Wed
Feb 26 2014 12:00pm

Malazan Reread of the Fallen: Dust of Dreams, Chapter Eight

Welcome to the Malazan Reread of the Fallen! Every post will start off with a summary of events, followed by reaction and commentary by your hosts Bill and Amanda (with Amanda, new to the series, going first), and finally comments from Tor.com readers. In this article, we’ll cover chapter eight of Dust of Dreams.

A fair warning before we get started: We’ll be discussing both novel and whole-series themes, narrative arcs that run across the entire series, and foreshadowing. Note: The summary of events will be free of major spoilers and we’re going to try keeping the reader comments the same. A spoiler thread has been set up for outright Malazan spoiler discussion.

CHAPTER SUMMARY

SCENES ONE-TWO

The K’Chain Che’Malle can sense something hunting them and, having no patience for Kalyth’s slow pace, end up carrying the Destriant along with them. The fear for those hunting them is not fed from the humans following them, but flowing out from their matron Gunth’an Acyl. They fear the war that is coming. The Matron is relying on Kalyth to provide answers from humans as to how to face those who hunt them, and she is desperately worried that she will find no answers. The K’Chain Che’Malle skip around the bones of a massive beast, trying to avoid stepping on them, and Kalyth wonders if this is a dragon, wonders whether the K’Chain Che’Malle worship dragons. She wanders through the bones and picks up two teeth—one is bleached from the sun, and one is reddish, like rust. Sag’Churok speaks into her mind that the otataral is making it difficult to reach her. Sag’Churok talks to Kalyth about the nature of one god and how just having one god would make the universe have no meaning. He talks about having two opposing forces, and how otataral is the opposing force to magic, and hence to the existence of life itself, since he believes that all life is sorcery.

Sag’Churok talks of the Otataral Dragon, and calls her the slayer—he says she has been bound, but that she will be freed under the belief that she can be controlled. He tells Kalyth that the “other” is their god and asks that she show them its face.

Kalyth tells them she believes in no god and beats on her temples in despair when Gunth Mach speaks for the first time in her mind and breathes on her. That breath leads Kalyth to a vision of the bound Otataral Dragon and a realisation that if two forces are in opposition and one is bound, then the other cannot exist. So, if this Otataral Dragon is freed then the K’Chain Che’Malle might get back their god.

Kalyth returns to her body and tells the K’Chain Che’Malle that they should find their faith in each other and not in a god, that they should not worship the one or the ten thousand, but the sacrifice they will make. And the K’Chain Che’Malle are pleased and follow her, and have accepted her as their Destriant.

SCENE THREE

Setoc watches as the Gadra Clan stir themselves to make war on, well, frankly, anyone who gets in their way first after the death of their scouts, but the Akrynnai in the first instance. Setoc then sees Torrent saddling his horse in preparation to leave, his plan to go to Tool and beg permission to leave the Barghast. Cafal asks him to wait, but he is determined. Setoc determines to go with Torrent, saying that the wolves will join none of this. Setoc argues with Talamandas about the war with the Tiste Edur that brought the Barghast here, and their raised voices bring the warriors and women of the Gadra Clan to surround them. Sekara, the wife of Warchief Stolmen, is particularly vicious and bitchy to Setoc, so she picks words designed intentionally to rile Sekara. It works. Cafal says he will open a warren using Talamandas’ power, because if they stay they will all be killed. Setoc warns Cafal not to use his warren; he disregards her and they end up somewhere they never intended to be, trapped because Talamandas has burned.

The three of them work their way out of the cave they arrived in, into a world that isn’t theirs, that has only the ghost of wolves because they have all been slaughtered. Cafal says he will sanctify a space to bring the power alive and tells Setoc to summon the wolf ghosts. She does and is almost overwhelmed by their numbers and by the violence of their deaths.

SCENES FOUR-SEVEN

The Icarium person(s) bicker as they head deeper into the K’Chain Che’Malle fortress. Rather worryingly, Icarium starts fiddling around with mechanical bits and pieces. We see hints of the past from Asane, from Last, from Sheb, from Nappet, from Breath (who we learn is Feather Witch), from Rautos, from Taxilian.

