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Literature / Empress Theresa

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Empress Theresa is a self-published novel by Norman Boutin, which hit in early 2014. The story is an odd amalgam of Science Fiction and Chick Lit: the titular Theresa, a ten-year old girl who happens to be "cute as heck" and "a whiz at school", experiences a union or "merging" with a mysterious alien entity, which she names HAL.note  HAL gives her various powers, including superhuman strength, and as she comes of age, she is forced to put these powers to use for the good of mankind.


Tropes found in Empress Theresa include:

  • 100% Adoration Rating: Theresa is universally adored the entire planet, who throng about her wherever she goes. People are captivated by her the moment she walks in a room simply because she radiates goodness. Professionals in their fields are in awe of her wisdom. The only people who dislike her are the press because she's just so gosh-darn perfect that they can't dig up any dirt on her.
    • This may be considered an Informed Ability, since in spite of the text insisting that Theresa is in all ways perfect and universally adored, a large number of people constantly want to kill her.
  • Almighty Idiot: HAL can manipulate nearly limitless amounts of matter and energy throughout the Solar System, and is an indestructible entity that has existed since the Big Bang. However, he is utterly mindless and acts only on survival reflex.
  • Angelic Abomination: HAL is a ball of pure white light that is for all intents a stand in for the Holy Spirit... that also happens to be an alien and "not made of matter or energy".
  • Apathetic Citizens: The world's population doesn't seem too concerned about the consequences of the weather system stopping or that they will run out of food somewhere down the line if things don't get fixed.
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  • Applied Phlebotinum: HAL is basically a ball of concentrated Phlebotinum. Theresa vaguely explains how it functions with pseudo-scientific jargon.
  • Artistic License – Biology: The final chapter is filled with numerous questions caused by Theresa putting the entire human race into a 600-year coma.
    • In that time, Theresa has 420 children, meaning that at a minimum she would have to have been pregnant for 315 straight years, becoming pregnant immediately after the last child is born.
    • Absolutely nobody aged during the 600-year coma, and no explanation is given for this.
    • Theresa functionally found immortality in her children. Excluding herself (her immortality can be handwaved by the phlebotinum that is HAL), the children don't have their own HALs and therefore are immortal just because Theresa had the power to keep the human body from ageing and growing, yet they suffer no apparent adverse effects despite being conscious and therefore certainly requiring nutrition to fuel their bodies and perform any tasks.
    • At one point, Theresa is bleeding in the ocean and attracting sharks, which HAL turns into chum, attracting more sharks and repeating the cycle endlessly. However, shark blood actually acts like shark repellant- no other sharks would've been attracted to the carnage.
  • Artistic License – Economics: At one point, Theresa materializes an immense pile of gold and silver, selling the gold at $50 per ounce and the silver at $5 per ounce, believing that the benefits it would bring to nations would be unimaginable. In reality, flooding the market with so much gold and silver (and later diamonds) would make them completely worthless thanks to basic supply and demand and probably lead to economic crashes far worse than that of The Great Depression.note 
  • Artistic License – History: At one point Theresa finds the fresh hair and preserved skull of Joan of Arc and presents it to the French, who openly weep with joy. Joan of Arc was burned at the stake and reduced to ash, and the ash was scattered over the ocean, a fact that the book brings up and brushes off as a falsehood. There is absolutely no way that Theresa would have found a full skull complete with cranium and jaw, and certainly no hair given that Joan of Arc died in 1431.
  • Artistic License – Medicine: After falling thousands of feet into the sea and surrounded by sharks and being declared dead for two weeks, Theresa is pretty much brought back to life simply by warming her up. Her saltwater and blood-soaked clothes haven't even been cut off in all this time.
