"We are no closer to learning why 2% of the world’s population simultaneously disappeared [...] And it matters not one tiny bit"
But this is not actually true. The first season, that is faithful to the book, worked precisely that way. 98% of the show is about what it's said in that paragraph: all about the characters' personal drama.
But the 2% of full-on mystery was there, and it progressively expanded in season 2 to become something much, much different than the substance of the book. It's deliberately put there, and, exactly as with LOST, you keep wondering if Lindelof knows what he's doing, or he really doesn't. Once again. Season 3 will say whether it's one or the other.
I have my theory on how to make sense of it all. Because it can make sense, and I already put it out there on Reddit. But I'm nor sure if Lindelof KNOWS. He plays with stuff, sometimes brilliantly, but often he has no idea what he's doing.
And it WILL matter. No matter how you want to put characters on the front and refuse to give the central mystery its proper role.
If Lindelof decides to not answer it, once again, then Lindelof is fucking it up, once again. The Leftovers will be forgotten very quickly if the outside frame that holds it up isn't made visible and validated.
"should not purge employees for having unpopular views"
Man... Unpopular views? I'm not sure you have even the slightest idea of how unpopular are Sad Puppies, Vox Day and all that mess.
Beside the merit of the discussion, you don't even IMAGINE how this statement by Tor is going to hurt their reputation.
The idea that Vox Day's position is "popular" amuses me. Again, whether you agree or not is beside the point, but believing his views are POPULAR? Come on.
Btw, there's a HUGE logical fallacy in that statement:
"We are in the business of finding great stories and promoting literature and are not about promoting a political agenda"
Guess what? Sad Puppies and Rabid Puppies exist BECAUSE of a political agenda. So taking their defense you've actively entered the political debate they tried to force.
One must be completely clueless to not be aware of that.
Tom Doherty, clownshoes.
Not have been on the internet much, huh? If the purpose of this was to "limit damage" to a commercial company with a cold statement written by a lawyer, you just blew it up to unprecedented levels just by posting this.
If there's something awfully terrible about this whole deal, it was that statement. Maybe next time be more aware about what you're talking about. You've just proven how detached you are from your fandom.
Popping in here again because, after so many years, I think I finally figured out the part that always puzzled me in Chapter 1 (there's a discussion in the comments of chapters 4&5):
"A conjuring of birds to keep mocking vigil. Dark humor's not to my liking anymore, I think."
I never understood what Paran was thinking, and where the "humor" was in that scene.
I think I might have figured it out: the scene is within the Imperial Constabulary. I think "mocking vigil" means mocking the Imperial watch stationed there. As to compare these guards to a bunch of pigeons who wouldn't notice anything at all, they just scatter back and forth, and cluck, not really accomplishing anything.
If that's true, it's more likely that Shadowthrone or the Rope were responsible for this, instead of the Empress. In fact it isn't likely that the Empress would leave a "message". And "dark humor" is also more a fingerprint of Shadowthrone, anyway.
It was also probably an attempt at misdirection. Sorry was recruited in Itko Kan, not Gerrom. So killing those in Gerrom was a way to leave a sign there, while hiding the real trail to Itko Kan.
What the hell is he doing in Croatia?
I wanted to say I very much welcome a change of style for the new trilogy, whatever it may be. I like experimental things, and appreciate more than staying in the familiar. In fact the degree of experimentation I see already in the Malazan series is part of what makes me appreciate it (or the novellas), and makes it feel always fresh.
I was even toying with an idea I had: read the new book as soon it comes out this summer, even if by then I'll probably still be at The Bonehunters. What happens if I read the new book before I'm done with the main series? Maybe I'll be the guinea pig and find out.
A suggestion to other readers: go and pick a copy of "The Wayward Mind" by Guy Claxton. It's an excellent non-fiction book that deals directly with the nature and genesis of gods and the unconscious mind (a midnight tide). From my point of view it deals very clearly with aspects of Malazan mythology, especially the discussion we had here about the "cosmology" and the protean aspects. In fact I'd suggest Steve to look it up too if he hasn't already, as I think it could offer at least some interesting "tools" to deal with the problems of myth creation and cosmology in general. It's essentially a thin thread that links everything else (and is coherent in its inconsistency).
If you can also try to watch the brand new TV series called "Awake" on NBC. It deals again with similar themes, and does it in interesting ways. It's especially interesting even because the second episode offers something quite similar to the problem Steve discussed here of the framing device and the audience seeing more, but I have no idea to where they'll push it.
These things are closely related and I'm having a lot of fun across the mediums :)
I've never seen an Erikson so forthcoming of explaining his stuff as in point (5), I'm surprised ;)
And glad because his interpretation matches mine (and clarifies more). The only thing I'd criticize is that this "arc" is quite counterintuitive for the reader, especially because with the absence of PoV it happens entirely in the dark and so the motivations and logic connections are also omitted. So it happens that some readers (me as well at some point) read it with some frustration since every time they (ST & Cotillion) entered the scene they had a different agenda, so also the tendency to interpret it as "inconsistent" and arbitrary.
It's a bit a cultural obstacle. One has the tendency to believe that if something is not in the spotlight then it doesn't exist or doesn't matter (something like a cultural inverse of "Chekhov's gun"), while in Malazan certain core points are kept in the dark gaps and corners. One assumes that since they aren't clearly visible they do not exist.
And yes, I'd like a HC collection. So far I have 1, 8-10. And 6-8 in that smaller book club edition. I really wish for an unified format/style. Trying with Tor mass market at the moment.
The rest is good food for thought.
I debated with myself whether to take advantage of this Q&A or not and decided to try anyway. I'm out of the loop with HoC because I didn't participate with the reread this time. In the meantime I read "This River Awakens" and I was amazed. This book got me emotionally in a way that the Malazan series did not, and I think no other book I've read in my life matched. I imagine how infuriating can be this thing I'm about to say, but I sincerely believe that everything you wrote afterwards, those three million words (or the half I already read), didn't quite match that masterpiece that is this book. Certainly not disappearing in the shadow of that bigger mountain of books.
I wanted to ask two things specifically about this book, the first is when did you actually write it? That's because I'd so easily believe this is your most recent work if I didn't know it was published one year before GotM. The prose is so good, much better than GotM, and I'd say the followings too. But the year of GotM publication doesn't say the truth about when it was written, and this also explains why many of us think DG is much improved.
The second question is about what kind of revisions you made (or restored) to the version coming out in January. The copy I was able to find is an used one, so the old version, and the book was so perfect that I wouldn't dare change a line. So I'm curious about what kind of compromises it went through. I fear a bit about the 1st person PoV in there that I liked quite a lot (and the interplay it creates).
And a consideration: I've listened to that recent podcast/interview. The things you discuss that are at the core of the Malazan series (the culling, selection, being in the head of other people when you talk about Kruppe and the cypher, the reader doing the Hero's journey, the way the story only exist because of readers outside of it, Itkovian as a symbol, appearing, suprisingly, in both Malazan and This River Awakens), all these are also at the center of "This River Awakens". It was amazing for the effect the book had on me and because how deeply it connects with Malazan. And surprising because if one collects the motivations of those who rejected GotM (prose, characters, cause/effect of plot, the reader feeling left out, cold and not welcomed in the story) are all aspects that are turned into the very strengths of This River Awakens. Great prose and description, amazing, deep characters, a story that eases its way without ever rising walls to the reader. The same writer doing what almost appears the opposite side of the spectrum.
In fact I would now suggest first time readers (or those who were disappointed) to read this book before starting reading Malazan: it would easily clean the way of all prejudices and common excuses when it is criticized, easing the path for what the Malazan series is then set to do. It shows clearly the kind of writer you are and that one has to knowingly dig to find in GotM (I had written 'dig knowingly' but I heard Tehol make fun of me).
And I have a nagging question about HoC too, the very end: "This is how, in the cadence of our voice, we serve nature's greatest need. Facing nature, we are the balance. Ever the balance to chaos."
The first time I read it I thought that humanity was seen as "alien" to nature (both intended as the abstract idea and the planet, with humanity seen as hostile to the hive), instead of being part of its system as it's universally believed today. In that equation, "humanity" was an external force, opposing nature itself. Nature being also chaos, intending chaos as the lack of "meaning", patterns unrecognized (not written), and humanity as the "actor" drawing/writing a sense, carving it into senseless nature. We are the observer that, in the act of observation, so the culling and selection, writes and determines a path. Whatever is nature is also chaos, because we can't even know its depths.
But I think the actual meaning goes a step further. The system doesn't pose humanity against nature, since it's nature that works balance in itself, and humanity couldn't even be a necessary variable. Humanity is after all only one tiny part of nature, probably not indispensable. But how do you see this apparent contradiction between humanity being "outside" nature and it being also caged within and (obviously) subject to its whims? Because the Malazan series is both about that act of writing I've explained above, as much as the mockery of the egocentrism, sense of superiority and certainty we all have. Certainty that could (and probably will) be wiped off with just a shrug, by nature.
Ah, I was forgetting another point. Later in the book there's also a dialogue between Cotillion and Crokus that needs to be "checked".
It was another sort of "caper" or ret-con on the events of the first book.
The worst part is that Cotillion's answers are quite infuriating as he hints at motivations too complicate to explain...
And because I was putting LOST and Malazan again side by side, this parody has a certain truth for both:
(and then later, the subplot of Drift Avalii in HoC will be like the whole of LOST contained in this book, it's quite amazing)
With the current pacing there's no way I can keep up at 150+ pages a week and the re-read/commenting was already eating most of my reading time anyway. So I decided to take a break for at least a few months and rejoin you later. In the next few days I'll try to finish commenting MoI, then when I'll rejoin I'll restart from where I left, so HoC.
Maybe there will be someone else taking my polemic role and keep the discussion alive ;) I definitely need a break to read some non-Malazan stuff, and also some Malazan stuff that isn't re-read, even if the discussion here has been fundamental for me to understand certain important things. It was precious.
One thing on the sideline I was planning to check out in HoC (even if there are FAR more and more interesting things to deal with, this is my favorite book between the first 4) is the "timeline". When I read the book the first time I didn't noticed anything wrong, and I was actually amazed at the jigsaw puzzle (the re-link of Karsa's story with what's going on Genabackis and then with DG). I knew that HoC laid the foundation of these problems with the timeline, and so I assumed that the later books didn't conciliate well with the dating used here but that HoC, on its own, was at least self-consistent. Instead someone explained to me there are a few things that do not make sense even if one considers HoC alone.
As I said I haven't re-read this yet, so I'm hoping someone can look this up.
Karsa's journey is well framed as it ends with the events in DG and we have a date about the starting point.
1159 Burn's Sleep, the beginning of Karsa's Journey
The events of DG take place in 1164, and the fall of Pale happened in 1163, a year before.
The problem is in the mention of the fall of Pale in this book. It happens relatively early in Karsa's journey, yet it should be crammed very close to its end because of the dates. I think in DG and HoC it is mentioned that when the events resynch "Toblakai" has been with Leoman for quite a while. But then there's only a year or so in that gap (between the siege of Pale and the events of DG), and Karsa was still on Genabackis when Pale fell. He only had a year to do the other chunk of journey, meet up with Leoman and pass with him some time.
It doesn't seem matching up very well. The other problem is that there are four years between the beginning of Karsa's journey and him being captured by Malazans in Genabackis. Reading those pages one could guess a few months passed at best, so what happened in those four years?
What is weird in this whole issue (if there isn't some logic explanation or elements I'm missing) is that when Erikson wrote HoC these events were relatively straightforward. There wasn't a whole lot of juggling that may have caused these kinds of mistakes. He just had those two "pointers" that he needed to nail down, the fall of Pale and DG. So he could have easily placed Karsa's journey to "fit". The only possible reason I could guess is that the book was written and then Erikson decided to adjust some dates, and this caused some "ripples" in the timeline that were then missed.
I'm wondering because Erikson shows a great skill handling this intricate structure and back and forth, only to then mess it on the most simplistic aspects (mentioning the fall of Pale, chapter Three, page 170, could have been avoided without any consequence, or just being "moved" forward). So I wanted to take the opportunity of the reread to pay attention to these details and figure out what's the deal (since the issue I was aware of was about the date used in the Prologue and the events in the Nascent).
Am I wrong somewhere?
Since I'm at it, I'll mention GRRM point of view on the general issue, since he also struggled a great deal with it. It's a quote from a recent Q&A in New York:
Despite notes and Ran, he does occasionally make mistakes the two he cited being a character's magically changing eyes and a horse's sex change which he hates, because they obfuscate the intentional mistakes of character memory, such as Ned's and Jaime's different descriptions of everyone's favorite kingslayer's finest moment. He hates when "George the Author" detracts from the work of "George the Brilliant Artist."
Quoting this because it illustrates my point of view. These "mistakes" may be irrelevant but they also lead to unnecessary obfuscation that takes a toll on everything else. Malazan is dense in DELIBERATE limited PoV and misdirection, and the presence of author's mistakes make the deliberate parts take a hit. Maybe it's also a reason why there's not a whole lot of activity on the internet like wiki sites that try to reconstruct the details of the history, it risks becoming an exercise in frustration (and the reason why I think the rumored encyclopedia wouldn't be a good idea).
Erikson has explained that he stopped caring and obsessing over these sort of details, and for sound reasons, but I still think that these choices leads to certain consequences anyway. So we can mock Martin for taking years to complete a book and rewrite endlessly the same scene without making substantial progress, but it's also true that he pays lots of attention and care to aspects that in Malazan wouldn't be considered of much value. Martin certainly can't be accused of "undercooking" his stuff and I think this apparently wasteful approach still has a certain payoff. Readers will notice it.
Channeling someone else's opinion (not my words):
Erikson, in his own words, pleads for the readers trust and insists how important it is and yet he abuses it time and again. I love putting together puzzle pieces but the closer you examine Malazan the less sense it makes. The broad history of the empire is super sweet but none of the details make sense. Which is very disappointing because if done right it could be so, so good.
On the other side, I think the discussion we had about the cosmology was extremely interesting, and especially with other readers' contributions, as Erikson didn't want to expose so much. I was very much satisfied with those perspectives as I think that the lack of anthropocentric PoV would make everything crumble. So the idea that the anthropocentric perspective may still build the rest, like a projection, while still being in a flux, is quite interesting and surprisingly coherent.
I remembered that I had similar discussions about LOST (the TV series), and especially a wikipedia page, that relates quite well to that kind of debate. So worth pointing out:
Especially because I was writing how LOST dropped the ball, using Malazan as a comparison to demonstrate how it was possible to deal with it successfully.
I was also able to find the original post I read about these issues. Hopefully it won't annoy people here too much:
Leoman says Karsa is 17 in Deadhouse Gates, in HoC we find out Karsa is 80. According to the beginning of Karsa's section in HoC the date is 1159. A few weeks into that section he hears about the fall of Pale, which is in 1163 according to Gardens of the Moon (which also fits the rest of the dates in the series). GoTM doesn't take that long after the prologue. The events happen in rapid succession and it is a fairly small geographical area. Karsa spends a decent length of time messing around with the Malazans before being sent to Seven Cities. Kalam and crew depart for seven cities immediately at the end of GoTM. So them and Karsa should arrive at approximately the same time. That means when Sha'ik is assassinated Leoman and Karsa have only recently become her bodyguards. Of course, later on Karsa talks about how him and Leoman have been together for years.
Karsa Orlong=timeline wrecking ball.
Closest we get about names is this one answer in an interview:
In practical terms, characters generally arrive (for me) as names first; sometimes that name describes something about the character, in a Dickensian fashion; while at other times that name runs counter to the character's traits. Two examples would be Antsy for a nervous, agitated, paranoid character; and Tiny Chanter, for the biggest and nastiest of the Chanter brothers. Obviously, some characters arrive with names that have no earthly correlation, and there I find that the ones that sound right in my head often do so because they trigger some related (or not-so-related) image or emotion in me. In still other instances, I use names to resonate with historical, earthly personages, though usually when I do that I disguise that resonance so that only I am aware of it. Finally, some names I invent and keep only because I like the look and sound of them.
I remember laughing out loud at the introduction of Heck Urse, Birds Mottle and Gust Hubb in LoLE in the galley of the Suncurl, pretty much entirely from the hilarity of those glorious names.
Could you explain these names? I'm not sure I'm getting them, coming from another language.
What I mean is that beside those that "read" as their job, the rest of us reads because it gets some sort of satisfaction. So "fun", on a broad level.
Erikson says the same with "people with the leisure time to read". It's a kind of comfort, and there's an universal tendency for the path of least resistance.
I'd link this to illustrate the point:
And if you have a very tiring job then it's worse and worse. So reading time, and possibility to concentrate are a kind of luxury. And the luxury is about pleasure and comfort, or you wouldn't willingly seek it.
