Jus ad Bellum, by Jenn
Novel-length, adult. Violence, some explicit sex. Mature themes.
Rogue finds herself in an alternate universe in which the Mutant
Registration Act was passed. In this world, the mutants liberated
themselves from Nazi-style experimentation camps, fought back and
won. You'd think that would be the end, not the beginning, of a
novel/movie/TV show. Good guys win, end of story. Right? But this
story explores the effect of victory on the good guys.
The novel features a love story between Logan and Rogue, and a
profound friendship between Scott and Logan. John, Bobby, Erik,
Kitty, Jean and Hank are strongly featured, John especially. The
character of John is particularly well explored.
In this novel, Rogue very unwillingly comes to grips with the
complicated nature of evil. It is very uncomfortable to see how
naturally and believably Scott and Logan evolve into the Adolf Hitler
and Heinrich Himmler of this timeline. Jean is frightening. And
dammit, they're all still nice guys. Rogue (and the reader) has to
deal with this paradox. At first Rogue struggles to find some black-
and-white truths to ground herself in. Then she becomes mired in the
gray areas: "This is how it happens. Put everything in grey and say
there's no such thing as right and wrong. Make it simple." In the
end, with John's help, she finds her footing and makes a choice.
The author doesn't make anything easy for readers. I found myself
sympathizing first with one side and then the other. I'd feel outrage
on behalf of a character, then I'd feel appalled by his/her actions
in another part of the story. In one scene, for example, Scott has
ordered the execution of several "norms." And just when I was ready
to feel horror on behalf of the "norms":
[Kitty's] hand gripped the sill. "I need this time, to see them die.
When--when Logan and I got out of the Miami camp with the others,
there was the explosion--but I never saw the bodies. I never--I never
knew if they were even there, or if they were out in the city, having
a nice dinner, and escaped. Maybe one of them got away and is out
there, and remembers what he did to me." Her voice choked.... "This
time--I need to know for sure." Kitty's face broke, and I saw tears
leak out of her eyes. "I don't care if it makes me a bad person
anymore. I just--I need to know."
The author made me understand why the X-Men turned into the people
they are in this timeline, and then she made me do something even
tougher -- not allow myself to excuse them.
How Rogue and AU Logan fall in love all over again is a complicated
and moving plotline. The friendship described between Logan and Scott
is profound. It's difficult to tell if Logan is devoted to Scott the
person or Scott the icon, but devotion is there. There's a paragraph
in the story that got to me precisely because it's so low-key. In
this particular scene Logan is handing over a bribe to rescue Scott:
It was a plain envelope. Legal size, white, and [Logan] knew to the
dollar what was in it--if anyone had been interested and he'd been
drunk enough to tell, he could have told them that every single bill
was symbolic. He could remember what he did, what he sold, how much
of himself he lost, with every single payment. But he didn't get that
drunk and he sure as shit didn't get that introspective.
The author doesn't take any shortcuts on characterization or world-
building. The political and social environment is realistically
complex and contradictory. The "evil" AU characters are developed
naturally and are completely believable.
This could not have been an easy story to write. I'm glad I read it.