  • Artistic License – Military:
    • The cover of the book shows a woman in a US Military General outfit, with patches on her shoulder suggesting she's a 5-Star General (a rank she is outright given in a later chapter for no reason other than to assure that she is able to hold dictatorial command over a reformed North Korea without argument. She shoots from Second Lieutenant to 5-Star General within the course of less than a day by the way). Even if one was to ignore the fact that by the time the book had been published, the rank of 5-Star General had all but officially been retirednote , as well as the fact that the rank was never held by a woman, the color of the jacket and cap would suggest she's supposed to be a General of the Air Force or Armynote . However, there are elements in the cover that make it impossible to tell which branch she is supposed to belong to:
      • Her outfit is closer to the one worn by a General of the Air Forcenote ; however, she would need to be wearing Pilot Wings on said outfit, as said wings are a requirement of any member of the airforces that flies (and it's not possible to become such a high rank without having flown). Additionally, the background around her shows tanks and riflemen training. The Air Force does not use tanks, and even if said riflemen are supposed to be paratroopers, paratroopers fall under the command of the Army in the US Military, not the Air Force.
      • And in the case she's supposed to be a General of the Army, her US tags are drawn incorrectly, she should have more ribbons on her uniform, and she should have a brass disc on the US tags.
    • At one point, while in the UK, Theresa meets with a Royal Air Force “General”. The RAF does not use the rank of General, the equivalent would be Air Chief Marshal.
    • The military surveillance agency employs 400 people in order to keep Theresa under constant supervision. Not a dozen agents and their behind-the-scenes support crew. No: four hundred actual, boots-on-the-ground human beings, at least one of whom must be physically observing Theresa at all times. The large number and the insistence on physically scrutiny is supposed to indicate how very, very important Theresa is, but a real military surveillance situation would involve as few people as possible to avoid the subject's notice.
  • Artistic License – Nuclear Physics: The story claims that nothing can survive an A-bomb at one point. However, multiple people survived the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki (one man even survived both), and there are multiple types of animal that can survive enormous doses of nuclear radiation.
  • Artistic License – Physics: It would seem that in Theresa's world, fire departments are dispatched to fight fires based on some unexplained technology that detects sudden increases in heat, despite the fact that such a system would be infeasible and far less effective than just responding to smoke or eyewitness reports. note  Also, gravity apparently pushes things down rather than pulls according to Steve the physicist.
  • Artistic License – Religion:
    • Theresa says in Chapter 4 that Psalm 23 is "not a standard church prayer". Almost every church uses Psalm 23 at some point in their services, and it's one of the most recognizable prayers in the entire Christian and Jewish faiths. note  Considering Boutin is a devout Catholic, you'd think he'd know better.
    • The Prime Minister of Israel declares Theresa to be "the right hand of God" and how an interview between Theresa and the press was the most important interview since Moses came down the mountain. Jews are very respectful about using the name of God and wouldn't throw it around so casually.
  • Artistic License – Ships: The USS Ronald Reagan does not carry F-22 Raptors (nor does any other aircraft carrier, there's no naval variant of the Raptor), only F/A-18E Super Hornets.
  • Artistic License – Space: Jan Struthers says that "a comet will move in a straight line, not a curve", despite comets being well-known for moving in curves and orbits.
  • Artistic License – Sports:
    • While playing baseball, Theresa deliberately doesn't throw as fast as she can because she wants to avoid detection. Considering she pitches at 85 mph (for the record, the slowest a Major League pitcher throws is 60 mph) at the age of ten, the idea of her "avoiding detection" is laughable.
    • Theresa's small size is described as helping her throw faster when she plays baseball. In reality, pitching speed has far more to do with upper body strength, the grip on the ball, and how hard it gets thrown.
  • Author Avatar: Theresa. A quick visit to the book's website will confirm this.
  • Author Tract: The entirety of the Paris trip can be summed up as a massive mockery towards France. Also, Norman hates atheism.
  • Big Fancy House: The Parker estate where Theresa and Steve temporarily stay at whilst hiding from assassins.
  • Blatant Lies:
    • Norman Boutin would like to inform you on his website that there is no violence, shootings, bombings, alcohol, sex scenes or foul language in Empress Theresa amongst other things. Having assassination attempts on Theresa including the infamous atom bomb scene apparently doesn't count. Nor does Theresa and Steve making sexual conversation with each other count either.
    • Boutin also mentions that neither mystery nor crime appears in Empress Theresa. One sentence later, mysterious events are listed as being in the book.
