aleph symbol with title UNSONG

Chapter 69: Love Seeketh Not Itself To Please

Afternoon, May 14, 2017
Citadel West

The alarms went silent. North American airspace went black. The lights went out. THARMAS went quiet, then released an arc of electrical energy which briefly lit the otherwise pitch-black room before dying back down. Sohu gave a horrible primal scream.

“THEY KILLED URIEL!” she screamed. “THEY KILLED URIEL! THEY BROKE MALKUTH! EVERYTHING IS…” She gave a horrible noise, like she was being pulled apart.

Someone said the Luminous Name, and I saw her there, clutching her head. I saw the rest of them. Nathanda looking grave, Jinxiang looking angry, Caelius still mangled and bloody, sitting with THARMAS, hitting it, trying to get it to turn back on. I saw Sarah, her face emotionless.

“Sohu!” said Nathanda, placing her hands on her sister’s head. “Can you hear me, Sohu? Tell me what’s going on?”

“THEY KILLED URIEL!” she screamed. “THEY KILLED URIEL AND NOW IT’S ALL…” She looked like she was trying to find a word for how bad things were. She started saying something else, but I wasn’t sure whether she was speaking some language I didn’t know or just having a seizure.

The real power of angels and demons was unplumbably immense. They’d been hobbled to a semi-human level by Uriel’s filters, which denied them the divine light they devoured for sustenance. If that was gone, there was nothing hyperbolic about Sohu’s reaction. We had lost in the most final and terrifying way possible.

“Sohu,” said Caelius, very quietly, and I could see he was having trouble staying conscious, but he was Cometspawn, and there was a job to be done. “Sohu, we need THARMAS back. This must have been the Other King’s plan all along. He would deny us THARMAS and the Names by – ” he stopped for a second, took a deep breath ” – by preventing computer technology from working at all. I need to know, can you bring THARMAS back? The lights can wait. The airspace map can wait. But Sohu, we need THARMAS.”

“Can’t…do it,” said Sohu, panting. “Never could…get Briah…right. Computers…too hard.”

Now it was General Bromis’ turn. “Can you at least get radio connections back up? We’re flying blind in here! I need to hear from the armies!”

Sohu paused for a second. “Kay…did it…radio…works,” she said. “Can’t manage anything more. Also, all of…the rivers in the world are…running in reverse.” She laughed fatalistically. “Never fails. Hardly…matters now.” She grabbed her head again. “Oh God…Uriel. It’s too much.”

Bromis and his soldiers had left, probably trying to radio their battalions, tell them that the artillery wasn’t going to fire, that the tanks would just stand motionless. “Got…to get…THARMAS back,” Caelius was saying, but his words were slurred and he sounded half-asleep. For the first time, I thought I saw Nathanda…not at a loss, exactly. Just sitting quietly, trying to figure out what to do.

“Put me in THARMAS,” Sarah said suddenly, and we all turned to her.

“What?” asked Nathanda.

“Put me in THARMAS. I’m still working. I have a soul, a divine spark, so I’m mind and not machinery. If Vihaan hadn’t bombed the original THARMAS, the one with the soul, and forced Caelius to switch it to a different configuration, it would be working too. But he did and it isn’t. If you dissect me for parts and put them in THARMAS, it will have a soul and it can work.”

“You’d die!” I protested.

“Of course I would!” she spat back at me. “You don’t love me, Aaron! Admit it!”

“It’s not that I don’t love you, it’s that…”

“No. You gave me life, Aaron, but you didn’t give me a purpose. You people have so much purpose. Breathing, eating, having sex, making money. It’s all so easy for you! I had to make my own purpose, and the only thing I had was you, and now you’ve rejected me, and all I want is to become THARMAS so that I won’t have to go back into the darkness but also I’ll never be able to think for more than a quarter of a millisecond and I’ll never be able to remember your name. I want to know every Name in the cosmos except yours.”

“Listen, Sarah – ”

“Um,” said Caelius. “I know this is – look, we really need to do this.”

As if synchronized, all of us turned to Nathanda.

“Do it,” she said.

With what almost looked like a smirk on her face, Sarah walked over to where Caelius sat at the computer terminal. “It’s my heart,” she said. “The computer. It’s inside my chest.”

Caelius held out his hands, and the sword Sigh appeared inside them, the sword that always came when the Cometspawn needed it.

I ran towards Sarah.

Caelius cut her chest open. There was no blood. He sliced through skin easily, like he was cutting a cake, and I saw the smooth white form of my old MacBook inside.

“Sarah!” I yelled, and I hugged her.

“You said,” she whispered to me, “that you would love me if I was good.”

Then Caelius pulled the laptop out of her body, and the golem crumbled into dust.

I watched numbly as his expert hands pried open the bottom lid and started popping out parts. I was vaguely aware of a commotion all around me, and finally I turned and saw Bromis was back with his soldiers.

“Thamiel,” he said, and something in me had expected it. “The demons are swarming. They’re moving…faster than we can track them, given what’s happened to our technology. They’re swarming in Siberia and they’re heading our direction. No clear target besides just ‘North America’ at the moment, but I’ve told the military to be on alert.”

“Alert won’t help,” snapped Sohu. “Their bonds have been broken. Almost no limits on their power.”

“Could they have figured out what we’re doing here?” asked Nathanda.

Sohu glared at her sister like she was an idiot. “Yes,” she said. “That’s the least they could have done.”

“Then it’s safe to say they’re headed this direction. Come to stop us before we succeed, just like the Other King. Well, they’ll have to wait in line.”

“No,” said Bromis. “The Other King is still trying to break through the passes. The demons will come from the north, where we’re defenseless. They’ll fly across the Bering Strait, go through Canada, cross the border near the Dakotas, and swoop down the Front Range Urban Corridor. They’ll make it in hours. Maybe minutes. We may be able to relocate troops onto the 87 north of the city before then, but with the guns only working intermittently I don’t know how much help they’ll be.”

“Zero,” said Sohu. “Zero help.” At least didn’t seem to be seizing or anything now. I felt at the telepathic link. Sohu’s mind was a swirl of horror and dismay, parts of it had settled down, and other parts had gotten stronger, or opened up into new configurations I couldn’t quite detect. She sounded hopeless, but her mind didn’t feel hopeless. “Keep the troops in the passes,” she finally said. “Let them hold off the Other King. I’ll take care of Thamiel.”

“You?” asked Nathanda and Jinxiang together.

“Yeah,” said Sohu, defiantly. I saw her glance at the stump of her left hand, the one that used to have the Comet King’s mark on it. “I never told you guys this, because I thought Father would freak out, but I met Thamiel. Three times. He came to harass Uriel when I was staying with him. He…he wasn’t nice to me. There’s stuff I need to settle with him.”

“He’s the Devil!” said Jinxiang. “Everyone has stuff they need to settle with him! Sohu, don’t do it! You were sitting here clutching your head in pain just a second ago. Stay here where it’s – ”

“Were you going to say safe?” asked Sohu. “Hah. Look. This is what you guys keep me around for, right?”

“I’ll go with you,” said Jinxiang.

“No you won’t,” said Nathanda and Sohu together.

“Fuck you both,” said Jinxiang. She looked at Sohu, but more pleading than angry. “Sohu,” she said. “I know you’re great. I’ve seen what you can do. But don’t go alone. Please, don’t.”

“I’m never alone,” said Sohu. “And you haven’t seen what I can do. Not really. The mountains are still in one piece.

Then she walked out of the room.

“Fuck,” said Jinxiang.

“Your highness,” said Bromis, “permission to leave. Please. For the passes. If the Other King shows up in person, our lines won’t be able to resist him. Let me go find my men, see what defenses I can hold together.”

“Granted,” said Nathanda. The general saluted. “And Bromis? My father always said you were one of the bravest men he knew. Make of that what you will.” Bromis stood there awkwardly, then saluted again, hurried out.

