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Complete Unsong By Scott Alexander - M? - Original Fiction

Discussion in 'Original Fiction' started by someone010101, Aug 22, 2018.

  1. someone010101

    someone010101 Professor

    Aug 7, 2012
    Title: Unsong
    Author: Scott Alexander
    Rating: Probably M. That is to say, there's no official rating, but one or two chapters deserve trigger warning: torture
    Genre: Fantasy, AU Earth
    Status: Complete
    Fandom: Original Fiction
    Pairings: None/ Irrelevant
    Link: http://unsongbook.com/
    Wait. Unsong isn't on DLP yet?

    Unsong is a whimsical story about the problem of evil. It's world is logical and cracky, the plot well though out and haphazard, puns researched and groanworthy, the seven main characters distinct, the messiah portrayed in an original fashion and the slice of live scenes are fun. And it's well crafted, it really feels like everything fit's together. And Unsong moves quickly for a Web Serial

    On the downside. There are seven main characters and regular history interludes, plot, exposition and slice of live alternate in irregular intervals and you have no idea wth is going on until the (seemingly abrupt) end. The style might not be to everyone liking.

    A few quotes, to give an impression:

    Magical Copyright!
    And then suddenly, ethics!
  2. Glimmervoid

    Glimmervoid Professor

    Dec 21, 2011
    I read this a while ago, while it was coming out. I like it, it has some really neat ideas but I couldn't help but feel it never quite came together.

    Sometimes the world seems just like our world, with some extra knobs, and then suddenly, the USA is split into a loose confederation of states and the eastern half is being taken over by an evil necromancer. Aaron is sort of symptomatic of this disconnect. His parts really don't mesh well with more epic parts. I think he's meant to be the more grounded everyman through whom the reader sees this strange new world but it just comes off as disconnected. And it didn't have to be that way. Aaron has lots of cool strange world goodness (he is a Singer, he knows an Angel, etc) but its all hidden under everyman, our-worldness.

    I think I'm overselling the negatives here. Some of those epic parts are really cool and when it does play up the strangeness of the world, that really works too. The story is cool. The world well thought out (the epic bits anyway, not the fax our-worldness).

  3. Zombie

    Zombie Black Philip Moderator DLP Supporter

    Apr 28, 2007
    I scraped this into an epub recently hoping to find something else to read. I like web-serials when they're engaging. I read this and I liked it. I have nothing negative to really say about it because all things considered, it just works. The very nature of the book(s) are to show whimsy and the nature of the world.

    Like it was said above by Glimmervoid, Aaron is a glimpse into the everyman, we see the story told through his eyes and it humanizes the marvels of mankind as to make the relatable. I generally don't mess with anything that has to do with Religion. But I read Sandman Slim and this had a similiar quality to it in my mind so I thought I'd give it a shot. I wasn't dissapointed.

    First story in a bit that I feel comfortable giving a 4/5.

    Its not a 5/5 because the nature of the ending in book 4, but its understandable.

    Everyone should give it a shot.
  4. Blorcyn

    Blorcyn Minister of Magic DLP Supporter DLP Silver Supporter

    Oct 16, 2010
    So, this is worth your time. And I'll lead off by saying, it's an unequivocal 5/5. It's going to be one of those stand out novels that has a climax that is indelibly inked on to my soul, and join one of four or five novels where the plot is so meticulously planned, so well telegraphed and also so satisfying anyway that I literally am having trouble thinking of a way to praise that quality as highly as I want to.

    It's a story which creates the most grand and splendiferous promise. And it fully realises that promise. It gives you an answer that, in the context of this story, deeply satisfies one of the weightiest explicit problems I've encountered.

    The technical execution is strong, although not perfect. The writing is top tier, the voice and characters well realised, but not perfect. There were a few bits I skimmed, and as has been noted the bridge between epic and Everyman and the world culture implications from some of the crazy metaphysical events that occur doesn't always quite feel right.

    At the beginning of the story, corporate culture and a California that's still kinda Californian despite the explicit existence of the abrahamic God is a fine starting point. When it progresses and you learn hell is in Canada, the archangel Uriel has been doing his thing in the Gulf of Mexico and the United States has been divided down the middle because space doesn't work there - well, it doesn't feel like the culture and people should be so analogous to our own.

    This is a story that establishes its authority emotionally and intellectually well, but not equally. You will care about the main characters, and you will understand their motivations - Aaron's love for Ana and the way he interacts with the other strong women of the story is a nice middle ground where the character's not asexual or a lothario (he really does appear s good Everyman), and I think I like that in s male lead because I read too much fanfiction.