The generalization about women is obviously false as all generalizations, but I see a certain tendency to empathize more with characters and have a more personal involvement.
Interesting stuff about Karsa.
I think for many readers, and since 99% of us read for "fun", especially women, if I can generalize, seek a certain flux of empathy with what they read. Karsa, whether you like him or not, isn't a character you can bond with.
For me, I read as long something is stimulating. A sympathetic character can be as interesting than one I end up hating. One aspect I liked was Karsa's way of speaking. The complete lack of rhetoric or manipulation or hidden intent. So what I picked while reading "mimics" what Erikson described here, but taken from a slightly different perspective.
For me the contrast between barbarism/civilization was in the language (what Erikson explains as inward/outward character). Karsa's language lacked the complexity of civilization, but also all its social traps and convoluted purposes.
And then: Torvald Nom. Another character, civilized, all about language.
'Well, with that one we're getting into very grey, very murky shades, don't you think? It's a matter of cultural distinctions'
'I believe Darujhistan shall be the first city I conquer'
So I lived that clash on the linguistic level and I loved Karsa's pragmatism and lack of subtlety. He was a completely "honest" and pure character. His journey my own because it works like a clean slate. Which is why it gets deliciously complex as you see the contrast between these qualities and their antithesis you perceive by being yourself (civilized, so seeing Karsa as brutal and violent). All of this projected on a high throne, sustained by a pile of lies that are progressively revealed.
As I already said, those first 100 pages distill all that the previous books have played with, all condensed and played explicitly.
If anything the "problem" is how packed this initial arc is (maybe the problem is that Erikson is too prolific with ideas and tends to under-cook them). Another fantasy writer would use 100 pages for set-up, here instead it's rushing, and in 100 pages you get an incredibly complex arc. I'm a kind of meticulous reader, but I wonder those who begin reading and flipping pages as a form of warming-up.
As I said in the past: a comfortable and popular form of narration seem to require those "slice of life" scenes that let you warm up to the characters. THEN, the story may begin. (not saying Erikson too should follow these rules, just trying to understand what happens)
Here the first 2-3 pages are DENSE with information and Karsa's journey starts well before the reader gets a grasp of the character or his companions. Meaning that the learning experience (of the reader) happens along the journey. Which is great, as you are there, and witnessing.
No, but it should be easy to find. They meet Karsa toward the end and this happens before Felisin becomes Sha'ik.
Anyway, even if it could be explained it still seems pointless obfuscation. The scene could have worked the same if Heboric saw grown men. And it's not a "projection", as Heboric was seeing ghosts, and ghosts don't depend on someone else's perspective.
I first thought as others, that the children were really children, but then I realized these were a normal "man sized" people.
I think this is a slight inconsistency since Heboric had a vision of Karsa's victims and they looked like children (to him). Now, it makes sense that from Karsa's own perspective normal people look like that, but to Heboric they should have looked like normal. So this didn't make a lot of sense.
I still intend to finish commenting MoI when I have time but I'll try to go along here as well or my lagging behind would just increase. At 100+ pages a week I still won't be able to keep up, though, so at some point I'll leave this re-read for a longer while and rejoin at a later point when you'll probably be at Reaper's Gale when I'll be back commenting HoC. Reading and commenting in detail 100+ pages a week eats all my reading time and doesn't allow me to do anything else.
About the Prologue:
I think Amanda did a good job picking the various threads without trying to nail down their position in the puzzle yet. These books work better if someone takes the parts for what they are more than trying to do the guesswork and try to see what's coming ahead. Patience pays back, usually.
All these "pieces" of the Prologue match up perfectly if someone remembers a certain scene in MoI that nails the frame. Specifically, it was just before Paran went to visit Draconus in Dragnipur for the second time. He appears right on Drift Avalii and in front of the true Throne of Shadow. If you go re-reading that scene you'd see all the pieces that build the Prologue having a corresponding parallel in what the "throne" reveals to Paran. The "Search" for example is mentioned in that scene, as well in the hidden story of the Moranth. Same for the "hidden master", etc... So this is not a whole new beginning, it's actually well rooted in what we've already seen. In fact, this is a strong theme, if not the main one, of the whole novel and especially its first part. Things that appear as completely new that instead hide something quite "familiar". The twisting of appearances. Misdirection of the purest kind, driven by limited point of view.
After the sprawling and "all in" attitude of MoI one wonders how Erikson would deal with the following book. He does seeking a contrast. Where the other was written large and stretching out to embrace everything, this one is instead local, enclosed, limited. But this "contrast" is not a stylistic vanity. It's actually THE POINT. This is my favorite book among the first four and the reason is how everything is so purposeful and focused, in a way. There are no whims and it is a generous book.
So, THE POINT. It is again the approach that is defined by being local and limited. What you are going to see (and the five pages of the Prologue make a perfect use of the pattern) is something you already know, but seen from a skewed, limited perspective that makes it look completely different and twisted. You got the eagle's eye perspective, and now you are thrust in the "down below" limited perspective and things are completely different. You, as the characters of the book, feel lost or can't recognize what you see for what it is. This aspect then being further enhanced with Karsa's story that works like an onion, stripping layer after layer, reveal after reveal. Whereas MoI opened up the mythology, HoC initially gives the illusion of new, unknown pieces added to the puzzle, only to then "reduce" them and fitting in the frame you already have. So instead of going in a tangent, it actually builds the link between the pieces and makes them work together.
"The point" being this closed perspective that is then rocked through reveals. Masks that are dropped to reveal familiar faces. All self-contained, in the sense that page after page you lift veils in close succession, and in 150 or so pages Erikson condenses all he's done in previous books, making it all more effective and explicit, without digressions. With a good pay off right away, instead of being indefinitely delayed.
Even the black-shelled crabs in the first paragraph are part of this pattern. They represent a "lower realm", unaware of what happens around them. What they recognize is the sudden "bounteous feast", but they know nothing of what caused it, or what may be about to happen. Nor they question it. They are a temporary fold of oxygen in the story that could thrive or vanish in a whim. Which is the idea that Erikson plays with in the Prologue. The Nature suddenly turning and "shaking" the world. A flood that reshapes the world as well the "life" caught within. And again a play on perception, as the limited perspective is like a boat as big as a grain of sand that is caught on tides it can't control (or can only momentarily control, with the illusion of eternity).
Within that, and still in the Prologue, Erikson plays with two other ideas. One is how a group will build its own convenient truth and find strength or approval within it. So the Shorning of Trull is a crime, but a crime with no guilt, as those people have built their truths and their morals. Because they are all relative, and will be manipulated in order to find an unity of vision. Which is always a dangerous thing. The premise and justification for all crimes.
The second idea is about Nature (here set in motion by sorcery, so pushed to its extreme by use of the fantasy setting while the idea is wholly universal). If you go look at the end of the book (and it's not really a spoiler), the last part of the Epilogue, in italics, returns to the same theme. Ideally the story is closed in a circle as Erikson is used to do. The ending goes back to the start and completes it. That ending is also extremely powerful from my point of view.
The idea in the prologue works on different levels and is played by Trull that way. The imbalance that Nature fights is mirrored by the imbalance in the level of water between one side of the wall and the other. So again a play on limited perceptions. Trull's brothers chained him to the wall thinking he'll be there, kept alive by sorcery, for a very long time. But Trull realizes that the wall is going to eventually collapse. Then lifts this idea to what his brother are and their "Search". He sees through the "blindness", even though, tragically, this awareness is bitter and is not leading to any kind of salvation.
And who's the "prisoner", Trull being chained to the wall, or his kin and the lies they walk upon and enclose their perception?
And this is what took me to comment superficially five pages (not commented about the timeline issues, where the river could come from, what's this realm, what kind of civilization was here, why the rent suddenly closed etc...).
Another thing. Both Amanda and Bill said this is the first time Paran sees the munitions being used, but this is not correct.
He was in that group that entered Capustan during the siege. They used the munitions in order to pass among many unaware Tenescowri. In fact this could be considered as a flaw. I always say that these books are rich in ideas and you can dig forever, compared to other series that feel diluted and overstretched. Yet this is a case of a certain redundancy.
Usually redundancy in Malazan books is used to give things a different slant, but here the same observations are simply repeated. The PoV is the same (Paran) so it's justified, but they are still somewhat redundant. He was shocked about the horrors of war at that time when they entered Capustan, and again he offers very similar comments here, again about considering the "other" perspective. So both these aspects had a precedent (Paran seeing the use of munitions and coming to the same conclusions).
That part also didn't convince me so much because I can't believe they left all those tunnels unmanned. I know they absolutely have no reason to believe the Malazan arrived already, but it's still unbelievable that the whole place is deserted.
On WJ's PoV I like this more subtle interpretation more than usual:
Feeling old beyond his years, burdened by flaws born of a spirit mired deep in exhaustion, Whiskeyjack rejoined the vanguard.
As if those "flaws" are those of the body, and the body is a reflection of a more complex condition.
Bluepearl, Shank and Toes only get introduced this late in the novel. It seems Erikson needed some new characters in order to make work this final part of the book. As a structure it feels contrived but it works well anyway. Not much space to develop characters, but enough to make them recognizable and charming in their quirky way.
The small stories they carry with them are like personalizations. They are like folds in the bigger plot, a closed system, and within they have their own life and personal dimension. Carried along like in a big river, or as part of the Malazan army, but each with his own story and perception.
Blend in this scene is surprised that Paran sniffed her out again, so I'm wondering if there isn't something about magic since Paran has that specific talent. That suspicion continues to linger, but there's always a way out since it's always possible that magic isn't involved.
Can't remember if the story of Buke is over. In the recent conversation Erikson said he included Buke and the others because he liked the arc even if it wasn't indispensable in the wider plot, so I guess there's something there. But I can't quite remember if we got that conclusion or if it's in the remaining chapters. If it's already over then I must have missed the point.
The matter of the split between the armies seems a bit problematic as we see an avalanche of consequences without having a good grasp of what put them in motion (sometimes this seems to be a general problem). I still have to see if the Malazans have their own good reason. There's the mention of a plan between Paran and Quick Ben, and it is something hidden already into another.
This problem carries over in some of the scenes in this chapter because we see characters who behave in a odd way. In this moment of ASOIAF revival it makes more a contrast that sometimes here characters are not just partially hidden, but opaque. So even when you expect to know them you are being unbalanced by something they say or they do whose motivation you cannot readily understand (WJ's, for example, describing the Malazan empire to Humbrall Taur without much ambivalence, and just after having commented about the "gifts of friendship").
I commented about Kallor as the "weak link" in the epilogue comments, and the scene here shows it. I agree that Brood's behavior is quite weird. The only solution I can work out is that he learned to put some trust in WJ and Dujek, and then once again he sees that trust betrayed. So I guess he started to feel quite annoyed and when Kallor asked permission to go, Brood gave it because of his current frustration with the way things developed.
There's still quite a big gap to close, though. Even Erikson said that Kallor was around because it was better to keep a potential enemy close and so control him, than far away and unchecked. Yet here it's Brood setting Kallor free, especially when he's most doubtful about him. The reasons may even be there, but the way events develop would require a more grounded motivation (since it's not a detail). Done like this it feels that the whole thing happens solely because it was convenient for the plot's development.
In any case there are these chunks of plot, like the dispersion of the army and all it leads to, that is not so well grounded. So one reads about it without being given very solid motivations. Added to characters who seem to behave oddly, and then Korlat's own PoV that I don't think works too well either.
Despite these weakness there's also lots of good stuff within. I like the way Itkovian questions himself and seeks a kind of company (Stonny, Gruntle) that is the very opposite he's been all his life. He's in a crisis, but it's not an arid one as it seems. Actually, from my point of view this made him more human.
A reason why I don't like Korlat's PoV is because of what I've said previously about the theme of choice. Here Korlat, about Rake, says:
To choose not to share... what I had seen as arrogance, as patronizing behaviour of the worst sort - enough to leave me incensed... ah, Lord, you held to the hardest mercy.
Which is the voicing of the same idea of what Paran told to Nightchill, down to the same words:
Keeping us ignorant is your notion of mercy?
I still do not accept the idea that the negation of awareness is a legitimate form of mercy. It equals to the erasure of choice, and so it's an imposition. I have a complete block against this theme.
Korlat also voices some of this:
Curse of the Light, he has spent centuries evading my questions, discouraging my desire to come to know him, to pierce through his veil of mystery. And I have been hurt by it, I have lashed out at him more than once, and he has stood before my anger and frustration. Silent.
Which could as well voice the Mhybe. Was the Mhybe also protected from the "truth"?
The interesting aspect is how the "theme of denial" could be seen as not specific to the Tiste Andii, but all human condition.
Did you know Whiskeyjack was apprenticed as a mason, before he became a soldier?
I also read it as a reference to the Deck of Dragons. In GotM WJ is described quite explicitly as the mason of House Death. While the Soldier of House Death was mentioned in the Deck reading earlier in this book (though rereading it doesn't seem to clarify much). Only it works better as the mason figure (builder of barrows) than as a soldier. WJ still has a role of responsibility here, so why the switch? What brought to it?
While looking for this I noticed that in the Appendix the Queen of Dreams is the Queen of House Life. So once again, and directly in the structure of the Deck of Dragons, Life and Dreams are put together. The Queen of Dreams was involved directly in the plan leading to Burn's sleep (it was mentioned earlier in this book) so there's always this interplay with life as a dream. This features heavily in all Erikson's work, but I still need to understand it fully...
I have no idea what'll happen if she wakes up. maybe the warren will wander around looking for another dreamer...
Reminds me a very popular comics in Italy and on of its stories titled "Story of nobody" (another of those "fallen" no one notices, completely forgotten). Imagining that the world was just the dream of a "nobody" who died.
I think the story in MoI is quite explicit because it reflects right on the Mhybe, so you see exactly the way Burn's sleep could have worked.
I like a lot the idea of beliefs that shape dynamically. Once again the problem is if you offer a point of view outside the system, since the system works solely on the premise it's closed and isolated. That's where Malazan, and especially with the new series, treads dangerous ground.
Also this (the video, and specifically the part about the closed system):
He does this by anchoring those flavours within the essence of the oldest of Burn's creations, as evidenced by the two chambers of the Heart imagery - Kurald Galain and Starvald Demelain.
So you put Burn "before" Mother Dark? And how you reconcile the fact that Mother Dark is considered alien?
About the others:
The main problem I see with this question, is that those three aren't the be all and end all of the early pantheon - there are many other divine and semi-divine entities around at the same time, who have a greater or lesser influence on Wu.
You also might like to think though about what preceeded Burn...
They are the be all and end all. Limited to perception. As in Kabbalistic theory and their 300+ senses that need to be awakened, you can only perceive what you can perceive (tautology). Burn represents the physical world, K'rul the magic one. That's enough to enclose everything. In MoI the two are often confused and hinted as one. So it's about taking these two spheres and make them sentient, or anthropomorphic.
The Azath are about a structure and a more abstract war between order and chaos. So it seems not about a specific entity or tangible element. It's just a natural rule, like a law of physics, or "math". And Mother Dark is "outside" the current picture. In the sense that whatever is there is considered "alien" to the current worldly perspective of Burn/earth. Yet the ideas of Darkness and Light aren't external to Burn's physical dimension, and so this needs to be reconciled too.
So I don't care how many other gods were around (there's also this problem of Togg and Fanderay considering K'rul and others as "young", where they on Burn before the arrival of the Andii? So how could they see and live without "Light"?), the point is that they belong to ideas that ARE "the be all and end all".
What preceded Burn? I have no idea. The same being with a different name? The Big Bang?
I'm actually starting to see what Erikson may mean about this all being Protean and fluid.
Anyway, need to sit on those (31) ideas a while, they offer a better frame than all I did.
Well, thanks for the infuriating and awesome dialogue. I mean it sincerely ;)
I am satisfied, at least in the sense that I think I was understood, so it's good enough for me to know you've considered the perspective I offered.
Only a couple of points left, if you're still here. The first is if you want to elaborate what you say about starting taking the risks with House of Chains (not sure if you mean structure, or about leaps of faith about certain aspects of the plot, or the "timeline", or something else).
The other thing is about my two questions up at comment 24. They aren't about technical writing but they are thematic and not so connected with the plot itself. The one about the Mhybe is more specific but I wonder your point of view on the Paran/Anaster thing. Am I completely wrong there?
It's connected with where Anaster is "going" (becoming a vessel for Toc, but I've not not reached that part of the re-read yet) but in general the idea is outside the story itself, so I'm asking how do you "feel" about that.
