A note on Mormon cosmology in Shannon Hale’s Dangerous

This image from the Mormon Artist interview with Shannon Hale. Click on over..

Something I haven’t talked about in the main posts on this novel (question, answer) is the nature of the aliens invading Earth and just what makes them so dangerous that Earth needs saving.

Here are their physical details:

They’re pink (if you can see them—and only the person with the Thinker token can see them).

They are repelled by gravity.

They “inhabit . . . and move through solid substances, just as humans can move only through gaseous or liquid environments” (314).

So why are they here? Based on the evidence, Maisie hypothesizes that they

“. . . [take] over all the human body’s functions. After people are possessed by the aliens, it looks like they mostly spend their time eating and seeking out adrenaline rushes.”

“Seriously?” said Luther.

“They’re here to enjoy physical bodies,” said Wilder.

What’s so interesting when doing a Mormon reading of Dangerous? These aliens sound like someone we know. And where Maisie wants to send them also sounds familiar:

“I think if the ship isn’t nearby to suck them back in, the ghostmen would keep floating right out of Earth’s atmosphere into space’s vacuum, where they’d be helpless. That’s where we want them.” (324)

But sending that third to Outer Darkness isn’t just a fun Easter egg. Some more serious and immediate questions come out of it. For instance, when Maisie speaks with one of the ghosts through its human avatar, it poses an interesting—and brutally stated—question:

“So . . . you’re hijacking humans in order to eat apples.”

He shrugged.

“You’re destroying people, taking away lives.”

“Now, now, all we take is your shell.”

“But what if the flesh of our bodies is the extent of our matter? What if you take our bodies and there’s nothing left?”

He seemed to have never considered the possibility. “Why would such a creature matter at all?” (309)

This basic theo/philosophical question haunts Maisie through the rest of the novel. When she risks her death, she simply does not know if there will be anything left of her should she fail:

I was too conscious of my mortality, I guess. . . . Who knew if there was a part of me that never ended, like the ghostmen themselves? I’d . . . found [outer] space. Maybe there wasn’t anything else to find. (372)

Later, plummeting back to Earth and certain that she will die:

My stomach hurt . . . my head pained to cracking, my muscles so tense I wondered if my skin would split open. . . . All I knew was fear and panic.

. . . Even battling terror like being strangled in slow motion, I wanted to experience it. This was life, these few minutes were all that I had left. I didn’t want to die halfway down. I wanted every single second I had left. (379)

Maisie does not know if she will “be sucked up into a God-touched place . . . . Or . . . simply cease to be” and that feels like “a catastrophic hole in [her] education” (380), but she has decided that regardless, this moment of mortality matters and that every single second she has left is worthy of her full attention and shall give her experience—which shall be for her good—whether she lasts another ten seconds or the fulness of eternity.

Of course, Mormon cosmology posits that ETERNITY is the accurate description, but we are a practical people who feel that the temporal world is important and thus we should experience each ten seconds with the same vigor with which we imagine eventual rewards.

Something like Maisie Brown.


====Shannon Hales :: Dangerous====

Just how dangerous is Shannon Hale? (intro)
///// August 13, 2014 \\

Just how dangerous is Shannon Hale? (post)
///// August 14, 2014 \\

A note on Mormon cosmology in Shannon Hale’s Dangerous
///// August 15, 2014 \\


9 thoughts on “A note on Mormon cosmology in Shannon Hale’s Dangerous”

  1. .

    Haven’t read it, couldn’t say. Though I did like hearing him talk about this new series he’s doing. I’m intrigued more by the artistic challenges he’s set himself than the story.

  2. That’s also on my list to read. And, depending on how you read Variant/Feedback, the same is true of it. And, in a different way, it’s also what The Host is about.

    Interesting. It’s not an uncommon conceit in the field as a whole (Wesley Chu’s novels, for example), but I’m wondering how a study of the LDS authors works in relation to LDS doctrine would diverge/intersect from the broader field.

    Sounds like a job for a comp lit grad.

  3. (This may run a different direction than you were hoping for in the comments, but I made a connection while reading the post and wanted to share.)

    You write, Th., that Maisie decided that “this moment of mortality matters” and that Mormons “are a practical people who feel that the temporal world is important and thus we should experience each ten seconds with the same vigor with which we imagine eventual rewards.” Your observations called to mind a review of Harold Ramis’ Groundhog Day, written by Mormon theologian Adam Miller. (PDF here. A revised version of the essay appears in Miller’s excellent Rube Goldberg Machines: Essays in Mormon Theology.) After outlining how Phil Connor must learn to accept and live within the banality of mortal life, Miller extols the mundanity of Mormonism, which we must learn to experience with vigor because, well, the continuation of mundanity is one of our “eventual rewards.”

    Here’s Miller:

    God, for Mormons, is not supra-mundane.

    God has a body? Fingers and toes? He’s married? He must, every day, tie the sash on his white robe? His immortal lungs perpetually expand and contract?

    Heaven, too, for Mormons, is not supra-mundane.

    Heaven? Where people are still married, still work, still have children, still change diapers, still share casseroles?

    Heaven, for Mormons, is what seals our union with the mundane rather than terminates it.

    Leave it to Mormonism to see the nihilistic claim that there is nothing but the aching specificity of this repetition and raise it to the power of infinity. Leave it to Mormonism to claim that, even in heaven, we’ll have to button and unbutton our shirts, show all our work, suffer paper cuts, and ““ of course, forever and ever again ““ breathe.

    Everyone knows that life is short, that eventually we’ll all be worm food and should “Sieze the day” (Thank you, Mr. Keating!), which means we should make the most of mortal experience. But Mormon theology (as Miller reads it) posits that, ultimately, banality is all there is. We’re part of one eternal round after one eternal round during which work is our glory.

    Maybe this is another way of using Mormon cosmology to read Dangerous as a Mormon?

  4. But Mormon theology (as Miller reads it) posits that, ultimately, banality is all there is.

    Then why do I want that?

    The evangelical Christian version of heaven, living in mansions on streets of gold with crowns of jewels spending eternity singing praises to God is a theology I rejected long ago.

    I can’t BEAR the idea that this mundanity continues. I’d say “kill me now,” but what’s the point? Mundane here, mundane there, one long eternity of the same stuff we do here.

    How utterly depressing.

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