    However, this story really shines and revels in its intellectual dialogues. Maybe this is how people who loved methods of rationality saw things, because sometimes they seem to be the point rather than the narrative. It turns out, surprisingly, that they do serve the plot and the magic system and all the clues come together to create the most satisfying ending possible, but it can be a bit much at once when you're working through. And because it's necessary for the story, almost all the characters are like that. It can lessen the impact of the relative differences between the characters.

    With Aaron being a Stanford drop-out Kabbalist and Suri being a divinely trained Kabbalist, I didn't really appreciate any difference between their relative expertise until they get together and we're explicitly informed one is supposed to be vassssstly better than the other.

    That said, all I really want you to take away from this review is: read this. Definitely, read this.

    And I haven't even mentioned that tragic b-story of Jalaketu, the comet King.
    Last edited: Sep 27, 2018
  5. Quiddity

    Quiddity Headmaster

    Apr 14, 2014
    New Zealand
    I consumed this in the last week or so. This is very, very good, and well worth your time. The prose is humerous, the kabbalistic divergences (almost) always payoff in a satisfying way (unlike the bloating mess of HPMOR), and, contrary to @Zombie it ends very well, despite the high bar it sets for itself.

    However, this is one of those rare works, especially on the internet, which would be really, really helped if it was 1.5-2 times as long. A lot of elements, and especially the various character arcs, just don't feel like they have enough time paid to them. Every divergence into a different POV or history is compelling and worthwhile and doesn't get in the way of the plot - unlike, say, Worm - but it ends up feeling like the 3-4 main characters just haven't had enough time spent with them. Not enough has happened in each storyline, and so there isn't really enough time for a growth or change.

    This isn't helped by the way some dramatic moments are rushed through, rather than giving us time to dwell on them.

    Also, Erica and Dylan were characters I just wasn't interested in, but that may be personal taste.

    This sounds too negative. I loved this story and Scott's writing style in particular. I am going to go away and read everything else he's written. Everything here is exquisitely detailed and planned out, and comes together in a very satisfying way. As Scott would say, this is not a coincidence because nothing is ever a coincidence.

    But there's something about a really good story that could have been really great that can frustrate.

    Oh, and it's worth mentioning, this is not a happy story. It's a whimsical and light-hearted story that is highly reminiscent of Pratchett, but that is just the mode through which a very dark story is told. The relevant portions are given content-warning headings, but you should pay attention to them.

    Highly recommended, 4.5/5
  6. Nazgoose

    Nazgoose The Honky-tonk ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter DLP Gold Supporter

    Mar 16, 2011
    High Score:
    Was very reluctant to give this a shot, but I'm happy I did:
  7. Nauro

    Nauro Headmaster

    Oct 20, 2011
    Read this story in three sittings, but it took me a while to get around to posting a few words.

    I loved it. I felt like I was once again discovering something on par with Good Omens, just with a lot more grounding in Kabbalah and celestial logic.
    In retrospect, the characters do drag on in some places or debate issues very specific to their brand of magic a bit too in depth, but since the whole setup is about this magic changing the world, and I'm one of the people who loves a well established magical system, it didn't get in the way.

    This type of storytelling follows quite a few characters, each busy with their own problems and challenges. In addition, while the majority of the story happens in "modern times", there are a lot of material covering the gradual changes of the world, some of these not self-evident from the modern times chapters. This makes the reader jump through different characters AND different times - however, for the most part, the history lesson proves relevant in the following modern chapters, which is a good way to go about it.

    If only it didn't drag a bit at times.

    In any case, it's still enough to give this story a 5/5.

    p.s. You'd better enjoy Kabbalah based puns, because there's a bunch. Every chapter. :D
  8. Otters

    Otters DA Member ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

    Jun 8, 2010
    High Score:
    This isn't just good. It's unique. The plot and characters fall flat fairly often, but those are just a vessel for the analogy of compsci and divine light, compelling theological arguments and delightfully cringe bible puns.

    As a story it's 3/5. As a work of literature I'd rate it considerably higher.

    Unsong is a bit unpolished, but still amazing. I sincerely hope that an edited version is published properly at some point - there are people who I would love to give a hard copy of this to as a gift.

    For all its flaws I'm still going to rate this full marks. I didn't enjoy it in the exact same way as I enjoy most novels, but I enjoyed it a great deal nonetheless.

    Bonus points for it being one of the few web serials not blocked on my work computers so I could read this during my shift.

  9. Lamora

    Lamora Definitely Not Batman ~ Prestige ~ DLP Supporter

    Jul 10, 2009
    New York
    High Score:
    Just binged the entire thing in about 5 hours. Absolutely superb story.

    Referenced a few memes once in a while in a kind of annoying way, but never too cringey. 5/5.