kills himself to get into Hell, uses the Name to destroy Hell from within and thereby saves Robin from eternal torment, coincidentally saving the other souls in hell and making the negativeness of hell finite in this world, which means this world is net positive and exists. This is anthropic- worlds in which nobody destroys hell and removes the -infinite utility of it don’t exist.

        • Ninmesara says:

          had to kill his children (For unclear reasons)

          Yes, that’s what I’d hope to see discussed in the epilogue in a more clear way.

          He kills himself to get into Hell, uses the Name to destroy Hell from within and thereby saves Robin from eternal torment, coincidentally saving the other souls in hell and making the negativeness of hell finite in this world,

          We don’t actually see him do any of this, it’s just implied… I don’t think the ending is satisfactory unless we have direct confirmation from the narrator that this is true. As in “this really happened”, not “I saw it as in a vision”.

          I also want some explanation for the (epic) whale pun in the ending.

          • Fujikoma says:

            It’s easy to explain, really. Thamiel is simply a boat hull.

            And the whole story pretty much started off with whale puns, as well as prophetic lectures about what an epic tale consists of.

            I see it all as consistent, and full-circle.

          • Keshav Srinivasan says:

            I think the whale pun is exactly the confirmation you’re looking for. It may indicate that Ana is speaking to him from a “Heaven built from Hell’s despair”, i.e. reshaped by the Comet King incanting Hamephorash, and that she’s praising God in a Neil Armstrong-like fashion, while retaining her sense of humor.

        • linkhyrule5 says:

          The loophole he found, I think, isn’t really that he’s evil enough to go to hell. It’s that he feels miserable – to the point that he could make any heaven into a hell. Paradise Lost.

          Well, presumably he also has to win the hypothetical kabbalistic duel with Thaumiel where Thaumiel argues he’s too good to go to Hell and TCK has to have enough precedent to say “no, I’m really not.”

          • Walter says:

            Thamiel is obliterated at the moment. Hell may be operating on autopilot right now, and seeing a genocidal tyrant who massacres his own family and then commits suicide it just flings wide the gate.

        • Keshav Srinivasan says:

          He stated why he wanted to kill his children: he didn’t want Thamiel to do it, if anyone was going to do it it was going to be him.

        • Gradus says:

          I’m unconvinced that this world is net positive. The mere existence of Hell as described in the Broadcast, even temporarily, to me is a categorical evil. It’s not a matter of degree. It’s a binary. Hell/not hell. If hell, universe =/= good. The drama of the ending doesn’t wipe away the suffering that came before. And if God can cheat and remove memory of that suffering or heal it somehow, then that is cheating by the rules of the multiverse established in the previous chapter.

          • The Chosen One says:

            The existence of Hell in this universe grew from the seed on the condition that its existence be exactly unbearable enough that the Comet King remakes it into a new kind of Heaven, or otherwise resets this iteration of the world, such that at its conclusion, the universe resolves into a tiny amount of net good in a unique manner to distinguish it from God’s other universes with near-zero net good.

            If the world was not eventually a net positive, it would never have existed by the rules of the multiverse established in the previous chapter.

          • david says:

            As soon as we assume that there is such a thing as “perfectly good”, we’ve already chosen a particular value system, and there are inherently going to be disagreements about whether a given world actually counts as net positive, or even whether that is a valid idea (you seem to reject the idea of net utility here, which is totally valid). There’s still nothing that says that god’s value system is the correct one in this story.

        • David Marjanović says:

          To become evil enough to go to hell he had to kill his children (For unclear reasons).

          Apparently, crucifying thousands of enemies isn’t enough to turn you into a Complete Monster; and becoming a Complete Monster is necessary to outweigh all the good TCK has done, which in turn is apparently necessary to be accepted into Hell. Sacrificing your children to Moloch, on the other hand, is blasphemy; that should do the trick.

  6. The Count of Real Numbers says:

    I am confused?

    Hm. The faint voice is clearly the “still thin sound” that is the Presence of God. The holy of holies indicates close meeting with God, by Aaron. If Ana is then representing God, does that indicate that God is nothing? Or that Nothing is God?

    Then again, there is presumably a specific meaning to the whale pun… referencing the Leviathan, conflating the HoH with the nostril of the Leviathan, indicating that perhaps at this point Aaron is to be a conduit or wielder of the 72-letter name, or perhaps shape a new one?

    • 75th says:

      It’s simpler than everyone is making it. Hell was converted into either a Paradise or just a nice place, thereby flipping all its inhabitants’ “Alive?” bits from zero to one.

      • Keshav Srinivasan says:

        I think it’s even simpler than you’re making it. I agree with you on the “It’s simpler than everyone is making it. Hell was converted into either a Paradise or just a nice place” part, but that’s it. The Comet King “builds a Heaven in Hell’s despair”, to quote the chapter title, and Ana is praising God in a Neil Armstrong-like fashion, albeit with her characteristic whale humor. The reason the voice is thin is that she’s still dead, and it’s hard to hear telepathically the voice of dead people. (Although it is possible, because SCABMOM works even beyond the grave.)

    • craig says:

      “does that indicate that God is nothing? Or that Nothing is God?” Aaron talks about the null void before Genesis, so God is the thing that is above nothingness, the alef, the numeral one.

    • teucer says:

      I’m curious whether it’s consciously riffing on the stock idea that God speaks in “a still, small voice.” (But maybe being from a faith tradition that uses that phrase a lot predisposes me to making that connection even if it isn’t really intended. Even if it’s not, it fits.)

  7. The coment king says:

    That gave me a surprising amount of closure.

    Thanks for writing. It’s been a hell of a ride.

    • Fujikoma says:

      Indeed, I had a whale of a time.

      • Droid says:

        It’s bittersweet to finally reach la fin.

        • Peter D says:

          You mean, the tail fin, also knows as “the fluke”

        • ADifferentAnonymous says:

          Indeed. Some of us beached about the beginning being slow, but Book IV was good enough to blow that hole complaint away. Scott promised the payoff would be awesome, and that was no sham, u know.

          • Fujikoma says:

            I actually enjoyed the slow beginning parts (but then, I would), because I had a feeling it would pay off later. People being confused about the ending makes me think that perhaps they skimmed the slow parts to get to the action packed ones. I’m currently writing a story and I started it off with things asploding, but hit a snag at chapter five when it’s time to introduce more elements of the setting and allow for more character development, even though I have a good idea what’s going to happen next. I didn’t want to get the structure or timing wrong.

            Certainly doesn’t compare to this, or Worm, or many books, really, but it’s just fun to concoct a storyline and develop it.

  8. Pingback: Chapter 72: And Builds A Heaven In Hell’s Despair – Kiwi Lead

  9. Fujikoma says:

    And, of COURSE it ends with a whale pun. Roger Zelazny would be proud.


  10. Ninmesara says:

    So it seems like the golem fooled the Cometspawn into thinking their father had died… Ok, fair enough… I guess I’d have expected a little more skepticism and a full medical examination. It looks like they’re not as good at placebomancy as their father is.

    So, Sohu dies. But didn’t Uriel say hers was a VERY GOOD IMMORTALITY RITUAL? Wasn’t she supposed to be invulnerable? This seems like an inconsistency. I mean, surely Thamiel (a facet of God) might have found a way to kill her, but it seems a little strange for TCK to just kill her with a sword, with no mention at all of the VERY GOOD IMMORTALITY RITUAL (that’s something Sohu could have said, or even Uriel inside Sohu).

    Also, TCK’s reasoning is a little strange. So, his sin actually counts for real because he doesn’t care about Humanity, only his wife?! Even though he’s using the sin as a means to destroy hell? And now it doesn’t matter if he goes to Hell or not because his mind is already in Hell? This is some weird loophole abusing that doesn’t even feel that right to the audience :p Dylan would not approve. He should have said something like “Well, Aaron, I guess I won’t go to hell after all. I like it here”, and then Aaron would trick him into reciting the Mortal Name and he would die as a real sinner (instead of some kind of fake sinner, who is sinning for the greater good).

    Another thing that’s a little strange (from a narrative point of view) is that Aaron’s discovery of the name didn’t actually amount to much. It just forced TCK’s hand into doing something as drastic as destroying Uriel’s machinery. Sarah, Tharmas and the Name itself did absolutely nothing interesting by themselves, and their value was only as a threat.

    • Rand says:

      “So it seems like the golem fooled the Cometspawn into thinking their father had died…”

      I read it as he inhabited the Golem and killed off his old body. But it could go either way.

    • ojalaque says:


      • Ninmesara says:


        Well, Uriel can probably revert the ritual because he created it. But I didn’t interpret that as saying that it would be easy for anyone to kill her. So maybe this only protects her from dying of old age?

        • Gazeboist says:

          Yeah, it seemed more like a no-aging ritual than anything else. She doesn’t seem any less vulnerable to physical harm, or more likely to recover from the same.

    • Mengsk says:

      I think the point is that going to Hell in order to specifically save Robin does not count as the “greater good”, and is ultimately what drove him to do bad things. That said, it’s still unclear to me why killing his kids was necessary. Is killing his children worse than genocide?

      • Deiseach says:

        Is killing his children worse than genocide?

        It’s the last scrap of love and unselfishness. He’s prepared to sacrifice everyone else in the world for the sake of Robin, but if he loves his children as much as he loves his wife, and spares them, then he is demonstrating that he is not prepared to sacrifice everything for her.

        Killing your children is sacrificing to Moloch. My own opinion is that what finally sends him to Hell is his suicide, not the rest of it, but Scott has laid it out as he has and that’s the ending.

        It’s also a rather neat reversal of Ted Chiang’s “Hell Is The Absence of God”. I don’t know if Scott intended that, but I like the resonance 🙂

        • Murphy says:

          Filicide is typically viewed as an unusually evil sort of murder.

          Add to that suicide being counted as yet another mortal sin.

          We (and the comet king) don’t know for certain where the line is where you qualify for hell so he was basically making 100% certain by ticking every box on the evil-checklist.

      • Walter says:

        He didn’t hate himself enough until he killed his children. The criteria here is not objective evil (since we’ve ascertained that you can be as evil as you want for the greater good and it won’t get you anywhere), it is self loathing that lets you forge hell about your own heart.

  11. Sillence says:

    The salvation of the universe never hinged on Aaron discovering the Vital name? Shame, it would have been nice to find out more explicitly why the whole story made this universe the unique salvageable one among all of its neighbors. I sincerely hope the Epilogue will resolve this, for instance by indicating that Metatron would not have given TCK back the explicit name in any other way than via the Aaron-Ana chain. Without such a resolution, I will be rather unhappy about how tightly the narrative fits together.

    • Ninmesara says:

      Aaron’s discovery of the Vital name was important to force TCK into action, but it’s not narratively very convincing.