SCENE EIGHT

Yan Tovis watches as a riot rages between armed camps of the islanders that she had freed and offered to take with her and the Shake along the Road to Gallan. As the Shake themselves are threatened, Yedan Derryg uses his Letherii troop to force them back and tells his sister that they will hold the portal to the Road to Gallan to present two thousand criminals following on their heels. Yan Tovis opens the portal and lunges forward “into the cold past”.

SCENE NINE

Yedan and his troop deliver fierce slaughter. They are so effective that they manage to hold against the two thousand and, in fact, scatter them. Pithy and Brevity say that he should be the commander of the Shake army and tell him to leave the petitioning to them. They then walk through the portal.

SCENE TEN

The leaders of the Snake contemplate their next actions, and decide they must face the Glass Desert.

 

Amanda’s Reaction

Well! That long summary of scene one shows just how much information has been imparted, and how much more we need to take on board in terms of this final battle that is coming our way. And I stand fully astounded once again at how much of what we see now is gathered from small scenes and throwaway lines in books that came before—all the way back to Gardens of the Moon. I see now why this series is so damn rich for re-readers. I fully confess that I shall very likely close the page on The Crippled God and, when I feel able to pick up a book again (because I expect to be slayed by the ending of this series) I shall go back to the very beginning and start afresh and read it all the way through to put those pieces together.

I say all of this mostly because of that Otataral Dragon. She was filed when we saw her. She’s come up a couple of times since, but now we learn much, much more about her. The fact she is known as slayer to at least some people. The fact that she fought against the god of the K’Chain Che’Malle. The fact that some seek to free her (hmm, who has been talking about dragons lately? Can anyone say ‘the Errant’?) The fact that she is the ‘negation to creation, absence to presence’. Of course, all of this is from the point of view of Sag’Churok, so a first time reader is still not a hundred percent sure who we should be rooting for here. As usual.

Having said that, Kalyth’s speech about finding faith in each other, and urging them to follow no gods and to worship sacrifice and compassion—well, that all strikes me as being things of honour and good. We’ll see over the course of these last two books, I’m sure.

I’d be interested in Erikson’s personal beliefs, having read the following quote. I know that authors and their works should be judged separately (Ender’s Game, anyone?) but it would be very interesting to see if belief in one god was something that Erikson does not follow:

“Kneel to one or many, but never—never, Kalyth—hold to a belief that but one god exists, that all that is resides within that god. Should you hold such a belief, then by every path of reasoning that follows, you cannot but conclude that your one god is cursed, a thing of impossible aspirations and deafening injustice, whimsical in its cruelty, blind to mercy and devoid of pity.”

Also, just saying that I love reading about the physical aspects of the K’Chain Che’Malle, like the fact that their scaled hides take on a camouflage appearance when they feel hunted.

I really, really, really don’t like the reaction of Sekara and the other women of the Barghast to Setoc. They would actually kill Setoc for her words, and there is absolutely no sisterhood:

“And, she saw at last, there were far more women than men in it. She felt herself withering beneath the hateful stares fixed upon her. Not just wives, either. That she was sitting snug against Torrent was setting fires in the eyes of the younger women, the maidens.”

You know, this world that Torrent, Setoc and Cafal end up in could be ours, with the looted cavern (reminds me of Egyptian tombs being looted and desecrated) and the lack of wolves, destroyed for various reasons. This is us: “You have not seen civilised lands. The animals go away. And they never return. They leave silence, and that silence is filled with the chatter of our kind. Given the ability, we kill even the night.” This upsets me profoundly, because it is exactly what we humans do.

I am finding the Icarium sections by far the hardest to parse and work through. Sure, we now know the identity of him and of at least one of his passengers, but, damn, all those voices and all that needling at each other is hard to read. It just isn’t as interesting as other parts of the book—and that really pains me to say, because I adored Icarium’s sections before now and found him such an intriguing and tragic character.

It is both interesting and frustrating reading a little background of those accompanying Icarium—interesting because Erikson can write a whole lifetime in a few short paragraphs, and frustrating because some of those details are tickling my memory and I’m spending a whole lot of time trying to work out who they are. At least Feather Witch is nice and easy.

There is an awful lot of rape mentioned in this chapter. Yes, I know it happens. Yes, I know Erikson has dealt with it in the past, sometimes well, sometimes badly, in my opinion. But in this chapter the word seems to be tossed around with impunity, with lots of references to people being forced to have sex. I don’t like it.