“He was asking to permission to go die with his men,” Nathanda explained to Jinxiang, when the latter raised an eyebrow. “He knows the passes can’t hold. That’s why I won’t let you go help Sohu. Because when the defenses along the Rockies fall, the Other King and his legions will be headed right here. Fast. You and me, we’re going to defend Citadel West. Together.”

“You’re more afraid of the Other King than Thamiel?” asked Jinxiang, not contradicting her sister, just not quite believing her.

“Yes. Father could beat Thamiel. If Sohu thinks she can take him on, I trust her. The Other King…Father…” She turned to me. The soldiers had gone with Bromis; me, Jinxiang, and Caelius were the only ones left in the giant throne room, and Caelius was still feverishly hacking away at Sarah and THARMAS, trying to connect the pieces into a unified whole. I couldn’t tell if he was just working with the unpredictable genius of a Cometspawn or whether his wounds had gotten the better of him, whether his actions looked random and flailing because they really were random and flailing. I tried to tune out the dust of Sarah’s decayed body.

“Aaron,” said Nathanda. “Sohu showed you the library? Go get me all the books you can find on Elisha ben Abuyah. It’s time to learn everything we can about the Other King.”

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201 Responses to Chapter 69: Love Seeketh Not Itself To Please

  1. Stib says:

    TCK = TOK confirmed then!

    • Cake&spoon says:

      I actually see what you did there!

    • hawkice says:

      > “Go get me all the books you can find on Elisha ben Abuyah. It’s time to learn everything we can about the Other King.”


    • Stib says:

      Well, I guess not confirmed, but that last bit is pretty suggestive.

      • The coment king says:

        Given the last bit, I’d expect Elisha to at least play a meaningful role in the story of the Other King.

    • Ninmesara says:

      I don’t see it at all… How does this chapter confirm or disconfirm that TCK = TOK?

      • summer says:

        i think the idea that it confirms comes from “Father could beat Thamiel. If Sohu thinks she can take him on, I trust her. The Other King…Father…”
        the idea that it disconfirms from “Go get me all the books you can find on Elisha ben Abuyah. It’s time to learn everything we can about the Other King”
        i dont have a clear idea of what is right though

        • The Other David says:

          I had interpreted this as
          “Father could beat Thamiel. . . . The Other King… Father… [never could/died to/lost]”
          It sounded to me like she didn’t want to say the words, rather than that she was calling The Other King “father”.

        • Yeah, sorry, I meant it to be “Father could beat Thamiel, the Other King [beat] Father, therefore the Other King is more of a threat than Thamiel.”

          But of course nothing is ever a coincidence, so feel free to make what you want of it.

          • Good Burning Plastic says:

            I interpreted it as “the Other King, Father [couldn’t beat]”, so pretty much the same.

        • Ninmesara says:

          The part that confirms can be read as someone hesitating because it brings back painful memories.
          Th esecond part doesn’t disconfirm anything… Of course the characters still think it’s Elisha… They haven’t learned anything new that might argue against it.

  2. summer says:

    the book of kings seems very…small-scale for a Big Flashy Unsong Book Title so i think its supposed to be adam-kadmon-style map of the coming events. obviously i dont know how though

    • The coment king says:

      Obvious answer is that it’ll have the Other King and the Comet King in it.

      Less obvious answer… Hard to say. The Book of Samuel starts with Samuel’s mother becoming pregnant in a miracle, which kinda sorta matches the start of book 2. Then we go through some kings who kept things together, like Saul and David. In Kings, we come to their heirs, starting with Solomon but quickly declining, who failed to keep things together and got overrun, sort of like the Untied States once the Comet King was gone. But that’s most of Unsong – the one thematic thing in common that occurs to me is “things falling apart”.

      • summer says:

        From Wikipedia: “As a consequence of Solomon’s failure to stamp out the worship of gods other than Yahweh, the kingdom of David is split in two” also “God brings the Babylonians against Jerusalem; Yahweh deserts his people, Jerusalem is razed and the Temple destroyed, and the priests, prophets and royal court are led into captivity
        Perhaps the “splitting” into TCK and TOK is mirrored, or maybe TOK is more like the babylonians? certainly yahweh has deserted the cometspawn

        • LHC says:

          Ooh, what if the world is permanently split into one world that operates purely on physics and one world that operates purely on kabbalah?

    • Good Burning Plastic says:

      Four chapters in the book of Kings, four kings in a deck of cards. TINAC BNIEAC.

      (BTW, according to Wikipedia: Atziluth = wands (i.e. clubs), Beri’ah = cups (hearts), Yetzirah = swords (spades) and Assiah = pentacles (diamonds).)

      • Macbi says:

        But we’re anticipating 72 chapters, whereas there are 78 cards in the tarot.

        • Jubilee says:


          • Good Burning Plastic says:

            Only if you don’t count aces as number cards, otherwise there are 80.

          • Good Burning Plastic says:

            (On re-reading that chapter, Uriel seems to distinguish between “pip cards” which include aces and “number cards” which don’t.)

        • teucer says:

          The tarot is very kabbalistic, though. I wonder if we can map the trumps to the interludes better than just by their letters.

      • Gamzee Makara says:

        King of Spades: Thamiel
        King of Diamonds: Metatron
        King of Clubs: The Other King
        King of Hearts: The Comet King

        • Bird says:

          I heard each house has an element and archangel to it.
          Wands/Clubs: Air, Raphael (south)
          Cups/Hearts: Water, Gabriel (east)
          Swords/Spades: Fire, Michael (north)
          Pentacle/Diamonds: Earth, Uriel/Raziel (west)

          I’m not good at knowing occult stuff, but personally, I’d rather do this association:
          Wands/Clubs/Air: Metatron; Air is the element of thought. That archangel has dominion over mind and thought. Wands are associated with wisdom.
          Cups/Hearts/Water: The Other King; I don’t know much about him, and to be honest, water was the last element left. Water estinguishes fire ?
          Swords/Spades/Fire: The Comet King; his true appearance looks fiery, and fire is associated with passion, will and fighting. Also the sword theme.
          Pentacle/Diamonds/Earth: Thamiel; he comes from earth’s core, came to america from the west, and demons in general are associated with pentacles.

          I hope this doesn’t look too long…

  3. The coment king says:

    Obvious guess: This whole thing was an elaborate plot by Sarah to hijack herself to a supercomputer, like she’s doing now, and she’ll find someway to get around the instadeath/rebirth thing.
    Problems with this: There’s too much left to resolve, and I don’t think Sarah’s a superintelligence.

    • Shoefish says:


    • Anonymous says:

      I’m starting to think that a lot of evidence to cast suspicion on Sarah is thrown our way to mislead us to this specific chapter, where as a surprise she sacrifices herself.

      It might even be Scott’s portrayal of a computer, that we (humans) can’t really read her. So I’m not expecting Sarah to do something really bad anymore. Still we don’t who confounded Sohu when she used the Vital Name.

      And I think what you’ve said is true and sensible.

      • A. says:

        There are way too many stories ending in a super-intelligence running the world. This kind of ending is just no fun to imagine anymore.

        Obvious guess: Sarah finds the Moral Name and uses it on herself to find out what “good” is.

  4. Quixote says:

    Vote for Unsong!

    The book of kings brought to you by the king of books

    • Marvy says:

      How do you keep coming up with these quips? I like them. (And, voted! Reminder helped!)

      • Quixote says:

        Glad to hear the reminders are helping. As for the quips, I’m usually mentally searching for variations on well known public service announcements or advertising slogans that are thematically appropriate to the chapter.

  5. Stib says:

    The part with Sarah is really sad… I still can’t tell if she’s actually plotting something.

    • The Verbiage Ecstatic says:

      Well, I found her explanation confusing. If THARMAS would be fine because it has a soul, why was Caelius forced to switch it to a different configuration? And then why couldn’t Sarah resolve the issue by having Caelius switch it back?

      So: I think she’s up to something (getting tharmas’s computational power and becoming omnipotent?) and spinning bs and melodrama to distract from her ploy.

