Citizens! Give me the Wheel of Time Reread Redux, or give me… well, okay, not death. But, you know, something at least mildly dire!
All original posts are listed in The Wheel of Time Reread Index here, and all Redux posts will also be archived there as well. (The Wheel of Time Master Index, as always, is here, which has links to news, reviews, interviews, and all manner of information about the Wheel of Time in general on Tor.com.)
The Wheel of Time Reread is also available as an e-book series! Yay!
All Reread Redux posts will contain spoilers for the entire Wheel of Time series, so if you haven’t read, read at your own risk.
And now, the post!
Chapter 40: Damane
“This is a horrible thing. How can you do this to anyone? What diseased mind ever thought of it?”
The blue-eyed sul’dam with the empty leash growled, “This one could do without her tongue already, Renna.”
Renna only smiled patiently. “How is it horrible? Could we allow anyone to run loose who can do what a damane can?”
I’ve been mainlining a lot of comics-related stuff lately, and it occurs to me that there is an awful lot of similarity between this and some of the more dominant themes in the Marvel universe. The question of whether people with extraordinary abilities can be “allowed” to run free is pretty much the entire raison d’être of the X-Men, of course, but it’s also why I am so dreading the upcoming developments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which will soon be tackling the Civil War storyline.
If you’re familiar with Marvel comics at all, you know what that is and why it’s relevant; if you aren’t, the phrase “Superhuman Registration Act” will probably give you a clue why it’s relevant, and why the entire thing gives me hives. (If you’re not familiar with it, I don’t recommend that you Google it unless you’re okay with being completely spoiled for it.)
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but personal agency is KIND OF A BIG DEAL to me. Kind of. You know, in that “seeing characters I love or even slightly like have it taken away from them makes me want to punch the world” sense. It made me see red here when it happened to Egwene, and it’s gonna make me see red when the next Captain America movie comes out, and just the thought of dealing with the inevitable frothing rage in my future on behalf of fictional characters is making me tired.
That said, yes, FINE, the dilemma of liberty versus security is a fundamental philosophical and political question that is eminently worthy of examination in fiction, and plus makes for great plot conflict, whatever, I know. That doesn’t mean I have to ENJOY it, she says, grumpily.
The difference, of course, between a Superhuman Registration Act and the damane/sul’dam crap is that, at least nominally, the former isn’t outright slavery—although it is the overwhelming potential for such legislation to become so, functionally if not in name, that makes it so dangerous. The latter, on the other hand, is absolutely 100% pure unadulterated bullshit slavery, and is therefore so deeply unacceptable to me that after having this for a first-ish impression of the Seanchan, it’s since been practically impossible for me to acknowledge that their culture might have any redeeming value whatsoever.
I said in the original commentary that it was Renna’s conviction that she was doing right that made me so angry about the whole situation, and that’s mostly right, but I think that it speaks more to my own conviction that the Seanchan are a fundamentally rotten and morally bankrupt culture. Human trafficking is still a terrible reality in the modern world, but at least there is practically no one left who would (publically) contend that it is anything other than a thoroughly evil enterprise. That’s a grim sort of progress, maybe, but it’s still about a thousand miles better than Renna’s brand of state-sanctioned sanctimonious “it’s for your own safety” rhetoric.
To which both me and Ben Franklin say: Bitch, please.
Chapter 41: Disagreements
“Well, why not? If the Seanchan have Aes Sedai fighting for them, why not Fades and Trollocs?” [Mat] caught Verin staring at him and flinched. “Well, they are, on leashes or not. They can channel, and that makes them Aes Sedai.” He glanced at Rand and gave a ragged laugh. “That makes you Aes Sedai, the Light help us all.”
As in the original commentary, I’m still a little puzzled by whether everyone knows Rand can channel here or not. Or rather, I’m puzzled as to how everyone doesn’t know, when Mat’s yelling about it in front of everyone like a moron. Because even after seeing himself betray Rand (presumably) on purpose in his “what-if” lives, he’s still apparently fine with outing him on accident rather than miss his chance to be bitter at him. Dumbass.
But then, Verin was okay with yelling at him earlier about being a channeler in front of everyone, too, so what the hell, people. Admittedly, it’s unclear in the “flicker” chapter whether anyone else was actually in earshot when Verin berated Rand for drawing too much of the Power, but Ingtar was definitely in earshot when Mat said the above, because they were all having a conversation with him not five seconds earlier. So even if Masema is only giving Rand the side-eye a minute later because of his Aiel prejudice and no other reason, it seems that Ingtar, at least, should know. That or he is either (a) a little deaf, or (b) spectacularly incapable of adding two and two to make “male channeler.”
Enh. My point is, it was confusingly written.
In other news, Rand, anytime you want to stop being a noble idiot that would be greeeat. Does anything good ever come of going it on your own? Wait, don’t answer that.
Also in the original commentary, I rolled my eyes at Ishy’s failure to read the Evil Overlord List and, therefore, fail to kill his opponent when he was weak and easily killable. At the time, I think, that was a fairly reasonable eyeroll, given what I knew, but it’s probably not anymore.
Ishy’s motives in the early books still read a little muddled to me, but it’s a lot easier to understand his failure to kill Rand when you know that his ultimate motive wasn’t world domination, but world annihilation. Ishy wanted to lose the war; he just also wanted everyone else to lose it with him. And for that, it seems he needed Rand to survive at least long enough to become a genuine threat.
Or something like that. He seemed to flip-flop a lot between wanting to lure Rand to the Dark Side, and wanting to let Rand continue on his Light-oriented path toward battling the Dark One directly and losing. I can only assume that either outcome would have got him the result he wanted, but given that they are completely opposing goals, you’d think he’d have wanted to pick one and stick with it.
Of course, there is the point that Ishy was also bugfuck crazy. So, you know. There’s that aspect of it as well.
Anyway, my point is that his earlier justification of not killing Rand just because he wanted to suborn him rang a little cliché, but that added to Moridin’s later revelation that all he really wanted was to commit the most spectacularly selfish suicide of all time definitely put a new spin on things.
And that’s about what I got for this post, so have a lovely mid-November week if your local climate allows such a thing, and I’ll see you next Tuesday!