 

Bill’s Reaction

While Kalyth has “no history to draw from, no knowledge of K’Chain Che’Malle legends or myths,” we do, thanks to some of our more knowing characters. So as to a “war” these creatures might worry about, or as to what foes might cause them fear, we know of one that has already been involved with both matters:

Via Kallor in Memories of Ice:

‘For the singular reason,’ Kallor went on in his dry monotone, ‘that they physically deviated from the other K’Chain Che’Malle in having short, stubby tails rather than the normal, long, tapered ones. This made them not as swift—more upright, suited to whatever world and civilization they had originally belonged to. Alas, these new children were not as tractable as the Matrons were conditioned to expect among their brood—more explicitly, the Short-Tails would not surrender or merge their magical talents with their mothers’. The result was a civil war, and the sorceries unleashed were apocalyptic. To gauge something of the desperation among the Matrons, one need only travel south on this continent, to a place called Morn.’

‘The Rent,’ Korlat murmured, nodding.

And from Reaper’s Gale:

He notes the floor mosaics underfoot, images of war between long-tail and short-tail K’Chain Che’Malle, with the short-tails winning battles followed by the Matrons employing mutually destructive sorcery.

Before it might have been a little vague on what Ampelas Rooted looked like (you sort of had to piece together her journey), which caused if I recall right some confusion about the city Icarium is visiting (so much nicer to just say “Icarium” now). Here we have Kalyth telling us directly that the “Nests, the Rooted. [were] carved in the likeness of dragons.”

I’m trying to remember, have we had such a detailed description of dragons fighting each other as in Kalyth’s legend? We’ve had references to their inability to get along, etc. but have we seen it in an actual narrative? Always good to think about filing items that are new and have some unusual detail to them. Especially considering all the references to dragons we’ve had already in this novel.

Talk about pressure—I would not want to be Kalyth in this scene.

So is that fang rust colored from blood, or is that its natural color? Rust has an association…

And then there we go: otataral. And the Otataral Dragon, which Sag’Churok says “has been bound. But it will be freed. They will free it. For they believe that they can control it. They cannot.” Which echoes Heboric’s lines from Kalyth’s vision in Chapter Four: “It never appears dead, spiked so cruelly and no, you will see no motion, not a twitch. Even the blood does not drip. Do not be deceived. She will be freed. She must. It is necessary.” Though there appears to be a contrast in how the two view the dragon’s freeing.

Sticking with Sag’Churok for a moment, I’m a big personal fan of that whole “balance” argument in general, especially what it becomes at the end of this scene. As for here, one might wonder who/what might be the balance to the Otataral Dragon.

And really, I love his whole discussion. Sure, it’s a big philo-dump, but I don’t mind those as much as info-dumps. I like the thinking behind it. Perhaps more importantly, I like that it makes me think. This was actually one of my relatively minor complaints recently in a review I’m holding (Words of Radiance)—that while it made me think a lot about plot, it didn’t make me think enough about things beyond plot. Erikson does that for me, and this is why I tend to prefer this series to so many. Mind you, sometimes I’m just in the mood for the other kind of story, and I enjoy a good ripping yarn just as much as the next reader, but I’m glad someone (someones) are out there offering up more as well.

I particularly liked in this section, amongst all that I liked, this line: “the freedom that lies at the heart of all life; that choice is the singular moral act and all one chooses can only be considered in a moral context if that choice is free.” Which has its own meaning and repercussions and ripples. But I especially like thinking about it in the context of those twin themes I keep coming back to in this reread (only because Erikson keeps coming back to them in the books): Compassion and Empathy. Because those are, after all, matters of choice. And I think as well it is what I respond to so much in so many of my favorite characters, such as Fiddler—their choices so often fall on the side of those two paths.

These lines too appeal to me: “All life is sorcery… the soul is magical… Destroy magic and you destroy life… When we kill, we kill magic.” Now, one can I think debate whether or not Sag’Churok is being metaphorical or literal here, but this is one of my favorite aspects of this genre that I’ve mentioned several times—the way one can take what is often metaphor and make it literal in the fantasy world. The realms of possibility that opens up to fantasy authors is nigh on infinite, and you have to appreciate those authors who do it well.