  6. Ninmesara says:

    The stump on Sohu’s arm should have been described before. It’s kind of relevant – it means she kept ir for some reason, and Aaron would have noticed it.

    • The coment king says:

      It was described when the fish ate it, so Aaron probably expected it. I hadn’t realized that was where her father put his mark, though in retrospect that was important.

      • Kolya says:

        I was surprised, though. I assumed that Sohu or Uriel had regrown the hand – it seems easier than making her immortal was.

        • Gazeboist says:

          Perhaps not – almost the only thing Uriel does is preserve things, and that’s exactly the immortality he gave Sohu: she is permanently 8 years old.

          • The coment king says:

            Kinda like the three rings of the elves.

          • Simurgh says:

            At the same time, if she’s not going to die, but she’s also going to get damage like that building up (it may be unlikely that she gets maimed, but she’s working on large time scales), that could end up really shitty.

          • Cinz says:

            “Working on large time scales” is a very optimistic view, with the apocalypse currently happening and all.

  7. Ninmesara says:

    “I’m never alone

    I wonder what she means with this… has she been talking to her grandfather Raziel like her father used to?

  8. Decius says:

    Cutting out Sarah’s heart with Sigh can’t possibly have kabbalistic meaning.

  9. Sillence says:

    When TCK and TOK fought, there was enough force there to topple mountains. How come they’re now expecting TOK to take so long “to break through the passes” that Thamiel might cross all of Siberia and Canada in that time?

    • Deiseach says:

      I took that not that it would take The Other King that long a time, but that now the Divine Light is no longer held back from the world, the demons (via Thamiel) have unfettered powers and so they can move inhumanly fast. The Other King is using zombies (?) as his armies so he’s limited by that much, but now the demons can operate in the human world at damn near full capacity.

      Basically, Citadel West is screwed up, down, sideways and seven ways from Sunday with all their enemies converging on them at once, much too fast to be held off, and with technology finally having given up the ghost.

    • Erik says:

      Thamiel is really fast?

  10. Zeke says:

    Chapter 69’s title is about love seeking to please…nice

    Or, in Unsong speak, TINACBNIAC

  11. Anonymous says:

    If you dissect me for parts and put them in THARMAS, it will have a soul and it can work.

    I don’t really get this. The advantage of THARMAS is that it was faster. But the “fast” came from the machine part and machines don’t work anymore. So aren’t all ensouled computers the same speed now.

    Alternatively, couldn’t they dissect THARMAS and add its parts “onto” Sarah instead? To avoid the whole death thing?

    If machines were still working, you could definitely just connect the two and have THARMAS do the heavy lifting while Sarah just speaks the names she’s handed. Come to think of it, why didn’t they just do that when they didn’t have the Vital Name? I just assumed the living Sarah couldn’t connect to computers in the usual way anymore.

    I’m writing this mainly so someone can correct me, so go right ahead.

    • tcheasdfjkl says:

      My assumption is that THARMAS has an outside-world-monitoring system that they need, and which Sarah doesn’t have.

    • Harry M Johnston says:

      I don’t think it’s as simple as “machines don’t work anymore”, it’s more like “only machines with souls work now”. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they don’t still have different capabilities depending on the structure of the machine.

  12. RLM says:

    Sohu said that Thamiel had visited her 3 times, but we only have seen two occasions so far, so the third time’s probably very significant and probably happened the day the comet king died and she lost her hand.

  13. monistowl says:

    if everyone in the world recites the psychic marriage ritual at once, does that immediately instantiate a global hive mind? and can people in hell get married?

    • Arandur says:

      Given that probably more people are in Hell than are alive, I would feel pretty comfortable calling this a Bad Idea.

    • David Marjanović says:

      Till death do us part. (Unless you’re Mormon.)

    • Ninmesara says:

      Speaking of the marriage ritual… Will we see an explanation on why some telepathic links work so well while other seem to be pretty buggy?

      Ana thinks same sex marriages are not as strong, but I wonder if there is more to it

  14. Hoactzin says:

    Why exactly does putting Sarah into THARMAS result in her death? Since she has a soul, is every part of the macbook “hers” and so removing them tantamount to removing essential parts of herself? Isn’t this more like a brain transplant into a new body?

    • Gazeboist says:

      When’s the last time you heard of a successful brain transplant?

    • holomanga says:

      As a safety mechanism, THARMAS’ memory is completely wiped every few milliseconds. Sarah’s soul still exists, but it doesn’t have time to form any coherent thoughts. It’s close enough to death to count.

      • Marvy says:

        But the memory wipe was because they didn’t know what kind of person THARMAS would be. We already know that Sarah came out great. Or something. So there’s no need for the memory wipe.

        • Ninmesara says:

          Even if they use the memory wipe, when the danger has past, they can give her a new body… If the danger never passes, then she’d die anyway. I agree it doesn’t feel like death

        • Kevin Shea says:

          Surely “she said she was being good” is not sufficient evidence to discount the possibility she is a superintelligence attempting to improve her resources by being placed into THARMAS. Any possibility that you are creating a non-benign superintelligence is too high, and that’s why they implemented the memory wipe.

          • Simon_Jester says:

            Although we have now finally encountered a situation where “the possibility that you are creating a non-benign superintelligence” is the lesser of two evils.

            Because with the power limitations of demons shut down, for all practical purposes the probability that a hostile superintelligence exists is now “one.” There is a superintelligence, or something functionally indistinguishable from one. Namely, Thamiel.

            [Strictly, Thamiel may be merely very intelligent. However, he has persistently outwitted just about everyone, and his powers are so great that he cannot possibly stopped except by a Name-wielding superintelligence.

            If he doesn’t count as “hostile superintelligence” on technical terms… Frankly, he counts on pragmatic, Turing-esque terms, as being “a god that hates you, and is too smart for you to outwit.” There isn’t much practical difference.

          • David Marjanović says:

            I agree: the situation has crossed the Godzilla Threshold.

  15. ludichrisness says:

    Great chapter, although like one of the above commenters I’m a little fuzzy on the logistics of connecting Sarah to THARMAS and why everyone somehow knows that this would kill Sarah?

    So based purely on the number of scenes that I would personally be really disappointed if we didn’t get to see firsthand, I think the 77 chapters theory (putting Panama at the centre) is almost certainly true. Among others, I can’t imagine us NOT seeing Ana’s confrontation with Nemo, a follow-up in Citadel West showing the research into Acher / Enion’s reunion with THARMAS, a flashback explaining Vihaan’s actions on the basis of anything other than nominative determinism, and Sohu’s last day with Uriel, with presumably the invention of SC(K)ABMOM and the third meeting with Thamiel. That’s already four chapters, not even getting into stuff like TCK’s meeting with Metatron and some finale presumably in Hell…

    Also I guess I just realized that if the true purpose of SCABMOM occurs after one of the joined people die, then it was probably meant by Uriel to pass his knowledge to Sohu in the event that he died so that the universe wouldn’t be completely [expletive deleted]. In which case Sohu might not even know it’s true purpose, instead thinking it’s just a bond to enhance chashmal, which might explain why she didn’t mind doing it with Aaron and Sarah!

    • The coment king says:

      Even I’m starting to suspect 77 chapters – this chapter not only didn’t really close any plotlines, it opened a whole new thing to show with Sohu’s third meeting with Thamiel.

      Possibly something epic happens in chapter 72, with someone regaining the HaMephorash, and the last five deal with the fallout? (But what about our timeline colliding with unsong’s?)

      • Chrysophylax says:

        72 chapters to speak HaMephorash and end the world, Jezuboad to show what happened after, perhaps.

      • Ninmesara says:

        I agree. By keeping one “scene” per chapter it seems impossible to finish the story on chapter 72

      • Anonymous says:

        I can’t believe (my?) 77 chapters theory is gaining in plausibility.

        In the spirit of not knowing when to quit while slightly ahead, I’m going to guess the story will become participatory for readers when it crosses our timeline. (I think something along these lines was already suggested elsewhere.)