    • "The truth is not a single Christian doctrine is mentioned in the entire book. Theresa never mentions who God is or what he does." The book is full of references to Christianity and Theresa herself believes people are lost unless they follow the directions of its Maker. Boutin's arguments with reviewers often bring up Christianity in the process as well. Finally, the author constantly links Empress Theresa with religion and God on his website.
    • Boutin claims that Empress Theresa deals with a realistic adult world, as opposed to all the sci-fi novels cluttering the YA shelves. The novel is about Theresa gaining superpowers from outer space.
  • Bodyguarding a Badass: In order to protect Theresa (who's definitely not a badass) from the threat of assassination (despite having powers that could theoretically easily protect her), thousands of British soldiers are assigned to guard her. They seem to spontaneously appear from the edge of a forest on an estate as well.
  • Buxom Is Better: The story contains an unnerving number of references to the heroine's bosom.
  • Can't Hold His Liquor: Averted with Steve who manages to down the equivalent of 24 pints at Oktoberfest despite never having drunk alcohol before.
  • Chaste Teens: Played with. Theresa and Steve are chaste before marriage, but marry at eighteen because, in her own words:
    Theresa: "Could we go four years without doing it?"
    • This concept is played with again when Theresa gives birth to 420 children during the 600 years that the rest of humanity spends in stasis. During this time, she deliberately keeps them at the age of 10 for the entirety of the 600 years and the author straight mentions that Theresa did this because she was afraid they'd be horny teenagers and unable to control their urges amongst each other despite being related, so her solution was to keep them physically prepubescent despite them technically being teenagers and older.
  • Character Shilling: Prime Minister Peter Blair thinks that Theresa is the greatest being in the entire world. He isn't the only one who does this but he's very prominent about it.
  • Christianity Is Catholic: There are a few references to a priest and a Cardinal, and the Pope – for some mysterious reason – pays for Theresa's college education.
  • Chosen One: Theresa, though her being "chosen" by the alien HAL is accidental.
  • Costume Porn: A lot of space is devoted to describing Theresa's wardrobe, including her Little Black Dress, her Stripperiffic figure-skating outfit, her wedding dress complete with "Venice Lace", and an "Irish green outfit" complete with amazing artwork from the author.
  • Covers Always Lie: Based on the cover used for the book's page on this site, you'd think that it's about Theresa climbing up the ranks of the military. However, the author himself says that the military aspect only comes into play for one chapter at most.
  • Cypher Language: Theresa thinks she's very clever in using this when programming HAL.
  • Disney Death: Played with, then played straight. In the ending, the whole world believes Steve and Theresa are dead, but they reappear in a spaceship and bless the Earth before deciding to age and die naturally.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: The alien "merges" with Theresa by appearing as a "softball-sized white ball" and entering her abdomen. Yes, you read that right.
  • The Dreaded: For someone who is supposed to be so good and wonderful, the world governments are quite often very cautious about angering her:
    Prime Minister Ben Scherzer: "Those who challenge Theresa Hartley's power are fools. She could destroy the world. Don't push her too far."
  • Eagleland: Type 2. Theresa speaks contemptuously of "the American dream of secure mediocrity", and the President of the United States tries to have her killed, For the Evulz.
  • Eldritch Abomination: HAL, who according to the author "isn't made of matter or energy" and is a shapeless white blob that grants mysterious powers.
  • Fantastic Foxes: A fox is the host for the magical alien for many years until Theresa is 10 years old. The implication — via Boutin himself suggesting that HAL is pure intellect — is that foxes are magically and intellectually proficient.
  • Forced Sleep: Theresa puts the whole planet to sleep for 600 years after some people accidentally acquired their own versions of HAL after the atom bomb incident which caused him to make multiple copies of himself. The reasoning behind this to stop people from figuring out how to use HAL for evil and going mad with power.
  • Fun with Acronyms: The secret government organization monitoring Theresa is called the Office of Orbital Phenomena Surveillance. This is played completely seriously.
  • Golden Moment: Whenever Steve and Theresa quarrel and then make up. Say it with me: Awwwwww!