      Even stranger is Erica’s storyline, which seems to exist for the sole purpose of getting Malia’s blood into the Not a Metaphor, and its importance disappeared after Mark went out of the window. It’s completely inconsequential whether or not she kills Malia, or whether she dies or not. This last detail doesn’t fit with Dylan’s placebomantic reading of the situation, because when he meets Erica he says “She will grant them victory in an ironic way when all seems lost” (citing from memory).

      Actually, (just like the vital name), Erica is nor important. She is only important to give BOOJUM a weapon get close to Malia, and even that is moot, because the lights go out and they don’t need invisibility anymore (note that they killed the guards at the entrance without making use of invisibility). What gave them “the victory” was actually Dylan’s crazy ritual with Malia’s menstrual blood. Unless you consider killing Malia as a victory, and while it might feel like one from Dylan’s point of view, it rings kind of hollow, especially so close to the end of the world.

      • Tetrikitty says:

        Erica was how Sohu found the Vital Name, though.

        • Keshav Srinivasan says:

          But that’s just a feature of Ana and Erica’s Kabbalistic marriage, not a feature of any storyline involving Erica. And from a creative standpoint, Scott could have chosen to simply not have a Kabbalistic marriage between Ana and Erica, and that wouldn’t have materially affected the story, other than Sohu barging into Dylan Alvarez’s rehearsal.

          • Ninmesara says:

            from a creative standpoint, Scott could have chosen to simply not have a Kabbalistic marriage between Ana and Erica, and that wouldn’t have materially affected the story

            It would affect the story. How else would Ana know about the opal amulet with Malia’s blood? Mark didn’t know that Malia was Thamiel’s daughter, so he would never discover how to operate the black sail on his own.

      • Deiseach says:

        Well, getting Malia’s blood onto the Not A Metaphor is granting them victory in an ironic way when all seems lost; it’s ironic because Dylan – who up to now has been the Master Plotter pulling all the strings – and his plan to kill Malia fails, and we never see any hint that he’s particularly interested in destroying Hell, so the blood he managed to acquire and turn into amulets is used in a way he never foresaw or intended.

      • Walter says:

        Erica’s primary importance seems to be narrative, rather than as part of the victory chain. She is like Hile Troy in the Thomas Covenant books, a sort of explanation-by-example.

        Like, Erica is what you get when you are all ‘break the system! Take the world Back!’, and make no attempt to understand said system. She’s the sort of thing that Ana’s rich bud rolls his eyes about. While Ana and Aaron angst and wander about she proceeds arrow straight to her simplistic version of what is wrong with the world. She’s the version of Aragorn who puts all her hopes into the attack on the Black Gates.

    • Andr says:

      >The salvation of the universe never hinged on Aaron discovering the Vital name? Shame, it would have been nice to find out more explicitly why the whole story made this universe the unique salvageable one among all of its neighbors. I sincerely hope the Epilogue will resolve this, for instance by indicating that Metatron would not have given TCK back the explicit name in any other way than via the Aaron-Ana chain. Without such a resolution, I will be rather unhappy about how tightly the narrative fits together.

      Well, it kinda did? If Aaron doesn’t discover the Vital name, then TCK can never force himself to take the final step in his journey to hell.

    • Anders Sandberg says:

      Aaron discovering the Vital name may also be important for salvaging the post-crisis world. While the Comet King might be fixing Hell, the mortal world may need some help since the Machine is broken: getting a lot of new names from ensouled computers might be just the thing. Assuming they can function, of course (this might be an epilogue role of Sarah, if she is the sole remaining computer).

      • Ninmesara says:

        Sara (probably) died when Tharmas was destroyed.

        • Deiseach says:

          Sarah has a soul now, and souls survive death. Sarah’s soul can inhabit a new golem or computer body, if they get around to fixing THARMAS or building something sufficiently like it.

    • Gazeboist says:

      Without the Vital Name plot, TOK would have just sat in Vegas, forever putting off actually killing his children. The VItal Name plan was likely to make him completely unable to carry out his plan, so he was forced to actually put it in motion before he got permanently locked out.

    • Alsadius says:

      “Meh,” I said. “Meh. Meh. Meh. Meh. Meh.”

      That was the part that led to the apocalypse.

      Yeah, this seems to have been a huge red herring. Perhaps that was the whale that started the story?

      • Chevron says:

        Tbh speaking of red herrings j wish there had been a scene where a school of red herring had leapt aboard the Not a Metphor

      • OhJOhN says:

        This was a link in the chain of important coincidences that saved this universe from cosmic pruning. He accidentally discovers the Vital Name via ennui, which leads him to Colorado, which leads T{C,O}K to destroy Uriel + machinery (which seems sufficiently apocalyptic) and kill his kids so as to prevent an ensouled THARMAS, which is just evil enough to get him into Hell so he can destroy it.

        In the universe where Aaron says “Meh.” only 5 times, none of the rest happens, T*K never finds the motivation to kill Uriel or his kids, no apocalypse, and no ultimate redemption– and thus it’s never instantiated in the first place.

      • Deiseach says:

        Well, we have had an apocalypse. Hell has been destroyed and it looks like a new Earth will be created out of the ruins of the old one, that’s what the apocalypse is all about:

        And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

        2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

    • Lambert says:

      Perhaps the universe is uniquely salvageable because of all the non-coincidences driving events to their conclusion.

    • Uhhhhhhhhhh says:

      Aaron discovering the Vital Name was essential to the discovery of the Zephyr Name, and thus to the retrieval of the Explicit Name for the Comet King.

  12. Rand says:

    Oh what Glory,
    was the High Priests,
    When she went out,
    From the Blowholey of Holies,
    In peace, without wound

  13. GCBill says:

    As others have said, “All’s whale that ends whale.” A cetacean cessation was necessary to sanctify the Messianic estuary. The ne’er wells in hell became the narwhals in Holy Halls, as Ahab provided a habitat.

    • Fujikoma says:

      … and there was much whaling and gnashing of teeth.

      • GCBill says:

        Only for a time. Then they achieved universal salvation via unitarian salinization.

      • Rand says:

        It is said that Sisera’s mother wailed 101 times upon hearing of her son’s death.

        We blow through the hole of the shofar 100 times to counteract her 100 wails, one blowhole per whale.

        But we blow a 101st time, because the last was a true whale of a hapless mother, a white wail.

    • Anders Sandberg says:

      And now it is presumably going to be “Do what thou wilt shall be the whale of the Law” in the new aeon.

    • GCBill says:

      Escatology, or when the ship of Metatron becomes the shit of Megalodon.

    • 75th says:

      If everyone in this thread were in Hell I would have a real hard time deciding to shove my magic sword through my chest

  14. SK says:

    There is special providence in the fall of a sparrow!

    • Ninmesara says:

      So I guess the sparrow was robin after all

    • Ninmesara says:

      Also, if Thamiel is so smart, why did he accept this deal? Couldn’t he have seen it coming? Why was he fooled by The TCK/TOK’s ruse? Surely it was not thaaaat obvious, but wouldn’t he be curious enough to investigate the mman (thing?) that killed his bitter rival? It seems a little out of character for the so called Prince of Lies. He should have been more suspicious of other people’s lies.

      • The coment king says:

        He saw that the Comet King would lose the Shem Hamephorash in Sohu’s vision. And his personal grudge made him take the deal to let him torment his enemy.

      • Deiseach says:

        There is always the possibility that if Thamiel is indeed a facet of God, all this was in train to end Hell. He took the deal so that this whole scenario would play out and The Comet King finally come and harrow Hell. Thamiel is justice without mercy, pitiless and exacting. He runs Hell because that is a necessary part of the universe and because the evil deeds of people deserve punishment. He cannot end Hell himself because that would be a dereliction of duty, and he is justice not mercy. An outsider has to do it, and that is The Comet King.

      • Walter says:

        Thamiel is just God’s left hand, right? He’s not going to stop the Divine Plan.

      • Peter D says:

        Thamiel says somewhere that he thinks Robin’s plan wouldn’t work. I think he means that he doubts TCK can become evil enough to get into Hell. I think he takes a chance thinking the odds are heavily in his favor.

      • Stuart Armstrong says:

        There’s a lot of textual evidence that Thamiel is far from omniscient – not finding Peter Singer for some time, not knowing that TOK was TCK, for example. He also fatally underestimates Uriel – twice.

        He’s probably far better at lying and making plans than at recognising and knowing those of others. It’s probably that he is master of one way of fighting – politics, temptation, despoilment – and doesn’t pay enough attention to other ways.

  15. NinevehBusiness says:

    “But part of me always knew it wasn’t enough. A million lesser sins don’t sum up to abomination. There was still good in me.”

    Previous descriptions of hell didn’t lead me to believe this was necessary. Is there really a loophole that would let Thamiel keep TCK out of hell for not being evil enough, while damning others for mild offenses?
    Also, I’m hoping there will be more revealed about of Sohu’s lack of screaming and cursing her father’s name, beyond just, “I stand above prophecy.”

    • ludichrisness says:

      When TCK visits her after Uriel blows up Madrid, he tells her that she can stand above prophecy. As an alternate interpretation, based on the American Pie connection, only the righteous grown (good old) children were subject to the prophecy, and she could’ve been exempt based on her apparent age.

    • Walter says:

      We never actually learned what makes people Damned. Thamiel is very careful to always couch his discussions of what percentage of people go to hell in very vague terms. It may be a very small percentage of the whole.

  16. A.P. says:

    Well, this ending was pretty intense, though lessened a little by the fact that everyone had pretty much predicted it already. (Okay, lessened a lot.) I guess I was still hoping even to the last that there was gonna be a huge fakeout and the Other King was gonna be H.P. Lovecraft or something. 😛 Still, though, taken as a whole, this story has been incredible. A magical look at current events, a thesis paper on ethics and activism, a veritable dogpile of puns, a romance and a tragedy and an epic and a comedy, and somehow making all of those things the same things in the same ways. Nothing is ever a coincidence. Can’t wait to see the epilogue. 🙂

  17. Shannon Alther says:

    Shame that there’s no resolution for Sarah. Maybe in the epilogue?

    • Ninmesara says:

      Sarah is dead. Everybody’s dead. A great nation, united, under God.

      • maybe_slytherin says:

        Untied, you mean? 😀

      • Deiseach says:

        But death is not the end. The souls of the dead still exist, as those suffering in Hell know all too well. Sarah may be dead but she is not extinguished. In Christian theodicy at least, the general resurrection of the dead comes after the apocalypse. I don’t know what Jewish thought is on resurrection, but there was at least at one time belief in such, if Acts is anyway credible:

        6 But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees, and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question.

        7 And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between the Pharisees and the Sadducees: and the multitude was divided.

        8 For the Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, neither angel, nor spirit: but the Pharisees confess both.

    • Tetrikitty says:

      Sarah’s still in the SCABMOM chain. Now she can be with Aaron forever.

