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The Empyreus Proof discussion (Spoilers!)

Brian G Turner

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I had a lot of questions after finishing The Empyreus Proof by Bryan Wigmore - I thought I might mention some of the main ones that came to me in this thread for discussion:


1. Tashi - loved the way he saved himself in the house - but was disappointed to see him tricked into possession near the end. However, I can see that the only other option was likely to be death, and it opens up new story possibilities.

However, the mountain temple came across as somewhat narrow-minded in The Goddess Project, in this book they seemed downright evil - not least for their apparently routine dismissal of acolytes, either to die on the mountain, or else be cast out to live in poverty. I wonder if anyone else noticed that, and wondered if there's a reverse morality in play here - ie, that we've been rooting for the wrong people? After all, there's also long been hints of pederasty associated with these monks, which seems reinforced by removing the acolytes when they are no long boys...

2. Geist - I remember reading the original prologue from The Goddess Project that was eventually dropped, which showed Geist discovering Orc and Cass on the beach. I noticed it was referred to a few times in The Empyreus Proof, but wondered if anyone found his introduction confusing or whether it fitted in nicely? Personally, I really liked the omission, as it opens up new questions about this world - or reality - and really liked the way it added momentum to the story.

3. Speaking of reality - what sort of world are we in? Originally it seemed like a secondary-world fantasy, where Orc ans Cass were simply people who didn't know their pasts because of magickal practices. Now we have the reveal that they may not have come from this world at all (which was a good reason to drop the original Geist prologue, as that raised the question too early).

However, we now also have the suggestion that we may be inside some form of virtual reality, rather than a real world - a curious and intriguing reveal. Who are these others in the city of gold? Are they just role-players? Or is this world just as real as theirs?

Anyway, a few initial questions and discussion points to start things off. :)
 

The Judge

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I've not yet read the final version of TEP, so I'm not going to be able to discuss things in detail until that's done. Meanwhile:

1 I thought the deception of Tashi at the end was incredible, stunning, brilliantly written, and I loved it. That is, on Tashi's behalf I hated it and no doubt Tashi himself would have preferred the alternative, but for the book it was absolutely right.

The misogyny of the monks has always meant I was ambivalent about Highcloud, even though individuals were worthy men -- but I'd rather mysogynistic men of peace and prayer than the misogynist warmongering thugs in Bismark, so when push comes to shove, no, we're not rooting for the wrong side when war comes.

I agree the somewhat callous attitude to the failed novices falls far short of what should be done for them. But never once did I get any hint of pederasty inside Highcloud eg the terms of affection used (?Beloved One?) to me suggested deep love but not deviant sexuality.

2 I was probably the sole voice calling for the original prologue in TGP to be reinstated, since for me it was a great opening to a fantasy and Raven deserved a lot more page time than he otherwise got. For me, therefore, seeing Geist in TEP wasn't confusing, but I can well see if might be different for those who only came across him as someone mentioned by others in TGP. Still a great opening for him here, though! (But still not enough Raven.)

3 Oooh, ooh, I know part of the answer to this!! :speechless:
 

HareBrain

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@HareBrain - could you release it as a free short story?
Actually, most of it is in TEP as a flashback from Geist's POV, almost word for word. The rest, as you'll know, got converted to Orc's flashback in TGP ch3. So I'm not sure there would be anything new.

I did write an "alternative prologue" from the POV of the man Geist shot. I might release that at some point, but it would be too spoilerific at the moment.
 

Jo Zebedee

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blah - flags. So many flags.
Actually, most of it is in TEP as a flashback from Geist's POV, almost word for word. The rest, as you'll know, got converted to Orc's flashback in TGP ch3. So I'm not sure there would be anything new.