  • Happily Married: Steve and Theresa, if your idea of a happy marriage is a passive-aggressive Masochism Tango.
  • Heroes Love Dogs: Inverted. Theresa doesn't like dogs as during her childhood, one barked and tried to lunge at her though it didn't actually touch her.
  • Hollywood Atheist: All atheists are evil and wrong and this book will tell you so!
  • Hope Bringer: Somehow manages to be this and The Dreaded considering how often she strikes fear into the hearts of government leaders.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Anyone who opposes Theresa grasps it firmly, first and foremost Army and Navy officers who let her carry everything she needs for her plan to escape being executed via Nuke 'em without batting an eye.
    • Theresa herself for never considering using HAL to escape the plane and only much later comes up with a crazy plan using Noodle Implements that nearly killed her.
  • Informed Attribute: While it's frequently mentioned that Theresa is Catholic and that she has a priest for a friend, she hardly ever prays, never does Mass or Confession, dismisses the Notre Dame Cathedral as unimpressive, lets herself be worshipped as a second Jesus and pretty much acts like she's better than God by messing with the seasons, weather and the environment.
  • Improvised Weapon: Theresa improvises a flotation device using a bag full of soda bottles. She does this by casually taking a dozen bottles of soda out of a cooler and, in full view of her captors, placing them into a garbage bag. No one suspects anything.
  • It's All About Me: Theresa laps up the world's adoration at every opportunity. She occasionally states that she never wanted fame but as soon as she is challenged in any way, she instantly despises the person in question and how they should not oppose such a great saviour as herself. Case in point: when she tells the House of Commons that everyone who is on TV wanted the attention and she never did, an MP innocuously asks why is she here. Cue an outraged Theresa internally marking the MP as a Hypocrite with a good dose of Irony and coldly stating, "You interrupted me. Nobody interrupts me. I don't need you." She ends this by thinking to herself that he had dared interrupt the world's saviour and there would now be riots in his hometown.
  • Jeanne d'Archétype: Boutin is a self-described fan of Joan of Arc, and Theresa seems to be his attempt at creating an homage to her, being a young girl chosen by God to save the world. This is muddled by the facts that the "choosing" was a complete coincidence and most of the things she's tasked to save the world from are problems she herself caused.
  • Jerkass:
  • Just Plane Wrong: The F-22 Raptor isn't designed to be launched from an aircraft carrier, and even if there were a way for the catapult to be connected, it would tear the plane's front landing gear off when activated.
  • Light Is Good: Allegedly Hal, who is a form of white light that grants Theresa her powers.
  • Male Gaze: How many young girls aged eighteen would describe themselves in these terms?
    Theresa: "My green outfit was modest, only five inches above the knees and with not much cleavage, but didn't hide my well-turned figure. All right, my chest and butt were well outlined."
    • And keep in mind one of the selling points is that the book contains no sex and yet it constantly sexualizes her.
  • Meaningful Name: Father Donoughty literally does nothing.
  • Messianic Archetype: Theresa's story is beat for beat Jesus' (a child selected before birth by a mysterious entity? Feared by the government? Final words being a slightly more selfish version of Jesus'? All checked.)
  • A Minor Kidtroduction: The book opens with Theresa getting her superpowers at age ten. The plot doesn't start until she's 18.
  • Mundane Utility: Theresa uses her Super Strength and Improbable Aiming Skills to win at baseball.
  • Nerds Are Sexy: Steve Hartley, Theresa's husband, is a physicist.
  • Never Trust a Title: Theresa is not actually an empress of any kind; it's just a nickname given to her by her friends. This doesn't stop her from acting like she may as well be one.
  • New Powers as the Plot Demands: Theresa is able to do basically anything to move the plot along. From super strength, to stopping the wind, to rotating the axis of the Earth, to launching giant columns of water into space, to mining elements from the Sun, to putting the whole world into an ageless 600-year stasis, Theresa can do anything short of actually warping reality. How she's capable of doing any of this when HAL's powers are defined as simply him acting upon learned reflexes is never really explained.