  18. God is One and His Name is One, and Good is One now too apparently. But where did the extra o come from?

    Even after a week, I’m still uncomfortable with theodicy in UNSONG. It was the paragraph with “HAVE YOU BEHELD THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE EARTH?” that caught me, which wasn’t in the Answer to Job, and seems to imply that all that goodness can only exist if Job also suffers. It’s not evident to me that there cannot exist a seed that eventually produces an otherwise identical world where Job is not covered in boils, and if there can exist such a seed, God ought to create it. If we freeze the two worlds at the instant that one of the Jobs gets boils, the presence of boils on Job might not propagate fast enough to affect anything else. Then, two sets of the same goodness with all the foundations of the earth and whatnot would been created, even though their only difference is Job’s boils.

    Instead of freezing those two different worlds, we could freeze the original world (where Job gets boils) at the instant right before he does, and right after. I think we’d still end up with two sets of the same goodness with the only difference being Job’s boils; that is, any world that is suddenly frozen or ended could instead not end, and become a new world with all the associated goodness.

    But in order to create, He had to withdraw; the more He withdrew, the more He created.

    A conclusion which may follow, given more time and space to elucidate my thoughts, is that any world with no hell could simply add one after it ends, in order to create new worlds with positive goodness simply by existing, at least until the evilness of hell outweighs it. Any world with eternal heaven could then also add an eternal hell afterwards to increase goodness even further, while it lasts. Most frighteningly, any world with eternal heaven could add an eternal hell before, if eventually the goodness of eternal heaven outweighs hell. It wouldn’t make any difference to everybody who suffers in hell for eternity, though.

    • Lorenzo Sadun says:

      I’m likewise disappointed in the theodicy resolution. IMO, reducing the Problem of Evil (and the nature of God!) to a multiverse counting game is a cop-out. The whole “destroying Hell is the only thing that counts” theme was too reminiscent of HPMOR — a good read whose rationalist sermonizing about destroying Death became oppressive by the end.

      But hey, it’s Scott’s Unsongverse, and he’s free to color the ending with whatever philosophical moral he wants. The rest of us are just along for the ride.

      And whatever our disagreements, it’s been a GREAT ride, with fun world-building, whimsical kabbalistic detours, and of course a sea of biblical whale puns. Many, many thanks.

    • The extra o is multiocular.

    • Walter says:

      I guess, but I’m not sure why you are counting alternate universes. Like, I’m not persuaded by the idea that a frozen universe still has any good at all, but even if we grant that, then God has presumably done that somewhere else. THIS story is about a universe where the events of the story happen and redeem the world.

      • Yes, but I’m uncomfortable with the possibility of God creating another world where all creatures capable of producing good by existing in heaven can suddenly be sent to hell for an arbitrarily long time before eternal heaven, with the goodness from heaven afterwards offsetting the evil.

        • Walter says:

          Well, I mean, sure, but you can turn that feeling on its head, yeah? Like, “I’m uncomfortable with God not creating a world of eternal heaven just because stuff used to suck for a while because it all worked itself out”. I mean, ultimately the scale is weighted in favor of good because God doesn’t create them if they are net evil, and he also asks each seed whether it wants to be instantiated.

          I think it’s as kind as it can be, literally.

          • I wouldn’t like to be in the world that I proposed, and the “ultimately” could take arbitrarily long to affect me.

            Though, I suppose now everything I’m afraid of would be taken into consideration in the sum of good somehow, and thus never happen.

    • Error says:

      It’s not evident to me that there cannot exist a seed that eventually produces an otherwise identical world where Job is not covered in boils

      I think of this as like an RNG, or a hash function. A given RNG won’t necessarily produce all possible sequences of digits, even if fed all possible seeds. Likewise, a hash that maps character strings to other character strings may have strings that it can never produce, even if it accepts all possible input strings.

      Assuming the seed of a universe unfolds according to some system of rules, it seems obvious to me that there may exist describable universes that those rules can never produce from any seed. Even if they are arbitrarily similar to some other universe that can be so produced.

      Consider a string function that appends its input to itself. f(“abcdef”) produces “abcdefabcdef” simply enough, but “abcdefabcdefg” can never be output, even though it is only a single letter different.

      I’m pretty sure this holds for any universe-rule-system where the number of describable universes is greater than the number of possible universe-seeds. Yes, they’re both infinite, but even in plain math not all infinities are created equal.

      (If there’s at least one mathematician in the audience, they can probably name an existing concept for this. I just don’t know the right vocab off the top of my head.)

      • Perhaps, “the mapping of seeds to universes is not surjective”, which I will grudgingly accept, with the rather weak objection that I think such a god is not as omnipotent as we might expect.

    • Sonata Green says:

      This universe is generated from a seed that’s only log_2(22^72) bits long. The universe that’s identical to this one except for Job’s boils has a much longer seed, so it’s further from the center of the garden, so it’ll take even longer for God to get around to creating it.

      • It doesn’t matter how long God takes before creating a world for the creatures on the world whose existence only begins after its creation. As long as God works outside of time, eventually, all the good seeds will sprout.

    • Lorenzo Sadun says:

      The biggest problem with Scott’s answer to Job is stasis. If you have a cosmic Pauli Exclusion Principle, with all of the positive-goodness worlds already filled, then there is no possibility for improving THIS world, because the thing we’re trying to become is already taken. Likewise, there’s no possibility of making our world a little worse, since that’s taken, too. (I suppose if you’re Hitler you can dream of making it so much worse that it falls in the unfilled “negative goodness” zone, but let’s not go there.)

      In real physical systems, all of the electrons whose energies are substantially below the Fermi level are inert. And there are no electrons much above the Fermi level. All the action is at the Fermi level (plus or minus kT). And if you’re really minimizing the total energy, then T=0, and there’s nothing happening, period.

      The moral glory of this world is that every time I do something right, I help repair the world — tikkun olam. Every time I do something wrong, I do the opposite. Everything is an ethical choice, with real consequences, and we struggle to do the best we can. We are ALIVE.

      In a multiverse governed by Metatron’s answer to Ana, there may be joy and sorrow, goodness and evil, Heaven or Hell, but there is no life.

      • Good Burning Plastic says:

        A universe is its entire space-time extension, not just one spacelike slice thereof. So “improving this world” and the like are things that happen *within* a universe, not things that bring us from a universe to another.

        • Lorenzo S says:

          That doesn’t get you out of the trap. If a universe is 4-dimensional (OK, 10 or 11 dimensional if you believe string theory) and all possible universes with positive goodness already exist, then there is STILL no branching and there are STILL no moral choices to be made. Yes, we can have the self-delusion of free will, but our time-line is a static entity with no actual alteration possible. There is no life and there are no moral actors, just a playing of the pre-recorded tape.

          In other words, moral worth, goodness, and evil are all concepts defined for a 3-dimensional world that evolves in time, in which our choices help determine how that evolution plays out. Maybe all of those ideas are illusions, but then there’s no value to love, or to friendship, or even to stories with biblical whale puns.

          I do NOT claim to have a decent answer to theodicy. Theodicy is a serious problem for ANY world-view that contains a benevolent omnipotent God and creatures with free will. You can try to wriggle out of it by denying free will (and thereby denying moral culpability or virtue of any kind), by denying God’s benevolence, omnipotence or existence (raising a host of other equally difficult questions), by asserting that the value of free will is greater than the possible good of divine intervention (a rabbinic favorite), or by giving up and saying that the problem is too big for our puny human brains (pretty much what God tells Job). All of these approaches have problems, but they’re what we’ve got to work with.

          Saying instead that a cosmic Pauli Exclusion Principle (together with a filled Dirac sea of positive-value universes) constrains an omnipotent God from improving our flawed world, while somehow leaving us humans capable of improving it ourselves, makes no sense at all.

          • God only using seeds may address the problem of free will.

            Another solution is that branching and moral choices exist because we don’t know which universe we’re in. Everything good that you do automatically makes you live in a more good universe, and everything evil that you do makes you live in a more evil universe.

          • How can it be pre-recorded if we’re dealing with a timeless 4-dimensional universe?

  19. NPS says:

    Sohu was doing something with her hands


  20. Rand says:

    So question:

    Did Nathanda and Caelius die cursing their father’s name?

    Or are we one for four?

  21. Anon. says:

    In retrospect, it’s kinda weird how irrelevant UNSONG has been, given the title.

    • Ninmesara says:

      That UNSONG would be mostly irrelevant became apparent to me when stuff like TCK defeating Thamiela started to take place… I mean, UNSONG is a powerful supranational organization working on copyright enforcement, and there are some rumors saying they “make people disappear”, but on the other hand, HELL IS A THING THAT EXISTS, AND SO DO NEPHILIM AND THE WORLD IS ABOUT TO END! So, yeah, kinda irrelevant.

      • David Wallace says:

        The story is called Unsong, not UNSONG, I think.

        • 75th says:


        • Keshav Srinivasan says:

          But the logo of the story is the logo of the organization UNSONG, so it really ought to have played more of a role. There were hints that it was going to play a role because it was going to have accelerated the development of Names which would give humanity a chance when Uriel’s machine fell apart, and great Drug Lord-like beings come who view humanity as the bottom of the food chan. But those great Drug Lord-like beings never showed up, which is disappointing.

          • Anders Sandberg says:

            Where is the evidence for the Lovecraftian menace? I can imagine theonomics investors liking this view, since it justifies their actions, but it might be nothing but a polytheist misreading of the religious texts in the setting. If there is a Leviathan then there must be a Tiamat, right? But actually there is just God, angels, demons and their associated weirdness.

            However, Azore getting thrown off the ship might have saved his life. Now he (and his friends hiding under a rock) just owns a major corporation, lots of names of God and has a post-technological world to rebuild in his image.

          • Keshav Srinivasan says:

            Well, Malia Ngo justifies her actions by saying that she has provided humanity with powerful weapons. And there’s a reason why the Comet King started UNSONG. So there were clear indications that the names UNSONG had developed were going to be instrumental for humanity once the machine broke down. And then nothing.

          • Peter D says:

            The logo is really just a graphic representation of the first universe God created – the one with the giant Aleph in the middle. It is [non]coincidentally the logo of UNSONG.
            Unsong of the title is the unsong of the last verse of Cohen’s HaMephorash – representing Hell and Evil, I think.

          • Good Burning Plastic says:

            But the logo of the story is the logo of the organization UNSONG

            With inverted colors.

            (But that might be just because Scott didn’t want this website to look too much like Slate Star Codex.)

          • Sonata Green says:

            The logo is really just a graphic representation of the first universe God created – the one with the giant Aleph in the middle.

            Second, I think; first would just be pure joy, full stop. (i.e., the one generated using the empty string as the seed)

    • Sillence says:

      Yeah, roughly we have unsong = evil. Still kinda surprised how irrelevant Malia/UNSONG were to the narrative, of course.

  22. ludichrisness says:

    One of the weirdest parts of this resolution for me is that it’s completely independent of the whole storyline with the reservoir of divine light running out for Uriel’s machine? Like, that ticking clock could have been removed without changing anything about TCK’s plan… unless it would have spurred him into action after the machine had wound down on its own, in which case you don’t need Aaron and the Vital Name to encourage him.