I did write an "alternative prologue" from the POV of the man Geist shot. I might release that at some point, but it would be too spoilerific at the moment.
Having it within the books isn't the point, however. That's for readers who have already picked it up. Releasing it as a short is for drawing people into the book who haven't yet tried it.
The old Henry prologue for Inish Carraig is, largely, covered in Inish, but the standalone scene is gone. I have it in a few places as a free short (might go and throw it out today again, actually) with a link to the book at the end of it. :)
 

Juliana

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1 I thought the deception of Tashi at the end was incredible, stunning, brilliantly written, and I loved it. That is, on Tashi's behalf I hated it and no doubt Tashi himself would have preferred the alternative, but for the book it was absolutely right.

The misogyny of the monks has always meant I was ambivalent about Highcloud, even though individuals were worthy men -- but I'd rather mysogynistic men of peace and prayer than the misogynist warmongering thugs in Bismark, so when push comes to shove, no, we're not rooting for the wrong side when war comes.

I agree the somewhat callous attitude to the failed novices falls far short of what should be done for them. But never once did I get any hint of pederasty inside Highcloud eg the terms of affection used (?Beloved One?) to me suggested deep love but not deviant sexuality.
I agree with every single bit of this. Tashi will never be my favorite character (though I know Bryan loves writing him), but the way he has constantly been deceived and tricked – first in TGP when he originally gets possessed, and then again in TEP when he thinks he's finally safe – is heartbreaking. I'm looking forward to him overcoming all of this and maybe turning the trickery on the tricksters.

As for 2, it's hard for me to judge because I feel I've seen so many bits of Geist as a beta reader that I don't have the necessary distance. But I'm definitely among the 'loved the original Geist prologue' camp. ;)

Having it within the books isn't the point, however. That's for readers who have already picked it up. Releasing it as a short is for drawing people into the book who haven't yet tried it.
The old Henry prologue for Inish Carraig is, largely, covered in Inish, but the standalone scene is gone. I have it in a few places as a free short (might go and throw it out today again, actually) with a link to the book at the end of it. :)
I like this idea................... You can try putting it out on places like Wattpad (though you'd need Snowbooks clearance for that, while Jo gets to make her own decisions...)

Re 3, Bryan's world has always reminded me a little of Pullman's His Dark Materials with the overlapping worlds that are similar but not alike. I'm just enjoying the mystery and the little teases. :)
 

The Big Peat

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Agree on the Pullman comparison. Not the first time its been made (although mostly in other contexts), but there's so much that reminds me of Pullman... and that's a really good thing.

Shall muse on the other stuff.

Although I think Jo might be onto something with releasing the original prologue, even if its there in the story.
 

HareBrain

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Speaking of reality - what sort of world are we in?
I'm not going to answer this (obviously), but I will say I think there's enough info by the end of TEP to piece together an answer. One breadcrumb, which I expected betas to jump on, has never been mentioned to me, so was perhaps missed by everybody.
 

Venusian Broon

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I've not yet read the final version of TEP, so I'm not going to be able to discuss things in detail until that's done. Meanwhile:
Ditto, but I will be getting a copy soon and will be able to see what's different, although HB assures me not that much has changed.


1 I thought the deception of Tashi at the end was incredible, stunning, brilliantly written, and I loved it. That is, on Tashi's behalf I hated it and no doubt Tashi himself would have preferred the alternative, but for the book it was absolutely right.

The misogyny of the monks has always meant I was ambivalent about Highcloud, even though individuals were worthy men -- but I'd rather mysogynistic men of peace and prayer than the misogynist warmongering thugs in Bismark, so when push comes to shove, no, we're not rooting for the wrong side when war comes.
Tashi's escape from the Scorpion and his deception are, I agree, one of the stellar stand out moments of the book. They bookmark for me, quite a stunning final quarter.

The attitudes of the personnel of the monastery are I feel quite complex, at least in my reading. I found it interesting that the two watchers we got to know well seemed in fact to be very worldly and rather less misogynistic than the institution is touted to be. It was their apprentices that were aggressive in that stance. Perhaps that's totally understandable, they are very young and know only the monastery, impressionable to their teachers (although one assumes they didn't quite get that aggression from their masters?) and they are the warriors of the monastery - at least in the physical world. Trained to be killers for their cause and be unthinking?