Or maybe I'm just too radical with that idea of "choice". Yet those two questions are connected as they are both about a "journey" filled with pain, but that also is meant to reach a purpose. Not sure if the purpose can justify the pain, but the core idea that bugs me is that it's necessary to make the transition, and that the transition has to be compelled.
Which becomes one strong theme of the whole novel and beyond. About old vs new. Paran calling Nightchill "patronizing bitch" and speaking these pivotal words:
Know this, then: until you can find another means, until you can show me another way - something other than pain and grief - I'll fight you.
K'rul, via Kruppe, marks a change from former Elder God K'rul. Yet with the Mhybe Kruppe embraces the same path. One of pain and grief (for the Mhybe, keeping her unaware).
'Kruppe is pleased to assure you that matters of vast mercy are in progress. Momentary appearances are to be discounted.'
'Then why not tell her that?' Coll growled, nodding towards the Mhybe's wagon.
'Ah, but she is not yet ready to receive such truths, alas. This is a journey of the spirit. She must begin it within herself. Kruppe and Silverfox can only do so much, despite our apparent omnipotence.'
That said, in the past four days I've been in the zone
Infinite Jest, page 242:
'It's definitely one of those can't-miss intervals. It's just like that magical feeling on those rare days out there playing. Playing out of your head, deLint calls it. Loach calls it The Zone. Being in The Zone. Those days when you feel perfectly calibrated.'
'Coordinated as God.'
'Some groove in the shape of the air of the day guides everything down and in.'
'But you never know when the magic will descend on you. You never know when the grooves will open up. And once the magic descends you don't want to change even the smallest detail. You don't know what concordance of factors and variables yields that calibrated can't-miss feeling, and you don't want to soil the magic by trying to figure it out, but you don't want to change your grip, your stick, your side of the court, your angle of incidence to the sun. Your heart's in your throat every time you change sides of the court.'
'You start to get like a superstitious native. What's the word propitiate the divine spell.'
'I suddenly understand the gesundheit-impulse, the salt over the shoulder and apotropaic barn-signs.'
'These can't-miss intervals make superstitious natives out of us all, Hallie. The professional football player's maybe the worst superstitious native of all the sports. That's why all the high-tech padding and garish Lycra and complex play-terminology. The like self-reassuring display of high-tech. Because the bug-eyed native's lurking just under the surface, we know. The bug-eyed spear-rattling grass-skirted primitive, feeding virgins to Popogatapec and afraid of planes.'
In that respect, I'm the last person to defend my work or even explain myself, if you see my point.
Well, I guess I do. That line reminded me a letter of Wallace:
I tend, to the extent that I remember Infinite Jest at all, to get all sorts of different mss. and draft and pre-edited versions of it jumbled up with whatever version of it actually came out, and so I am just about the world's worst source of info on that book.
He meant his own and most famous book.
I have the vivid sensation from reading your books that "he knew what he was up", which is why it's even more frustrating because I am the one to try to reach that point and figure out what you were thinking at the time. Sometimes I grasp a line of thought in the way some scenes alternate, but I'm often chasing just my own delusions.
Still, on a very simplistic level, I think you are being deliberately closed (for your own legitimate reasons) and you have been writing and are still writing about the same material. See for example my comment from today on Chapter 23 part 1 of the re-read. That's stuff that belongs to the book you're currently writing, so I won't believe you "forgot".
At the core there seem to be some disparate elements (the fall of the Crippled God, the human generation, the elder races, the elder gods, Mother Dark and the origin of all) that you'll HAVE TO reconcile in some way and "order".
And on an even more general level you're breaking the "anthropocentric" nature of myth by playing with what's outside. So by making it "real", you are also making it false, as you describe a world that is not seen from a closed and blind anthropocentric perspective. The Greek myths existed, and in that specific form, because they were anthropocentric. So inner world projected outside.
Specifically with this new trilogy about the Tiste Andii, in an ancient, pre-human era, you are breaking that anthropocentrism. This confuses me a lot (about your intent, it's like you are breaking a "tabu"), and will also force you to reconcile those elements as the "blind spot" of human condition and perception is broken. You're offering an external point of view, so it will be in a dialogue with the internal one we have already. And I think you have to have both clear in your mind.
Also a relevant quote I just read from GRRM, about his own stuff (and own struggles):
Maybe I did make it too big two books ago. But I've thrown the balls in the air and I feel obligated to keep on juggling them as best I can. You can't just forget about some of the balls, you have to deal with the plot threads that you've introduced. If I can pull it all off the way I want hopefully it will be great. And if I don't, I'm sure the world will let me know.
A couple of more points.
The first is that there's a relevant part that explains the "peculiarity" of the Malazan army:
"Dassem Ultor's style of command. Soldiers given permission to think, to question, to argue..."
"Making us the best army this world has ever seen, Standard- Bearer."
"None the less..."
"There is no 'none the less'. It is the reason why we're the best.
Considering this day's context I'm wondering if the concept can be extended to us readers... (given the permission to think, to question, to argue)
Another aspect is that the meeting that follows between Dujek and Whiskeyjack may mark another relevant moment. It was in Chapter 21 that we argued about a whole slew of new possibilities (it was another meeting), and I think someone argued about a possible solution because of some revelation in The Crippled God that contradicted it. Specifically about Laseen not being hostile to WJ (which is required in order to make work most of the plot).
In the past I was able to make sense of some plots in GotM by figuring out that certain characters don't hold one opinion without ever changing it in the course of the book (which is very hard to consider if said PoV is not in the book, so keeping us in the dark about causes and consequences). So certain contradicting behaviors can be explained if there's a reason to believe that a character changed his mind.
I think there may be another case here (but I don't know if it holds together for the future revelations too). There was a point when WJ was a threat to Laseen, and she wanted him out. She even had very good reason to believe so, as we can speculate that Kalam was sent to her, in DG, in order to take her out and replace her. Yet, we see Kalam stepping back in DG. We probably aren't at that point yet in the timeline, but it is possible that Laseen changed her mind regarding WJ before Kalam changed his regarding Laseen.
Dujek here is in direct connection with Laseen, through Tayschrenn, who we know is very close. Tayschrenn is also trying hard to "redeem" himself from the past debacles. That's why it is plausible to believe that he's grooming Dujek to persuade WJ he's not (anymore) a threat.
This possibility would solve the apparent contradiction, because it means that Laseen wanted, specifically, WJ dead during the events of GotM (explaining why he was sent on suicidal missions). And then, in light of following developments, completely changed her mind and figured that WJ could become one of her best allies. She has valid motivations for this change, so I tend to accept it. It only remains to see if this possibility is not contradicted in a later book. In any case Dujek is not completely sincere (or is at least manipulated by Tayschrenn), since he's trying to persuade WJ that his fears aren't founded, when instead we know they were.
I wonder how a first time reader is hit by the revelation that Shadowthrone has control only of a limited fragment of the Shadow warren. Here the revelation is relatively closed as it is mostly used to introduce the Tiste Edur. These sections where Paran uses the Deck of Dragons seem "authoritative" since they do not seem bound to PoV, and so should be taken as the closest thing to truth (even still, right at the end there's an example of the contrary).
Lots of stuff being dumped, but it appears quite linear. The Shadow warren is fragmented. The real throne is somewhere in the mortal realm:
The air smelled of the sea, and somewhere outside the chamber seagulls bickered above a crashing surf.
This is Drift Avaali (it's explicitly pointed out a few lines later).
I'm wondering why the throne speaks with such emphasis, ending each sentence with an exclamation point, which actually runs counter to the dramatic effect. But beside this detail, it is revealed that there were Tiste Andii protecting this throne, and protecting it from the Edur. Who, led by a Tyrant, are chasing it (Twist previously described the Edur as "grey-skinned wanderers of the seas") to seize the throne rightfully theirs, and use that power to destroy Mother Dark (weren't the Andii also against Mother Dark since she betrayed them to go and create the Edur? Seems that both children are holding grudges).
Even the revelations in Dragnipur and about Darkness are fairly linear. I wonder about an odd parallel. Both Shadow and Darkness are being chased. Shadow by the Edur, the legitimate owners. Darkness by Chaos. We were talking about the cosmology so what's said here is very relevant and I really hope that Erikson remembers it well.
I'm a bit confused on a higher level. It's not order versus chaos, but Darkness. Draconus speaks of a "growing unbalance", and it seems this all becomes an analogy for "life":
you and your kind progress at a perilous pace on the path forged by Chaos.
What's the human role in this? Just subject to consequences or affecting them directly? And what's Burn's role?
Early in the novel it's Burn being fevered leading to such consequences, and Chaos being the hand of the Crippled God. But here we see a similar pattern that would precede the other by hundred of thousands of years. Darkness versus Chaos, the creation of Dragnipur. Surely Draconus and his sword pre-date the fall of the Crippled God. Or not. Went back to check the Prologue:
"The forging has taken... a long time, but I am now nearing completion. The power invested within the sword possesses a... a finality."
So I'm wondering if there's truly a link between the creation of the sword and the fall of the Crippled God (and so Burn's sleep and her "chaotic" fever).
Also wondering if the timeline is all "fake"... As if simply the projection of mortals, as with the gods. So the world would really start with "Burn's sleep", and everything else would be just illusion. Huh. Let's not go there.
It even seems that WJ preventing Rake to kill the witches may have had other consequences. Maybe they wouldn't make a big difference but here we see that the killing was required for another purpose, and so there was another side of the story beside eternal damnation (though, it's not a justification).
When Paran looks for Rake he doesn't find him. I said the Deck of Dragons is "authoritative" so this would mean Rake is really lost. Yet there's a caveat (not sure I remember this right). The fact that the Deck can only see inside itself, and not outside of it.
For example: the Deck wouldn't be able to reach the Crippled God before his House of Chains is sanctioned and admitted to enter. So Rake may be hiding somewhere outside the Deck which would justify why the Deck can't reach him.
I'll answer that with a quote from an article on David Foster Wallace:
The editing went smoothly. In a letter to Howard, Wallace had promised to be "neurotic and obsessive" but "not too intransigent or defensive." But they disagreed on how "Broom" should end. Howard felt that the text called for some sort of resolution; Wallace did not think so. Howard urged him to keep in mind "the physics of reading"or, as Wallace came to understand the phrase, "a whole set of readers' values and tolerances and capacities and patience-levels to take into account when the gritty business of writing stuff for others to read is undertaken." In other words, a reader who got through a long novel like "Broom" deserved a satisfying ending. Wallace was not so confident a writer as to simply ignore Howard's suggestion; as he wrote to Howard, he didn't want his novel to be like "Kafka's 'Investigations of a Dog' . . . Ayn Rand or late Günter Grass, or Pynchon at his rare worst"books that gave pleasure only to their authors. Yet when he tried to write a proper conclusion, "in which geriatrics emerge, revelations revelationize, things are cleared up," the words felt wrong to him. "I am young and confused and obsessed with certain problems that I think right now distill the experience of being human," he wrote to Howard. Reality was fragmented, and so his book must be, too. In the end, he broke the novel off midsentence: "I'm a man of my"
He expressed concern, however, over the novel's many dangling threads. Earlier, he had cautioned Wallace that the reader, after so many pages, would feel entitled to "find out who or how or why."
I agree with Wallace's editor. After so many pages the reader has earned his answers, hopefully the writer is generous enough to provide them. The more pages the fairer the demand for answers.
I already put Erikson among the generous writers for what I've read of him. Maybe I'm just never completely satisfied (but this isn't a justification, or will stop me from asking or trying to figure out).
Briefly returning on this:
The thing is, while I am comfortable with contradiction, you clearly are not, and upon this we can never agree, can we?
No, we have to agree. I'm very comfortable with contradiction, but I see it in the way I see "characters lying". From my point of view it forces to do TWICE the work. If you want to make a character lie then you need to know the truth AND give the character a motivation to lie. So it branches in two and you have to keep both these branches alive. "Lying" can't be the shortcut or excuse to avoid explaining something (as long you deliberately hide the explanation, but you need to know the answer and have very good motivations for refusing to give the reader this kind of payoff).
I'm fine with contradiction as long it's a limited PoV, hopefully waiting for the light to shine. I love contradiction as long is momentary and part of a process. I love the first 100 pages of HoC because they deliver a self-contained story that plays directly with this structure. You are shown an idea of truth, and then see it "escalate" as veils are removed as if it was an onion (and every layer motivated to be manipulated that way). It moves toward truth and you realize of how all previous assumptions were lies (first those of the characters involved, and then your own as reader). But the vector is one of truth. It's not an haphazard process that wants to say that nothing can be explained. In fact those 100 pages offer great satisfaction and are an example of a structure that I think does the "mystery" aspect optimally (it builds on top of knowledge coming from previous books, it opens like a flower instead of becoming a dead-end, every answer offering a deeper understanding, connecting more parts, it works both on the plot level as well the thematic one). There was a substantial payoff there for reasons I've stated.
Right now I gave a glance at the Malazan forum and there were people discussing the last book and still without a clue about the Jade statues, Otataral and whatnot, just for an example. So, I'm fine with contradiction, but I naturally try to work it out, eventually. Step up in the process of comprehension. If I can't, or get stuck, I will be frustrated, and in that case I hope you (as the writer) have at least a good reason to have chosen for that kind of outcome.
Hopefully my point of view is understood....
(I feel a bit like the Mhybe in my own question above, being deliberately kept in the dark for a reason I can't understand. Or like channeling Paran against Nightchill:
Keeping us ingnorant is your notion of mercy?
Though, Nightchill answers: In time...
I am patiently restless.)
When, oh when will darkness come? When will merciful darkness fall, Kruppe reiterates, so that blessed blindness enwreathes proper selves, thus permitting inspiration to flash and thus reveal the deceit of deceits, the sleightest of sleight of hands, the non-illusion of illusions?
And as you can see my question wasn't simply about Burn, but the trinity (Burn, K'rul, Mother Dark) and how these sit in respect to each other.
I'm rising questions that should be tackled and considered. Whether Erikson wants to address them directly or not (in the text or outside it) is his own choice, but all those deductions of cause and consequence need to be tackled. He says he's writing about the cosmology right now, so I hope he has a clear vision (and he cares enough to keep it consistent with what he already wrote). Muddying the waters is always fun (imho), but it means the the job is explonentially harder as every new layer needs to be consistent and be justified in the bigger picture. You can't just do it for the sake of it.
I always very gladly welcome RAFO (if not used as an excuse). My questions only represent a stage. I don't know what kind of answers I'll get. Maybe none about all that, or maybe some that sit in contradiction. So the point was for me to gather questions in detail because they represent what I'm thinking right now, and loose threads that are hopefully tied later on. It's to keep *me* focused.
As I said I used the reread to backtrack a lot of those parts that felt more "loose", so trying to pin down what on a first read doesn't get the attention (for example I'd really like if Erikson gave us some insight or his own opinion about that scene in chapter 21 between Dujek and WJ, that drew a lot of controversy and I was planning to ask).
Other loose pieces only appear as so, but you never know if there's no answer because it was not provided (like Quick Ben's origin, that Erikson says can't be deduced) or because you didn't look hard enough. For example to the Prologue scene of DG Erikson didn't answer me:
There is simply no way that I can give you specific meaning, because it carries multiple meanings.
Yet I think I got that answer reading MoI (and it's specific). Hood may have reached for Heboric because of who Heboric truly was, and because Hood knew that Fener's fall was near (and maybe had an hand in it). So there weren't multiple meanings, but multiple facets that originated from that point. Which is what I was puzzling about, since in DG one only gets the idea that Fener's fall is a sudden and unplanned event. No idea that Fener's power has been waning for a very long time, or that there were manipulative gods involved. That was a RAFO too, I guess (though, easily missed even if one read MoI).
And sometimes it feels these non-central plots that are actually the spine of the bigger plot are so well hidden that Erikson himself risks of forgetting about them (in the sense that I don't know why this example about Fener didn't get a better exposition in these books, since it's pivotal and still almost completely omitted on the explicit level, dealt with as an almost irrelevant sub-plot on the sideline, relying completely on the reader to dig out).
Anyway, at a later point I'll surely forget about most of this, so I can use what I wrote here as a reference.
Also, I'd discuss this impression I get from Erikson's reaction that I'm not sure others really want to (discuss). The impression that he wants to leave his work behind, so that he can then move on with the current and future stuff he's writing. As if one is necessary in order to do the other.
While instead my impression as a reader is the opposite: that everything he will write strictly depends on (and is woven with) what came before. As a dialogue or as a way to develop the connections in the plot and themes that are there. And so that he should revisit what came before in order to backtrack and remember how those ideas came out and why (see for example the answer he gives about the hound, trying to remember what was the original idea).
His not remembering is absolutely normal. His not wanting or even refusing to remember makes me curious because I don't understand it.