Oh, one wishes to be able to wholly refute Kalyth here: We destroy to create. We deny the value of everything we destroy, which serves to makes its destruction easier on our consciences. All that we reshape to suit us is diminished… We have no value system that does not beggar the world, that does not slaughter the beasts we share it with.” One wishes. Thank god for Fiddler. And Cotillion. And a few others. But oh, wouldn’t it be nice if they didn’t stand out so? Btw: do you think the “beasts” have noticed this as well? Something to keep in mind in a world that has a Beast Hold with a pair of powerful gods…

Kalyth’s revelation that something needs to change is a powerful one. And her closing monologue to the K’Chain Che’Malle is, for a rereader, at least for this rereader, is one of the most moving passages in the series. As in choked up have to pause moving.

And this makes for such a tellingly stark contrast, this shift from a change that must be made, a move from opposition, to the Gadra Clan and its preparations for war: “driven to deliver indiscriminate violence upon whoever happened to be close.”

And then this echo in the concrete of what Sag’Churok just offered in the abstract re Toc’s sacrifice: “It was the Mezla’s way, his choice.”

The detour with Setoc, Torrent, and Cafal is an interesting one in that description of the world they enter: wolves hunted to extinction, polluted (“tainted”, “foul”) air, trees cut down with what appears to be machine precision. I wouldn’t go so far to say this is Earth (“no moons” could mean no moon at all or just no visible moon), but it seems at the very least it is a strong image of an Earth that could be. A world that at the least we can, and should, see our own in, filled with the ghosts of all the slaughter our kind has wrought. A world where the civilized lands have grown quiet, “[the animals] leave silence, and that silence is filled with the chatter of our kind.” Besides the obvious sorrowful nature of it, think of the boredom. And then the idea that a monoculture is never healthy in an ecosystem.

So if they do take all these ghosts with them back to their world, what happens to them? And perhaps folks should hope they’re better than the Gadra Clan we’ve just seen.

Just as it felt good to be able to say “Icarium” with reference to the groupmind guy, it now feels good to be able to say “Feather Witch,” since this scene makes clear that is who Breath is, thanks to the whole seer of the tiles thing, not to mention, you know, “Feather.”

Hmmm, Icarium, a man of invention and mechanism, is wandering through a K’Chain Che’Malle city, the folks who invented some mechanism (including ones that fly). And the city isn’t actually dead. Just saying…

Hmm, is this a commentary on Taxilian’s tales or on epic fantasy/legend:

“Taxilian would find himself assailed by a growing horror, as the great hero slashed and murdered his way through countless victims, all in pursuit of whatever he (and the world) deemed a righteous goal. His justice was sharp, but it bore one edge, and the effort of the victims to preserve their lives was somehow made sordid, even evil.”

And does this call into question are Malazans, who have moved through this series handing out their own countless deaths? Do they have more than “one edge”? Will they?

If a moral machine is forced by mechanics to annihilate all intelligent life in the name of “justice,” what might that say about a group we know is dedicated to that concept?

Considering the fact that Icarium might just have the talent to “awaken” any “moral construct” in the city, it’s probably a good thing that Icarium responds with utter horror to the idea of “Justice without compassion,” which he equates to a “slayer blind to empathy” (and is this last the thing that differentiates, if anything does, the Malazans?)

Admit it, you kinda like this Pithy and Brevity, don’t ya?

From one group of refugees to another as we move back to the Snake, who unfortunately can’t just slice their arms and open a shortcut portal to a better place (that’s assuming, of course, that Gallan’s Road leads to a better place, which we don’t actually know).

I like Badalle. Badalle doesn’t like Brayderal. If A = B, and B= C…

Badalle’s poem has to be one of the saddest moment of this series. And I’m talking about the end of it, not the whole five lizards sucking part. But at least we end on a high note, with Badalle thinking of eating Saddic’s arms. Oh wait...


Amanda Rutter is the editor of Strange Chemistry books, sister imprint to Angry Robot.

Bill Capossere writes short stories and essays, plays ultimate frisbee, teaches as an adjunct English instructor at several local colleges, and writes SF/F reviews for fantasyliterature.com.