    You also extra extra don’t need the whole subplot with Sarah’s sacrifice, since she had no impact on anything since fighting skeletons on Trump Tower?

    • Keshav Srinivasan says:

      The only way in which Uriel’s Machine was relevant is that the Comet King destroyed it in order to stop the Cometspawn from trying to ensoul another computer after the destruction of THARMAS.

  23. Quixote says:

    Great final chapter. Thanks for the story.

  24. Rand says:

    If your computer idea had worked, Colorado would have become invincible. I wouldn’t have been able to stand up to it. My children would have ushered in a new golden age, there would have been peace and plenty for everyone, and it would have been the greatest disaster the world had ever known.

    And I knew if I had my chance
    That I could make those people dance
    And maybe they’d be happy for a while

    Is Sarah/Tharmas the prophet?

  25. Yossarian says:

    Jinxiang stepped back out of Yetzirah then, faced the Other King. “YOU MOTHERFUCKER!” she shouted.

    I see what you did here.

  26. Yossarian says:

    She is speaking the literal truth, provided that he is her father.

  27. Travis T. says:

    And so it ends, not with a bang, not with a whimper, but with an inexcusably bad whale pun.

  28. Azure says:

    Even knowing it was going to happen I was surprised how emotionally brutal the death of the Cometspawn would be to read.

  29. DancerWithout says:

    Thamiel’s supposed to reform in a few days. I hope somebody hasn’t forgotten about him. Not much point in destroying Hell if you have the devil running around turning Earth into Hell.

    • Fujikoma says:

      Not if he’s trapped in hell with TCK when TCK blows it up. Then where’s he going to reform?

    • Keshav Srinivasan says:

      The Comet King specifically said that he would recarve God eliminating Thaniel as a facet if God.

      • MugaSofer says:

        That’s not actually possible, though.

        … actually, what was Thamiel, anyway? Some kind of evil Metatron Lite?

        • OrthernLight says:

          Maybe Shem haMephorash can do it? It remakes worlds in a way that even Uriel’s celestial kabbalah can’t, TCK TOK Jalaketu learned it and didn’t worry about Thamiel recreating hell after it’s destruction, and Thamiel seems to take the threat somewhat seriously himself.

          For that matter, even if the Explicit Name can’t stop him from reforming, if it’s easily able to discorporate him, Jala could just do that repeatedly until Uriel’s had enough time to rebuild his machine, maybe.

          Actually, is Uriel going to try to make a new physics? Can he? Or maybe set it up to only work partially, so angels still exist but most technology works like in the story, but stable, if that’s possible.

      • Walter says:

        He lied about that.

  30. The Pachyderminator says:

    I…I like it. I had no idea how a remotely satisfying final chapter could be pulled together from where we were, but I think this is it.

    So Elisha ben Abuyah was a red herring all along. Totally makes sense, though it’s not what I expected. (My predictions haven’t been good in general; I was sure Revelation would be the last book.)

    Robin’s plan wasn’t just to give Jala a desperate new motivation. It was to make him human. She achieved his true ambition, the good of the whole world, by forcing him to put her, whom he loved, above the world and everyone in it. That attachment, that animal quality, that limited human perspective that the Comet King always felt so conflicted on, was what saved him. The power he inherited from his comet father would have ultimately done no good if not for the weakness he inherited from his human mother. Felix culpa.

    This chapter doesn’t do what the end of HPMOR did: defer the promised world-shaking events to after the end of the story. I was somewhat disappointed then, and I’m not disappointed like that here. We really have gotten the answers, and we really are getting at least enough to the denouement/apocalypse to see that it’s really happening. I love that – especially since the answer is actually good. In fact, Metatron’s answer to Ana in the last chapter was better than I noticed at the time, though as usual I could have been enlightened from the comments. By describing God for Ana, Metatron gave the Comet King the Name, and now Aaron, writing the story, does the same for us.

    Bravo, Scott. This may end up as my favorite ever religious fiction by a non-religious author.

  31. DanielLC says:

    > Millions do it every day.

    I looked it up and about 151,600 people die each day. So, 1319% of people go to hell?

  32. 75th says:

    Yuma / Chief’s Son. Raziel was the chief archangel who ever did anything, which slipped by my notice until now.

    Phoenix. TCK returned from apparent death, and resurrected everyone in Hell.

    Puerto Peñasco / Port Large Rock. Was “The Lefthand Christ” where you were going with this? Moshiach who was Chief of Sinners?

  33. scherzando says:

    Sohu pushed the heavy steel door open and entered the throne room.

    “Hey,” she said.

    So the final chapter contains within itself the full range of Names of God: it begins with the Monogrammaton, the shortest Name, and by its end has reached the Shem HaMephorash, the most powerful and presumably longest Name.

  34. Psy-Kosh says:

    I just realized the kabbalistic meaning of Aaron’s name: Smith-Teller!

    Smith Teller. The Teller of the Smith.

    See? Smith, as in maker. As in god. Aaron’s role in the redemption of hell was to pass on the Shem HaMephorash to T*K

    He was the teller of the smith. As in the thing that he “told”/passed onto T*K was the smith!

  35. ShareDVI says:

    You’ve managed to take the premise to your story (a man creates superintelligence to find evil corporation) and throw it completely out of the window.


    That’s the thing I hate about qntm’s Fine Structure (“superheroes appear and each one is more powerful… But it doesn’t matter”), qntm’s Ra (“magic is a programming language… Except nobody cares, let’s just go to the dream world to play games with an AI”) and HPMOR (“A journey for a genius boy to discover laws of magic by doing science… Except he just guesses everything without any experiment because he has suppressied memories of 70-year-old psychopath”).



    I hate all of these for clickbaiting reader with an interesting premise and then telling another story.

    And I absolutely love all of this (well, HPMOR and UNSONG at least) that you got me to read a story I wouldn’t read otherwise.

    Thank you, Scott.

    • Gradus says:

      I agree on both counts. Great story, premise slightly unfulfilled.

      • Deiseach says:

        Great story, premise slightly unfulfilled.

        That also happens sometimes when you’re writing; you’re pretty sure the plot is going from A to P, the story decides it will take a detour round S, T and X instead and maybe end up back at B 🙂

        (I’m not saying I had it happen to me but it totally happened to me at least once twice a few times).

    • Anders Sandberg says:

      A story based on the original, or rather, apparent premise might have been fairly straightforward. Perhaps good, but also in a sense predictable (tropes are hard to avoid). Even when subverting or playing with the premise you will often end up in predictable territory.

      Throwing off the “premise” and doing something different is hard to do well. My favourite example is Damien Broderick’s “The White Abacus” which starts out {Very mild spoiler} as Hamlet-in-space… and {Serious spoiler}after Ophelia kills the uncle goes off the rails into pure postmodern metacontextual discourse. Even though it is fun and the author is a sure hand, it feels like a bumpy ride.

      The “bait and switch” in Unsong is in some sense appropriate. What matters is not corporate/open source politics. What matters is not the powerful political agencies. What matters is not the ambitions of a conceited protagonist. What actually matters is theodicy and how to make the world better, no matter the cost. It is almost like what you would expect from a religious text.

    • Zinc says:

      Was this really ever THE premise of Unsong, really? Sure, quite a few chapters early on were focused on this, but there were also many chapters on the mechanics of the world, Uriel / The Comet King and other aspects of history, and theodicy. I would say that the main premise of Unsong has always been exploring the ramifications of kabbalistic magic; and from early on, exploring the ramifications of Hell and the devil being literal and undeniably real. And, most importantly, puns.

      I think it is likely that you assigned undue weight to the Strong AI aspect of Unsong – which is not an unreasonable assumption to make, given familiarity with rationalist interests (and Scott’s writings in particular), but also not entirely substantiated.

      (Also I think you are being unfair towards HPMOR? It’s been a while since I read it, but I seem to remember HPJEV doing many experiments, and having plenty of wrong guesses… of course the story also skips some parts, and the parts where he actually makes correct discoveries would be more interesting to readers and in general, so it makes sense that they would be over-represented – similarly to how science is usually glorified in regular real-world media. The story eventually changed focus mostly to very different topics, agreed, but the science was still there to begin with, and even later on in smaller doses.)

    • Hari Seldon says:


      For whatever it’s worth, qntm said that if he ever rewrites Fine Structure, he’d do it either without the superheroes, or with superheroes that are relevant throughout the entire story and not just the first half. And he IS in the middle of rewriting Ra, specifically because ‘let’s just go to the dream world to play games with an AI’ led to a very unsatisfying ending.

      So check back in a year, I guess?

  36. Gavriel says:

    This is awesome, and it makes sense, and it feels complete. But. I can’t help but be a little sorry Elisha didn’t turn up himself. He’s always been one of the most interesting rabbinic characters to me–him and Eliezer ben Hyrcanus–and I would have liked to meet him for real in the story, because so many people are somewhat sympathetic to his blasphemy.

    • David Marjanović says:

      I’m still hoping for the epilogue ( = the admission that the story doesn’t fit into 72 chapters 🙂 ).

      • Error says:

        If you’re going to count the epilogue, you must also count the prologue, and this chapter would already be the admission.

  37. Daniel says:

    My children would have ushered in a new golden age, there would have been peace and plenty for everyone, and it would have been the greatest disaster the world had ever known.

    This is the kind of thing supervillains say; the fact that’s he’s actually right makes it one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever read.

    • Anders Sandberg says:

      I argued in my chapter on Watchmen in “The Philosophy of supervillains” that Ozymandias was an *epistemic* supervillain: he had good intentions, followed a utilitarian calculus, but did not consider the uncertainties of his plans and consequences properly – despite being able to do so. So he cannot be said to be a hero, and is a kind of supervillain. Not the ill-intentioned kind, just someone who doesn’t care about harming innocents for potentially no gain.

      In the case of the Comet King I have a feeling he is actually able to foresee things accurately (goes with the territory of having seen Adam Kadmon bare), so he *isn’t* an epistemic supervillain. He is right about the gain. Makes him a grand antihero.

      He cares about innocents *but just not enough*, which in standard comic book and everyday folk-deontology morality makes him a villain too.

      • Deiseach says:

        He cares about innocents *but just not enough*, which in standard comic book and everyday folk-deontology morality makes him a villain too.

        Mmmm. The interesting part will be afterwards, when you get people demanding of the Comet King “Well, whoop-de-doo, you saved your wife. But what about my family who all died in agony during your wars, you bastard? You love your wife above all else and don’t care about anyone else? That’s how I feel! As far as I’m concerned, she could have kept burning in Hell so long as my family were alive and safe! What answer do you have for me apart from ‘I did it because I could do it and sucks to be you’, because you just admitted you did it all out of selfishness and didn’t care about the good of the world!”

        God may get away with “evil is a necessary consequence of free will” but the Comet King is part-human, did not create the multiverse, and did what he did out of pure human selfishness. People will be less inclined to forgive him, even if it all ended well.