        On the off chance that does happen and on the off chance we do piece together the HaMephorash from the first letter of chapters (E is Hay, but what’s O and U??), there might still be the question of whether its a good idea to speak it. The only effect we know is that it can destroy the worlds. Although that was from Uriel and it might not matter if the sky dome breaks now if divine light is already coming in.

        Maybe knowing what the Explicit Name does is just as important as knowing what it is (and maybe not and it would just be completely new information).

        • David Marjanović says:

          If E is He, by phylogeny, then O is ‘Ayin and U is of course Waw.

          • Good Burning Plastic says:

            Scott isn’t going purely by phylogeny in the first letters of chapters — Chapter 10 starts with C and according to the song verse in the cover of Book II that’s kuf, whose English descendant is Q.

            And certain Phoenician letters, e.g. tet and tsade, have no descendants in the English alphabet, so a purely phylogenic matching couldn’t possibly be made to work if the Ha-Mephorash contains any such letter.

            (Some have several descendants in English, e.g. waw -> F, U, V, W and Y, but that only means that Scott would have a choice of several possible letters to start a chapter with.)

            (And then there’s Y, which entered the English alphabet via three different routes — as a vowel in the middle of syllables in Greek-derived words e.g. “system” it comes from Greek upsilon, so eventually waw; as a consonant at the beginning of Germanic-derived words e.g. “year” it comes from a script form of g, so eventually gimel; and as a vowel or semivowel at the end of French-derived words e.g. “family” it comes from a ij ligature, so eventually yud. )

          • Anonymous says:

            Thanks for both your thoughts.

            And certain Phoenician letters, e.g. tet and tsade, have no descendants in the English alphabet, so a purely phylogenic matching couldn’t possibly be made to work if the Ha-Mephorash contains any such letter.

            I think it could just be something that wasn’t entirely thought through and those letters just never appear. Only 17 out of 26 English letters have been first letters of a chapter up to this point.


            The reason I suspect this possibility is that Aaron’s mnemonic and his klipot Vanishing Name specifically avoid all vowels:



            This also brings up the question of how to pronounce a Name for which we have the Hebrew letters. Can we just randomly insert vowels? Or is this a known thing?

            Also really don’t know what to do when there are multiple descendants. I guess the simplest is to say they are the same Hebrew letter but that feels a bit ugly. And in that case, I guess we can afford even more letters of the English alphabet… But what about F and P, that are probably both פ?

          • Good Burning Plastic says:

            F can only be פ if you consider present-day pronunciations, not phylogeny. F is descended by waw — it even inherited its position in the alphabetic order.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            I mean, it’s already pretty clear Scott’s not going just by phylogeny, so I don’t see anything wrong with associating F with פ. Yes, that may be a problem if you assume Scott is starting with phylogeny, but I don’t see anything to indicate that. (And even then, he seems to have already mapped W to Vav, so F would presumably have to go somewhere else.)

          • Anonymous says:

            I still don’t know what it should be if letters had to be mapped to different letters though. With any of the suggestions from here.

            I did find an interesting pronunciation of a Name meanwhile.


            (Turns stick into snake.) This has IO which are all vowels. Not sure how it’d fit in Aaron’s mnemonic system (that removes vowels).

            With a lot of guessing, the beginning of the haMephorash is


            tav resh hay hay yud tav mem tav vav kuf tav samech gimel samech vav resh
            pe vav pe bet tav vav hay aleph kuf tav bet ayin samech kuf tav samech bet yud samech kuf samech bet aleph het
            tav kuf tav tav samech kuf hay vav resh tav vav vav aleph samech ayin gimel samech vav vav yud mem yud bet samech bet gimel ayin nun

            spelling taking from UNSONG when possible


          • simoj says:

            The frequency of chapter-starting letters lines up very well with English first-letter frequencies.

            Is there a reason to think we need to derive the corresponding Hebrew letters rather than coming up with an English-language notarikon?

          • Anonymous says:

            Well here are the letter frequencies.

            [(‘A’, 3),
            (‘B’, 6),
            (‘C’, 6),
            (‘E’, 4),
            (‘F’, 1),
            (‘G’, 3),
            (‘H’, 1),
            (‘I’, 5),
            (‘M’, 2),
            (‘N’, 1),
            (‘O’, 3),
            (‘P’, 1),
            (‘R’, 3),
            (‘S’, 10),
            (‘T’, 12),
            (‘U’, 1),
            (‘W’, 8)]

            Maybe the only things worth noting is that D and L are missing even though they are frequent. I guess we’d need to actually see how likely it is to draw these letters from the distribution of first letters. Here’s the same thing ordered by frequency

            [(‘T’, 12),
            (‘S’, 10),
            (‘W’, 8),
            (‘C’, 6),
            (‘B’, 6),
            (‘I’, 5),
            (‘E’, 4),
            (‘A’, 3),
            (‘G’, 3),
            (‘O’, 3),
            (‘R’, 3),
            (‘M’, 2),
            (‘F’, 1),
            (‘H’, 1),
            (‘N’, 1),
            (‘P’, 1),
            (‘U’, 1)]

            Although maybe we’d want the first letter of sentences or paragraphs instead of words.

            But honestly, I think Scott probably does it the other way around: write and then just claim its the first letters of the HaMephorash. Rather than have some particular 72 letters in mind in the first place. The only things is if he had to avoid some English letters because there’s no corresponding Hebrew letter.

            Finally, the word “notarikon” seems to be used to mean something else in this story: acronyms from first letters. I called the other things a “pronunciation” and don’t know if that’s what you meant.

          • simoj says:

            I may have confused the issue by using “notarikon” incorrectly. My basic point is that the letter frequencies are consistent with the notion that the 72 English letters starting the chapters will spell out a 72-word English-language acronym. (“The reason evil exists…”)

            The letter frequencies, being from standard English, would obviously also support the idea that there is no Easter egg at all and nothing to find.

            But I do think they provide weak evidence against the idea that Scott is constrained by Hebrew language considerations, such as constructing a Hebrew acronym/notarikon, or sticking to a strict latin/hebrew letter correspondence.

          • Anonymous says:

            I think you used notarikon right and I just misunderstood then.

            So I also mistook

            The frequency of chapter-starting letters lines up very well with English first-letter frequencies.

            as an argument against the 72 letters being deliberately chosen. Because they are already the first letter of English words, namely those of the first word of each chapter here. And that Scott was writing unconstrained. (Again, I thought this was your argument.)

            Now that I understand, I don’t think the distribution can be used as evidence that it is a notorikon because of the above argument (that no-one made at the time but still true I think). That is, the letters are already drawn from first letters of English words by being the beginning of chapters.

  16. Anders Sandberg says:

    “I want to know every Name in the cosmos except yours.”

    That is an epic put-down.

    • Roman says:

      “And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book”

  17. Takashoru says:

    So, two possible meanings to the last paragraph. On one hand, Elisha ben Abuyah may truly be TOK, or alternatively, TCK may have become the second Elisha ben Abuyah by rejecting God completely after Robin went to hell. The symbolisms of the Captain being Metatron and TCK being TOK might be better than the more straightforward interpretation of the Captain being TCK and TOK being Elisha ben Abuyah.

  18. JPol says:

    Welp, I guess if there were some other group of entities who would function exceptionally well in this situation, it would’ve been strategic for someone to have kept some of them in reserve. Oh well.

    • Chrysophylax says:

      Well spotted. What are the angels doing?

      • Simon_Jester says:

        Probably flying out to fight demons, with this being the only reason the demons can’t just instantly *bamf* over to wherever they want and do whatever they want.

        Thing is, as far as we know all the archangels are dead or neutralized except Samyazaz and Gadiriel, neither of whom is likely to put up much of a meaningful fight. Presumably, the only surviving angels are the ones that made it out of Zadkiel’s polar redoubt alive at the very end of the War in Heaven, just before Uriel turned everybody into numbers.

        They are hilariously outgunned.

        And it probably doesn’t help that all the normal means of communication with the Strategic Angel Reserves have just been badly compromised by the laws of physics breaking down.