Well, I considered writing the other chunk of questions but I'll leave them out. Two of these I'd still offer though:
- The Mhybe's scene were for me the better part of the reread. The one aspect where I share some doubts with the criticism is that the Mhybe's suffering seems to be "exploited" and stretched a bit too much. What I mean is that I would expect better from K'rul, Kruppe and Silverfox. All these three have a deeper awareness of what is going on, yet none of them does anything directly to reassure the Mhybe or help her *understanding* what is happening to her in her dreams. The problem is about the matter of (lack of) communication. And in that way it appears very like the Elder Gods type of hidden manipulation (so very unlike Kruppe and the new K'rul). The notion of "mercy" seems entirely contained in the fact that they manipulate for the Mhybe's own good. What I don't accept directly is that they decide to leave the Mhybe unaware and do her own good without letting her understand or be part of it (and so sharpening her pain, since most of it was due to lack of comprehension of what she was going through).
- The other question on the same line and about Paran's decision with Anaster (the scene is at the very end of Chapter 21). It's about the theme of choice, or the imposition of it. In this case Paran appears as manipulative as Nightchill, imposing his own choice on someone else, based on his own personal idea of "right" and "wrong". The matter is that Anaster WANTS to live in pain, as consequence of his life. While the Grey Sword's Shield Anvil wants to "liberate" him of his pain. Paran is asked to give permission to this and he gives it without hesitation. This appears very "wrong" to me. One thing this series actually teaches is about respect. Even Anaster is a figure about respect (see the poem at the beginning of Chapter 16). It's because we can never be certain of anything that we should at least respect others' choices, no matter how bad they appear to us and "good willed" ours. Imposition of choice is always an act of violence and implies arrogance. It's a tyranny of point of view. This even in the extreme cases, in the same way Anaster is an example of an extreme case that still demands to be understood (and forgiven).
Salvation can be offered, but it can't be forced. You can help someone else make the right choice by showing him other possibilities, but you can't force those choices directly, or impose them. This was a kind of block from my point of view. Then I thought a way out: liberating Anaster could have been a way to actually put him in the condition of being able to make a choice. Because his choice of living in pain was itself a product of obscuration. So the forcing was required in order to offer him a better awareness. A necessary, but TEMPORARY step. Yet, this is the outcome:
Rides unknowing. He is naught but a shell, sir. There was naught else within him but pain. Its taking has stolen his knowledge of himself.
There's no better awareness. Anaster got obliterated entirely. So, am I wrong in the interpretation of this passage? I know where it's headed, but it seemed to me another forced manipulation done by Elder Gods that disrespectfully stepped right over people's choice. That Paran wholly embraced.
Steve, I write those long questions in the hope to get answers as well to collect them in one place so that I can use them as reference in the future and pin down stuff that is solved and stuff that isn't. That's also why I'm still commenting the past reread articles that no one reads. I'm doing this work for myself as well to whoever may care. So gathering those questions serves a purpose already (answering them would complete it, but still...).
I don't understand your answers though. Burn's sleep date could be an approximation, but it still is an event within the timeline and not outside it. So I don't understand how it can be the whole "vessel". It's also a mess from my point of view because we get this problem of "priority" on a very high level. As you say about belief systems.
The problem here is that in OUR world belief systems are a human thing. This is why, in your interview thing about epic fantasy on Clarkesworld, you talk about anthropomorphism. We are the center and so what we see outside is completely limited, and what we can see outside can as well be a projection of what's within (the inner world and all the Greeks have built). But in your series you don't limit the perspective, and we have non-humans as well as gods. The timeline itself stretching beyond the beginning of humanity, with sentient beings from a prior time still around. So you show what's outside a closed belief system and limited perception. If a Malazan scholar thinks that all life is created by Burn's sleep then this is the product of limited perception (if he can't use science to probe what's before), but a god (as well the myriad of populations that already existed at the time of Burn's sleep), that lived BEFORE the Crippled God's fall and so before the need for Burn to sleep, must know what happened in the transition. If they DON'T know, in the sense they weren't affected in any way, this also leads to other important deductions while closing other possibilities.
What I mean is that it's the belief system to be pierced as the story and the timeline extend way, way beyond the limit of the belief system itself. So what you can do is only play with limited perspective (that you know how to do, and do well. Think for example of Karsa and the Teblor, whose belief system was a lie, because it was enclosed and, so, blind). Meaning that one belief system can get nested within a bigger one (moving through a revelatory spark). But in the moment you do this, you, yourself, have to have a clear vision of how they reconcile. You don't want to answer? Fine. But I don't understand if you tell me that you can be at ease with a contradiction on this or other levels. Why do you feel so? Why should I feel so?
The Crippled God fell during Burn's sleep or before she started to sleep? If the sleep is consequence of the Crippled God's fall, then the Crippled God couldn't have crash into her dreamspace, it didn't exist yet. Meaning that a possibility could be about "displacement", like Kallor's empire, or the Mhybe (she "sleeps to dream", and "must dream for real"). Places that existed somewhere else and were then moved into dreams. But then one wonders why also "alien" or external gods got carried over (maybe limited to those gods "bound" to corresponding and mortal populations, if the T'lan gods also moved into Mhybe's dreamspace), or how Burn affected life before the dream started (or how the dream can cure the illness considering that also Brood was carried over, which makes a fascinating possibility).
Or are you telling me that the structural means are irrelevant as long they reach their emotional ends? So is the Deus Ex Machina not a flaw as long the public is cheering at the climax?
I could gather the pieces and make my own theories about how all these pieces could fit. I have my chunks of pet theories. And I also think the details and unexplored possibilities in here can make for good stories. But I keep those out of the discussion because I don't like speculating and going on wild tangents. I prefer to stay with what's in the books instead of writing my own fanfiction. What I mean is that I hope YOU also have your own answers and are not ignoring all those questions. Because they aren't "mine". They are in the text.
(also, I'd say that those questions would arise for those relevant scholars of the Malazan Empire too)
Ugh, I need to start putting together all the questions but it's hard in the impossible heat here.
Anyway, Steve, I'm going to pack a lot of questions without restraints, so feel free to ignore or dodge them, I won't be disappointed ;)
(WARNING: wall of text incoming)
- In the latest world map we got in our hands (that was based on one of your old sketches), Jakuruku is placed west of Korelri. Both being also rather small (about the same size of Quon Tali). But in this Prologue K'rul moves through the whole Korelri and supposedly arrives on the west shore of Jakuruku (they are three, Draconus comes from the north, Sister of Cold Nights from the South, and K'rul from the west), so we could deduce that the positions are swapped. Could you tell us the correct placement of the two continents? And maybe take some pictures of that big map you have somewhere? ;)
- About the K'rul, Burn and Mother Dark trinity. And more in we include the Azath, that in DG was described as an entity above all others. Who comes first? Who's of the three/four the actual "origin"? It seems Mother Dark created the "first wound", as a warren, does it mean that K'rul was around at that time in a form or another (since he "contains" all warrens)? And considering that ideas like "light" and "dark" would precede the physical world, who is that created Burn if Burn came "after"? Is there any way to give an unitarian explanation to these seemingly disparate mythologies? (also wondering how all of this can be brought back to an anthropocentric interpretation, if we consider these entities as created and shaped by humanity, and considering the anthropomorphic aspects that rule everything)
- To complicate things so much further. The Prologue says that Togg and Fanderay considered K'rul and the other Elder Gods as "young entities", coming from a warren that was ancient compared to the others. How is possible that K'rul is "younger" if he's the "origin" (being the "vessel" of all warrens, so containing all of them)? Was this just an inconsistency or it should be taken as true and valid?
- Burn specifically. The myth says, or could be interpreted, as if Burn's dream is her natural state. We (on the Malazan world) exist because Burn dreams of us. Life follows cycles as Burn may dream in cycles, so if Burn wakes up all current life ceases to be, replaced by the next cycle (and the Mhybe also represent a similar idea of "inner world"). Same for the interpretation of earthquakes as Burn stirring in her sleep. The problem is that Burn started sleeping only long after the fall of the Crippled God. Her sleep is a relatively recent event, so it can't "contain" the whole story, nor rule the natural state of reality. The way her body represents the world is easily reconcilable with her dreaming, but what happens (and happened) when she is awake? Was she at the same time the world as well as a "physical" and conscious single entity within it, similar to how K'rul's body represents the "warrens", yet he walks the mortal realm as Keruli?
"You speak of the world as a physical thing, subject to natural laws. Is that all it is?"
"No, in the end the minds and senses of all that is alive define what is real - real for us, that is."
"Is Burn the cause to our effect?"
"She sleeps ... to dream."
K'rul, yours was the path the Sleeping Goddess chose
This again hints at a bigger, hidden picture. Again the idea of an all-encompassing dream is the strongest. Burn's sleep is a "box", a kind of defined, ordered space, containing the possibility of life. To achieve what? "Of dreams, hopes and tragic ends". It rises questions about us as dreams of someone else, about real purpose and real perception. Yet all these suggestive ideas are hard to reconcile with the fact that Burn started sleeping only at some point of the story, and that "humanity", "life", or "perception" were states that preceded Burn's sleep. In the case of the Mhybe she becomes the vessel for a "physical" world, so that world becomes wholly contained in her dream, in the case of Burn instead the physical world extends outside her dream (since it existed BEFORE she started sleeping). This is the specific point that I can't figure out and that I'd like to be commented, if possible.
- Continuing, why all life will be destroyed if Burn awakes, considering that life existed before she started to sleep and the beginning of her sleep doesn't seem to coincide with any sort of apocalypse? "Burn's sleep" doesn't seem to coincide with any world changing event. The timeline appears continuous, unaffected and without a breaking point or wholly new origin.
- Continuing, why is Burn sleeping? In the end the Seer didn't answer Quick Ben's question directly. Following a weird line of thoughts I was considering that if the life/world has been "displaced" to Burn's dream, does this mean that Burn has left behind another world left barren (like with Kallor, his empire gets "displaced" and becomes the Imperial Warren, while the land is left behind to heal)? And, if this harrowing line of thoughts is correct, what gave K'rul/Burn authority or power to carry over all the gods to Burn's dreamworld, including those considered "alien" to the world/Burn?
- Chaos should be the space between warrens, as non-ordered space. Lack of meaning and structure, still part of K'rul's body. This is another similar point to the fact that "chaos" seems an abstract idea, yet the Crippled God takes possession of it. Chaos is described in this book as the warren he uses. So "chaos" again precedes the Crippled God and he just took control of it? How was this kind of link formed between Chaos and the Crippled God?
- Is there a rational or motivated link between the magic spaces (warrens) and physical world? What I mean is that the Imperial Warren should be what was Jakuruku's general area, more or less, yet the Malazans use that warren not to move around Jakuruku, but around their own lands. So what's the link between that magic space and the physical one?
- Baaljagg should be the female ay that survives the Prologue. Yet she's still around some 300,000 years later. So can K'rul grant immortality considering that the "binding" with Fanderay is supposed to happen at a much later date and that Baaljagg wandered alone a very long time?
- Same for Kilava. She doesn't join the ritual. It is the ritual to grant other T'lan immortality, yet Kilava is still around. Where is immortality coming from? Or were shapeshifters/bonecasters already immortal?
- How was she supposed to generate alone the whole First Empire if Treach is the very first (and last, considering that he was at the ritual) of her sons? When the First Empire started and ended? Has to be after 300,000 years, since it's after the T'lan ritual (and rightful First Empire). And if Treach is the first of the "humans", does it mean that humans were around for 300,000 years? Or the transition happens at a later point? Also, if Treach is born as "mortal" and achieves immortality via ritual, how is it possible that the First Empire developed and collapsed in the span of one (his) life? Obviously, I'm missing some substantial parts here.
- What's the link between these three events: the creation of Otataral (specific to the island where Heboric and the others end up), the shattering of an non-precised warren, the soletaken ritual gone wrong that destroys the First Empire. The incineration that created Otataral happened on the eastlands, while Heboric and others discover the remains of the First Empire and the ritual when they arrive somewhere in Seven Cities, so these two events must be separated (at least geographically). Is this shattering of warren completely separated from Shadow? And if not, what's the link between Soletaken and Shadow (I'd rather guess a link between the Beast Throne and Soletaken)?
- Fener's power waning. On a first read the plot only exposes what happens after Heboric touches the Jade statue (bringing Fener down, making him vulnerable and mortal), yet it seems that that one episode is only the last act, and that Fener's power has been waning for a long time. This is important because it retrospectively explains the scene of the Prologue in DG (and a lot more). The reason why the priest of Hood had an interest in Heboric. DG didn't seem to offer a plausible explanation that wasn't contradictory, but in MoI we discover that the fall of Fener wasn't unexpected or sudden as it appeared (in DG). It started long before, and it was being actively manipulated to happen. Heboric touching the Jade statue and triggering the fall was only the last step. The other revelation is that Heboric wasn't a random priest among others, but the Destriant of Fener. So the possibility that Hood was directly involved (with K'rul, considering that in MoI K'rul moves the pieces and manipulates them long before they get revealed) in the planning and manipulation leading to Fener's fall also justifies the fact that he had specific interest in Heboric (who was himself a "fallen" Destriant) and wanted to "show" him something. That's also why Hood tries to recruit the Grey Swords by sending Gethol (before Fener's actual fall, so anticipating it).
The question is about the actual origin of this huge plot movement. Because it's as if everything is just a consequence of previous act (think of Heboric and the revelation that Fener's fall is only the very last step of a long process). So this leads to backtracking and I'm wondering when, why and who first decided to push the events ultimately leading to Fener's fall. Who is going to profit from this (not Treach, since he was in animal state and so couldn't "plot" much), what's the actual goal that drove it all? K'rul is actively manipulating things, but he was inactive before GotM. Is Hood the origin? What's his goal? Other readers said that Fener's power waning was due to the Malazan Empire discouraging said cult, so weakening Fener's power. Was this Shadowthrone's plan when he was on the throne? Was this part of some Grand Plan of his? If instead the cults were being disbanded because of corruption, what is that actually caused this process? All this is important to pin down because it's the very foundation of everything that happens on a higher level in these books. So without being aware of a first movement it feels like the whole plot is based on unexplainable assumptions and starting conditions. Like the missing hinge of a huge door.
- Other elements of the plot appear "floaty" as well (Deus Ex Machina? ;D ). Take for example Picker's torcs. They are delivered to Gruntle, exactly where they were supposed to go. Yet the events building up to this were completely fortuitous. It was Munug that was carrying the torcs, then Picker bought them without knowing that she was supposed to "deliver" them to someone else. So it seems that events were driven by an hidden hand and that nothing that appeared as fortuitous was really so. Is this K'rul manipulating things (as with Toc)? And how/why can he have this unnatural knowledge of future events, considering he knows things with precisions that can't be possibly just deduced by cause/effect?
(I'm not done. Still have some important questions...)
I already discussed Hetan when it was in relation to Itkovian. In this case with Kruppe it's really not forced. Kruppe's thoughts are quite obvious in one of the following scenes:
"Oh, hear naught of Kruppe and his secret desires for self-destruction at hands of delicious woman! Hear naught! Hear naught until meaning itself disperses..."
He's just playing around as usual, and if he wanted to escape I'm pretty sure he would be able to do it ;)
The most harrowing thing is how it was all happening right in front of the mule:
the mule was there, after all, and look upon poor beast - exhausted by what its eyes could not help but witness! Exhausted unto near death by simple empathy!
Think about it. It's not that it's kind of embarrassing to have sex in front of a mule who seems staring intently, but it's actually in front of K'rul! I mean, the Elder God is watching! I guess he's learning about that as well...
The scene also drives the mystery of Anomander Rake (Erikson puts this scene after an intense and dense one, so it's as if the levity wants to be a break, when instead we in truth get a continuation). Kruppe's words seem to me the obvious link (and that's also what Kruppe means with "until meaning itself disperses").
This is also where I like Kruppe the most. His way of speaking is all about misdirection, but it's never done by saying something false or purposeless. He always chases the truth, and the misdirection is done through a shift of perspective, not by actual alteration. You think he's talking about "this", but he's truly talking about "that". Yet what he says is true, and by way of translation, it applies to both contexts. The misdirection works like the layering that Erikson does with the text. Words and ideas that carry at the same time more meanings, or that can be used as symbols to relate to something different.
I guess this could work as well as another interpretation of Kruppe. The manipulation is on the level of meaning and symbols, not on reality directly. And Kruppe deals primarily with dreams, where the minds plays on similar patterns, twisting perception, ideas and their symbolic meaning, creating interpretations and different perspectives that are almost impossible to extricate. Something that is at the same time completely self-contained and driven by its rules, as well as dependent on what's outside (since dreams derive in their totality from waking life). Yet even the "fabric" of dreams is as true as the real world. It's always authentic and shaped around truth.