        • Lambert says:

          I think that’s the point. You don’t become a Judeo-Christian messiah without making everyone hate you.

        • Daniel says:

          Agreed that most people this side of Heaven will not be impressed with TCK’s moral calculus.

          But I imagine the Comet King responding something like, “Yes, I was selfish and evil. As a result, your family is now enjoying the eternal, indescribable bliss of Heaven, where you will join them in due time.

          “But if I spoke a Name and reversed all I’ve done, you could get a couple more decades together on Earth before every one of you burns in Hell for eternity. Are you saying that is what you would prefer? Because IT. CAN. BE. ARRANGED.

          (An empty threat, of course; he’d never put Robin back in Hell. Useful rhetoric, though.)

      • Travis Hance says:

        The whole *point* is that The Comet King *is* a super villain. He didn’t do it because he wanted to save billions of people or because he was certain his plan would work and create more good than evil. He did it because it had *chance* of saving *Robin*.

        Otherwise, it wouldn’t even have worked!

  38. S.C. L. says:

    “endless forms most beautiful”? You don’t happen to listen to Symphonic Metal, do you?

    • Q says:

      Nightwish is one of my favourite bands at the moment.

    • quintopia says:

      Just as likely that he is quoting one of Darwin’s most famous lines, same as Nightwish did.

      • S.C. L. says:

        Of course, but if we add the fact that he chose a poem containing the phrase “Heaven in Hell” and that there’s a song called “Heaven in Hell” by Beyond the Black – sure, there is loads of music called “Heaven in Hell”, but who cares – then we get something that is not a coincidence because nothing is ever a coincidence.

    • David Marjanović says:

      It’s from the last sentence of the Origin – a surprisingly appropriate thing to quote here!

    • Anders Sandberg says:

      The title of this chapter immediately reminded me of VNV Nation’s “Kingdom”, which quoted the line:

      “And I believe that we’ll conceive
      To make in hell for us a heaven.
      A brave new world.
      A promised land.
      A fortitude of hearts and minds.
      Until I see this kingdom’s mine,
      I’ll turn the darkness into light.
      I’ll guide the blind.
      My will be done until the day
      I see our kingdom has been won.”

      Overall, the entire song sounds extremely fitting for the late Comet King ruthlessly tearing down everything in order to win.

      • teucer says:

        The chapter titles in Kings are, in fact, the lines of the first of three quatrains in a Blake poem. The third (after a second that is a frame story attributing one view to a clod of clay and another to a pebble of the brook) argues the opposite: “Love seeketh only self to please / to bind another to its delight / joys in another’s loss of ease / and builds a Hell in Heaven’s despite.”

        …which is what Jala’s love for Robin ultimately did, in its own way. He had to build himself a Hell on earth by being entirely bound to his feelings about her suffering. And she wins by choosing to force him into that Hell (which is what it takes to, also, build a Heaven in Hell’s despair).

  39. JB says:

    Scott, thank you so much for writing this story. It has been a source of great joy and something I’ve looked forward to every Sunday for the last 72 weeks.

  40. Keshav Srinivasan says:

    When I got to the part “I would never have dared follow Nathanda, never have dared to speak at a solemn council of the Cometspawn, except that Sohu felt my thoughts and prodded me on.”, I thought the chapter would go in an entirely different direction. I thought the reason Aaron was hesitating to speak is that he would follow Nathanda’s eloquent oration with something for more down to Earth. I was expecting him to say something like the following:

    “Um, that was a really inspiring pep-talk and all, but there’s a more piece of information to take from the story you just narrated. You said Rabbi Meir was planning to lodge an appeal to redeem Elisha ben Abuyah by tallying up all the good that he led to. Maybe we should just, um, lodge that appeal and get Elisha ben Abuyah into Heaven, rather than bravely facing our deaths?”

    That sort of thing would allow Aaron to become the Messiah that saves the world, which would fulfill the thing that Thamiel was discussing with the Comet King about how there would be two Messiahs – one that dies and another that actually saves the world. In fact, when Aaron started talking about how he wanted to be the next Comet King, I thought he was going to finish the speech by saying “And so I want to take on the mantle of Comet King and lead the attempt to get Elisha ben Abuyah into Heaven.”

    • David Marjanović says:

      OK, OK, but how would that stop TOK or destroy Hell or anything…?

      • Shannon Alther says:

        Keshav is suggesting that Aaron’s interjection could have been to propose a clever plot to spontaneously redeem Acher. Supposing that the Other King was really Acher, this would have been awesome. Remember, Acher only wanders the earth because he was too great a rabbi to be admitted to hell, but too prolific a sinner to be admitted to heaven. If the heroes had tipped the scales the other way, Acher may well have been transported (unwillingly) into heaven, in the fashion of Christ, and that would have stopped the Other King.

  41. ShareDVI says:

    God is the summum bonum, the ultimate good, an unstoppable force maximizing joy and perfection among everything that existed. But in order to create, He had to withdraw; the more He withdrew, the more He created, endless forms most beautiful bought with those two silver coins of wickedness. The world was a delicate balance between a perfect good empty of thought and a multiplicity so unhappy that their scraps of goodness seemed a mockery. The created universe itself was set with fixing the balance, and when all the sparks had finally been sorted out, the good and the evil placed back in their respective vessels and every color pure, we would decide anew and the cycle could begin again.

    Did anyone manage to crack this klipot for Explicit Name already?

  42. I thought the Luminous Name now produced much brighter results. Has Uriel started to rebuild physics?

  43. BTW, what did happen to Acher?

  44. Keshav Srinivasan says:

    Four chapters ago, I posted the following list of unanswered questions:

    1. What happened to the Comet King during his battle with the Other King, and what is he doing now as the Captain?
    2. What happened to Elisha ben Abuyah, and what is he doing now as the Other King?
    3. Why is there a feeling of wrongness surrounding both the UNSONG facility and the black sail on the ship?
    4. Why did Uriel ask Sohu to stay for one more day after she found out the Comet King died?
    5. Did any characters survive BOOJUM’s attack on the UN?
    6. What will happen with the ship’s encounter with Leviathan and Metatron?
    7. Why did Uncle Vihaan don a suicide vest and disable THARMAS?
    8. Will Aaron play any further role in saving the world apart from discovering the Vital Name?
    9. What are the threats greater than the Drug Lord alluded to by Simeon Azore who will emerge and view humans as the bottom of the food chain once Uriel’s machine breaks down?
    10. What will happen with Sarah and THARMAS now that they’re ensouled?
    11. What is the real meaning of “There is providence in the fall of a raven.”?
    12. Where are the surviving Archangels, other than Gadiriel in L.A. and Samyazaz in Mexico?
    13. What happened to Lilith the Night Monster?
    14. Will Ana and Aaron ever get together?
    15. Is there anything more that will happen with the organization UNSONG, given that it’s the title of the book?
    16. Is there anything more that will be shown as to what lies beyond the Outer Gate, and what Neil Armstrong was saying about the Klipot rearranging themselves?
    17. How will the Explicit Name of God be used?
    18. What will ultimately happen to the world at the end of Unsong?
    19. What is Unsong’s answer to the problem of Theodicy?
    20. What’s going on in Wall Drug?

    Of these questions, 1 is answered (TOK = TCK and Captain = Metatron), 2 is partially answered (TOK = TCK, not known about Elisha ben Abuyah), 3 is answered (demons’ blood), 4 is answered (SCABMOM), 5 is answered (Mark), 6 is answered (Ana talks to Metatron, Leviathan swallows ship), 7 is answered (TCK told him to), 8 is answered (giving TCK Hamephorash), 9 is unanswered, 10 is answered (they’re killed by Vihaan and TCK), 11 is answered (Robin is the sparrow), 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16 are unanswered, 17 is answered (to “build[] a Heaven in Hell’s despair”), 18 is unanswered, 19 is answered (to create as many net-good Universes as possible), and 20 is unanswered.

    Note that I’m labeling some of these unanswered, even though one would be tempted to label as answered with answer “no”, because we don’t know what will be addressed in the epilogue.

    • Good Burning Plastic says:

      12. Where are the surviving Archangels, other than Gadiriel in L.A. and Samyazaz in Mexico?

      Neither Gadiriel nor Samyazaz are archangels. The only surviving archangels are Metatron, Raziel, possibly Gabriel, and until recently Uriel.

    • Dindane says:

      I think part of 16 is answered — compare what he says about the cracking of the vessels being “from a higher perspective, an unfolding” with the answer to Job/Ana.

    • OrthernLight says:

      9: Demons are at least a partial answer; as soon as physics broke down, they showed up in swarms, and no-one without extensive supernatural powers could do anything to stop them at that point.

  45. Timothy Scriven says:

    My only major criticism of UNSONG is that the protagonist is a bit of a ‘sightseeing’ protagonist. He doesn’t accomplish much, except by accident. This really comes out at the end, he seems to spend all his time in the last chapters being overawed by the cometspawn. He is the universe’s catspaw, and even as a catspaw acts very indirectly.

    I feel like Aaron’s unique strength was seeing kabalistic patterns in literally everything- the deep puns undergriding the universe even in moments that seem insignficant. While he was a lesser kabalist than any of the cometspawn, he excelled in this. Maybe more should have hinged on this, giving him a chance to shine.

    • Cniz says:

      Aaron is the narrator; I don’t think it’s quite right to label him as the protagonist as well. It’s more of an ensemble cast, plenty of chapters are focused on other people: Ana, Erica, Dylan, Mark, Sohu, Uriel, TCK, etc.

      • Error says:

        There’s a fair amount of precedent for having viewpoint characters that are not the main character.

        • Cniz says:

          Sure, but if too many chapters are not from the “main character”‘s viewpoint, then they stop being being the main character and become just one character amongst many. Aaron confuses the count a bit as he is present in every chapter, but in most chapters it is only in the role of narrator. Being the narrator does not automatically make him the main character as well.

          • Droid says:

            For example, you have Arthur Conan Doyle’s Dr. Watson, who is most decidedly not the protagonist of the Sherlock Holmes stories.

  46. July says:

    He had asked her if she wanted the Explicit Name. She’d said no. I knew she would have said no. She’d always only wanted one thing.

    That is not what actually happened in the previous chapter. Ana asked her question right away, without any such exchange with Metatron.

    • Ninmesara says:

      I don’t understand this inconsistency either…

      • Peter D says:

        We don’t really have the whole exchange between Metatron and Ana on record. We know that

        “Metatron.” Ana spoke the word without a hint of uncertainty. Then, realizing what she had gotten herself into, she fell to her knees.
        The Captain took off his dark glasses, and Ana stared into the whirlwind.


        In the sea off Fire Island in New York, on a ship with seven sails, Ana Thurmond thought and remembered. Then she told the Captain: “My question is: why would a perfectly good God create a universe filled with so much that is evil?”

        What went in between we don’t know.