26 comments
Joe Long
1. Karsa
I wonder now at the significance of Icarium's sword being single edged...
Brian R
2. Mayhem
Plus you forgot to mention the wonderful chapter opening quote, which so nicely inverts the popular view of how we look at evolution
The Betrayal of the Fittest

The betrayal being inherent in the rise of any creature, that the lesser must be trampled aside for that to happen.

It's one of my favourite excerpts, because it is such a deeply cynical view of the world, yet it offers a sliver of hope that higher beings might somehow rise above it.
Curse your sudden yet inevitable betrayal ....
Brian R
3. Mayhem
Oh, and consider the phrase Taxilian quotes
Justice without compassion was the destroyer of morality, a slayer blind to empathy
with Icarium's own behaviour when he is awakened to face Trull.
David Thomson
4. ZetaStriker
Apparently I knew Breath was Feather Witch then. Hmmm. Now I don't know which one I didn't identify. >_
Joseph Ash
5. TedThePenguin
I hava a feeling Amanda is going to get very upset with this book.

Taxilian's comments actually sound a LOT like Unidas to me, and his whole alternative story of the dungeon quest.

The discussion of one god versus many I found to be quite profound, I will admit that I probably take religious discussions differently than many other people having never really been brought up with any particular faith. Thus I subscribe to the whole "we created religion to help explain the unexplainable, and provide a construct for power, control, and morality". Dont take this as "religion is bad" it can certainly be GOOD, and have a profoundly positive impact on people, but it can also have a profoundly negative impact on people (hello Middle East, at war since history began™). Heck even people who believe in the SAME religion have vast disagreements on the meaning of the scripture.
Joseph Ash
6. TedThePenguin
I am still missing Asane, Last, Sheb, and Nappet.
Breath, Rautos, and Taxilian are easy enough.

also notice how the Kaylith, Icarium, and Setoc scenes all tie together, Taxilian's comment meshing with Kaylith's scene.
Steven Halter
7. stevenhalter
I like how we keep getting the reality of magic peeled back for us. Magic is blood, Magic is life, Dragons are Magic, Otataral is the antithesis of Magic, ...
The K'Chain worship dragons and build cities in their images. Icarium (&co) are wandering in such a city after Icarium had tried to create a new basis of blood based magic.
So many interesting threads here.
Ryan Dick
8. Wilbur
@1
Karsa, that is a terrific insight regarding the single edge of Icarium's sword. And given what we have been told from Mappo's viewpoint, when Icarium's rage was up, he certainly did have a single-edged worldview.

In section one I understood for the first time that the KC's had a god, and that their god was the opposition to the Otataral Dragon. But Otataral is the opposite of magic, while dragons are magic. So the OD was the Anti-magic Magic Being?

The whole scene with the Barghast confused me. Why were they in such chaos and dissension? Why did everyone hate Setoc? Why did Talamandas burn? Was it related to, or caused by, Cafal opening his warren?

In the end, the Barghast seem to exemplify the dangers of ancestor worship, since if your ancestors were morons, your gods aren't going to be very useful.
Sydo Zandstra
9. Fiddler
Wilbur,
I posted a few threads ago about this:

The whole scene with the Barghast confused me. Why were they in such chaos and dissension?

The Bhargast always were. The situation we saw in MoI leading to them moving to Lether area was an exception. Focused on Hetan's dad.

We are about to see them getting 'back to normal', which is barbaric, cruel and brutal.

Do not make the mistake of considering them Noble Savages.
Jordanes
10. Jordanes
As for why Talamandas burned, I think we've had a couple of hints as to what is going on with the warrens - specifically the new warrens created by Icarium's machine at the end of Reaper's Gale and the effect these new warrens are having on the existing patterns. So my guess is that Cafal/Talamandas accidentally touched upon one of these new warrens, which was inimical to Talamandas.

And it's just struck me that Talamandas' burning reflects something that happens very, very far into the Crippled God, regarding fires which burn everything.


As for Icarium's group, unlike with Amanda, that is one of my favourite storylines within this book. I like the creepiness of it, and the fact that your expectations of what's going to happen next keep being overturned. And I LOVE a scene in this plotline later in the book.