When, oh when will darkness come? When will merciful darkness fall, Kruppe reiterates, so that blessed blindness enwreathes proper selves, thus permitting inspiration to flash and thus reveal the deceit of deceits, the sleightest of sleight of hands, the non-illusion of illusions
Darkness is the link to Rake. Kruppe's been silent because he's been thinking. The whole scene seems just misdirection about what happened with Hetan, but Kruppe is actually saying something different and more important, as usual. That quote is in truth the result of the thinking. He was thinking about what happened to Rake, and it seems that he figured out what could have happened. He speaks about sleight of hand and courage. A future moment of revelation.
More shaved knuckles in the hole. Not just Quick Ben and Paran playing their own game ("But for those two it's a double-blind - there's another mission hiding under this one"), But also Rake preparing something. The alliance is falling apart, but surely not for lack of initiative.
I'm wondering if there isn't a plot point hidden here:
Forgive us, somewhat longer-legged spawn of Humbrall Taur, we beg you!
It's a detail but I wonder why Kruppe here describes Cafal and Hetan like that. Some kind of different heritage, or starting point for the evolution of the Barghast. My suspect is that Kruppe is seeing something, and so called it out as usual, even if while keeping it hidden.
Kruppe's admiration for Hetan is also obvious everywhere, including the high point where Hetan mimics Kruppe's way of speaking, with Kruppe reveling in it:
"Dear lass, you are one after Kruppe's own heart! Pray, resume this non-interrogative question, at length, wax your words into the thickest candle so that I may light an unquenchable flame of love in its honour."
Besides, Hetan seems one of the few who can look right through Kruppe's misdirection. At least sometimes.
I flipped pages to see where the Mhybe comes up again and it seems it will take a while. On a second read the most hated part of the book is the one that is keeping me hooked the most. Also because it's at the same time easier to parse, as well as mysterious since I can't remember how the details will fit (and how they could be interpreted/may mean on a higher level).
With a book so dense with ideas I think that one thing that kept Erikson focused is about tackling a few elements at a time, let them play but following a momentary order. A linearity within utter chaos. So for example when something is introduced in an excerpt at the beginning of a chapter it means that the argument will be resumed a few pages later. In this case it's the Moranth and Twist in particular.
In that excerpt it's implied the question about why the Moranth are involved in this battle (instead of being like the Barghast, neutral), and especially why siding with the Malazans. Though the focus is on a "lost story". A story that is untold and so forgotten. Scattered among the ashes of the Fallen. It reminds the loss in the process. This is a "hero", whose story has vanished. And for all the stories that are told and that stay meaningful there are always a mind numbing number that are "unwitnessed", in spite of their value. The lack of memories is more frightening than what remains.
If one flips back the page to the Mhybe's scene, that's where we left. An oblivion that is more frightening that the nightmares she was having:
The Abyss she had seen in her nightmares of so long ago had been a place of chaos, of frenzied feeding on souls, of miasmic memories detached and flung on storm winds. Perhaps those visions had been the products of her own mind, after all. The true Abyss was what she was now seeing, on all sides, in every direction-
What about Blend? Amanda wonders if there isn't magic involved in her skills and that's the same vibe I had reading the book. I thought it was something just waiting to be revealed at the right moment. Now instead I think Erikson openly toyed with the idea. The relationship between Blend and "magic" is the same that there's right here in the scene. The way Blend tries to trick Paran telling she's hearing the sounds of the other BBs. It's quickly revealed as a trick. We got an objective "answer" to that mystery, can narrow it down to a "fact" (Blend was pretending, Paran wasn't fooled). Yet it still leaves a suspicion. A very slight one, sitting hidden in the corner (like Blend herself). But it's there, and you're left wondering.
So Blend is a bit like the idea of Shadow that is developed in the next pages. The shadow of a shadow. Something that plays, tricks through ambiguity. Not true Shadow. Something you see and then the next moment leaves you wondering if there was really something. That scene with the interplay between Paran and Blend is more telling because it plays directly with the core of the idea. It's not simply disappearing in the shadows, but playing with an illusion, with suspicions.
The "fact" is that Blend isn't using magic. Erikson is simply playing magic as a perspective here. You may know someone for real that has the habit of creeping on you, Blend is a play on that idea. It looks like magic, but may as well be plain normal. Just perspective. It never transcends normality, it only tiptoes on the edge. Pragmatically one imagines that if Blend was using magic then the other mages like Spindle or Quick Ben would be able to sniff it out. Yet the slight suspicion can as well remain. Blend could just have a natural talent that wasn't developed into magic. Certainly she has an affinity to shadow, and so may even reach close to it without tapping on magic directly. In the end, though, it's just a character that appears as magical even if she's merely a very good trickster.
Or maybe not. But as this book plays with frames and turns perspectives, I think that this won't be used as a plot point. It will just remain a suspicion at the periphery of the sight. A self-contained play. The story may as well hide another (the story of Blend's previous life, as it happens with Lostara) but in this case it's a story that can remain untold.
Then there's again a quick mention of Twist just before he comes in the scene to piece together his part of the story. We've had revelations about the Barghast and here we are told the Moranth side of the story. There's a fragment of Shadow where they live and they made peace with the Tiste Edur (who are also being introduced here to reappear in an handful of pages later). Even if this explains most things, especially finally giving the answer about why the Moranth joined the war and decided to ally with the Malazans, there are still a number of specific questions still lingering. For example the nature of their armor, or why they speak with clicking, insect-like sounds. Surely lots of time passed that justifies big differences between Moranth and Barghast, but those aspects must be rooted into something.
In a way, the Moranth don't really look like an "evolved" version of the Barghast. Blocked in armor. As if restrained. Or as if the stagnation of the Barghast was physically displayed in the Moranth's armor. Being weighted down and made impersonal.
A part that drew my attention was Twist's switch of perspective regarding his arm. Then using it to generalize to the case of the Barghast:
The Barghast must accept that growth is necessary, even if painful.
Especially if further generalized, as the Mhybe (and Toc) seems set on a similar path where the suffering is necessary for salvation.
Need to get back in the habit. Leftover comments:
The Daru could feel the breath of unabated power, cool and indifferent, as he sat on the stone bench outside the chamber of the sepulchre.
"Cool and indifferent" isn't quite matching the picture of Hood. The fact they are in that place is a further confirmation. So this description seems quite similar to Mhybe's own experience. What is perceived is not as things are. Limited PoV.
We get some well written characterization of Coll that makes him a better defined character, and it also draws from his past. As mentioned by others this matter of his son seems relevant, so it's a bit disappointing if Erikson forgot about it in later books (and this is one aspect that objectively "suffers" from his restraint to do a through re-read and smooth the kinks).
Then the Mhybe's dream continues to rise questions that I still can't remember/figure out. The tundra is gone, maybe she's crossing now into Hood's realm.
It is ominous the way she feels, especially if takes as "foreshadowing":
She had no destination in mind for this journey of the spirit; nor the will to seek to fashion one in this deathly dreamscape, had she known how.
In a way that's what is going to happen. The dreamscape will be "fashioned", and it is going to be her destination. I'm not even wondering about the theme of choice here. I'm not sure I'm going to consider this whole plan as "merciful".
The riddle has yet to be solved, wondering if it will... I remember where this is all going, but couldn't remember the position and meaning of every piece. So the whole deal of Silverfox's "gift" with the T'lan Ay still escapes me.
Also not sure what to make of this representation of Toc, which seems like a mix of Burn and The Crippled God (described as huge, the Mhybe wondering if she's contained within).
The dust became as glass.
That seems a direct link back to the poem at the start of the chapter. But even here I'm missing the obvious meaning. As well as the web and spider that close the scene.
I'm feeling fairly dumb at the moment ;)
Abalieno: regards your first post, I am sorry you wrote at such length explaining how Kallor didn't work as a bad guy. I'm afraid the founding premise is wrong: he never was a bad guy, not in this novel and not in any other. I don't like the bad guy/good guy stuff. His motivations regarding Silverfox were, in his mind, sound ones.
Yeah, I know well :)
I should have used "antagonist" instead of "bad guy". It's just the relative position and function of the character within the novel. My point was more about the pattern I was describing than painting Kallor as a "bad guy". In fact even in the two other examples I made the lines are more blurred (well, not SO blurred with Hannibal Lecter, the point isn't that Lecter is "bad", but that he he's both dangerous and helpful). It's just that limited to this book Kallor didn't seem to have much depth and seemed to be there on the scene only to do his betrayal. It felt a bit too convenient and the nature of the betrayal itself not too deep.
It just an element of this book that I think wasn't played to its potential. I was expecting more from Kallor. Being more involved in the events on different levels instead of being played mostly as a "hidden" (and not so subtly) dagger.
And thanks for the insight about the rest.
Well, back on the reread to deal with an handful of pages. The kind that would mostly go unnoticed as nothing hugely significant happens, yet it's these parts that I admire the most and that I think are better written.
The scene between Gruntle, Itkovian and Stonny is awesome. Great banter and characterization. A few small bits I've picked:
Gruntle makes a joke about dividing his legion in two companies, one called Riff and the other Raff. Again showing his hostility about the "sacredness" of the whole deal with military organization as well worship of a god. He's being contrarian to the role that was imposed on himself. Defying.
This, in light of contrast with Itkovian (and it's interesting how now these two stay together as friends), is explained again a page later:
Trake's Mortal Sword despised armies; indeed, despised anything even remotely connected to the notion of military practices. He was indifferent to discipline, and had but one officer - a Lestari soldier, fortunately - to manage his now eight-score followers: stony-eyed misfits that he'd laughingly called Trake's Legion.
Gruntle was, in every respect, Itkovian's opposite.
And again this contrast is played shortly after:
The Mortal Sword wheeled his horse round and drove his heels into the beast's flanks.
Against Itkovian's description:
The faintest shift in weight and a momentary brush of the reins against his horse's neck brought the animal about.
Quite the different "worldview".
The interplay between the three has similar turnabouts that I love in the plot as well in dialogue, or every other form. First Gruntle asks Stonny for how long she followed them, then a spin on literal meanings, then Stonny says she was going to the Grey Swords and the other two were in the way, Gruntle answers that with so much space she didn't need to cross them, Stonny calls them "lazy pigs" and that if they had a brain they would try to get the reports, Gruntle retorts that Stonny is still talking with them, and so Stonny moves on to the those reports to prove her own point. While Gruntle and Itkovian stay back, apparently unperturbed, but then start wondering about the reports, still without making a move, so making them the fitting description of "lazy pigs" Stonny gave them.
But in the end Stonny comes back to tell them the reports, so "fulfilling" Gruntle's view ;)
And I'm definitely for the new guard. Paran and Gruntle:
I hate titles.
Again the theme of choice:
"You should have grabbed him by the throat and done it no matter what he wanted. That's what the new Shield Anvil's done to that one-eyed First Child of the Dead Seed, Anaster, isn't it? And now the man rides at her side -"
"Rides unknowing. He is naught but a shell, sir. There was naught else within him but pain. Its taking has stolen his knowledge of himself. Would you have had that as Buke's fate as well, sir?"
The man grimaced.
I've commented this specifically on Chapter 21 and here it's even worse. After writing that comment I figured a way out, about the reason why an imposed choice could have been necessary.
The point is: you need to be ABLE to make a choice, because choosing while being completely in the dark is basically the same as being driven by something you don't perceive. So forcing the purification on Anaster could have been justified. He never had the CHANCE to make a different choice in his life. He didn't know anything else and so he didn't know redemption. He had to be shown. In order to be "able" to choose he had to be forced into being aware. So the process wasn't about removing his choice (of living in pain), but about putting him in the condition of being able to choose.
But here, in the aftermath, the description isn't one of awakening. "Rides unknowing". Which means the purification for sure didn't help him in the way of awareness. Which means I'm raging even more at Paran's choice...
I wish I'd understand Erikson better on this.
I would view both MOI and DG as that, in that they are in a moebius relationship, elliptical, and that is something I played with in all the books of the series awaiting this re-read.
That made me think again about DF Wallace as Infinite Jest is also structured elliptically and the "annular" shape is a "theme" in the book that is "played", sometimes through metaphors, in a number of different ways and contexts. Which is what Malazan is doing as well, stylistically, even if on different terms.
I'm writing that because after thinking that I go to continue my reread, still on chapter 22, and this the first thing I get:
He would have liked to call the man he had been a stranger now, but the world had a way of spinning unnoticed, until what he'd thought he'd turned his back on suddenly faced him again.
Even worse, introspection - for him at least - was a funnel in sand, a spider waiting at the bottom. And Coll well knew he was quite capable of devouring himself.
The world spins about us unseen. The blind dance in circles. There's no escaping what you are, and all your dreams glittered white at night, but grey in the light of day. And both are equally deadly. Who was that damned poet?
Quite fitting happenstance.
Huh, I have some catching up to do. Let's see... I'm still at Chapter 23, it will take a while ;)
I have had a number of things to comment but some of them I forgot and I still have to read the last chunk to re-frame some opinions. One of the things I wanted to say (but it's still based on what I remember since I'm not on those scenes yet) is that I consider Kallor one of the weak chain links of this book. An element that had some potential but that wasn't played fully or executed so well.
At the start of GotM the alliance between Brood and Kallor is already taken for granted but it always left me skeptical. Here it becomes more of a factor and I still think it doesn't work too well. One wonders why these two are together (the only guess is that Brood prefers to keep this kind of enemy close).
But more than the motivations of the alliance I didn't like how Kallor was used in the story. I know he gets some better characterization in a later volume, but here he remains quite shallow. The way I perceived him is that he was mostly used as a tool to get to WJ's planned death. He seems to have no other purpose within the novel, and as a betrayer he wasn't even well hidden. No real intrigue or surprise about what happens. He seemed fixed on a cliche role, with superficial motivations, and then made to connect the plot point without much significance. The bad guy does his stabbing at the end as part of the script.
More specifically I was thinking about this because I was watching Fringe (the X-Files-like TV series) and there's a bad guy that is relatively cliche as well, but used in a way that is more satisfying. Or think for example at another similar figure like Hannibal Lecter. These are cases (and plot patterns) of "bad" guys with which uneasy alliances have to be made. One would avoid consorting with them, but the alliance becomes a necessity and has to be "suffered", no matter the unpleasantness or danger of it. See what I mean? From my point of view Kallor filled here a similar role. He represents an uneasy alliance that has to be endured, even if you expect it will likely backfire and give you lots of troubles.
Yet it's the key element that is missing: Kallor isn't really needed for anything. He's not indispensable the way Mr. Jones of Fringe or Hannibal Lecter were, in order to solve the cases, and so the lives of those involved. There was a lot at stake that made the alliance a necessity in those cases. And so crossing to the dark side had to be suffered no matter the risk. But in MoI? Kallor, plot-wise, is more annoying that WJ's leg. He could have been easily dispatched, he serves no purpose, he's an active threat. Yet he seems to be kept there, in his cliche role, only to fulfill a betrayal that could be seen from miles away. Again, one could see things going wrong even in Lecter's and Mr. Smith case, but, once again, there were good motivations to go down that path and take the risk. While Kallor had no reason to be kept around. So, more than the leg, one wonders why they didn't deal with him, because the outcome was very predictable.
That's why I consider it a weak link. It doesn't hold the story well and it comes out as it started: as a cliche.
(formally, it's a very typical pattern in movies: the protagonist know there's a TRAP, but he goes headlong into it because he has no choice. Like the life of someone is at stake or somesuch. This is a cliche as well, but it works because its rules are respected. Instead it seems that in the book we got the pattern but without respecting the rules. So it doesn't work. The rule being that Kallor wasn't "necessary" and so outside every form of possible double-bind)
And sorry for being polemic again ;) if I ignore these points I don't feel like I'm being honest or doing a good work commenting the text. I wish I was in time so that it could spark a discussion. (and overall impression need to wait I finish commenting the rest I left behind)
I never go back and read my own novels, once they're published
I don't remember why or where, but I thought you were planning to read the whole thing before starting to write The Crippled God. That was before your ill-fated archaeological travel that year. I guess that if you really had that intention it still didn't work too well because of what happened.
Anyway, I think you should at some point because it would probably be useful in some ways having a second look. I'm curious about the reasons why you avoided doing that. Maybe time constraints, maybe because it's plain tiring reading the stuff you worked for so much time all over again, or maybe there's a slight fear of some kind about not wanting to go there. As if risking to break the incantation or find things differently from how you remembered them.
It's not my choice to make, but I still believe that giving a second look, word by word instead of skimming, may end up being quite helpful instead of harrowing.