  47. Jack V says:

    Wow, yes, that was pretty good. It tied everything up pretty well.

    It seems like most of what I expected was right. I can’t believe I left TCK off the list of “people who could speak the vital name”.

    And I predicted the dying cursing thing would happen, but I thought it would be a dodge somehow other than “they didn’t know it was him, but he killed them”.

  48. Yossarian says:

    “Who are you?” she asked.
    The Other King reached back and pulled the hood off his crimson robe.

    I am surprised he didn’t say “I AM YOUR FATHER, FLUKE” at that moment.

    • Arancaytar says:

      There was a lost opportunity for *two* “you killed my father” references here! (Princess Bride and Star Wars)

      • David Marjanović says:

        Oh dear.

        “Hello, motherfucker. My name is Nathanda West. You kgilled my father. Prepare to die.”
        “NO, I!!! AM – YOUR – FATHER –”

        That would have been divine.

  49. Jack V says:

    Prediction rating. Not bad. I was wrong about the vital name still being used. Everything else I expected to show up did.

    Although the state of the world afterwards isn’t confirmed. “Doing ok but kinda fallen to pieces and no US any more” is still most likely but not specified.

    It didn’t occur to me CK would show up again even though it should have done (if someone had suggested it, I would have thought it was likely). I did manage to include him on the list of “able to say the name” even though I didn’t expect him to!

    Indeed, I remember CK=TOK speculation but forgot it on the last chapter. It didn’t occur to me the backstory wasn’t there at all. Does the Fall of the Sparrow prophecy make more sense now? Or less sense? Metatron saying he’s a bad man resonates a lot now!

    I was super super right about some connection between CK and TOK, especially related to the “how to do good/bad without intending it” question.

  50. Aran says:

    [Blowhole-y of holies.]

    Ana is alive then? Or somehow contacting him from what used to be hell?

    … For that matter, what did happen to the people in hell? Do they come back or go straight to heaven, do not pass go?

    And is the world still ending? Or has it already ended, and they’re all in heaven now?

    (Guess we’ll find all of this out in the epilogue.)

  51. Anonymous says:

    One thing bothers me about this chapter.

    TCK claims that he committed atrocities mainly to save his wife, not to save the other billions in hell. He claims this makes him worse, closer to being damned: saving billions is presented as more virtuous than saving one person of personal importance to TCK.

    But then TCK says that killing large numbers of common people was not enough, that he needed to kill his children. This implies that dooming many is actually less sinful than dooming a few of personal importance to TCK.

    So which is it? Do the many outweigh the few, or not? These two parts don’t seem to square with each other.

    • Anders Sandberg says:

      A lot depends on Hell’s eligibility criteria. They might not be aligned with ethics. For example, maybe breaking biblical law sends you to Hell, but the morality of the action is fine (boiling a kid in it’s mother’s milk, anyone?) Or it has to do with mental state, in which case Hell might be full of guilty saints and Heaven full of content sociopaths. Or that Hell runs on deontology but actual (or at least the Comet King’s) morality is utilitarian.

      I would expect for literary reasons mindset is what matters.

      • Good Burning Plastic says:

        Or it has to do with mental state, in which case Hell might be full of guilty saints and Heaven full of content sociopaths.

        IIRC the traditional Catholic doctrine is pretty much the reverse of that — you go to hell if you made sins don’t regret.

        • Aegeus says:

          The Comet King certainly regrets the sins he had to commit, but I don’t think he would repent of them.

    • Walter says:

      He can kill all the people he wants in order to destroy Hell, but at some point he has to kill himself. And at that point, when he becomes unable to sin anymore, he has to hope that he is getting into Hell. He could never make himself do it. What if he wasn’t damned? What if he hadn’t done enough, or not for the right reasons? How could anybody ever take that chance?

      Put yourself in his shoes a year ago. You’ve slaughtered for 14 years for your noble cause. Can you kill yourself now? What if you aren’t damned, and Hell continues? What if Thamiel’s finger is on the scale? You have to go on, right?

      But that will always be true. The Comet King will be a wound in the world forever, because if he ever stops it might have all been for nothing. There is no stopping point in his quest to be damned.

      Killing his children is the turning point not because it is vile (everything TOK does is vile), but because it makes him hate himself. At that point he can kill himself, not to destroy Hell or whatever, but for the much more commonplace reason that he can’t live with himself anymore. It is a different motivation, and it strikes at the human part of him, not the Comet part.

    • Stuart Armstrong says:

      A lot of people will be kind to those close to them, and let thousands of strangers die without thinking about them. Exceptional virtue is raising the distant to equal consideration with the close. Exceptional vice is lowering the close to equal consideration with the distant.

    • Error says:

      I can think of at least one way it can fit: he did it and it didn’t work. I mean, we don’t know for sure that it did yet. There’s still an epilogue to go.

      • Fujikoma says:

        Maybe it doesn’t work, but the effort manages to impress Thamiel enough that he says, fine, you win. Thamiel’s ultimate intentions are not really clear, other than he’s a facet of a possibly broken element of the sephiroth.

        God’s answer to Ana’s question indicates that the end result is inevitable. That through all pain and suffering, and all joy and light, might Adam finally reach his destiny, which is to awaken to the knowlege of good and evil, and be apart from god, rather than be one with eternal bliss and ignorance.

        How that plays out in the end is anyone’s guess, but if god says it’s going to happen, I’d put money on it.

  52. Aran says:

    Per this chapter, it is definitely possible to enter hell through death and keep the ability to use names. But there are also pretty powerful kabbalists who have gone to hell (eg Elisha ben Abuya), who might not know the Name, but who know enough to more than inconvenience the demons a little.

    So does hell ever get riots? Even if they inevitably get overpowered, it would clash a bit with the mortals-are-completely-powerless-here concept.

    • ShareDVI says:

      Maybe the demonic name-blocking magic of Hell can’t block the most powerful name of God?

      • Good Burning Plastic says:

        IIRC when somebody on Reddit asked Scott for a list of Names so that they could use it for an Unsong-based board game, he mentioned an n-letter-long Name that could cancel the effect of any Name less than n letters long, so there is that.

    • David Marjanović says:

      Elisha ben Abuya is explicitly not in hell.

      • Jack V says:

        Well, now that’s unclear. If he was never TOK at all, we don’t know how accurate those old stories are. Maybe he was genuinely barred from both. Maybe he repented without hope of salvation and then gained it anyway. Maybe he just went to hell and the “he didn’t go to hell” was wishful thinking.

      • MugaSofer says:

        No, he went to hell but could potentially be released on appeal, didn’t he?

    • Cf. “The Devil and Democracy” by Brian Cleeve, in which the numerous Communists in Hell organize a coup and throw the Devil out.

  53. Deiseach says:

    All the talk of hidden sparks of goodness reminds me of a Chesterton poem (you had to know that was coming) 🙂


    Though the whole heaven be one-eyed with the moon,
    Though the dead landscape seem a thing possessed,
    Yet I go singing through that land oppressed
    As one that singeth through the flowers of June.

    No more, with forest-fingers crawling free
    O’er dark flint wall that seems a wall of eyes,
    Shall evil break my soul with mysteries
    Of some world-poison maddening bush and tree.

    No more shall leering ghosts of pimp and king
    With bloody secrets veiled before me stand.
    Last night I held all evil in my hand
    Closed: and behold it was a little thing.

    I broke the infernal gates and looked on him
    Who fronts the strong creation with a curse;
    Even the god of a lost universe,
    Smiling above his hideous cherubim.

    And pierced far down in his soul’s crypt unriven
    The last black crooked sympathy and shame,
    And hailed him with that ringing rainbow name
    Erased upon the oldest book in heaven.

    Like emptied idiot masks, sin’s loves and wars
    Stare at me now: for in the night I broke
    The bubble of a great world’s jest, and woke
    Laughing with laughter such as shakes the stars.

  54. Karl Narveson says:

    Superfragile cabbalistic expiation doses !

  55. Ninmesara says:

    A question for Scott (I don’t know if it’s kosher to as this before the epilogue is publish, but well): The dividend monks’ prophecy (“How is Rhode Island like a falling bird?”) seems to refer to the “fall of Robin”. Also, the prophecy wasn’t asking for a weakness: “they sent their advisor Father Ellis to the Dividend Monks in Taos to get an oracular pronouncement on who the King was and where he’d come from”. This seems to refer to the fact that TCK became TOK because of Robin, and I think this is the correct interpretation of the prophecy.

    Aaron’s reasoning in the desert is very, very weird, even for what’s been established so far… Going through the etymology of obscure arabic words to get a connection to a city which was originally named by the Spanish? It’s by far the most artificial kabbalistic rambling I remember Aaron having (maybe because I paid more attention to it). My question is: is it supposed to be this weird? Are we supposed to question Aaron’s reasoning at that point, or to believe him? Because it sounded really wrong to me (like Samyazazz’s pathetic attempts at whale puns). If this was on purpo(i)se, then congratulations, you really excelled on that part.

  56. David Marjanović says:

    The Holy of Holies is the innermost chamber of the Temple. Aaron is in the innermost chamber of a mountain.

    The world, as we have learned, is a whale. Whales have an inner chamber connected to the outside by a long dark tunnel, and that’s exactly where Aaron is.

    Ana has undergone anastasia and reminds Aaron of the above.

  57. Pingback: Rational Feed – deluks917

  58. -_- says:

    Awww….. no bonfires for Lag BaOmer?

  59. grort says:

    So… that’s it for the Sarah plotline, then?

    She doesn’t go berserk and tile the universe with replicas of Aaron competing for her attention?
    She doesn’t hack into and fix the Celestial Machinery?
    She doesn’t use her godlike powers to kill Thamiel?
    She doesn’t have sweet tender Buffy-sex with Aaron?
    She just… dies, because she didn’t reboot Tharmas fast enough? While being sad that Aaron didn’t love her?

    I would wonder if the coming epilogue was like “oh and here’s how Sarah engineered the whole thing” but it really doesn’t seem to fit.

    • David Marjanović says:

      Fixing the Celestial Machinery would undo her. It would turn her into an ordinary soulless computer without a golem body.

  60. Peter D says:

    Hm, to me TCK still speaks like a good person here. He still sounds as if committing all the bad things halfheartedly, which kind of defeats his purpose. I think it would’ve been more convincing if TCK was reveal a complete evil, laughing while killing his children and not talking avuncularly to Aaron (“we won”). Otherwise there is a giant asterisk hanging above all his actions that is plain for all to see, including whoever it is that decides whether TCK ends up in Hell or not…

    • Tina C. Beniac says:

      He’s conflicted. He’s half-hearted. He’s remorseful.

      And so is everyone else who ends up in Hell. What matters is that he’s inflicting suffering on the innocent, not for a universal Good, but for his own personal good, the salvation of his wife.

      Now, I could see someone saying, “Robin’s suffering if he doesn’t do this is infinite, and the suffering he causes on earth is necessarily finite, as is that of everyone he sends to Hell if he does do this and it works, so it’s still the utilitarian option.”