I don't seem them as men of peace and prayer - when necessary they seem to act promptly to kill and exterminate.

2 I was probably the sole voice calling for the original prologue in TGP to be reinstated, since for me it was a great opening to a fantasy and Raven deserved a lot more page time than he otherwise got. For me, therefore, seeing Geist in TEP wasn't confusing, but I can well see if might be different for those who only came across him as someone mentioned by others in TGP. Still a great opening for him here, though! (But still not enough Raven.)
I think by the time I helped out with TGP the decision had been made to shelve the prologue, but I did read it. I don't know why it was decided that way, possibly because, from memory, Geist only appears in passing in the rest of the book, so devoting a chapter to him, especially right at the start may have been a bit odd.

3 Oooh, ooh, I know part of the answer to this!! :speechless:
Oh, now I'll have to ask - was the final chapter that I read in the Beta retained, HB? The one where the 'black hats' sit down for coffee and a chat about what's been happening, pies in the face etc...

I think I (eventually :)) got some of the breadcrumbs about the sort of reality we are in, although I totally missed the tube sign appearing in the séance the first time around. And it took me a while to recognise the Templar/Baphomet connection - and me a card carrying Fortean, duh. (Although I'm not sure if it's a real clue.)

When I got to the end I was left thinking we were in the 'Shamatrix'. What with ENG GAI and all that...


Some other thoughts.

I've never been a fan of trilogies or more, largely because many of these series seem to be filler or one giant story cut into three or more parts. The second book usually just a bridge between the introduction and the end. However TEP really won me over because it managed such a satisfying and thrilling finale, you know, like in a proper novel - and yet so much still to reveal.

The systems of magic and religion that are set up are so refreshing. No one seems to actually be able to tame their powers, or really have an understanding of the consequences of their actions - even the highest practitioners - nevermind the young adults we are following.

Furthermore I felt it was a book of transformations - Tashi finding and losing himself, Orc's discovery and his pact with the Goddess and (my favourite character) Hana's accidental merging with the sorceress. They are all handled extremely deftly by HB and it was a joy to read.
 

HareBrain

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I don't know why it was decided that way, possibly because, from memory, Geist only appears in passing in the rest of the book, so devoting a chapter to him, especially right at the start may have been a bit odd.
That's pretty much it -- I felt it misrepresented the book, especially since Geist and Raven seemed to make such a strong impression on some people.

Oh, now I'll have to ask - was the final chapter that I read in the Beta retained, HB? The one where the 'black hats' sit down for coffee and a chat about what's been happening, pies in the face etc...
Yes, almost exactly as you read it, I think. But TJ has extra knowledge because I ran through the whole schema with her and @Boneman in the early stages of TGP.
 

Dan Jones

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Am bumping this thread as I finished TEP and, probably like those others who've finished it, I am chock full of questions and theories about it. As the thread says, spoilers abound below so don't read on if you're not finished yet. I won't wax lyrical about how good it is – I'll save that for a review – but wanted to see if anybody else has started to formulate any theories about the bigger picture stuff?

There are a lot of breadcrumbs left lying around TEP and, looking farther back, in TGP too, but there wasn't enough in Book 1 to make a meaningful assessment of the lie of the land. I think there probably are now, even though I'm probably wrong.

The book itself is wonderful, but the last two chapters really set the conspiracy tin-foil hat alarms ringing in my head. I figured out who Patient J is (and, thanks to a hilarious farce involving PMs with the author, have had it confirmed) - it's
John, the stern-bearded guy from the last chapter but one who appears in the flash-forwards, or "flash-outwards"
.

