I probably should have consigned Robert Masello’s purported thriller Vigil to the “Abandoned” pile but it was just good enough to save it. Barely. Doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel a few brain cells rot away though.
Vigil is another entry in the sub-sub-genre of fiction dealing with ancient, apocryphal texts of the Bible and the truth that may or may not be contained here. You could probably consider The Da Vinci Code to be part of this group as well due to its use of apocryphal texts for the Mary Magdalene-Jesus relationship. But I digress.
Vigil explores the Book of Enoch and its legend about the Watchers, a group of angels whose responsibility it was to look after the human race. As they watched, they began to lust after human women and mated with them, violating God’s law. Other accounts say that they began to envy humans their souls, which made them especially beloved to God, and believed humans were unworthy of God’s regard. A great battle took place with the rebel angels being cast from heaven forever.
So, in Vigil we have a Jewish scholar attempting to translate the Book of Enoch and a paleontologist working with an amazing fossil that appears to be from before time began and whose DNA makes it almost human but not quite. And then one night, an accident happens in the lab and the lab explodes, destroying everything in it. But strangely, people report a glowing form leaving the burning lab. Soon after, the mysterious Arius appears and he seems to have an especial love for the ladies. Gee, who (or rather what) could he be? Oh, and throw in an infertility subplot with the main character who is sterile but trying to create a family with his beautiful wife and a strange being who loves the ladies, and it’s just too much.
I can say that this book had a lot of potential. The idea is interesting, but Arius coming to life is almost ridiculous. While none of the characters were especially well-drawn, his was really lacking. Is he evil? Is he just misunderstood? His motivations are sort of explained yet seem so mundane (SEX!) for what he is. I also found it a little preposterous that Ezra, the Jewish scholar, was going to all the effort to translate the Enoch scroll. Um, the book was written in 2005. Who doesn’t know what Enoch says by now (or then)? And if he’s such a great scholar, he should have known already. I know it was a way for Masello to introduce the legend to us, but really, he wasted a lot of space (and my time) on a legend that would have already been familiar to readers.
The plot seemed to have a hard time getting anywhere fast. Have you noticed that the harder a time an author has with a plot, the longer the book gets? Action happened in fits and spurts but wasn’t consistent. Say what you will about The DaVinci Code, but at least it was a genuine page turner. A book like Vigil wants to be should be fast-paced.
I guess I’m just as frustrated with myself. When will I learn that books dealing with this subject matter are more-often-than-not crap? Sigh.
However, if you are interested in the legend of the Watchers, I have a few recommendations:
- Link (Becker): In the vein of Graham Hancock and other fringe writers and pseudo-archaeologists, it explores the Watcher legend as evidence of extraterrestrial aid to the human race. Interesting and fun.
- The Prophecy : The legend of the Watchers as a movie. Really, Christopher Walken in leather pants camping it up…what more could you ask for?