      But I think what he’s saying is that he would have done this even to save Robin from finite torment, and that it’s sheer luck that the effects are a utilitarian good, and that makes him Hell-bound.

      • MugaSofer says:

        I keep saying this, but: the Comet King foreshadowed this ending way back when he came to fetch Sohu.

        “But Father. You’re always telling us that we need to think of what’s best for the world.”

        “Yes,” said the Comet King. “So consider this: If anyone harms you, even the littlest cut or scrape, I will come against them as fire and night. I will destroy them and their people, uproot everything they have built, wipe them utterly from the Earth. And I will do this even if they are the only archangel capable of running the universe, and they have nobody to replace them. What is best for the world is that I not do that. That is why I am taking you home, Sohu.”

      • Peter D says:

        Well, I am still not convinced by all this. So, TCK decides to become really bad by succumbing, so to speak, to maybe the most human part of himself – his love for Robin, so that he can free her. But…
        1) Usually villains in human stories don’t do evil for true love. Quite the opposite, it is heroes who commit great deeds for true love. This is upside down! And it doesn’t feel evil….
        2) Grant, reluctantly, that TCK is truly evil now. He just destroyed Hell to liberate Robin and they are hugging in their afterlife. Does he revert to being good all of a sudden, or is he still a genocidal maniac? Or can this part of his soul – dedicated to committing terrible atrocities in the name of freeing Robin – be now cast off like a detachable component?
        3) How can TCK be so sure that he ends up in Hell? What really determines that he does? I know he says there is no loophole Thamiel can pull, but Thamiel is not even around right now. If it is up to Thamiel, would it not been a better plan to get into Hell on one of the previous occasions when he was disincorporated, like after the Madrid fiasco?
        Finally, the image of TCK wisely patting Aaron on the knee while kneeling in front of him just doesn’t scare with him being utterly, atrociously evil.

        • Peter D says:

          s/doesn’t scare/doesn’t square

        • Chrysopheylax says:

          And it doesn’t feel evil…

          Do you love someone? How many people would you be willing to crucify for someone you love?

          Regarding point two, you don’t get it. TCK isn’t a cackling supervillain from a comic book. He’s exactly who he always was: a supremely moral person who loves his family too much. He’s always been a potential genocidal tyrant and he’s still the perfect utilitarian he’s always been (except where his family is concerned).

          If it is up to Thamiel, would it not been a better plan to get into Hell on one of the previous occasions when he was disincorporated, like after the Madrid fiasco?

          Discorporation doesn’t make Thamiel stop existing. It just forces him into Yetzirah or Briah.

          TCK expects to go to Hell because he has committed so many atrocities that he’s cancelled out all the good he has done and is now somewhere in negative numbers, and because by killing his children he has committed the last evil act that he was refusing to perform. There are no sins left that he wouldn’t commit to save Robin.

          • Peter D says:

            he has committed so many atrocities that he’s cancelled out all the good he has done and is now somewhere in negative numbers, and because by killing his children he has committed the last evil act that he was refusing to perform.

            I disagree that this is the case. This whole time it was said that it is the intention that matters when it comes to getting into Hell. TCK could sin all he wanted but if it was for the greater good, he won’t be able to get into Hell. Somehow when the intention is not for the greater good but only for his true love it works – this was Robin’s gambit. If TCK were a perfect utilitarian, he would’ve gone and become TOK without Robin sacrificing herself since he would’ve calculated that it were for the greater good. But it wouldn’t work!

            The only thing that stood in my way was my own conscience. I couldn’t accumulate sin in order to get into Hell. I’d be doing it for the greater good. That itself would make me unworthy of Hell. A perfect paradox

            The intention behind committing the atrocities is the key, supposedly. And it just rings false to me – don’t know, maybe it is the conditioning by the human stories – that the trick is committing the same atrocities for his true love. And then again, if now, that the right intention has been established, does it mean that TCK is a really bad man, objectively? Does he stay this way after accomplishing the task of destroying Hell? There is the “justice” angle in all of this? t is all muddy to me right now.

        • Aegeus says:

          Usually villains in human stories don’t do evil for true love. Quite the opposite, it is heroes who commit great deeds for true love. This is upside down! And it doesn’t feel evil….

          This one’s a bit of a toss-up, really. Especially for dead loved ones, where they’re often used to deliver a moral about moving on instead of wallowing in despair. “Mad scientist/evil sorcerer does unspeakable things to revive his dead love” is a stock trope. (Obligatory TVTropes link)

          Grant, reluctantly, that TCK is truly evil now. He just destroyed Hell to liberate Robin and they are hugging in their afterlife. Does he revert to being good all of a sudden, or is he still a genocidal maniac? Or can this part of his soul – dedicated to committing terrible atrocities in the name of freeing Robin – be now cast off like a detachable component?

          We don’t know how Heaven judges. Psychologically speaking, I don’t know if he can truly be the same. He had to do a lot of terrible things as The Other King, after all, and that changes a person. But on the other hand, now that Robin is safe, he doesn’t have the same thing driving him forwards. Maybe he’ll never be driven to such lengths again. Whether that counts as an “evil person” is up to you (and God).

          My theory is that, like the Acher, he won’t repent (Why should he? He was successful!), and therefore won’t be redeemed through his own merits. But Aaron and others will credit him as their inspiration, and thus he will be redeemed through the merits of others.

  61. Tina C. Beniac says:

    Uriel’s Machinery is broken. Why is the Luminous name a “dim glow”?

    • linkhyrule5 says:

      ‘Cause the world’s running out of Divine Light too.

      • Chrysophylax says:

        No. Uriel’s machinery replaced the substrate of divine light with a substrate of mathematics. Breaking the machinery undid that. There’s nothing to keep the light out.

        My guess is that it’s either an error or the ball of light fading (which it must do, since it’s gone by the end of the chapter).

  62. Peter D says:

    Thank you, Scott, it has been a magnificent 72-week ride. I am relieved that as of this writing on May 15th, 2017, the world outside is still apparently not ended, despite all the crazy [non]coincidences linking Unsong the book to it.

  63. Jack V says:

    Is it just me or is that kind of a weak whale pun? I really really hope that’s actually Ana, it would be weird to have a fake-out right at the end.

  64. So… Is there an exit plan? Much of time, overthrowing a horrible regime replaces it with another horrible regime.

    What’s happening on the surface? Are there Animating Names that can restart machinery?

    Will Enion/Tharmas be able to run llull in Hell (or wherever)?

    • Peter D says:

      I wonder if a familiarity with Blake’s mythology is useful here, now with all the Zoas SCABMOMed (I think…)

    • Chrysophylax says:

      The embodiments of evil just got overthrown by the Moshiach, who is supremely moral as long as his family is OK. I somehow doubt it will end badly.

    • Stuart Armstrong says:

      >So… Is there an exit plan? Much of time, overthrowing a horrible regime replaces it with another horrible regime.

      When you’re replacing hell, the only way is up. Really. The worst human government you could imagine is a vast an immense improvement. It’s one of those situations where blowing things up without worrying about the replacement is the right thing to do.

  65. Adam says:

    “The only thing that stood in my way was my own conscience. I couldn’t accumulate sin in order to get into Hell. I’d be doing it for the greater good. That itself would make me unworthy of Hell. A perfect paradox.”

    If sinning for the greater good exempts him from Hell, then where does that put him? Certainly, he can’t go to Heaven if he ended up committing all of that sin to no end.

    Unsongverse Limbo confirmed??

  66. grort says:

    Thanks for writing. This was good!

  67. Anonymous says:

    This was a very nice ending. Glad to have been around for the ride.

    For all the people confused, TCK had to undo all the good he had done. As the story told by Nathanda right before battle, leaving his children alive would be too much good eventually attributed to him.


    And if there had not been a single soul in Hell besides hers, I would have spent those fifteen years just the same.

    this means it doesn’t matter what reason TCK has for going to Hell (like destroying Hell and freeing its people). Because he actually did it for a selfish reason. This is still the case even if he himself realizes the it could also help destroy Hell.

    Time to grade predictions (from ch 70)

    1. The first letter of chapters form the Shem haMephorash but are not the first letters of some sentences. [High confidence and completely wrong.]

    2. Caelius, who has conveniently been left alone with THARMAS, Sarah with no body to stop him and Aaron, enacts some complicated plot. [Wrong.]

    3. Identities: TOK is TCK (or fragment), the Captain is Metatron (or possesed by Metatron a few times). [Both correct.]

    4. Sarah/THARMAS finds the Explicit Name and sends it down the SC(K)ABMOM chain. [Wrong. And only a small portion of the chain was used while I meant to guess a longer portion.]

    5. Ana meets Metatron and learns the answer to at least one of the theodicy questions from earlier chapters. [Correct.]

    6. Sohu does not die in agony cursing her father’s name. [Correct.]

    7. Vihaan and Ellis were (still) worked for TCK until their death. [Correct for Vihaan. No information about Ellis.]

    8. Sarah does not knowingly do something evil/very bad. [Correct.]

    9. Fate of the world: Thamiel is eliminated but Hell still exist. [Unknown. There’s no mention of Thamiel in Aaron’s vision.]

    11. Most of the questions people here think Scott can’t answer in two chapters are answered by revealing what TCK has been up to since 2001. [I think this one should count as correct?]

    If your computer idea had worked, Colorado would have become invincible.

    Why didn’t TCK just try to beat the Cometspawns to it by using the Vital name himself? Assuming he had enough spies to get it somehow?

    • MugaSofer says:

      Why didn’t TCK just try to beat the Cometspawns to it by using the Vital name himself? Assuming he had enough spies to get it somehow?

      Maybe if you have all the Names of God, you’re better at defending than attacking?

    • Ninmesara says:

      TCK probably doesn’t have a supercomputer just waiting for the vital name to be discovered.

      • Anonymous says:

        He had a nuke ready though. Supercomputers aren’t exactly rare. Its just the kind of thing you’d have if you were ruling over a few states.

        • Ninmesara says:

          Even a few hours of headstart would give the Cometspawn an unsurpassable hdcantage, so I guess it doesn’t really matter.

          • Anonymous says:

            I meant if TCK started before them while they were trying to error-correct. He definitely learned of the name by the time he first attacked and possibly before from spies (he even has spies in the Drug Lord’s domain).

            And here when Aaron starts, it seems like he already knows it somehow. Unless there was some other way he could know it wasn’t the beginning of the Shem haMephorash.

          • Chrysophylax says:

            And here when Aaron starts, it seems like he already knows it somehow. Unless there was some other way he could know it wasn’t the beginning of the Shem haMephorash.

            He can read Aaron’s mind and knows that Aaron is thinking about the Vital Name.

          • Anonymous says:

            Oops, thanks, I forgot about the chashmal.

  68. Really, another whale pun? Is that how you plankton ending this?

  69. Peter D says:

    What’s the significance of the following unexpected aside form TCK:

    My father must be laughing so hard right now.

