Sunday, March 31, 2019

Coriander for the Hidden, by Nicholas Kaufmann

★★★☆☆ Average

(Religious Fantasy) Suriel, an angel who worked in the Garden of Eden, has to kill the first-born in Egypt, but he tries to get out of it. (5,469 words; Time: 18m)

"Coriander for the Hidden," by (edited by Andy Cox), appeared in issue 280, published on by .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Review: 2019.161 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: It’s easy to love Suriel for his love of living things, especially of flowers but also of us. Given his nature, he has to find a solution to the problem of executing the awful assignment to murder all those children, and it’s gratifying when he does so.

It is possible to read this story as an answer to some of the moral problems involved in the Passover story if you imagine that Suriel really is doing what God wanted (or else God would have stopped him).

Con: As the text itself points out, it’s hard to see how God wouldn’t have noticed what Suriel did. Nor does Suriel’s solution really sound very workable; it seems that he put the souls of the children into the flowers, but I’m not sure life as a flower is such a great thing.

The Exodus story really is hard to defend—it makes God look like a cruel, petty thug—but this story misses something beautiful about the Garden of Eden story: it’s a creation myth that tries to explain why humans are different from animals. There was no tree of “forbidden knowledge.” It was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Whatever animals do, it’s always according to their nature; it’s never good or evil. Only humans have that concept, just as only humans know shame or regret. This creation myth simply tries to explain how that happened, which is very unusual (if not unique) among creation myths. Ironically, this same ability to tell good from evil lets us read the Exodus story and see that God’s actions seem to be pretty evil.

It's a bit inconsistent that Suriel is disgusted by Adam and Eve’s “animalistic” rutting, and yet he has no problem with the other animals, who presumably are also following their nature (e.g. there are baby hippos).

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