Given the identity of Patient J and his/her "original" positioning within the realities, we can therefore assume that Patient J is in fact one of the Kaybees. Therefore Orc and Cass already have a history with Patient J. This makes the Bismark episode where Orc happens upon Skull-Head, who obviously knows and recognises Orc, make more sense. It also demonstrates the Kaybees' ability to hop between realities, using the psychosphere as an interface.

So what exactly is the psychopshere? Originally I thought of it as a sort of conduit for multiple personalities that gives rise to a sort of collective consciousness, which in turn manifests itself in actions and thought processes of a "higher being". This is rather Jungian interpretation, as Jung said that we are all in fact made up of several distinct personalities which are all fighting for semblance and control within us, and these conflicting personalities manifest as a whole through the conduit of the human body. Within the FS (Fire Stealers) World there is evidence for this as we can see multiple personalities convening in the psychosphere with some regularity (ie Hana & Orc's joint scaping; the Conclave; and the clairdaudioscope recordings from TGP). I think there's something going on along those lines, but it's only half-right. Rather than the psychoshere existing "above" one reality, I think it has been created "below" another, and imposed above Orc and Cass's idea of objective reality.

What does that mean? We're given a few hints that the Kaybees are in fact highly diseased, and possibly close to death. Nadia describes the other geezer in the last chapter (I'm in Berlin at the moment, so please forgive for not recalling all the names without the book to hand) as having diseased flesh stretched over bone, and tubes behind plexiglass. Also we are familiar with Skull Face by this point. This may or may not be the same person. They are also rich, and arrogant, and frightened. They frequently seem nervous about the brittleness of their plans, and something is very clearly at stake for them.

I believe that that something is either death, or possibly even extinction (which yes, I know is the same, but you know what I mean). I believe that Kaybees are powerful and wealthy magicians from a future era who are close to death, possibly ravaged by disease, and their real bodies exist in a current but alternative version of London (possibly in Chelsea & Westminster Hospital). In other words, they are Patients. Patients A, B, C, etc, all the way up to J and beyond. Hence Patient J.

They have assembled the psychosphere as a joint undertaking in which they are able to communicate beyond consciousness, so from their isolated, quarantined hospital beds they are still in touch with one another. They choose black pyramids and skyscraper penthouses as the base for their representative reality because that's how they perceive their status to be - as emperors, or Pharaohs, or oligarchs. How they got to their current state of moribund fragility can - in their eyes - be traced back to some point in the timeline when a particular event happened. And they are using their influence and imposition of the psychosphere to interfere with events that have already taken place in the past to try and change the course of history, making sure that whatever happened to weaken them so doesn't happen. So essentially it's Back To The Future but with less Chuck Berry and more opah.

This could well mean that, for all their cruelty, the Kaybees may well see themselves (and in fact could be) the real heroes of this story, and that really would be a fascinating twist!

My theory is that the critical event in history was Orc and Cass's wedding ceremony in the sea. Perhaps because it was undertaken without the formal structures of the Church or religion, or perhaps because it seemed to be against the wishes of a certain character named above, but this event seems to "break" the world order.

I suspect is that this is echoed in Geist's big plans. We know Geist's animath is Raven, who is somewhat manipulative, and the ersatz leader of the Fire Stealers. he's the only one of the Fire Stealer animals to survive the mythical robbery of the sacred flame from the witch mother and to deliver it into the hands of humans. So if we can crack the mystery of what the fire represents, we can understand what Geist's motivations are. My suspicions are that the fire somehow represents freedom, or intellectualism, or self-sufficiency, possibly from God, or at least from the unconsciousness of ancient human history, before we "awoke" (as in the Garden of Eden when the shadows feel from Adam and Eve's eyes) into consciousness.

So, by stealing the fire from "God" and delivering it to man, it is a sort of awakening of freedom. Geist, having raven as his animath, believes that he is the last freedom fighter for humanity. He is trying to train others in psychic shamanism by granting them animaths so that he can re-enact the myth of the Fire Stealers, like, For Realz. This would mean the owners of the animaths - Hana, Orc, Petri etc al – being torn to shreds as the ceremony / sequence takes place. Geist doesn't care about this, because he sees the bigger picture. I believe this is the "big plan" we've heard about him.