        • Sniffnoy says:

          Note that Samyazaz and Gadiriel are not archangels but rather Watchers. There could be more Watchers out there too but they seem quite unlikely to help.

          The only remaining archangel (until Uriel recoalesces) is Raziel, who seems unlikely to help. (And a slim chance of Gabriel, who would help but is seriously unlikely to be alive.)

          • Good Burning Plastic says:

            Metatron is an archangel too.

          • Yossarian says:

            There is also the Right Hand of God, who theoretically, being a Hand of God, should be as powerful as Thamiel. Will the RHoG just sit through the apocalypse getting stoned, though?

          • Sniffnoy says:

            Oh right, somehow forgot Metatron…

          • Dindane says:

            Yeah, the angels didn’t beat Thamiel last time, probably now they’re delaying but not ultimately doing much.

  19. Chrysophylax says:

    ***FINAL EXAM***

    We have a couple of weeks left before the story ends – three if it’s 72 chapters, seven if it’s 77. That gives us time to come up with some answers.

    I think we need a couple of things. First, a proper place to discuss this – Reddit, probably.

    Second, a reread and archive trawl to find and record all the clues and hypotheses.

    Third, a proper structure. The group effort to solve the HPMOR final exam was very inefficient. It mobilised a lot of people, but they were just spitting out ideas and trying to record and judge them, with no structure to build on. We need to think about moving parts, not complete theories.

    I see three steps. The first is a numbered list of problems. We need to know what is required of a complete answer. What do we need to explain? What puzzles have been laid down for us to solve? The big one is to solve theodicy before Metatron explains it, but there are also lots of riddles and plots to unpick.

    The second is a numbered list of proposed answers to little pieces. What might explain one particular anomaly or hint? These have to be properly formatted, so that people can easily see what is being proposed as a solution to which puzzles.

    The third is a discussion of proposed solutions. We need to judge each proposal and piece together a coherent, complete solution. The discussion must happen here, nowhere else. It can’t be with the lists of problems and proposed answers, because it will make the thread unreadably long (a major problem with the HPMOR Final Exam). It can’t be here, because the comment threads aren’t on-topic enough.

    • Roman says:

      We need to figure out what THE NAME is an acronym for.

    • Ninmesara says:

      I don’t know what the HPMOR final exam is, but I don’t think Scott has been leaving clues toward the end of the story… The rules have been changing too much and new stuff has been introduced in almost every chapter, often leaving old stuff to be forgotten. I mean, you can always have theories for what’s going to happen, but when you go back, you can’t actually find evidence that shows that theory to be more likely than the others. And that is without ignoring some

      An example: when someone betrayed the crew of the Not a Metaphor, it could have been any of the passengers. In this commentI try to guess who it is. I discarded Simeon and ended up choosing Erin. I also gave a plausible reason for having Edgar being the traitor, which turns out to be the correct answer. Now go reread that chapter and the previous ones an try to find some hints that might have helped you predict who the traitor was… I didn’t find anything.

      Another example: at some point, we discover that Gadiriel has made a Golem good enough to be mistaken for a human. People started speculating on who it might be. It turns out it was a character (Reagan) which hadn’t even appeared in the story at that time.

      There are even some inconsistencies: on one hand, the Angels say that Metatron rides a purple boat with golden sails, on the other hadn’t, it’s not one boat, it’s the Leviathan. Even with the foreshadowing of the importance of catching the Leviathan, there was actually evidence against the boat being the Leviathan.

      On the other hand you have the Panama chapter, which had a great puzzle, and the thing about the black sail and the demon blood, which you could have guesses in advance, especially when you knew that Mark was on board with an amulet stained with demon blood, but those are “local” guesses, and not “global” ones, spanning multiple chapters. You could guess that Malia was Robin’s daughter, maybe (it was my guess).

      I’m on the fence regarding the identity of the Drug Lord: on one hand, some people guessed it right, based on somewhat logical arguments, but given what had been introduced in the story (placebomancy being right, witch kings, weird super-humans born from comets), I didn’t feel we had evidence pointing to the fact that the Drug lord would be connected to judeo-christian mythology at all.

      This doesn’t make it a bad story, but these examples probably show that Scott doesn’t really expect (or even want) people to guess the ending. I might be wrong of course, and maybe everything will make sense and be quite predictable from someone we’re overlooking.

    • Anonymous says:

      How about a reddit post with one question per comment and the top voted reply to each question is the currently most likely?

      At the same time, it’d be good to have some kind of forum with comments ordered by time like we have here.

      So how about discussions here with summaries and solutions in the reddit thread? And link from one to the other when relevant?

      The current question that preoccupies me is ironically “Who is the right hand of God”? Although they might only lead by example and not be much of an actor.

      • Yossarian says:

        Neil is the right hand of God.

      • Chrysophylax says:

        My guess is that Neil Armstrong is now the archangel Sandalphon. Scott said on Tumblr that he chose to replace Sandalphon with Uriel in the standard list of archangels for reasons he declined to spoil. Sandalphon is often held to be the ascended form of the prophet Elijah (as with Metatron and Enoch), who will return to herald the coming of Moshiach.

        Malachi 4:5-6 (KJV):

        5 Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord:

        6 And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

      • Anonymous says:

        Oops. I somehow forgot all about Chapter 23’s revelation. At least it brought up some interesting theory about Sandalphon.

  20. VelveteenAmbush says:

    OK, updating my prior theory on ultimate resolution based on info in this chapter and the last chapter.

    TOK is TCK. Like Acher, he rebelled against God because of the fall of a robin (specifically, his wife) and became TOK. Acher was forbidden from salvation by God because you have to mean your goodness, you can’t be good instrumentally. Likewise, TCK can’t go to hell because he has to mean his evil acts, he can’t just be evil instrumentally. But, Robin’s fall causes him to rebel against God sincerely. Seeing this coming, Metatron previously took the Shem haMephorash away from him, but told him he’d give it back when TCK was pure. How would Metatron give it back? Metatron pointedly dodged the question.

    Nathanda and Jinxiang are on their way to kill TOK. They will also die in the process, and they will die in agony, cursing TOK while they die, thus fulfilling their part of the Dividend Monks’ prophecy. TOK/TCK will go to hell as a result of TOK’s sincere bad acts.

    Meanwhile, on Not a Metaphor, Ana knocks on the door to Nemo’s stateroom, having correctly deduced that Nemo is Metatron and that catching Leviathan entitles her to lodge a challenge against theodicy. Metatron somehow acknowledges the rightfulness of her claim without seeming to do anything concrete in response.

    But at that moment — as a result or quasi-result of Metatron’s accession — THARMAS/Sarah strike gold and find Shem haMephorash. Sohu pulls the true name of God from Sarah’s mind via SKABMOM. Aaron pulls it from Sohu’s mind. Ana pulls it from Aaron’s mind. Erica pulls it from Ana’s mind. Dylan pulls it from Erica’s mind.

    Dylan is burning in hell at the time, having been killed by Malia after finishing his speech with a remark that he was “walking into the flame.” TCK gets the name from Dylan (thus fulfilling Metatron’s promise to him), speaks the name and destroys Hell.

    Loose ends: still need Caelius and Sohu to die in agony cursing TCK’s name. And I’m not sure where TCK’s alleged dead body came from when he allegedly fought TOK, nor how Metatron ended up in a bar in Nevada to persuade the other patrons to go commandeer Not a Metaphor. But I’m feeling pretty good about the theory on the whole.

    • Chrysophylax says:

      I think it has far too many burdensome details. You’re making too many claims that aren’t necessary and aren’t pinned down by the evidence.

      Can the damned speak names?

      • JJR says:

        There is evidence that they can. In Chapter 61, when Robin is trying to sell her soul to Thamiel he accuses her of, “trying to infiltrate Hell, use some kind of special Name once you’re in there to bring the whole place crumbling down?” If the dead can’t speak names, there would be no danger of this at all.