    • This is actually a plot point in that Theresa explicitly has to do research to develop these powers at several points. If a problem arises that she can't fix, she'll sit down in a room for a few hours brainstorming and come out with her next overpowered ability fully formed.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Prime Ministers Peter Blair and Benjamin Scherzer are blatant stand-ins for Tony Blair and Benjamin Netanyahu, respectively.
  • Nonindicative Name: Despite the name, HAL has far more in common with the Monolith than with HAL 9000.
  • Plot Hole: This book has enough of these to bore down the center of the Earth and out the other side. Characters appear then depart from the story on a whim. The reasoning behind certain actions are never explained. In fact, if you even want to know why Theresa was targeted to be taken out with an Atom Bomb, you have to read Boutin refuting negative comments on a wiki. Yes. You read that right.
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality: Theresa is treated as a perfect paragon of goodness, with her petty, selfish, narcissistic actions glossed over and rewarded.
    • At one point, Theresa completely destroys the economy for gold bullion owners, and they hire a lawyer to take Theresa to court over her alteration of the economy. Instead of being angry at the people who hired a lawyer for a class action lawsuit, Theresa instead sabotages the life of the lawyer and makes it so any motor vehicle with her inside will inexplicably stall and fail. This is treated as okay because of the fact that Theresa was being bullied, never mind that she is bullying an innocent lawyer who is just trying to do her job (whom she also knows has children). Theresa never reverses this either, so this is presumably just something this woman has to live with forever now, and the book acts like this just immediately stops the lawsuit and Theresa is done with this situation.
    • Theresa gets rid of winter, nighttime, and the North Pole, but because "Theresa said we don't need it any more", it's okay. Never mind fall, spring, and even winter crops. Never mind the researchers that examine the Arctic or the animals that live there. Never mind those sensitive to light or who just dislike daytime. Theresa says we don't need it and acts like her decision is the best decision for the situation.
  • Rage Against the Heavens: Theresa gets angry with God during one of her missions. He is not impressed and tells her to stop whining and do what she ought to do.
  • Rapid Hair Growth: A sign of HAL's influence; Theresa's hair grows thick after becoming his host. Bizarrely, it's described as being heavy like it's wet, or holding in water.
  • Satellite Love Interest: Theresa's husband Steve, who exists for only two reasons: 1) to defend his wife's perfection to the press, and 2) to render her unobtainable to others (in order to prove her virtue by having her remain faithful to him even though she could have literally any other man she chose). For much of the book, they're on different sides of the planet and Theresa rarely thinks about him.
  • Sent Into Hiding: Theresa is hidden at the Parker Estate by Prime Minister Blair to avoid assassins whilst thinking of a plan to save the world. Despite this, she somehow gets mail containing huge amounts of cash.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In-Universe, HAL is named for HAL 9000.
    • At a crucial point in the "action", Theresa compares herself to the heroine of The Hunger Games. And whines about how her life is so much harder.
  • Show, Don't Tell:
    • A trademark of the book's writing style. The reader is informed of everything and almost nothing is demonstrated, and when it is, the narrator immediately explains what we're to think of it. In some situations, such as the switchboard used to control HAL, Norman does try to explain the logic of how the device works, but the prose can become confusing and even when explained, he'll over-explain certain details while leaving other major questions unanswered, and causing the explanation to both be under and over explained simultaneously.
    • A very good example of this is the Army-Navy game. Theresa participates in the Army-Navy game, which is hyped up to be a massive event. When it actually happens? Theresa just mentions it within a sentence and calls it a day. Similarly when she's married at 19, she spends more time describing her dress than the actual ceremony.
    • The first chapter explains that the first chapter will introduce the main character, while the second and third chapter will set up the story's premise, and the fourth chapter is where the action starts. The fifth and sixth chapters, by the way, are mainly just recaps of the fourth chapter. Whole schools of literary criticism could be structured solely around attempting to explain this level of self-referentiality.
  • Skewed Priorities:
    • Oh, so very much. Rather than use her powers to save the world, Theresa basically goes on an extended holiday and complains about everything in France. She also misses chipmunks while there.
    • A soldier gives Theresa thermal garments so she doesn't get cold in the plane thousands of feet up in the air even though she's going to be nuked to death anyway. Theresa apparently forgot about her heat-emitting powers at that moment.