I'm curious because of this because I was the one calling for "revisions" once the series was over and noticed you were quite against the notion. There are writers who endlessly revise their own work, even Tolkien spent a huge amount of time fixing very minor errors in all the subsequent editions of LotR. So I'm curious why you have this stance about your own work, as it appears to be more rooted than merely not being interested in using time that way.
Reading Amanda's comment it seems that the last chapter undermined all she knew and made her lose her grip ;)
She forgot that the Crippled God generated Great Ravens, and not "vultures". Or that Toc was traveling with Baaljagg, the last surviving ay. The link with Fander-ay was made explicit a few chapters back and then repeated a number of times. And that it was K'rul to save Baaljagg.
I was wondering instead, wasn't Baaljagg the ay of the prologue? Because in that case it couldn't be easily linked with Fanderay. The fall of the Crippled God happened much later than the First Gathering. That means that K'rul saved Baaljagg, kept her alive for hundred of thousand of years, and finally put Fanderay's soul into her. A bit convoluted...
Besides, weren't all the remaining "ay" made immortal as well through the ritual? In that case there were many left, not just Baaljagg. I'm suddenly losing grasp of the basics of the plot as well ;)
Being too busy for more careful commentary, I'll just say that I didn't like much the first scene here. The Seer sounds too much like a parody of the Evil Guy, with most of his short sentences ending in exclamation marks. It doesn't make an interesting character and it was a scene that felt a bit stilted overall (thought Bill found a number of interesting little things).
I noticed this is at least the second time that K'rul and Lady Envy are described as siblings. The first time I immediately thought they were being described as brother and sister, and in second moment realized that it was only a way of speech. But here it comes again. And THEN, I realize that the first time it wasn't at all about K'rul and Lady Envy, but Draconus and Nightchill:
You have no idea what you threaten, mortal. My brother's sword hides far more secrets than you can contemplate.
And now I'm wondering if this mistake I made isn't hiding something of some sort. K'rul is really related to Lady Envy in some ways, and was Nightchill a Tiste Andii? Or maybe these terms are simply being used to refer to all of them as "Elder Gods"? It's even more likely as I think Lady Envy was mentioned as related to Anomander Rake too. Go back to the Prologue and you notice that K'rul and Draconus call each other "brother".
Instead I wanted to point out one of those "mirror" scenes. In a way Korlat's description of her love reminds, even in the use of language, that of a prisoner.
And you, my dear lover, thief of all my thoughts, will you ever release me?
I don't think this as simply "poetic", as the theme has been used already in Toc and the Matron's case. Love as prison.
And this especially reminds me a certain link outside the series but that fits particularly well. DFW again, using language that evokes directly Malazan, and whose meaning completes perfectly this idea of love as a prison. What it truly means, what it hides (which is the underlying theme of many scenes in Infinite Jest):
"No, but this choice, Katherine: I made it. It chains me, but the chains are of my choice."
If anything, DFW goes to an extreme that surpasses even the one of Toc and the Matron (he uses a woman with no skull and a series of absurd events). Love is indeed a dependence, a way to be slave to someone (or some idea). So where's the distinction? And back to Malazan, what is at the very core that makes Toc and Korlat different?
The (obvious) answer is linked to all my doubts that I explained about Paran's scene at the end of the previous chapter.
It's the choice.
And the choice is also the true theme of the dialogue between Lady Envy and Lanas Tog. The Gathering as the annihilation of choice (or chains that they lose control of).
I finished the chapter but still not sure where the poem at the beginning fits. Maybe it's about Dujek and WJ discussion but I'm not so convinced that Dujek represents the "betrayer" in a so strictly blunt definition. There's also no link to the innocence of a child. Or it could be about Silverfox for the child part, but still, not so convinced of this possibility as well. Neither of the two situations are strictly about betrayal, or having it as the most relevant factor.
The scenes that are left are mostly set-up but always interesting (but I agree with some of Bill's remarks, in particular the Korlat/WJ scene). I like also how the relationship between Blend and Picker is hinted but left mostly out of the text. It works this way as it doesn't come heavily into play, it works less in WJ/Korlat and Silverfox/Paran cases as those are more explicit and still not having a lot of space to develop naturally.
And finally the last scene between Paran and the new Shield-Anvil, talking about Anaster, rises a lot of questions from my point of view. The reason is that I do not quite agree with Paran's choice. He is doubtful at first, but then certainty replaces those doubts as soon Anaster's feelings are explained.
"The man, Anaster, might well view what we seek for him as torture, but that is a fear born of ignorance. He will not be harmed. Indeed, my Shield Anvil seeks the very opposite for the unfortunate man."
"She would take the pain from him."
The Destriant nodded.
"That spiritual embrace - such as Itkovian did to Rath'Fener."
"Even so, sir."
Paran was silent a moment, then he said, "The notion terrifies Anaster?"
"Because he knows of nothing else within him. He has equated his entire identity with the pain of his soul. And so fears its end."
Paran turned towards the Malazan camp. "Follow me," he said.
"Sir?" she asked behind him.
"He is yours, Destriant. With my blessing."
This though, goes counter to some themes of the series and how they are dealt with. I'm not saying that I'd want to see Anaster punished, but I actually would like his dignity respected fully. I'd always be wary of judging someone, and more about making choices in his own place because I arrogantly think I know better.
The choice Paran makes here is way too similar to what I'd expect from Nightchill. That subjective sense of mercy. Making choices in reason of a greater good, or deeper knowledge. But we've seen in the series how the ideas of faith and mercy can be so very subjective and twisted and perverted. Gods imposing their choices for their own agenda. You can never nail with certainty what's "good" or "right". So the very basic ideal is that one should respect the other. Especially on the matter of "choice".
Imposing a choice on someone else is an act of violence, no matter how good willed it is. It's still personal bias imposed on others. It's still about a tyranny of point of view, and disrespect for who you have in front of you. So even in the extreme case of Anaster I'd respect his own choices. As in the case of the Mhybe she should have been made part of the process, and not just the plan being imposed on her, leaving her completely unaware and victim of it. Passive imposition is not an act of mercy.
The choice is a core point for me, and it's never something that can be imposed by someone else. "Salvation" can be offered, but not FORCED (and again, this rises questions in the case of the Shield-Anvil in general). It would negate itself. That's what I was expecting from Paran: respecting Anaster's own choices while trying to show him that he could still have a positive role. The choice is his to make.
Instead in that case Paran played the role of the god, thinking he would make a better one. Power used without scruples.
Amanda couldn't figure out the poem at the beginning of the chapter so I tried myself, but I don't seem to have figured out anything beside the appearance. The meaning should be all in the last two lines:
a sudden stranger to all you have known.
Such is betrayal.
It seems a poem about betrayal, hinting that probably it will be a theme that will appear or at least resonate in scenes of this chapter. The other lines seem to be musing on that same theme that I can't link to anything specific in the story. Betrayal can come from a friend, and it could come from a child. Both being unexpected for their nature (the trust in a friend and innocence in a child), and leading to the idea of being unknown and "stranger" (someone you fail to recognize). Since as I said this doesn't seem to directly connect explicitly with the plot I think Erikson's intent is just to have the idea stay with the reader so that it may play a role later.
The first scene is Paran PoV and we see how he seems to share Itkovian's special kind of vision. In the previous chapter Itkovian was the PoV during the parley that allowed to pick many hidden nuances, even if many of those characters and situations were strangers to him. Paran has a similar insight, that he developed with his position as the Master of the Deck. A clearer vision of certain patterns. Here it's about the Bridgeburners, specific developments that will be clarified later and of which one discovers plenty of foreshadowing on a reread. Though the clarity of vision doesn't replace or compensate understanding, so it becomes only something Paran notices and describes, but does not truly understand. And nice brick-laying b Erikson.
The confrontation with Silverfox is one of those aspects that I think would need more "space". But in a book so dense with characters and plots the development is sudden and always staggering (off-putting, in a way). It's hard to follow the characters emotionally because everything changes so quickly and situations are turned. For its limits I think it's very well written and I also noticed how Silverfox tells Paran what Erikson told me during the DG reread :) When I was criticizing some plot structures through the Propp functions.
Has it not occurred to you that clinical examination of oneself is yet another obsession? What you dissect has to be dead first - that's the principle of dissection, after all.
And this makes me smile because just after this I noticed something that instead interprets really well the way I feel and what I'd say to Erikson myself:
Well, they're only like that with people they respect, though it's often taken as the opposite, which can lead to all sorts of trouble.
Maybe one day I wake up and discover I'm just a fictional character in the Malazan Book of the Fallen :) (so please be a merciful god! or just don't let wake up the Mhybe that is dreaming me)
Bill's doubts seep in me. In the sense that I'm also wondering at this point why the Mhybe HAS to suffer that way. Especially because Silverfox says she's well aware that the Mhybe has nightmares. So it's not mere unexpected consequence of whatever hidden plot:
My mother is trapped in a nightmare - within her own mind, lost, terrified. Hunted!
So why a better path wasn't sought? Even though, this reflects so well Nightchill. And Paran recognizes her right away:
And these machinations - whose? Not Tattersail, surely. No, this must be Nightchill.
I also want to point out that we see analyzed the consequences of a relationship that never happened in the book (back to Paran/Silverfox). In GotM it was pretty much "omitted", so we had to take it for granted. And it wasn't even a particularly spontaneous or plausible kind of relationship. So even in this book the relationship is told in great leaps, that for a reader are not easy at all to make, or handle.
I love post-modern self-aware derails so I absolutely love Ormulogun and Gumble. Oh, the playfulness! The cleverness made plain. Love this stuff. It doesn't fit so well with the struggle to make realistic stuff that realistic isn't, or the serious tone? Yet it's what makes these scenes brilliant. They do not play within the rules, but WITH the rules. They screw with glee. Ruthless.
Obviously I also loved Crack'd Pot Trail that is like an extended scene of that meta-linguistic playfulness.
Take it for what it is: a clever parody. And then think that the Malazan world is vast enough to be able to contain even these plays. A variety of styles that goes along a variety of characters and situations. Even surreal or over-the-top (the problem is when one finds surreal what was meant to be realistic, or laugh at something that was meant to be serious).
If it was dull and boring then the critics would be legitimate, adding more weight to a book that is already huge, but instead these scenes are great and fun to read on a number of levels. They are the gems in a book filled with awe. I'll just praise how it's done, and the courage Erikson had to do it.
Then, the more this is rubbed into the world, the better. Even the utter implausible should be "dressed". So "Ormulogun seraith Gumble" should hide something. It could be explained within the world and its rules. I like how it offers some insight and discussion about the history and the empire. I also noticed a play or contradiction: Ormulogun seems to have that special sight (or a different kind but still special or trained) that is shared by Itkovian and Paran. He shows a deep understanding of Itkovian. Yet all his works are then described pretty much as bullshit:
There's over eight hundred stretches in that wagon. Ten, eleven years' worth. Dujek here, Dujek there, Dujek even where he wasn't but should have been. He's already done one of the siege of Capustan, with Dujek arriving in the nick of time, tall in his saddle and coming through the gate. There's one White Face Barghast crouching in the gate's shadow, looting a dead Pannion. And in the storm clouds over the scene you'll make out Laseen's face if you look carefully enough -
I wonder if this is really all just part of the teasing to Itkovian or if there's some truth...
Kruppe and Quick Ben outwitting each other makes a nice scene. I like in particular the little interplay:
How about some more loudly uttered thoughts, Daru? The display is deliberate.
This is Quick Ben talking and describing what he's doing, but what he says recursively applies to the first line, and to Kruppe. "The display is deliberate". And Kruppe's "loudly uttered thoughts" are Kruppe's deliberate display he uses for misdirection.
And this is clever as Quick Ben deliberately avoided or misinterpreted Kruppe's question. That wasn't about Quick Ben's action, but of his talking aloud to Talamandas. That's a particular habit of Quick Ben, leapfrogging the question in order to shift the attention. Sleight of hand. But Kruppe isn't fooled, so he plays along with that misdirection, adds his own, and returns to the point:
In which case, poor ignorant bird would be witness to such potent plurality of cunning converse so as to reel confused if not mercifully constipated!
Also, the Knight of Death has power enough to command Bauchelain and Korbal Broach to release their victims and leave the city of Capustandoes this show that Hood is on the ascendancy?
Hasn't Hood already ascended long ago? It should actually prove that Hood is not a dormant player. We've seen him playing with Heboric in the CG prologue, sending his Herald to recruit the Grey Swords, getting Talamandas as Magi, and here it becomes more obvious that Hood is aware and part of Silverfox's plan.
I already speculated earlier in the reread that he's somewhat cooperating with K'rul, so possibly even with Burn and Shadowthrone. Surely he is an active player in the game. The fact that Hood commands Korbal Broach should be because KB practices necromancy, which should be a subset of Death domain.
Frail fragments come as fraught dreams
Is Kruppe referring to the Mhybe. Frail fragments of what? I always try to generalize the Mhybe's PoV so that it says something universal as well as something specific. In this case the fraught is due to the fragmentation itself. The process to achieve some form of unity requiring momentary pain, or transitory. But then the pain comes from lack of vision, and so the necessity of faith. But can really the Mhybe have faith in something? Should she?
The interesting pattern is the journey in general, life filled with pain. To come to terms with something else or deliver something that could justify the necessary pain. To accept or realize. Yet all this is ambivalent since one of the new themes is about challenging that faith (the Paran's pattern). And refusing to "delegate" one own destiny.
Then the "fell gathering of women" is certainly interesting, being played right in contrast to the more "standard" one taking place before with all the known major powers. I guess Erikson is one of the very few who does "equity" in the male/female roles. Down to the point of completely negating the differences (even if they linger in the nuances of characterization). I like some of the innuendo. The kind of reversal of the scene is also strengthened by the description of the Rhivi and how certain male/female roles are reversed. The point is: we draw the cultural line and boundaries wherever we want (even if this is a simplification, since those boundaries aren't entirely arbitrary, but consequence of, and relative to, many other elements).
I'm not sure why Amanda thought the Trygalle has control on some unknown warren. It seems to me that the scene describes the opposite: they ask Silverfox about the Tellan warren because they are in serious need of a safer path, since all the other warrens are affected. We've even seen them having a lot of troubles with the deliveries, so they do not seem to have any privileged path.
I have some confusion here. Tellan and the Beast Throne coincide? It's Shadowthrone to have the T'lan throne, but we've seen from Paran that the Beast throne is "available" (so not simply taken but not used). So where's the line to draw here? Who controls what? And what happened to the old gods of Imass and whatever magical landscape they had? Is Tellan pre or post Gathering?
Here Silverfox explains that the Beast Throne is contested, and this corresponds to the Tellan warren (since Hardas was asking about that). So Tellan survives and is linked to the T'lan. So... what kind of throne Shadowthrone is controlling?
Also confirming that "beast" = Imass (pre-Gathering). So pre-human. The new Barghast gods seem to be a completely new branch, so unaffected by the Beast Hold of the past (not a "reawakening", or taking control of their legacy).
Some useful hints about Kruppe's plan are in the same gathering. The new Shield-Anvil asks Silverfox to surrender the control of the T'lan Ay, in the name of Togg and Fanderay. The hint may be that "they lost their souls", and that Silverfox needs them in order to fulfill her "gift" (probably to the Mhybe, since Silverfox justifies it as a personal thing).
Not much to comment about Murillio & Coll scene, beside that it's awesome and deserved to give the two some worthy space. It also reminds the existence (and a quirky one) of the Mott Irregulars. The true shaved knuckle in the hole of the Malazan army ;)
The last scene has Lady Envy and offers more insight about some of the remaining T'lan. Since in the Appendix we have the list of tribes, this should be the summary:
- Logros: hunting renegades
- Kron: at the Gathering
- Bentract: on Jacuruku, trapped in the warren of Chaos
- Ifayle + Kerluhm: on Assail fighting a human tyrant
- Orshayn: unknown
- Betrule: only appearing in the Appendix, no mention at the Gathering
And I'm glad it was brought up the fact that some of the T'lan are acting oddly, like Tool freeing the Jaghut tyrant, or other clans returning under the service of the Malazan Empire.
Since I mentioned DFW, today I read a comment about him:
Any number of conversations where two characters just kind of talk over one another without really listening - which happens a ton in the real world but seldom captured in literature.
And it reminded me one of Erikson's blog explaining how to write dialogue that sounds real, leapfrogging the conversation. It's not exactly the same thing, but it has a very similar approach.
"Seldom captured in literature", indeed ;)
Lots of stuff going on in the rest of the chapter. So much that even making a list would take a lot of space. The weirdest aspect is that most of what happens here opens more questions and introduces more subplots. With the remaining of the book starting to thin one would expect that it's time to gather threads and prepare for the ending, but here instead tons of new stuff is added to even mud the waters. Though not confusing as all the new elements fit well within the picture we have, more than tearing it apart. So it's finally all about adding pieces to a larger mosaic instead of being offered pieces that one doesn't know where to place (so feeding curiosity and active research, more than bafflement).