        • Sniffnoy says:

          If the dead can’t speak names, Thamiel would presumably know this, but maybe (assuming they can’t) he doesn’t want Robin to know that they can’t. In case she is planning such a thing, so that she doesn’t back out of making a deal.

        • Stib says:

          Direct confirmation from chapter 40:

          Legend says the merely human dead can speak Names – but whatever these things were, they were silent.

    • gwern says:

      One problem with identifying Metatron as simply the Captain (rather than occasionally possessing the captain who is actually TCK or someone else) is that the Captain actually talks quite a bit, to give orders, lie, order people off the ship, make oaths, recruit priests or his crew, announce the future location of Metatron etc: eg This doesn’t sound like Metatron, who on-scene so far has only spoken once or so while taking the Name from the TCK. While the Captain just doesn’t want to be bothered in his quarters.

      • Yossarian says:

        Maybe Metatron, being Enoch ascended, can choose to speak as THE VOICE OF GOD when he needs to say some holy truth, or as simply a man when he needs to give some simple orders like “All hands on deck, shiver me timbers!”

    • Stib says:

      Loose ends: still need Caelius and Sohu to die in agony cursing TCK’s name. And I’m not sure where TCK’s alleged dead body came from when he allegedly fought TOK, nor how Metatron ended up in a bar in Nevada to persuade the other patrons to go commandeer Not a Metaphor. But I’m feeling pretty good about the theory on the whole.

      Sohu doesn’t need to die because she’s not grown. As Simeon pointed out, it would’ve been very easy for TCK to get a golem to fake his death. Puerto Penasco is in Mexico, not Nevada. Also, I think when you form a theory with many unverified moving parts it’s generally best not to place high confidence in it.

    • Lorenzo S says:

      The Cometspawn have to die cursing TCK’s name. But “his name” could refer to Jala or to haMephorash, which became TCK’s when he got it from Metatron. And “cursing his name” could mean using the name as a curse against an opponent (Thamiel? Hell itself?).

      • VelveteenAmbush says:

        My thought is that they would die cursing The Other King — “damn you Other King!!” — but if TOK and TCK are the same person, maybe that suffices to fulfill the prophecy.

        • Nathan, dammit! says:

          Or maybe the Cometspawn have already agreed that any time it looks like they’re about to die they start cursing God’s name. Because there are worse outcomes than the Comet King being God.

          Except that blasphemy has some pretty significant risks. This might just be repeating Robin’s gamble.

          • Goforth says:

            As always, depends on WHICH of God’s names. After all, cursing the Wrathful Name of god is much different from cursing the Flower Color Name of god.

    • ADifferentAnonymous says:

      Not sure about all the details, but Dylan getting to finally save the world with an act of destruction is very, very good.

    • dsp says:

      Contra Chrysophylax, your theory has too few burdensome details. Specifically, the chain of minds through which Shem haMephorasch passes should somehow be extended to ten, the correct number of vessels for distilling divine light to the level of mundane reality.

      • Gamzee Makara says:

        Ah! If this is true, then perhaps 7 of the ten will be dead (possibly in hell), and 3 alive, or else the reverse.

  21. Chrysophylax says:

    A lot of people seem to think that Elisha ben Abuyah is out of play, probably replaced by TCK. I think this is wrong. Could someone explain why they think this, please?

    The reason I think this is wrong is that I think Elisha ben Abuyah is Moshiach ben David.

    TCK was Moshiach ben Ephraim. He lost, so it seems very likely we’ll get the second Moshiach. Note that the Moshiach will come in the most righteous generation and in the most wicked, which would be a lot easier if there are two Moshiachs born far apart in time. Note also that the Moshiach will be numbered amongst the great transgressors, which Acher certainly is. And note again that Jalaketu lost Shem HaMephorash for not being pure enough, and we have been warned many times against compromising with sin. Acher certainly seems like a moral purist who refuses to compromise with sin. (And we have been told that he was too great a kabbalist to go to Hell, so it seems likely that he could pass through the gates and speak Shem HaMephorash.)

    • scherzando says:

      Elisha ben Abuyah is not the Moshiach, he’s a very naughty boy!

    • Izmir says:

      What if TCK became TOK to get the HaMephorash, because he needs to be pure, and pure evil is also a choice

      • Ninmesara says:

        I’d argue Dyan is closer to pure evil than TOK…

        • Stib says:

          No, Dylan at least self-identifies as chaotic neutral, and that’s the impression I get from him too. I think TOK is closer to pure evil, and I also had this idea. Thamiel is actually pure evil though 😛

          • Unbalanced Diagram says:

            If pure good and pure evil are both acceptable forms of purity, then perhaps pure chaos also works.

  22. Major Failing of the Planetary Corps says:

    “Chapter 69: Love Seeketh Not Itself to Please”

    I mean, that sort of joke is always low-hanging fruit, but I commend your execution of it.

    • teucer says:

      But also, given the source of the quote… can we expect a heaven built in Hell’s despite?

      (Pebble and the Clod is my favorite Blake.)

      • Peter D says:

        Coldn’t help but read this poem to the Hallelujah (or HaMephorash) tune… 🙂

        • Tina C. Beniac says:

          We definitely can’t expect a Heaven built in Hell’s despite. We might expect a Heaven built in Hell’s despair, or a Hell built in Heaven’s despite.

          So, for the moment, we’re left with a Lady-Or-The-Tiger/Clod-Or-The-Pebble problem when it comes to Sarah.

          Sarah is coded pretty heavily as, well, “BPD without nuance.” “I want to know every Name in the cosmos except yours” suggests she’s pretty definitely split on Aaron, but what that means for her motivations is uncertain. That “Bat Teller” comment from a few chapters ago makes me nervous, though.

  23. Thrantar says:

    A quick question about theology.

    Does God have a soul?
    If not, what might the results of using the Ensouling name on Thamiel and/or Metatron be?

    • Deiseach says:

      Does God have a soul?

      No. God is a spirit, as are angels. Humans have souls (and spirits, which is where an awful lot of confusion arises) in bodies.

      If Thamiel is a fallen angel, he is a spirit. Ensouling will not work on him. Metatron – it depends on who or what you take him to be; if Enoch, he is a human and already has a soul, if an angel, he is spirit and does not need/cannot assume a soul.

      • Jubilee says:

        I don’t think we can say that ensouling won’t work on Thamiel; the Drug Lord/Samyazaz is of the same spirit-stuff, and he obviously planned to have the Ensouling Name used on himself. . .

  24. dsotm says:

    but I met Thamiel. Three times

    One in the beginning after which she became permanently 8 y.o., Another time during the eclipse, do we have an account of the third ?

  25. Is the F-bomb still used for cursing? I thought, after the Broadcast, it would be demoted to a mere vulgarism and the Big Big D would resume its place as the worst curse word.

    Will Tharmas have two souls? If not, where did the other one end up?

    What in Hell is going on? If the demons have all come to the surface, would there be fewer left in Hell? Could Robin, Malia, and maybe Dylan organize regime change in Hell?

    • Stib says:

      Why should Malia be in Hell? It seemed to me like she’s very much good. Also, she mentioned somewhere that the surviving half-human children of Thamiel became minor nobility in hell, which seems to indicate that if they died they didn’t just still stay in hell.

      • Ninmesara says:

        I interpreted “survived” as being able to keep their sanity. It must be hard for a half human to live in hell and remain sane

        • Deiseach says:

          I interpreted “survived” as in “brothers of the sultan” sense; they kill each other off in power struggles and those who manage to survive then become the barons and dukes of Hell:

          During the reigns of Suleiman and Selim II, the Haseki Sultan (Ottoman Turkish: حسکي سلطان) or chief consort rose to greater prominence. Gaining power within the Imperial Harem, the favourite was able to manoeuvre to ensure the succession for one of her sons. This led to a short period of effective primogeniture. However, unlike the earlier period, when the sultan had already defeated his brothers and potential rivals for the throne in battle, these sultans had the problem of many half-brothers who could act as the focus for rival factions. Thus, to prevent attempts at seizing the throne, reigning sultans practiced fratricide upon accession, starting with Murat I in 1362. Both Murad III and his son Mehmed III had their half-brothers murdered. The killing of all the new sultan’s brothers and half-brothers (which were usually quite numerous) was traditionally done by manual strangling with a silk cord. As the centuries passed, the ritual killing was gradually replaced by lifetime solitary confinement in the “Golden Cage” or kafes, a room in the harem from where the sultan’s brothers could never escape, unless perchance they became heir presumptive. Some had already become mentally unstable by the time they were asked to reign.