We definitely know three of the personalities now. As well as Feather Witch, Rautos is Rautos Hivanar from Reaper's Gale, who was so obsessed with excavating bits of Icarium's machine (probably what broke the darn thing in the first place :P ). Taxilian we've seen in both Bonehunters and Reaper's Gale previously, originally another prisoner of the Tiste Edur being brought back to Lether and being used as a translator by Feather Witch and the Edur. Interesting that Feather Witch and Taxilian don't remember each other - but then they remember things only in their deepest memories, it seems.

As far as I'm aware, Sheb, Nappet, Asane, and Last are all newcomers. Bystanders whose personalities happened to be sucked into Icarium when he awakened the machine in Lether. But I could be wrong.
Joe Long
11. Karsa
@5 ... totally agree. Amanda, steel yourself.

Personally, I found this the hardest of all the books to read. I skipped the Barghast section on my reread(s) (at best skimmed it) because it is just so...unpleasant.

To me, it is the flip side of the Malazans in Lether – that seems a bit too “nice” to me.

In a lot of ways this reminds me of something one of my drum teachers told me (I’m an old fart, but I started taking drum lessons when my son started them when he turned 7). I was learning Led Zeppelin’s “The Rover” – I consider the first minute one of the best (the best?) minute in rock’n’roll. Love it. In it John Bonham (the proverbial best rock drummer as assessed by all my drum teachers and their professional drummer buddies) has a fill where he hits one note lighter than another on the same drum. The teacher said “early in his career Bonham would never had allowed that to happen”

In the same way, Steven Erikson is in my view the best writer of the genre and these books are undoubtably the best of their kind ever written. But I both of those sections seem too extreme to me – they don’t have *balance*. The emotions they make me feel have no conflict – and in the case of the Barghast women – no empathy. Perhaps it is the point, but it is almost cruel to the reader as I experienced it.

The Lether seems felt like the final scenes of a long running TV show where the drama is basically done and the fans are indulged getting what they want because…well, because why not? It is almost over. I know that isn’t where we are in the story of Lether, but that is what it *feels* like to me.

Did anybody else have this reaction?
Gerd K
12. Kah-thurak
@Karsa
I guess I feel similar about Dust of Dreams. Large parts of the book were just too bleak and had too little impact on the larger story to make them endurable and the parts that were supposed to be lighter did not really work for me. My desire to re-Read the later malazan books is relativly low because of this. I have read all the books multiple times except for the last two...
Darren Kuik
13. djk1978
Well, if you struggle with certain sections by all means skip them on re-read, but I think you probably ought to re-read the last two as well. It was well worth it for me at least.

Sheb, Asane, Last and Nappet, I agree these are just Letherii personalities that were in the vicinity when Icarium did his thing. There's no indication that they are previously known to us in other books.

@Karsa, I'm not sure I follow what you are referring to about Lether...
Steven Halter
14. stevenhalter
That's the interesting thing about rereading (especially with friends). Sometimes things that were very confusing on the first pass suddenly clarify.
Of course, sometimes they don't.
Emiel R
15. Capetown
Notice that Sheb is talking about a Xaranthos Hivanar who he robbed and now wants his revenge on. This could be one of Rautos' family members or maybe forefathers. The latter would suggest Sheb died long before Icariums antics took place.

@Bill, yes, it's heartbreaking once you realize who Kalyth is talking about here:
Somewhere, out there, you will find the purest essence of that philosophy. Perhaps in one person, perhaps in ten thousand. Looking to no other entity, no other force, no other will. Bound solely in comradeship, in loyalty honed absolute. Yet devoid of all arrogance. Wise in humility. And that one, or ten thousand, is on a path. Unerring, it readies itself, not to shake a fist at the heavens. But to lift a lone hand, a hand filled with tears. (...) You want a faith? You want someone or something to believe in? No, do not worship the one or ten thousand. Worship the sacrifice they will make, for they make it in the name of compassion - the only cause worth fighting and dying for.
Meg K
16. KittenSwarm
Amanda picked out a quote I really liked and highlighted in my ebook version, "They leave silence, and that silence is filled with the chatter of our kind. Given the ability, we kill even the night". Some of this section and the discussion of the slaughter of the wolves did make me thing of the rebirth of the Beast Hold.

@1 Karsa - Wow, great observation!
The duality of Icarium being so curious, open, and empathetic when in control and so opposite when "activated" has always been heartbreaking. I really hope he and Mappo can be reunited, but with how bleak these reunions have been (Toc and Tool, Trull and Onrack) I'm afraid of what horrible thing may happen.