I also think that this stealing of the Sacred Fire is what the Kaybees are so worried about. They somehow need to be able to thwart it, and thwart it at source, so they are controlling events in the past. I don't think simply killing Geist would necessarily do this; I think the idea has to be eradicated magically. Their own "big plan" is called project Baffomet which, as VB attests to, is a bastardisation of Baphomet, a heathen idol-head, and a heretical deity. That they would choose such a name implies that they seek to turn humans away from their "proper" deities and possibly direct their attentions towards them. Or it could be used to show that the heretics (Orc and Cass, principally, for their heretical marriage) will burn for their sins.

There is possibly some allusion to the (a)morality of athiesm at play here and the intellectual arrogance of humans who turn away from the spiritual, but there too many missing pieces to be sure.

In any case, you heard it here first!

Or I'm completely wrong, but it was fun thrashing it all out!
 

The Big Peat

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My suspicions are that the fire somehow represents freedom, or intellectualism, or self-sufficiency, possibly from God, or at least from the unconsciousness of ancient human history, before we "awoke" (as in the Garden of Eden when the shadows feel from Adam and Eve's eyes) into consciousness.
That fire representing humanity's sense of self - which is to say its sense of difference from others - would make sense to me. It seems to fit the general thrust of Bryan's work that I get from his interviews.

I have to say, that post is a work of art Dan.
 

The Big Peat

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I also feel incredibly dense for not realising just how widespread the Theft of Fire myth was.
 

Dan Jones

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I learned about it in Moana in the song "You're Welcome!" by The Rock a.k.a Dwayne Johnson.

"When the nights grew cold
Who stole
You fire from down below?
You're looking at him, bro!"

So it shows that Bryan's list of influences is indeed broad.
 

The Big Peat

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I learned about it in Moana in the song "You're Welcome!" by The Rock a.k.a Dwayne Johnson.

"When the nights grew cold
Who stole
You fire from down below?
You're looking at him, bro!"

So it shows that Bryan's list of influences is indeed broad.
Western Intellectualism at its finest.
 

Dan Jones

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Been thinking about this some more. Particularly that, given

In other words, the Kaybees are Patients. Patients A, B, C, etc, all the way up to J and beyond. Hence Patient J.
who are the doctors and nurses looking after them?

I will return with more theories about where Orc and Cass come from soon!
 

kythe

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I finished The Empyreus Proof and have been ruminating on the revelations at the end.

I am not sure Patient J is one of the Shining Ones. If he is, the others are certainly trying to keep him imprisoned to minimize his influence on the world. I was thinking he was going to be the missing Gevurah. He seems to have that judgmental attitude, and we know Gevurah seems absent from the Mountain where the monks of High Cloud teach that he is.

I was also thinking Patient J was the true consort of The Mother - not temporary human men who are sacrificed, but a strong eternal Father force. When he tells Orc to stay away from her, he is not worthy of her, Orc thinks it is about Cass. I am wondering if he actually was referring to The Mother and Orc's ties with Her.
 

kythe

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I haven't re-read TGP/TEP yet, I will wait until the third installment. But I went through them using key word searches to try to piece together ideas. I'm going to try to put my thoughts out by subject, though some of these ideas are so interwoven they are hard to separate.

Patient J/Gevurah/Crystal Man
I do not know whether these three are all aspects of the same entity, but they have certain things in common. To Orc, all have been associated with hate or something wrong.

Crystal Man - Orc has a brief vision of a "crystal skull smashed by a hammer" in TGP when he sees Darroguere in soulscape. (He also sees several other things, some of which have not come to pass). Cass connects with the Crystal Man when she is looking for a spiritual guide, but he speaks angrily with her. Use of elementals using Crystal Man's body causes dark flight for the Monks. If the Crystal Man appears to Cass intact in the psychosphere, why are his body parts scattered in the physical world?