For example there are some hints about K'rul that mostly seem to confirm all that we noticed up to this point. Keruli is not a priest (that was among my questions earlier in the reread), but a "manifestation" of K'rul. The reason is that K'rul has very limited powers (and that justifies why he couldn't help much during the K'ell Hunters attack on the caravan) and that they have "evolved". He seems to exist only within dreams and that's why his powers are "confined" (and this makes a possible link to Brood saying he has "constrained" Burn). We've seen before Kruppe's mule walking around as if sleeping, we speculated that this would make a link to K'rul and we have a confirmation of this from a throwaway joke of Lady Envy:
Garath is my beloved companion, after all. Even if he once tried to pee on my robe - though I will acknowledge that since he was asleep at the time it was probably one of K'rul's pranks.
Obviously all this triggers a number of questions and kind of confirms some suspects I explained earlier in the reread. Why K'rul manifests only in dreams? Why his powers changed so? What's the link between K'rul representing the macrocosm of all magic within himself, and now having powers limited to dreams only?
One possibility is that the dreamscape is memory, and K'rul is a god of the past, who disappeared. He can't affect the physical world because he's out of the current time. So he keeps awareness (he has been reawakened), but he doesn't have a "life". But this also leads to the suspect that once again there's a link between K'rul (body containing magic) and Burn (body containing the world). Burn is also "asleep", and dreaming. K'rul is confined to dreams. Is the Queen of Dreams the link?
K'rul and Kruppe's connection must be relevant as well, and I think not coincidental. But since we can't figure out Kruppe, we can't say much about K'rul and their link. Yet we get hints from Kruppe's description:
Kruppe's dream-like, mesmerizing stream of words revealed sudden substance, as if swirling before a rock.
Kruppe's way of talking is described as dream-like, so an affinity to K'rul current status that existed before K'rul's manifestation (and Kruppe also makes journeys through his dreams). The image of words like a stream that swirls around something solid is interesting. The stream must be like misdirection and avoidance revealing something, but here Kruppe is leading quite consciously to the point.
Then Itkovian PoV:
Yet why do I believe that the very epicentre of efficacy lies with this strange little man? He holds even K'rul's regard, as would an admiring companion rest eyes upon a lifelong... prodigy of sorts, perhaps. A prodigy whose talents have come to overwhelm his master's. But there is no envy in that regard, nor even pride - which always whispers of possessiveness, after all. No, the emotion is far more subtle, and complex...
The only hint here is that K'rul and Kruppe's talents may have been of a similar nature. The first guess could be about manipulation since it seems both of them like to do that, but I think this explanation is too limited. The only deduction I can make is that K'rul is not guiding Kruppe, but actually letting him lead. It's somewhat similar to Quick Ben and Talamandas, or maybe reversed roles since Kruppe and Talamandas are "gateways".
How can K'rul know of Quick Ben, and especially know he's now involved with Burn? Maybe again because of a link between K'rul and Burn. Both K'rul and Brood (speaking of Burn) mention "faith". Which is a reverse kind, in this case. Not faith of mortals in gods, but of the gods in mortals. Gruntle:
"There's a rug-seller's shop," Gruntle said, "in Darujhistan. To cross its floor is to scale layer upon layer of woven artistry. Thus are the lessons of mortals laid down before the gods. Pity that they keep stumbling so - you'd think they'd have learned by now."
Which links nicely with Paran's own theme, about the old gods failing to provide solutions, and so leave the way open for something different:
It never goes how you think it should, does it, priest? That's the glory of us humans, and your new god had best make peace with that, and soon.
And of a similar flavor was Quick Ben's confrontation with Hood, leading to:
Oh, one more thing, Hood. You and your fellow gods have been calling out the rules uncontested for far too long. Step back, now, and see how us mortals fare... I think you're in for a surprise or two.
So we have QB, Kruppe, Paran and Gruntle stepping in. Relating directly to Caladan Brood's double bind, and the faith in a "third way":
"Burn's faith," K'rul said. "That you would find a third choice."
To this, we have something that may be, or may not be opposed: Silverfox. She could work like a Kruppe/K'rul thing, since we now know that the three (now four, explaining Silverfox odd behavior at the Gathering) souls agree on some plan:
"There is no war within her," Itkovian said.
Confirmed then by Kruppe as well. Not sure how to extricate this part, but K'rul certainly is involved considering the dream "crossover" between Toc and the Mhybe. Though Kruppe continues this theme about gods and humans, hinting a change in current times:
The Elder Gods did what they could, but understand, they were themselves younger than the two wolf-gods, and, more significantly, they did not find ascendancy walking in step with humans - or those who would one day become humans, that is -
They did not "walk in step with humans", as if missing some crucial piece. The fact that Kruppe now "leads" K'rul is probably this missing piece. And then QB, Paran, Gruntle and so on.
That should be the key to interpretation to the whole thing going on here.
Not sure how to place the four souls, though:
A spirit of hard edges, to hold the others to their course despite all the pain that others must bear.
Another spirit, to clasp hard the hurt of abandonment until it can find proper answer!
And yet a third spirit, filled with love and compassion - if somewhat witless, granted - to so flavour the pending moment.
And a fourth, possessing the power to achieve the necessary reparation of old wounds
The fourth should be Silverfox, the Rhivi child. So I guess we only need to place Tattersail, Nightchill and Bellurdan...
Two leftover, slightly sidetracking things:
It's a good bit of comic relief with Picker and Blend, though perhaps a bit repetitive in the way he recapitulates the plot points for usI'm not sure the god switch was so complicated or unclear we needed this version of the easier-to-follow explanation.
We had a very similar scene already happening earlier, right after the whole deal with Itkovian and Rath'Fener. That one definitely needed a second pass and simplification, and maybe the one given by Picker and Blend wasn't even enough. This one is a smoother passage but in this kind of novel some redundancy is like a bucket of water in a desert. If Memories of Ice is so praised it's also because of that.
I also absolutely love these scenes because the recap is only one layer or purpose of the scene itself, and even the recap is also an added perspective. It doesn't just help the reader to wrap his head around the plot, but it also gives a feeling of the characters and how they related to that plot. This is actually something that the books could have used even more. Give us a more clear perspective and feel of the characters, grasp better their motivations and how they see what they have around them. Live the place and the moment more throughly.
Things happen so fast that there's not enough time to let them sink and be felt fully. And you can only have that when you "stay" with a character for longer, and see it reacting to them. So these scenes are precious because they offer a sporadic point of view that the reader can directly sympathize with. Something at the ground level. As well a moment of respite (taking breath) from the constant flow of events.
The other aspect is more of a derail but I wanted to point it out anyway. The line Quick Ben says about Antsy:
Antsy will stall as soon as he gets confused, and he usually gets confused immediately after the making of introductions.
Antsy "stalling" reminds me of David Foster Wallace's "double binds", which is actually a big theme in Infinite Jest.
Now Erikson doesn't dig deeper in this case, and Antsy obsession is left there mostly as "flavor", but what they have in common (Erikson and DFW) is another aspect. DFW, like Erikson play with themes along the length of the novel, examine them from many different perspectives, bounce them back and forth between many characters, each sharing something as well as revealing a different side. In the case of the "double bind" DFW pushes it even to the extreme of the "metaphor made real", somewhat, and the stalling process that wastes incredible amounts of mental energies (like in Antsy's case) becomes actually the inspiring idea behind a scientific process used to produce energy in a infinite cycle (the annular process, implying a circular one that goes in a loop, like a mental "double bind").
So they couldn't be more different in what they do and writing style. But there are also these even deeper similarities in how they approach what they write about. How the most disparate scenes are linked together by a number of thematic threads that continually shift while reflected by different characters, that in many cases do not know each other. The same way DFW plays with the idea of "double bind" in his novel, dressing it in many different ways, Erikson does the same with his own themes. They use some similar tools, and play with them in similar ways.
Later I'll return to more practical commentary :)
(oh, and btw, Brood's use of hammer, the two choices and the hope for a third way out is basically the description of a "double bind", that makes Brood "stall")
I also want to call out the fact that most authors seem more effective at either dialogue OR descriptionbut Erikson is surprisingly efficient at both. His prose never soars in the same way that other authors doesmostly it is brisk and perfunctory (like the soldiers he represents)
It is true that Erikson has a terse style. That's one aspect he has in common with Glen Cook, and Cook is far more extreme on that front. The prose couldn't be more pragmatic and essential. But I wouldn't define Erikson's prose "perfunctory". I don't think it's fair, nor accurate.
"Perfunctory" is something that gets the job done without any attention to form. It means the focus is on what one says instead of "how" one says it. But that's not a good description of Erikson's writing. I notice a lot of attention on how to present scenes, about points of view, about structure. There's a particular attention to language and one of the things he does is developing connecting links through certain words. Attention to language, to style, to tone.
I'm one who cares A LOT about the writing. If it was "perfunctory" I probably wouldn't read it, or it wouldn't have earned as much attention. In fact Erikson's writing is for me one of the highest points. Especially the novellas where he's more ruthless and playful with the language. More freeform.
This is a point that is quite relevant because Erikson's writing is one of the aspects that sets him apart from my point of view. Even Martin who's known to write great prose doesn't satisfy me in the same way. Martin is great at "craft" and its careful honing and perfection, but Erikson plays and dares with it. Rougher, but also more alive and experimental. Playing with the rules and always reaching for something different. (yet I consider this book the most "perfunctory" among the others in the series, the writing of the novellas especially seems on another level)
I am a bit ambivalent about the description of the cat-men of Coral. It adds some context quickly without having to linger, to let us know how things changed and what kind of impact they had. Yet this cursory glance is too simplified and produces questions. For example, why these people didn't try to move somewhere else or even oppose what was happening? There may be plenty of motivations but this quick mention leaves things open and doesn't truly get to the point (describing a city that is transformed and dies). I think instead it works much better with the Seerdomin part of the story since it crystallizes on a feeling (the father leaving everything behind). It is also cursory and simplified, but it transmits something far greater than the few words needed. A scene filled with implications that carries some weight.
I was also wondering at this new sense of awareness Toc developed:
Mortals should not mock, for all the obvious reasons. Detachment belongs to gods, because only they can afford its price. So be it.
Seems more the results of wounds than of clarity of vision. His description of Lady Envy seems appropriate. We know that maybe she isn't perfectly like this description and maybe she cares more than how Toc realizes, but the point is that Toc still isn't wrong about her. She is at the same time better and then worse. Depending how you frame her, so a point of view doesn't replace the other.
The following scenes are simply wonderful. From the show of subtlety coming from both Stonny and Rath'Shadowthrone (and btw, I definitely see this gathering of Hood, Burn, K'rul and Shadowthrone definitely not casual, they seem to be part of the same game and the same plan) to Picker and Blend. Every line shines.
The best laugh I got from this:
"You mean they switched gods. Oh no, don't tell me Treach - "
"No, not Treach. Treach already has his crusaders."
"Oh, right. Must be Jhess, then. Mistress of Weaving. They're all taking up knitting, but fiercely - "
(then followed by a very quick serious quip, which I admire)
And it's a crescendo leading to the confrontation with Bauchelain and Korbal Broach. See Erikson playing with point of view. If this was like a movie scene then it couldn't have been written like that, since you'd recognize right away who those two are. Instead in a text you can truly play with limited perspective to great effect :)
Not leaving out how the two have been used. Built up as unsettling and dangerous, then facing that wonder that is Quick Ben, and now hilariously defeated by Picker and Blend. One thought they got already that lesson of humilty. It was a few chapters back:
"I confess... to a certain... confusion. Do we possess some chronic flaw, Emancipor?"
Another of those great understatements.
Erikson played wonderfully with expectations, with these two. Nothing ever go as you think, and failure is always spectacular :)
On the sideline, I was a bit perplexed with the use of Darkness warren by Rake/Dragon. A warren as dragonbreath is fine, but why does it make bodies vanish while leaving the clothes? It's not acid-like, it's not fire-like. It seems to selectively dissolve only flesh. How this is possible, and what's exactly the point of this use of magic?
I'm being confused by the implications of the comment on "war". Quoting Amanda:
And a powerful description of war: "War is not a natural state. It is an imposition, and a damned unhealthy one. With its rules, we willingly yield our humanity. Speak not of just causes, worthy goals. We are takers of life. Servants of Hood, one and all."
The meaning appears as obvious, but I had to go back tracking the beginning of the book since I remembered something else:
"Toc the Younger," Tool interrupted, "do you mock me, or your own ignorance? Not even the lichen of the tundra is at peace. All is struggle, all is war for dominance. Those who lose, vanish."
"And we're no different, you're saying - "
If we generalize, these two quotes seem to go one against the other. Especially because the current one says that through war one yields "humanity". So humanity yearns for peace? But war IS a natural state. I'm more likely to agree with Tool there.
Ad there was also this coming with the first scene with Bauchelain:
"Fire," Bauchelain noted as they walked on, "is essential for the health of these prairie grasses. As is the passage of bhederin, the hooves in their hundreds of thousands compacting the thin soil. Alas, the presence of goats will spell the end of verdancy for these ancient hills. But I began with the subject of fire, did I not? Violence and destruction, both vital for life. Do you find that odd, Captain?"
Then, as I noted in the previous comment about pain that is not voiced, here there's a scene that is similar. There's Murillio and Coll deciding to do all they can for the Mhybe, but not simply out of pity. Nor so that this act of mercy can be recognized, or them to feel proud. It must be again something unwitnessed (a contrast to the plea for "witnessing" of the rest) and maybe without consequence:
For at least we will have cared - even if she never again awakens and thus knows nothing of what we do. Indeed, it is perhaps better that way. Cleaner. Simpler...
It's a very strong scene, if anything it's problematic because Erikson is expressing a kind of unconditioned feeling so pure that one doubts being appropriate for Coll and Murillio. No matter how fine the characters are.
That's an act of mercy that I think surpasses by far what K'rul has shown up to this point.
It runs counter to all the themes of practical necessity:
No matter the amount, a fair exchange to ease an old woman's suffering.
A sacrifice to ease the suffering of an old woman who's going to die soon anyway. Which brings back to the theme of "war". Is not humanity the wedge that runs counter to all this? That, like Paran, opposes the very existence of the gods and all their plans and justifications?
It is not humanity that runs counter to the practical matters? That runs counter to the very fabric of nature?
But then isn't nature also harmony? And men a force that can perverse that harmony?
And I think the following line applies in context, as well as to the reader(s):
"She's been forgotten, hasn't she?"
Coll did not need to ask for elaboration. "A hard thing to swallow, but aye, it does seem that way."
It resonates with many readers thinking that the book would have been better with the Mhybe's scenes edited out.
But what did that, in turn, allow? It allowed Kellanved and Dancer to take the Throne themselves, because as Edgewalker explicitly stated in NoK, Shadow would be too busy fending off the 'greater threat' of the Stormriders to do anything about them. So it's my belief that Laseen enacted this proclamation in express cooperation with Kellanved and Dancer in order to assist their bid to take over Shadow.
I will have to ask Erikson about this if we have another occasion. That's one of the loose parts in the plot. Though, if we accept that theory then we end up with more questions and other loose parts than those that can be pinpointed. So I'm not so persuaded of accepting this theory (nor it even surfaces in the books, so it's unlikely speculation).
Regarding the Logros T'lan Imass, I really don't think any Malazan can command them aside from Kellanved. You need to sit on the First Throne, as he's the only one who did. Onos T'oolan is the only exception, but that is because he is clanless, tied to no one else in the Logros.
There's troubling part during the Gathering with Silverfox where it's said that some clans returned under Malazan Empire's service. That also needs to be explained.
I'm still three chapters behind, so today I arrived at this:
"Dujek was displeased," he (Whiskeyjack) said.
"Dujek wants to keep his army alive." (Korlat)
His head snapped round.
Her eyes regarded him, cool and gauging.
"I have no interest in usurping his authority - "
"You just did, Whiskeyjack. Laseen's fear of you be damned, the natural order has reasserted itself. She could handle Dujek. That's why she demoted you and put him in charge. Gods, you can be dense at times!"
He scowled. "If I am such a threat to her, why didn't she - " He stopped, closed his mouth. Oh, Hood. Pale. Darujhistan. It wasn't the Bridgeburners she wanted destroyed. It was me.
Now, since this excerpt takes place before the scene of this chapter it may as well be considered obsolete and replaced by what we have here. But it could be as well interpreted as a fissure in WJ and Dujek friendship (and trust).