I'm also with Amanda at not enjoying the rape undercurrent with Sheb and Nappet. It's been handled okay in other situations in MBotF, but all the warnings that this is an upsetting book have me a little wary.

@8 Wilbur
I thought Talamandas burning was the new warrens that Icarium birthed. Earlier in the book (Ch 5) when Sinn and Grubb went into the Azath to look at them they were chaotic and broken. Sinn always has a lot of fire imagery with her: I mentally might have conflated Sinn's fire fascination with the chaotic new warrens.
From the summary:
"Sinn and Grub are at the Azath again and they too feel the new pattern Icarium made. Grubb says it is broken, though, and she suggests fixing it. They enter the Azath and see “blood-red threads . . forming a knotted, chaotic web.”

And of course Kalyth's talk of honoring the sacrifice of thousands immediately makes me worry for our poor Malazans heading to Kolanse. If any group has become a symbol of compassion and empathy, it's been our Malazan forces. And they're going right between a rock and a hard place, from the sound of Tavore's plan.
Joe Long
17. Karsa
@13 - I think the point isn't that the sections are being skipped, it is more is stuggling to find the reason that the sections are in the book. Perhaps there is an interpretation I (and others) can use to understand what happens to Hetan etc. in the broader context of the narrative that not only makes sense, but makes it a better experience. there is just so much in these books to think about, I trust that Steven had a point in mind and wrote thousands of words on purpose. what were they? my post was an ask for help...

my Lethari point is that the humor went (at least for me) at least up to the line of charactiture - in particular with the Malazan's conversation with each other, Tehol's interactions. they are things that we all *love* about Malazan -- but to me at least, there is too much of it. And that makes it just feel a bit "off" from the genius of the previous books. it is like hitting two notes that should be identical slightly not identical, if that makes sense...
Ryan Dick
18. Wilbur
@9
Fiddler, I recall your exegesis on the spirit of the Barghast earlier in the re-read, and I appreciate the better understanding it gave me of the general lack of rationality for their actions as a whole.

However, the confrontation in this chapter was specific to Setoc, and I thought perhaps I missed some subtlety of specific motivations for the antagonism of Sekara towards Setoc. I want to see if you or anyone else have a reading on Sekara in particular, a character I learned to dislike somewhat more than average as this book progressed.
Jordanes
19. GOS
Fid, Wilbur,

I appreciate the culture of the Barghast as depicted by SE. I see nothing more (less?) causal of Sekara's aninmosity toward Setoc than that she is an outsider receiving attention (for a number of reasons) from males in her clan.

However, ... the vehemence behind that dislike, along with "let's go kill somebody" mentality, raises a legitimate question: How is it possible that this group survived a single generation? Their presence on Wu belies the concept of evolution, for I don't believe that societal norms and values such as these are the hallmarks of a long lived culture.

Just sayin'.
shirley thistlewood
20. twoodmom
@#18
Until DoD all the really vicious and unpleasant characters I recall , such as Karos Invictad or Tanal Yathvanar or the priests of the Whirlwind, were male. Perhaps she exists to provide balance?
karl oswald
21. Toster
@ 17 Karsa

i think the purpose of the thousands and thousands of words SE writes in DoD that are bleak and painful is kind of meta. SE once said that his series is postmodernist, and that in a sense, the heroes journey of the series belongs to the reader. for me, when we get to DoD and tCG we're getting to the point where SE really challenges the reader, dragging you through the ringer and putting you through hell, just like the hero at the greatest climax of a story.

and yes i said hell. there's a few of them...

but there are paradises, or at least, some heavenly moments of heroism and compassion. interesting that someone should mention the quite extreme differences between the letheras and barghast storylines. things are going to be rather extreme for a while. this is it kiddies. prepare to be unprepared for what ye shall see.
Jordanes
22. BDG
@ 19

Outside of the fact you connected the biological concept of evolution to a society (who are you Herbert Spencer?) you could easily find hundreds of violent tribes that survived despite being violent tribes. Roma, Mongols, the British, USA...all violent tribes who do and support violent causes and continued to exist. Or if you want to look at actual tribes: some of the Maori, the Yanomami in Brazil, the Apache, the Vikings, Turkish raiders, Barbary pirates...as sad as it may be violence is a common among human societies but that being said I really don't think we’re seeing the 'normal' White Face Barghast for a number of societal reasons:

A leader who united them has died and the leader who took over has been incapable of leading them so far creating a power void. They have been given a religious 'destiny' against an unknown enemy they haven't fulfilled; this is making them overly violent and xenophobic. Members of their alliance are slowly moving away, making the destiny harder and harder to fulfill. I think we're viewing, rather than a normal 'savage' or 'barbaric' (words I don't use often because they're often used to ‘other’, as if to say 'we are better because we are human and they are not') society but one that is imploding on itself because societal goals cannot be meant. In extreme times humans often become more extreme themselves, we see this often enough through or own time, a point where a society can no long operate under its own weight so it becomes something else. Revolutions and civil happen often enough. So rather than a normal 'violent and barbaric' society, which it seems is the only colour everyone wants to paint with, I propose we see a society in upheaval where societal norms are pushed and broken, often in terrible ways and it’s people are acting in according manner.
Brian R
23. Mayhem
@BDG

Well said.
I definitely think you're on to something there - the kind of behaviour we see here from Sekara and the others isn't out of the ordinary in many close knit communities where one person gets designated an outsider, just a trifle more extreme given the ages of the participants.

For an example more people can probably relate to ...
Consider a classic high school environment, especially boarding schools, where outside the imposed discipline of the teachers, the boys become overly demonstrative of prowess, and the girls perfect their skills of infighting and provocation. And if someone new enters and disrupts the existing power structures ... well, there are dozens of movies about the effects ... Carrie may be a good one in this case.
Jordanes
24. GOS
Well, you caught me on the social biology metaphor, and I'm sure there is more catching to come. (You know, you could have let SE thrash me about for it. Bummer.)

Thanks for your explanation. I am curious about examples of societal implosions, as the whole Barghast plotline (and not only "that which can only alluded to") just seems a little ... extreme. And my inability to gleen any comprehension of the culture I'm sure says more about me than it.

I'm sure that we'll have a conversation at some point in the future about the point of the Barghast plotline in DOD (I think it's started already, but it should really wait until, ...well, ... its over).
Bill Capossere
25. Billcap
Karsa@1: nice idea about the sword there

Ted@5: yep, definite echoes in that hero tale

Stevenhalter@7: Yes, I also like this aspect of the series. I don’t think it’s the only way to do it certainly. I think of Sanderson for instance, and how we often get the rules laid down relatively clearly and often early. And I like that as well in those books. I don’t care for muddy when it seems to be so only for the author’s blatant manipulation of plot, just as I don’t like clearly proscribed if the magic system seems to be the whole point of the book. I’m certainly happy the fantasy universe is large enough to contain multitudes (of approaches to magic)

Jordanes@10: outside of the sometimes over-long bickering, I also like the creepiness of the Icarium storyline here, especially if one tries to really visualize where all this is taking place and what it looks like as it happens. I also don’t recognize the others as prior characters (though that certainly doesn’t mean we haven’t seen them)

As for the Barghast, certainly we’ll have a lengthy discussion on this I’m sure ahead in that separate post. And I’ll have to go back and relook up some stuff. My first thinking was that the bit of unification we’ve seen from them is more exception than rule and that Talamandas talked long ago (to Quick Ben I think) about how they have been stuck in a social rut for generations upon generations, but I’ll have to see if I’m recalling right.
Ryan Dick
26. Wilbur
@25
Bill

I remember that discussion between Quick Ben and Talamandas as well, I think it was in MOI. During that book Talamandas admits that he is working for Hood to dislodge the Barghast from their rut.

And it was also in MOI that the Barghast found their Excellent Historical Swords and indicated that they would train the best of their children to wield them.

And because of those sorts of Chekhov Guns (swords?) being set up earlier in the books that the whole strategic disintegration of the Barghast Nation, destruction of Talamandas, and other nasty ends for the Barghast came as such a surprise to me. All signs pointed to them becoming more refined and more purposeful, that they would finally reconcile their Toblakai / Human heritage, settle their homeland, get quittance with their old foes, etc.

So DoD results in a lot of unmet expectations for me on the Barghast front.

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