  • The Sociopath: Oh God, Theresa. Best summed up with the quote below after someone remarks that nobody would arrest Theresa even though she just ruined a lawyer's life whilst they were just doing their job.
    Theresa: So! I could do anything I wanted to anybody and nobody would dare do anything about it! I kind of liked that.
    • Later on, Theresa considers that the group of lawyers she was dealing with before might trick her by saying they they needed an ambulance to which she'd use her powers to see if that was the case. If any one of them tried to escape via an aeroplane, Theresa remarks that she would use HAL to stop the plane, crushing all the passengers inside like apple sauce. Nothing about the innocence of these other people is even mentioned.
    • Likewise, Steve approves of the thought of, in his words, getting "the lawyer bitch" and "killing the bastards."
  • Soft Water: Played With. Theresa falls thousands of feet into the ocean and appears to be dead when recovered and brought to the hospital. Despite the fact that the impact from such a height should have almost certainly immediately killed her, Theresa wakes up a couple of weeks later with no lasting damage whatsoever.
  • So Much for Stealth: The American government agents are meant to be spying on and following Theresa but they go about it so obviously that they literally park outside her house and then later get discovered by campus security at Boston College where Theresa attends.
  • Starfish Alien: Hal is an ageless, indestructible life form that looks like a white orb. His biology is utterly inexplicable, supposedly being based on dark matter, but it is known that he can only reproduce while in symbiosis with a host.
  • Stripperiffic: Theresa's "little black nothing" dress, and her figure-skating outfit with a slit skirt. She uses the first to taunt Jack, and the second to seduce Steve.
    Theresa: I had a green figure skater's outfit covered with sparkling sequins and embroidery. Nobody had ever seen me in it. I tried it on. It had one of those ridiculously short skirts that didn't seem worth putting on. My legs were exposed on both sides up to the hips, there was no back and not much front. So now Steve was free to look all he wanted.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: By the author, who insists that his book isn't science fiction:
    "Science fiction talks about impossibilities such as time travel, or some future or alien world."
  • Take That!:
    • Revised editions of the book have added scenes that are nothing more than Boutin trying to make fun of the "trolls" (read: critics of his book). Said scenes add nothing and make no sense in context.
    • Theresa, having become bored with trying to save the world, takes a trip to Paris with her husband. The ensuing scene is nothing but the author shitting on France, calling the Louvre, the Mona Lisa, and the Notre Dame cathedral unimpressive (despite being an important expression of Catholicism and Theresa is meant to be Catholic) and painting the people of France as snooty for ignoring Theresa and Steve in a fancy restaurant. note 
  • Take Your Time: Possibly a unique case of this being in literature but despite needing to start the wind and rain again, Theresa takes time to go for estate walks with Steve, read books, eat nice lunches and watch TV, since the work she's supposed is apparently very intense. And then later takes a trip to Paris. This goes on for months but there are no repercussions from this.
    • The huge water columns that Theresa creates at the North Pole and cause rain for months appear not to cause any issues either with Theresa being no hurry to sort this out.
  • The Tease: Despite being a good Catholic girl, Theresa dresses sexily to tease Jack and other boys on one occasion.
  • There's No Kill Like Overkill: Theresa is taken onto a plane to be transported somewhere in order to be thrown out of it and blown up with a nuclear bomb as HAL is considered to be possibly too dangerous to live. The soldiers never question why this 18 year-old girl is to be killed so dramatically and are never given any information to accompany their orders. Neither do they think about just shooting her even though they are all carrying guns. Lampshaded, Theresa comments that just shooting her would save a lot of taxpayer money.
  • Threatening Shark: Theresa ends up falling into shark-infested waters and HAL uses its powers to cause mass cannibalism amongst the sharks, creating a huge bloodbath that Theresa nevertheless gets out of whole. This is meant to be family-friendly by the way.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Theresa's family seem to disappear out of existence. Same with the Parker family's children who only appear a couple of times before being forgotten about again.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Subverted. Even when Theresa literally turns the world upside down, the only people who object are marked down as hopelessly evil.