Brighter Than Ten Thousand Suns

Author: Anna_Wing

Nominator: Elleth

2011 Award Category: Elves: General - Honorable Mention

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: General  ✧  Reason for Rating: N/A

Summary: Finarfin, High King of the Noldor in the Blessed Realm, makes certain decisions concerning the coming war in Middle-earth.

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Reviewed by: Lyra  ✧  Score: 10

Bringing modern scientific understanding into the legendary world of Middle-earth can go disastrously wrong, but sometimes it results in fantastic, inspiring stories. This is one such story. Speculating about other dramatic discoveries Fëanor may have made (and written about), Anna_Wing toys with the idea that he might have uncovered the secret of the Secret Fire, namely (if I got it right) nuclear fission. At the end of the First Age, Curufin's wife finds his old notes. Faced with the prospect of the War of Wrath, Finarfin has to decide whether his half-brother's abandoned research should be taken up again - and, after holding council with the Valar, decides to do so for the sake of an advanced weapon against Morgoth. A clever look at how the severe damage dealt to Beleriand may have been wrought in real-world terms. I enjoyed the light-hearted tone that balances the implications of doom, as well as the surprisingly sympathetic Valar. Life in First Age-Valinor is described in some (delightful) detail, as are Finarfin's kingly duties. I also particularly liked the idea that even Fëanor may have considered the subject too dangerous, and abandoned it intentionally - he must have had some sense, then! The scientific institutions of Valinor are intriguing. In short, this is great speculative fiction and a treat to read!

Reviewed by: Elleth  ✧  Score: 10

[Brighter Than Ten Thousand Suns] is a masterpiece in more than one way - not only does Anna_Wing present a fascinating take on a tropical Blessed Realm that seems to have grown organically and in rich detail out of the framework of the story, she also makes use of OCs and often underutilized canon characters like Finarfin in his function as King of the Noldor. More than that, she grants female characters the spotlight. Nerdanel and Eärwen are mentioned, and so is Nariel, Curufin's canonically unnamed wife, here acting in her capacity as a scientist investigating Feanor's diaries for a weapon that could bring the decisive victory in the impending War of Wrath. Anna_Wing's vision of the Valar is notable as well - while the reader meets Aule and Yavanna in their incarnate forms, there also is a very strong undercurrent of the Valar as the powerful primordial, cosmogonic forces - each of them has hints of this, but particularly so the usually innocuous Nessa as harbinger of war, following real-world mythological traditions outside the European corpus that Tolkien drew on. It still makes perfect sense, and the [terrible sharpness] of the Valar, as Tolkien phrases it in the Valaquenta, comes through more acutely than in any other fic I have read so far. It was this detail that I remembered as outstanding in between the different readings of the story. Last but not least, the scientific vision intergrated into the story is another highlight. From the geological faultlines of Beleriand to the central idea of Feanor's terrifying, but not altogether implausible discovery of nuclear fusion and its possible role in the war, this is a tradition I would like to read more in. Controversial, but very well done!

Reviewed by: The Lauderdale  ✧  Score: 9

What wrought such a cataclysm upon Middle-earth when the the Host of the Valar marched on Morgoth? The usual assumption is divine power, but what if they carried something more than swords, axes, and bows? In this story, Nariel, Curufin's scientist wife, reports that journals left by the late Feanor describe an abandoned investigation into what appears (by readerly inference) to be atomic power. Nariel says that she can pursue these studies herself, with Finarfin's leave, and Finarfin is faced with a terrible decision, calling on the Valar for their counsel. While Anna_Wing introduces scientific conjecture into Tolkien's Arda, she also accentuates its mythological elements, inviting comparisons between the Valar and figures from other, older pantheons, as well as elements from Tolkien's own earlier conceits. I love the link drawn between Nessa, the (typically overlooked) Dancer of the Valar, and Lord Shiva of Hindu belief; I also love the description of Yavanna clad in a long green skirt, [her full, bare breasts...decorated with silver leaf in an intricate pattern of lynxes and hares.] When she begins to argue with Aule, their rising tempers actually threaten to cause an earthquake until Finarfin is able to recall their attention. A vivid, interesting story.

Reviewed by: crowdaughter  ✧  Score: 5

Baffling! The way Finarfin and his court of mostly women as advisers is described in this is greatly refreshing, and I adore the sharper and more cautious look at the Valar. The Dancer, as well as Aule and Yavanna are portrayed in a far more powerful sense than we usually get from Tolkien and Tolkien related fanfiction, and the portrays make a deep and disturbing sense, too. And the nature of the research in question is all to bitterly familiar to our modern world. But I think what I like most is the mention of Nerdanel's project, proceeding, of course ["under budget and ahead of time"]. Lovely done, indeed! This is a stunning view at valinor just before the war of wrath. I like!

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 4

A fascinating short story about the preparation for the final war against Morgoth. Anna Wing does a fine job conveying, through a well-characterized Finarfin's eyes, the duality of the Valar, the potential for great destructive power as well as great benevolence. And I will always smile at this story for the revelation of Nerdanel as the inventor of concrete - it just seems so right.

Reviewed by: Adonnen Estenniel  ✧  Score: 3

This is a very emotional glimpse into what would have been going on in Aman at this time. I really think the author's attention to detail was a good one, and it gave the piece a lovely tone that heightened the scenario.

Reviewed by: Liadan  ✧  Score: 1

Sometimes knowledge is best forgotten rather than to be rediscovered and put into use.