    His father is Raziel and we don’t really know much about him. Is it just a quick throw-away line about how an angel father would be amused how his half-breed son turned out, or is there more to it?

  70. dsotm says:

    s/haBashir/haBahir ?

  71. PedroS says:

    I expected some explanation of TOK’s reaction towards Aaron in Vegas: why he stopped attacking when Aaron said “I will do what my father did”… I kind of wxpected some vackstory beteween aaron’s father/peter singer/tok/tck to explain it

  72. Stib says:

    This line from chapter 62:

    But if I’d been a little less shocked by the explosion, I might have moved past that and posited a Hebrew origin coming from bat Teller.

    (which originally also said “Then I might have gotten worried” but then got edited) has not yet been explained. It seemed to implicate Sarah somehow. I wonder if we’ll get an explanation in the epilogue, or if it was just a really random red herring?

  73. mindspillage says:

    Well, there’s that familiar hole of emptiness I feel whenever I reach the end of a good story and there won’t be any more.

    Thank you, Scott; this was great.

  74. Eneasz Brodski says:

    Thank you for writing this, I loved it. <3 The entire journey was amazing!

  75. teucer says:

    Grading my predictions, with comments and log score (ln of probability I gave to the thing that happened):

    The Shem HaMephorash is not a notarikon for anything that we are ever told the expansion of in the text (70%, but I do expect the chapters themselves to spell it out) wrong. -1.2 points.
    Sandalphon shows up in a meaningful way (40%) wrong, although Enoch having ascended as Metatron kinda relates. Counting it as fully false, though; -0.5 points
    Conditional on the above, Sandalphon is a character we have already met (90%) N/A.
    The remaining two chapter titles finish the stanza (40%) Why the hell wasn’t I more confident? Right, -0.5 points.
    Vihaan’s motives are already known to somebody who will explain them to us (50%, higher if you delete the “already”) Right. -0.7 points.
    Conditional on the above, that somebody is Sarah (80%) Wrong. -1.6 points.
    The last few paragraphs will include at least one pun or other piece of wordplay whose setup began before Kings (70%) Kinda? Whale puns were established super early, but mostly wrong. I’m gonna treat this like it’s half right, half wrong, and I get half the score for a 70% and half the score for a 30%. -0.8 points.

    I also didn’t bother to mention my belief that TOK=Acher had been confirmed, to the point where I didn’t bother giving it a probability. Since that’s wrong, proper rationalist humility says I should score it also. If you’d asked, I would have given it high 90s; let’s call it a 95% and wrong. -3.0 points. I’m actually a little disappointed; this feels like a fair-play puzzle in the text and the clues overwhelmingly point that way. “You solved it, then the characters did, then you were all wrong despite there being little kabbalistic details that fit better that way” is basically the only thing I don’t like about this ending, which was overall great.

    Total: -8.3 points across 7 predictions, for a net result of -1.2 points per guess – which is about like being right about things you’re 70% sure of, all the time. Glad I didn’t overstate my confidence; my biggest meta-prediction was “Scott will throw us curveballs” and by my expectations he sure did.

  76. Lee Daniel Crocker says:

    Prophecy is a noun…prophesy is the verb. (“…causing him to prophesy the fall of Israel”)

  77. B_Epstein says:


    Uriel, Ch. 13

    Talking about foreshadowing…

  78. Peter D says:

    I am trying to wrap my head around Thamiel and this bugs me. It has been said that Thamiel is the agent of divine justice, but when we actually see Thamiel in action he is really all about sadism. I have hard time reconciling these angles. Does a meter of justice have to be a perfectly evil entity?What’s going to happen now that Hell is destroyed – no more “justice”? Somehow the equation of pure evil with justice is not clear to me…

    • Aegeus says:

      My view is that he’s justice gone out of control – he exists to punish sins, but instead of punishing the already guilty, he increases the number of sinners in the world so he can punish them too.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      See Chapter 13:


      • Peter D says:

        Thanks, forgot about this passage! So, now, in the wake of the apocalypse and the destruction of Hell, do we expect the damage from the shattering of vessels to be undone so that the left hand can go back to its original function?

  79. yomikoma says:

    Just struck me that the Unitarian Universalists have won – Unitarianism had already succeeded by the angels not knowing about Jesus, while Universalism will be true going forward once Hell is destroyed.

  80. Anonymous says:


    Rabbi Meir laughed and said that surely had had repented in his heart


    And the people asked, huh, how does that even work? and Rabbi Meir said

    Not sure if I can call this one incorrect, but it surely looks weird.

  81. Sigivald says:

    Now that it’s (almost) done, will we be getting ebook editions?

    I would pay actual real money for a Kindle edition.

  82. If the object is to get the Shem haMephorash into Hell, could it have been passed via SCABMOM to Dylan? (I assume Dylan goes to Hell.)

    Is Acher hiding out in Wall Drug?

    • Fujikoma says:

      I’m actually unsure Dylan would go to hell, given the way the story is going. He died with what seemed to be no regrets, besides getting Mark involved. Besides that, would you REALLY want Dylan to have the Shem haMephorash? I mean, Dylan wasn’t exactly evil, simply a lack of much in the way of good.

  83. Ninmesara says:

    I’ve just remembered this conversation between TCK and Robin:

    “No. Figure something out. Can’t you just…be really evil? Then die? That has to work. It’s not even Thamiel’s law. It’s God’s.”

    “I asked Uriel,” said the Comet King. “He said it wouldn’t work. Doing evil for a greater good, because I want to save the world. It wouldn’t count.”

    “So – figure out some way to change your personality to be genuinely evil, then do evil, then die, then use the Name.”

    “You think I haven’t looked into that? Thamiel can’t be fooled that easily. God definitely can’t be fooled that easy. I promise you, Robin. I’ve thought about this. It doesn’t work.”

    It seems like he managed to make himself genuinely evil, and yet it works? What has changed here?

    • Sniffnoy says:

      The only thing that stood in my way was my own conscience. I couldn’t accumulate sin in order to get into Hell. I’d be doing it for the greater good. That itself would make me unworthy of Hell. A perfect paradox.

      I would have given up then except for Robin. She saved me. She sacrificed herself to give me a chance.

      Do you understand what I’ve done? I didn’t become a genocidal tyrant to save the billions of souls in Hell. I did it to save her. Fifteen years of murder and oppression, and I never once thought about anyone else. And if there had not been a single soul in Hell besides hers, I would have spent those fifteen years just the same. Do you realize how wicked that is? I damned myself, Aaron. Where all my angelic powers failed, my human weakness succeeded. My father must be laughing so hard right now.

  84. RLM says:

    This is a great ending, but it also feels like a lot of the plot points are left hanging:

    1. Sarah never really got to do anything except serve as a plot device. Now that the world is over, how will her/Aaron’s relationship be resolved?
    2. What was Sohu’s third meeting with Thamiel before their battle?
    3. Wall Drug.
    4. Drug Lord.
    5. Unsong’s premise was that their copyright system would help humanity fight during the apocalypse. But this doesn’t seem to have actually happened, so how did unsong actually help? Why did the comet king start unsong?
    6. How did the comet king kill Sohu since she was made immortal from Uriel’s ritual?
    7. Why did Sohu’s eyes glaze over while reciting the vital name?
    8. What happens to Thamiel now? What’s up with the second head stuck in a perpetual scream?
    9. Where is Elisha ben Abuya?
    10. What was the point of BOOJUM?

  85. A few possibilities for the Epilog:

    The archangel Gabriel froze Wall SD in time when the sky cracked. After Uriel’s machinery disintegrated, he unfroze it and used it as a base to keep Uriel from re-establishing the machinery. Meanwhile, at the other end of town, Acher started his plan to become unstoppable by giving every orphan a puppy…

    In Hell, the Comet King has to deal with a revolt of Hell’s “minor nobility.” At first, he tried crucifying the revolting people but that turned out to be merely tedious in the afterlife so he appointed a committee consisting of Robespierre, Lenin, and Dylan Alvarez to deal with them. The steps they take alienated Robin who tried contacting her stepchildren in Heaven…

    Enion/Sarah started up Tharmas and had it/him run llull. The resulting Names are passed to Aaron and used to restart the power grid and the Internet, much to Gabriel’s annoyance…

    After the Internet was restarted, Samyazaz was able to hack into Countenance’s computers to find the Name that was fed to Aaron at the start of the story. (He read enough of Aaron’s mind to detect the MEH… story.) As a result, we have several power centers: the Comet King, Robin and the Cometspawn, the archangel Gabriel, Acher, Enion/Tharmas, and Samyazaz. The resulting battle makes the battle in Chapter 71 look trivial.

  86. David says:

    I was hoping the Gematria of Aaron Smith-Teller might be the same Alvin Miller-Maker but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to work

  87. Rabbi Jeremy Sher says:

    Well, this was a great story.

    I do not think “Thamiel” (or the Devil, or whatever you want to call him) is God’s left hand. A devil character would certainly claim that, but it is not true; in fact, it’s the same lie he always tells. God has already personally addressed the matter of God’s left and right hand in the story (ch. 71), and I think the author gets that right. If we persist in believing this “Thamiel” is God’s left hand, then we buy into the lie he tells. If that’s what the author intended, then it’s really very well done (so to speak).

    For the record, I don’t believe in hell at all. I can’t tell if the author does or not, which is cool in terms of the well-executed plot device. The whole Broadcast and all the rest of it is part of the same lie. “I am God’s left hand” is a lie. So is “I am God’s right hand.” And, you know, since we’re talking about that passage, “whoever tells lies will not be established in front of My eyes.” In any case, I think the Comet King made a serious misjudgment but all he ended up doing was to chase his tail with more suffering than necessary.

    My only question is about this “Thamiel.” I don’t know who the author is, though I would like to. My guess is that he is either an observant Jew or an unusually respectful person, because he spells A—-i like that, and because of the way he chooses to write “Thamiel.” To me תמיאל sounds like a very nice name, maybe even a true name. That’s the kind of name an angel would have (and, by some sources, does have). And it differs from, you know, the other name by just one letter. All very interesting.

    Kol hakavod, this is really a work of art. Thank you!

  88. V says:

    Does UNSONG end with the partial defeat of its premise — that things that seem related probably are — with the misleading correspondence between The Other One and The Other King?

    • I accidently published this unfinished (see the incomplete name). The final, clarified comment, was going to read: Does UNSONG end with the partial defeat of its premise, in that something turns out to be *less* correlated than people thought, with the misleading correspondence between The Other One and The Other King?

  89. Pingback: Hemisphere Theory: Much More Than You Wanted to Know | Hivewired

  90. Student Nick says:

    Thanks for sharing this with KN95 Manufacturer

  91. Metatron's Patience says:

    Uff. Finally read it.
    Got 15% on a optimistic estimation.
    Hope got time to reread it and got more.
    At this moment I’ve got One conclusion>

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