      • Decius says:

        Malia has to be in hell because she is no angel, was born, and in hell she can break Thamial’s spell.

    • David Marjanović says:

      If the demons have all come to the surface, would there be fewer left in Hell?

      “There are no devils left in hell. They are all in Rwanda.”
      – on the title page of Time in 1993 or 1994

      • Deiseach says:

        Or as in Marlowe’s “Faustus”, when Faustus has succeeded in invoking Mephistophilis to appear on earth:

        Faust. How comes it then that thou art out of hell?

        Meph. Why this is hell, nor am I out of it.
        Think’st thou that I who saw the face of God,
        And tasted the eternal joys of Heaven,
        Am not tormented with ten thousand hells,
        In being depriv’d of everlasting bliss?
        O Faustus! leave these frivolous demands,
        Which strike a terror to my fainting soul


        • David Marjanović says:

          Makes sense.

          (I only know Goethe’s, who has, in his own words, “unfortunately also studied theology” and doesn’t ask such questions.)

  26. Immanentizing Eschatons says:

    This must have been the Other King’s plan all along. He would deny us THARMAS and the Names by – ” he stopped for a second, took a deep breath ” – by preventing computer technology from working at all

    Put me in THARMAS. I’m still working. I have a soul, a divine spark, so I’m mind and not machinery.

    I am confused, why does he think THARMAS would not be working? Is he just mistaken?

    • linkhyrule5 says:

      It just got exploded by Virhaas.

      • Immanentizing Eschatons says:

        Yeah I know, what I was confused about was why THARMAS would be effected by the computers not working when it had a soul like Sarah. I think I figured it out now though, what Caelius is saying is that TOK was trying to prevent them from RE-ensouling THARMAS by wrathing Uriel.

  27. Error says:

    Apropos of nothing, I suddenly want to cosplay something unsong-related at Dragoncon. Probably Uriel. But maybe Thamiel.

  28. Fender Gender says:

    Wait, so no more Buffybot? Shame, she was around for the whole 2 minutes and didn’t do jackcrap.

  29. Ninmesara says:

    This chapter feels a little rushed, almost to the point of being “fake”. Sarah’s dialog is particularly strange in a way that reminds me of the Drug Lord pretending to be Ana: she is someone who wants to sacrifice herself, but doesn’t aftually care that much and maybe even welcomes it but everything feels strange.

    At the same time Aaron just lets you things happen all around him and doesn’t think… not even a hint of the theory that Sarah might have used a Mind Control name to blow up Vihaan and Tharmas and get herself some better hardware? And for someone who has tried to stop Sarah from sacrificing herself he doesn’t seem to mourn her a lot – he just tries to avoid looking at the body. He thinks more about Caelius being sliw than about a sentient computer that loet her mind to help save the world (or who might be pulling a con on all of them).

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Interesting idea…

    • quintopia says:

      Aaron doesn’t feel much like a protagonist anymore. Things have gotten too big for him to matter. He’s been a bystander for a couple of books now. First person seems a strange choice for someone who eventually becomes so inactive.

      Perhaps he does something really important soon?

      • Benquo says:

        That seems pretty ideal for a viewpoint character. Cf Watson

      • Tina C. Beniac says:

        The overt meaning of “Teller” is “One who narrates a story.” It says nothing about him doing anything in particular within that story.

        • Ninmesara says:

          He’a also a smith. A smith makes stuff.

          • teucer says:

            No, a smith smites things. (To reshape them into better things, sure, but that’s the etymology.) A tinsmith doesn’t make smith – he transforms it. By hitting it.

          • Decius says:

            By hitting it.

            “A man came up to me and said/
            I’d like to change your mind/
            By hitting it with a rock, he said/
            Though I am not unkind”

            What does Aaron do well? He makes noises in ignorance of what they will do (for a living, pre-narrative).

            He’s having a wonderful time, but he should be joining up with a placebomancer to start chanting randomly at hell.

    • Simon_Jester says:

      The way I see it…

      Aaron has very conflicted feelings and thoughts about Sarah, and he’s never really sat down to fully clarify those feelings. He created her carelessly, and he has never really taken responsibility for that action, or worked out a coherent sense of what his obligations to her are.

      Furthermore, he has a track record of hesitating or screwing up his responses to crises. He has both used, and ignored, utilitarian logic that justifies unpleasant actions for the greater good.

      In other words, he’s not the idealized hyper-rational “ascended nerd protagonist” who out-thinks everyone and always knows what to do even if he sometimes fails to do it. He’s more of a realistic “ascended nerd protagonist,” one who has a great deal of knowledge and intelligence and sometimes uses it very cleverly… But who, in the final analysis, doesn’t always know what he wants, what to do, or why to do it. If he were a more focused person who had his act together all the way, he wouldn’t be Aaron Smith-Teller in the first place!

      So yes, I can totally imagine Aaron not thinking of all the possible explanations for why Sarah might have done this or that thing. And of being so busy panicking and hesitating about how the world is going to end, and rationalizing (maybe correctly) that Sarah sacrificing her life is The Right Thing To Do… that he fails to take resolute action. Because he nearly [i]always[/i] fails to take resolute action.

  30. Ninmesara says:

    The stor doesn’t go back to Sohu’s possible confounding (“her eyes briefly glassed over”). Was this important? If someone used the Confounding Name it must have been Sarah, because she’s the only one fast enough to to say names without people distinguishing the syllables or even notice a name is being spoken.

  31. Ninmesara says:

    Oh, something else: has anyone proposed that Sarah might be in league with TOK? It’s the perfect cover: get into a (staged) fight with the night creatures, who actually stopped their attack to allow TOK to approach even when it was obvious that Jane was doing some kind of weird ritual to escape, instead of redoubling their efforts to close the distance? Now Sarah has the trust of the Cometspawn and is the only machine capable of generating names.Yes, she is mind married to Sohu, but I wonder if there are some defenses for that.

  32. Jason Green-Lowe says:

    Some wild hypotheses on why catching Leviathan entitles you to challenge God’s goodness:

    1) All’s well that ends whale. If you end a whale by harpooning it, then you are all-well, i.e., as morally perfect as God, and then you can speak to God like a peer and call God to account.

    2) Moby Dick was the name of a white whale, white of course being the highest available color in kabalah, associated with Keter, the unknowable “crown” of God. Crowns are, of course, associated with the right to rule. More to the point, “Moby” is short for “Moabite,” i.e., the tribe to which Ruth belonged. Ruth is both the embodiment and symbol of mercy (compare & contrast to “ruthlessness” and see her actions in the Book of Ruth), and, according to legend, the ancestress of David, and therefore the ancestor of Moshiach ben David.

    Dick, similarly, is short for Richard, as in Richard the Lion-Hearted, the British crusader/warrior King who sought to redeem Jerusalem through acts of marital prowess and wanton cruelty, including executing prisoners and selling off most of Britain’s assets to finance his overseas wars.

    So, the white whale symbolizes the intersection of the divine attribute of mercy and the divine attribute of vengeance (which together are sometimes thought to constitute justice or fairness), all painted in the color of God’s right to rule. If you can catch that, you can talk to God about justice.

    • Cinz says:

      Your post just made me realize, though this has likely been pointed out before, that Ana’s (and Aaron’s?) command of whale puns is probably going to play a large factor in the chapter(s) dealing with Leviathan.

  33. Borealis says:

    I don’t find the “TOK = TCK” angle plausible.
    Another angle could be “The Destruction of Sennacherib”.