Patient J - seems imprisoned in a tomb in the black sphere. Orc is drawn to this "black wall" associated with his shroud, numerous times. Orc find him when searching for "father", KB's presence grows during this encounter. I don't think he is one of the KBs - they didn't appear there with him, they came to get Orc, counter the Watchers, and reinforce the sphere. KB's also call each other by multiple names, but refer to him only as "Patient J". This entity is describes as being alive in a tomb with "lines and pipes of ceramic or metal over plains of glass". This seems complimentary to the vines and plants of the Mother energy. Is this the missing Father?

Gevurah - When Orc leaves the black sphere suddenly, he feels he has taken the entity's hate with him. Monks sense the presence of Gevurah. Gevurah also appears missing from the Mountain where they teach that he is. I think he is another avatar, manifestation, or something, related to Patient J and possibly the Crystal Man. KB's seem to be able to create multiple avatars/appearances for themselves, maybe this entity can too.

Father - curiously, Orc seems to have something in common with Tashi. Both of them find their "father" origins in the vault on High Cloud. Both of their fathers are describes as theives - Orc's by the entity in the tomb, and Tashi's through the vision of the novitiate stealing the key. And we know through Geist that key has something to do with Orc and Cass.

The word "forbid" seems to come up a lot for Orc and Cass. The Crystal Man forbids Cass from seeing "that boy", but doesn't clarify who. John forbids Orc from seeing Cass. The "Voice of God" Orc keeps responding to tried to separate him from Cass.

Sacred Fire
I think the Sacred Fire is individual identity. Orc gets sucked into a vision of Magoria, he sees a world in destruction. He sees people clinging to the Cathedral of Empyreus for salvation, and wearing breastplates that he is told prevent "ego disintegration". The breastplate was forged with the Sacred Fire, "that fire is what allows man to separate himself from Mother Night".

Identities are a major theme throughout the story. It's not just Orc and Cass not knowing their names. The Patient J entity becomes angry whenever Orc and Cass begin to find themselves. The KB's have multiple names for each other, but it isn't clear whether anyone has used a proper name for Patient J. Orc lost his way in Magoria as he was being swallowed by the Mother energy, and the KB who rescued him said this is a risk for magicians without a strong sense of identity. Tashi was subject to repeated possessions because he was not clearly attached to his body.

The KB's seem to be able to manifest an avatar anywhere.

Kaybees
The KB's themselves seem very powerful magicians and can maintain their sense of self even in extreme circumstances, like Magoria or while possessing others. Yet in the final chapter, it becomes apparant that they interact with each other through avatars. One describes another's appearance as "possibly even something like his original self". Why do they not know what each other's "original selves" look like? Have they never seen each other in physical form?

Occasionally they refer to their own appearances as wasted, emaciated, skull-face, having respirators, behind plexiglass. They are also associated with the smell of chemicals and rot, or is that associated more with Patient J's appearances? Either way, I have wondered if they are actually dead, existing only in the psychosphere. They clearly have strong identities so they do not disintegrate, and one describes himself in "the world in waiting". I don't think they still have physical forms. They may be the Zhenaii, wanting to create a new world so they can live again. They need others to Manifest, others to possess. This seems to be their only physical influence.

Orc/Cass
Orc's flashback seems to indicate that he and Cass are not twins - they were married against her father's will. This is confusing because they do show strong magical ability and in some ways seem more capable than others, but now there is another set of twins - who are definately real twins - Geist is teaching. I'm still not sure where to go with this. It isn't clear how they are related to all the magic and what their role really is. It is implied at the end that Cass may have the ability to "recode" the Goddess. That is the most powerful ability we have seen yet.
 
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Brian G Turner

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You know, when the third one comes out, I'm going to have to re-read The Goddess Project and The Empyreus Proof before reading it, just to make sure I'm caught up with all the intricacies of this series. :)
 
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