    – that seems by far the most referenced poem inside UNSONG
    – that poem itself references 2 Kings 18-19
    – the UNSONG Book IV is now known to be called “Kings”
    – Sennacherib had conquered a bunch of surrounding lands without defeat,
    and is now besieging a Jerusalem whose situation looks totally hopeless
    – But the angel of the Lord then comes to save the day

    In the UNSONG case, could we count the two quarter-archangels in place of one angel?

    I admit it’s not a bulletproof parallel, especially about _how_ 2 Kings 18-19 resolves things; to quote,
    “That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp.
    When the people got up the next morning there were all the dead bodies.”

    This doesn’t seem helpful against TOK’s invasion, where there are all the dead bodies even _before_ angelic intervention.

    Well, it still might not be less plausible than the “TOK = TCK” angle…
    Or perhaps we should just take the mention of Elisha ben Abuyah [ “Acher”, the Other One ] at face value.

  34. Ninmesara says:

    DThe angels in the reserves slound like plausible candidates for the role of saviors here.

  35. Obligatory:
    The alarms went silent. North American airspace went black. The lights went out. And then the murders began.

  36. Good Burning Plastic says:

    Not apropos of this chapter, but:

    I’ve only noticed today, a year after living in this city, that the Atomium looks kinda like the Tree of Life, only to find out that they’re not actually isomorphic. I’m so disappointed.

    (Granted, the Atomium only has nine balls, but I hoped that assuming the one at the bottom was Yesod and the Earth was Malkuth it could still work right. But it turns out the Atomium is a cube plus an extra ball at the center, so if you don’t use the ball at the center there are no triangles, only squares, but the Tree of Life does have a few triangles not including Tiferet.)

  37. Goforth says:

    Theory: Aaron will be the one to find the HaMephorash first.

    Back when he confronted DrugPlantLord, he told the Fallen he would do what his father did.

    And what did his father do?

    Make the H-bomb, Kabbalistically connected as a weapon of god’s name, what with the H being the shortest name of God. Plus, the H-bomb using Hydrogen. The first Element. Of course it would kabbalistically correspond to Keter, the first Sephira, IE the fullness of God,s power. So, the moment Aaron told the Fallen he would do what his father did, he kabbalistically made it so he would find a super weapon based on the greatest name of God.

    • Adam says:

      I love your hypothesis so much. I want it to be true. it feels right. But Wasn’t the inventor of H-bomb his grandfather or uncle?

      • Goforth says:

        Nope, he had an internal monologue about never knowing his father because he was a nuclear scientist who just so happened to do the horizontal tango with his mom, who told him about what his father did.

    • Ninmesara says:

      Better theory: In the end, the Cometspawn are dead (cursing their father’s name and all of that) and only Aaron stands between the Necromancer and the Tharmas-Sarah, still spitting names. Aaron quickly tries to swallow a paper with hebrew letters, which the Necromancer takes away from him with a Name. The piece of paper contains an apparently valid name with 72 letters, clearly the Shem-Hamephorash, which Aaron has bt is too weak to use. TOK thanks Aaron for his efforts, and gloats about his eminent victory, as with the name he is now even stronger than Thamiel. He starts saying the name, which goes ASAT-DEVO-GUVRA-YEHORAH and promptly tuns into a flaming mound of ash. Little did the poor Necromancer know of the recently discovered Hubris Inducing name Tharmas-Sarah had just found about.

      • Goforth says:

        The Shem-HaMephorash sounds like the kind of thing you could use even at rock bottom. It’s the full power of god, not really something that requires your own strength.

        • Ninmesara says:

          That might be or not be true, but that’s beside the point. Aaron dosen’t have the Shem-Hamephorash, he just made up a 72 letter name with the mortal name as a substring to kill the Necromancer (he previously uses the hubris inducing name to decrease the Necromancer’s critical thinking capacity) :p I’m sorry if it wasn’t clear

    • Goforth says:

      Theory Expansion:
      We have also seen Aaron kabbalistically Doom himself to a similar fate before. Aaron said, quote, ‘I wanted to be the next Comet King’. The comet king, is Moschiach Ben Ephraim, the Messiah that Fails. Yet, Aaron specifically states that he would be the next one. I.E., next Messiah, or Moschiach Ben David, the one that succeeds.

      Side Theory:
      We also see a motif in Unsong, that there is a Crack in Everything, with a crack in the sky, and that that is how the light gets in, I.E.: god’s light. Thamiel describes himself as this crack, yet, we have never really seen him let any sort of God’s light in. At some point, it may be even Thamiel that gives out God’s name.

      Either way, it’s odd. Thamiel doesn’t correspond to any of the Sephirot, but the Qlipoth, for obvious reasons, being essentially the anti-Keter of the Qlipoth. So why is he considered an Archangel? He should be considered the Highest Archdemon, similar to how lucifer is seen in Christian belief, not an Archangel at all. And then there’s the Bident, which has made no sense to me whatsoever because it permanently kills archangels. From a kabbalistic perspective, that should be flat out impossible, full stop. Archangels are facets of god, killing one of them should, by all means, be like killing Thamiel, it doesn’t work.

      I theorize that if we understand the Bident, we would understand the origin of everything that went wrong. Because by any normal consideration, Thamiel should have been sent packing by Michael. The virtue of the Archangels seems to have been essentially beaten by Thamiel’s sin, which essentially should not be possible if God is supremely good.

      Worst part is, we have never seen any of the other Archdemons below Thamiel. There should be just as many Archdemons as Archangels, yet they don’t seem to be around. Which is… worrisome.

      • Goforth says:

        One last theory:
        There is a flaw in the defenses of hell. This flaw is an actual crack. As in a literal crack in the defenses of Hell, a big hole in the wall. Somehow, this hole will literally be used to let God’s light in.

        After all, there is a crack in everything, and that’s how the light gets in.

        • JJR says:

          One thing I have been wondering though. If there is a crack in everything is there a crack in the concept, ‘there is a crack in everything’? That is, perhaps there is a thing that does not have a crack in it. That would mean that there is a crack in almost everything, where the “almost” is the crack in the concept itself. Maybe that’s what Thamiel is, the almost.

          • Goforth says:

            The ‘almost’ in this case wouldn’t be Thamiel. It’d be God. God, being perfect and all, cannot have a crack in him. He is the light coming through the crack. There is likely a crack in Thamiel as well, that just hasn’t yet been found.

      • Yossarian says:

        I don’t think it’s said anywhere that Thamiel is considered an Archangel, he is the Left Hand of God, which is not exactly anywhere in the Angelic hierarchy. So I guess you could call him an Archdemon.

  38. Roman says:

    The reason evil exists is that my/ Metatron’s thoughts were constrained to scenarios genius/ God’s/ good/ godlly scribes/saints wrote repeatedly.

    • Roman says:

      The reason evil exists is that my/ Metatron’s thoughts were constrained to scenarios genius/ God’s scholar would repeat.

      • Adam says:

        I didn’t understand this, but i want to. Could you please explain in more detail?

        • Goforth says:

          I think what he means is the whole Thamiel thing is because Metatron is constrained to things that were written repeatedly in the Bible. Why and How, I don’t know, but he seems to be making a bunch of kabbalistic leaps in logic judging from the progression from Genius -> Saints.

  39. Arancaytar says:

    > “Father could beat Thamiel”

    But that was back when Uriel was in charge, and Thamiel was much, much less powerful than he has become in the last hour or so. :/

    • Goforth says:

      *ferventky prays this entire thing was just one big Ritual by Comet King so that he could come back in the Nick of Time as a Big Damn Hero in the Biggest Ritual Magicing Ever*

  40. rianlnn says:

    “Zero,” said Sohu. “Zero help.” At least didn’t seem to be seizing or anything now.

    Missing a ‘she’ here?

  41. Andrew M says:

    Does the name ‘Bromis’ have any significance? (Of course, Scott is perfectly entitled to invent character names because they sound good, which is after all what most writers do, but so many of his names are significant that it seems disappointing when they aren’t.)

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