What we have in the scene in THIS chapter is Dujek offering, info-dump like, a number of justifications. Trying to convince WJ. Trying to regain his trust. This appears highly manipulative and, because of the "intensity" of the infodump, not so sincere. I perceive a great deal of guilt.
(yet it also sounds like a more complete explanation, so Erikson may have intended it to be closer to the truth than the previous doubts that WJ had)
Back to three chapters ago, now.
One should also remember that Laseen didn't take the Empire entirely because of greed (or that's how I understand it). Kellanved left the Empire for a number of years as he started exploring other, more interesting, venues.
So there was also a necessity for taking control of things. With or without Laseen things were spiraling down. I'm not sure there were many better alternatives on the plate.
One of the things I admire here is the subdued drama. Pain that is felt but that is not shown, not meant to draw attention and regard. It is completely personal and internal. Not to be shared, but also sharper because if it. The fact that it is hidden makes it more lacerating (and something of this passes also to the following scene with Rake and WJ, since WJ reveals pain that is hidden on Rake).
It is interesting because on a first read I thought that the scene of the Gathering was so ambitious that it just couldn't work. It felt flat emotionally. Like trying to convey cosmic pain that is not receivable through human emotions. So you "understand" what is going on, but don't quite "feel" it. An alien feeling. (and all of this is topped later in this book, where I think Erikson was able to actually reach this impossible goal by doing a certain trick)
So this pain of all the thousands of T'lan is quiet and unexpressed. Because there's not much human skin and muscle to convey it, and also because it grew to the point of being expressionless. There is no receipt for it, no reason to communicate it.
Bill pointed out the other parallel I saw too. "we have become what we oppose." Carrying over mirror-like again to the scene between Rake and WJ. They share something. Parts they recognize and see in each other.
In the case of the T'lan this realization has no consequence because they represent life outside progression (so non-life). Their state is essentially a mocking fashioning of what they fight: the ice, Jaghut power. The T'lan are frozen in non-life and cursed by this loss. Ashes as dust. Kruppe's wondering about "true memories" carries over his thoughts as well serving as foreshadowing (memories being the link to K'rul, so creating the condition for what follows in the book, the realization starts here). "Memories of love" are the memories of life. Frozen in time.
A time that is past, leading to Kruppe's explanation of why the war has become meaningless. It's one of those big twists that not only is plausible, but absolutely natural (and one of the key to interpret the series).
I'm wondering what this line means:
All that follows has run in your blood from the moment of your birth.
Follows what? It sounds like a call of legacy of Imass blood. If we consider the Rhivi the descendants of living Imass. So making Silverfox the appropriate arbiter. She represents what came before as well what came after, retaining her mortality. Retaining what the T'lan have lost, and so the possibility to choose again.
Pran Chole taking the role of "father" becomes symbolic. Silverfox becomes the daughter left at home while the father goes to war, abandoning the family and "the very capacity of love". In these cases the reflections and echoes are between the personal and the universal. A pattern of life that repeats, becoming universal as well as personal and intimate (which leads to the starting line of the following scene).
And what "threatens" the most the Gathering? Not carefully calculated plans or interests, just the wounds of daughter abandoned by her father. That single case. Reminds me of "The Tree of Life", in this reflection between these two levels. Microcosm/Macrocosm.
Silverfox acts as an adolescent, but her choice could even be interpreted differently. In one of the first scenes she said:
Sometimes forgiveness must be denied.
Kruppe has mercy for the T'lan, but, I'd say, these chains are of their making (to use another theme). They were not imposed. The choice was theirs. So should they be forgiven for this crime? (and forgiveness is also another theme in "The Tree of Life", where it also happens "outside time")
I'm wondering how Olar Ethil can be here at this time. What about the timeline? :) Considering this book Heboric should have touched the Jade pillar not long ago, bringing down Fener, so making the link to the previous scenes. I don't think a lot of time passes before they arrive on the Silanda. Olar Ethil must be there for that scene (by the way, it makes sense that Kellanved commanded her to protect the correct Path of Hands). So this basically means that's where she's heading next, as soon as possible (I guess she moves via warren, so it's faster).
What she says about the remaining clan is straightforward. Four clans on Jacuruku are trapped in the warren of Chaos, that we now know being the Crippled God. The Logros offer more explanations, some of the renegades that they pursue are using the warren of Chaos. This makes them likely under the control of the Crippled God, who's likely to accept broken, pained people. We'll see more of this in House of Chains. Kruppe's question is definitely not left unanswered:
Chaos? I wonder, to whom do these renegade T'lan Imass now kneel?
Instead I'm confused and troubled by the fact that some clans returned under the Malazan Empire's service. ...Why? In GotM reread we wondered about Tool's odd behavior, but the fact that some clans may be under Laseen's command is not plausible. What may be the reason? The only possible one is that Shadowthrone commanded them, but this obviously opens more questions.
And some confirmation of previous revelations in the following claim:
"Of pure blood, we know of but one who remains in this realm. One, who hides not in the service of a god, or in service to the Houses of the Azath."
The one in the service of the Azath is obviously Gothos. Icarium must be considered as mixed blood. I thought the one who hides in the service of a god was the Pannion seer, but instead this one is the one they think is left (though, he's in the service of the CG too, as we know). The other one they mean must be Gethol, also in this book, who was first Herald of Hood and now of the CG.
As I said the first line of the following scene has a particular resonance considering the scene that precedes it:
"One assumes a lack of complexity in people whose lives are so short."
But it's not just linked to that, it also reminds the Mhybe and her life passing quickly, confined within the small space of her wagon. Is her life less relevant because of these constrictions? And even more it brings again on the level of microcosm/macrocosm, how things endlessly reflect even on emergent levels. The essence remains, the form changes. It's again a game of mirrors.
Another thing specifically of the battle at Pale.
There's something that CAN'T be retconning since it is already in GotM. Rake, to Baruk, talks about demons summoned. We see two demons used in the book, one by Quick Ben, who stole it from Tay, and another by Lorn, who got it from Tay.
So the idea is: demons = Tayschrenn
Who's that is ripped apart by demons? Nightchill. Hence one could say Nightchill was killed by Tayschrenn (and this, again, with info limited to GotM). And, btw, it is coherent with her "curse". She was cursed by Kallor to be betrayed, so it also means that Nightchill is going to be particularly paranoid about who is that may betray her. In this case it's A'karonys who's suspicious about her, and she may have figured out that part, and so tried to kill him. Even if it's this action that actually leads to the betrayal (which would be very curse-like).
Now A'karonys is killed by "ethereal wings of ice". It definitely doesn't look like Rake kind of magic, so who's this? Who do you think first when thinking about "ice" (well, beside Jaghuts)? It doesn't look that subtle.
Sister of Cold Nights
There's definitely the inconsistency of A'karonys being killed after Nightchill, but the scene is narrated about contemporary events. It could almost appear as deliberate misdirection done by Erikson.
It really wasn't needed and, again, that book would work better with some more exposition and a revision, but overall it "seems" to work.
Am I wrong here?
The real problem is that Tayschrenn seems to have killed Hairlock and Calot as well, probably attacking Tattersail too. And Tay himself also got killed the majority of the army (which is another big problem since it's utterly stupid to bring an army to a sorecery fight where they could only stand around while being killed, without ANY form of defense).
From the way that Tayschrenn is characterised in all the books after GotM, I would believe the version we've just been given, that he killed Nightchill because she was a threat and that he genuinely did not want to harm the Bridgeburners.
The Bridgeburners were also a threat at that stage (pre-Pale).
Laseen had a problem with WJ specifically, not with the rest of the squad in general. Remember that at the time there was Sorry with them, and Laseen knew she was possessed by Shadowthrone. She (Laseen) definitely wanted Sorry out, as well as WJ. This makes the Bridgeburners a kind of acceptable "collateral".
I'm three chapters behind but I wanted to join this conversation since I'm paying attention especially to work kinks out of overreaching plots.
In a way this stuff is the kind I love: tables being turned and plot suddenly requiring to be reconsidered as a whole in light of some revelations. The problem here is very similar to the "reveal" at the confrontation between Kalam and Laseen in book 2. It comes out all at the sudden and it's not given a lot of "preparation". They are overreaching links to the overall plot that actually aren't much discussed.
I'm interested in going down in details, because these kind of things can only be analyzed by narrowing down what are the parts that aren't perfectly smooth, and then see if there can be plausible explanations.
One kink I can work out. There's a problem with Kalam's "plan" in DG that is never addressed directly but that is addressed at least a couple of times indirectly, and so it should be taken as true. The intention is there, but for some weird reason it's never spelled exactly. This "plan" is: Kalam's mission in DG was to kill Laseen in order to replace her on the throne. With Whiskeyjack.
The mission has an important point: that Whiskeyjack wouldn't know ANY of this. Because, similarly to Paran, he would have never accepted that kind of position if not once it was an obligatory choice, after the fact. Quick Ben and Kalam basically planned to drag Whiskeyjack right on the throne. Telling him as late as possible.
This was an entirely hidden plan. Only Quick Ben and Kalam knew. Whiskeyjack doesn't know, Dujek doesn't know. But it is Tayschrenn and Laseen who had doubts, including the first book. Laseen had inverted the command structure right at the beginning because WJ was next and so the closest threat for the throne. WJ and his squad HAVE enmity toward Laseen at this stage. Tayschrenn exaggerates this, becoming as paranoid as the Empress and screwing up in a number of occasion (then righted by the arrival at Pale of the Adjunct Lorn).
Dujek can't tell any of this. The problem is not the Bridgeburners (whose "faith" is confirmed in the confrontation between Laseen and Kalam), but it's WJ. Dujek can't tell him he's a problem, and probably Dujek doesn't even know.
A crucial point is that Dujek is naive on this field and he doesn't know how to move. He's a master of battlefield and tactics, but not of politics and hidden agendas. Especially during the events in GotM, with Tayschrenn taking over the command, he's left completely impotent. He's the one who's kept in the dark the most and he only gets back in his position with the arrival of Lorn who "chastises" Tayschrenn and tells him to step back. The crucial point I was saying is that ALL that Dujek knows has been told him by Tayschrenn:
If I hadn't cornered Tayschrenn after, we still wouldn't (know nothing of what was really going on)
Dujek had to corner Tayschrenn after all the screw ups. And Tayschrenn told him all that, probably mostly true, but still possibly partial, and still Tay's point of view.
The interpretation at Pale seems to work for me. That Nightchill and Bellurdan were on something is possible. It's coherent at least with this book since we've seen some chapters back Nightchill pressuring Paran in regards to Rake's sword. She asks Paran to shatter the sword in order to free Draconus. So here's the place:
From what I learned later, Tayschrenn didn't know at the time who Nightchill really was, but he knew she was closing in on Rake's sword. Her and Bellurdan, who she was using to do her research for her. It looked like a play for power, a private one, and Laseen wasn't prepared to permit that. And even then, Tayschrenn only hit her when she took out A'Karonys - the very High Mage who came to Tayschrenn with his suspicions about her. When I said Bellurdan killing Tattersail was the worst foul-up in Malazan history, that day at Pale runs a close second.
"Who Nightchill really was" is Sister of Cold Nights, obviously. She was indeed probably closing on Rake's sword, if we accept what she says to Paran in this book. "It looked like a play for power" may be so, we don't even know if she has hidden intentions. The part "only hit her when" is probably wholly excuse made up by Tayschrenn, manipulating Dujek.
It may well be true that Nightchill attacked A'Karonys if he spied on her. Tayschrenn probably waited for an opportunity during the battle to kill her, and he got it.
The siege of Pale is a tangle of plot and we miss crucial PoVs since we don't have Laseen, we don't have Tay, Nightchill or A'Karonys. What we get is only Tattersail (who didn't know about anything), and the Bridgeburners (who were victims and suspicious about everything). In the case of the Bridgeburners the ambivalence was that Laseen's hostility was FOCUSED on Whiskeyjack:
No, not us. Me. Damn you, Dujek, you lead me to suspect you knew more of that than I'd hoped. Beru fend, I hope I'm wrong.
The problem is that Tayschrenn could never know how faithful were the Bridgeburners to Whiskeyjack, so a certain "collateral" was necessary to take HIM out.
And he was indeed a threat to Laseen, as Kalam went exactly on with that mission to replace her with WJ.
What we saw at Pale was Tayscrenn pressured on all fronts and panicking. It was a mess because he was cornered and leashed out.
The fact that he worked to have Tattersail as Mistress of the Deck is quite plausible. Tattersail had the great affinity with the deck that Tay exploits in GotM quite often. She has the right traits since she was also quite neutral and "unaligned" in respect to the other powers, also being constantly defiant. She is "right there", and Tay spares her during the siege.
Paran became what he is also as consequence of this relationship, which is exactly an example of "opportunity".
So where are the parts that do not work? Overall it seems to work.
The real problem with all this is that it suddenly surfaces in this scene to vanish again. A so huge plot of subterfuge and deep empire politics needed to be more on the front of the stage and play out. Instead in this way you need to work it OUT of the text, between the line. It's all inferred story that was certainly an interesting one to have dragged on the front. ESPECIALLY the hidden plan of putting WJ on the throne instead of Laseen. That one absolutely needed to be mentioned explicitly at least ONCE. It's a huge missing connection.
But then I guess this also makes this convoluted plot something unique. The way everything is inferred. It has is charm being put it that way, even if (the real problem) the text doesn't exactly encourage the reader to read deeper, since sometimes you either have missing pieces, or find loose parts.
Such a tangle of plot REQUIRES flawless execution of the smallest details and absolutely PERFECT planning ahead. While Erikson sometimes went for the potshot.
"Has Quick Ben heard from Kalam yet?"
"He's not told me so if he has."
"Where's your wizard right now?"
"I last saw him jawing with those Trygalle traders."
We KNOW he has (heard from Kalam), since he's organizing with the Trygalle. He wouldn't tell WJ because of the hidden plot. Which also gets problematic after all the reveals this side of the world (more impending matters than caring about who's on the throne).
Beside the rest that has been well commented, I was thinking that the last scene with Itkovian was a bit ambiguous and probably intended to be that way.
It's as if its tone makes a counterpoint to Paran, Gruntle and Quick Ben, who have been grouped on the same side in the last scene. Here (with Itkovian) instead I feel a whiff of the old gods' way. It begins with:
There is a current that carries us to this
And after the other scene a line like that would trigger the alarm:
When someone warns me to follow one course of action, my instinct is to do the very opposite.
But that's not for Itkovian. He had a complete faith in his god and is moving forward on that path regardless of the disaster that happened. His words sound decidedly "wrong":
what I need is fanatics...
And it's not even some kind of self-aware humor. He means it. And "fanatic" is not exactly a world that has a very positive connotation. What's Erikson's purpose here? Itkovian is a character that asks for sympathy, yet his "otherness" is often underlined.
His words to the newfound Shield Anvil continue on the same line:
You will require fanatics, Captain. That cast of mind, of breeding and culture, is vital. You must search, sir, you must needs find such people. People with nothing left to their lives, with their faith dismantled. People who have been made... lost.
This sounds dangerously similar to the kind of recruiting the Crippled God is doing (there's something even in the Epilogue to this book). It has a positive connotation if one thinks of giving a chance and taking care of the Tenescowri instead of abandoning them. But it could also lead to think of "using" them and exploiting them because they can't defend themselves.
Along with skepticism toward this kind of blind faith that seems encouraged.
So it seems more a contrast than something that is moving "in accord". And it would even risk of sounding ominous if we hadn't been with Itkovian in the preceding scenes.
I'll also point out that it's the first time in the book that the "she-wolf" word appears. And then we have that word twice in this chapter. One from Itkovian:
Togg, Lord of Winter, a god of war long forgotten, recalled among the Barghast as the wolf-spirit, Togctha. And his lost mate, the she-wolf, Fanderay. Farand in the Barghast tongue.
The other was Rake:
My Great Ravens have caught sight of his enemy, or at least some of them. A T'lan Imass, a she-wolf and a very large dog. Thus, the old battle: Omtose Phellack, ever retreating from Tellann. There might well be other players as well - lands to the south of Outlook have been completely shrouded in mists born of dying ice.
Now, as one can see, the word has been used to refer to different things...
...or maybe not ;)
(Amanda didn't explicitly pointed this out, so I thought it was worth making sure it was not missed)
My first interpretation is that the CG is Burn-like entity.
So the fading echoes of a distant world grief is still about the CG, containing that alien world. Or maybe it's another (world/god) of a similar kind (to the CG).
Well, I implied that since Fener wasn't in "the mortal realm", he was somewhere in an abstract place that can be defined "warren". Even if it's a spiritual dimension like you say, it most likely is a special flavor of warren. I don't see a distinction between the magic and the religious aspects. Especially if they are intended as the creation and use of meaning.
I directly disagree instead with the fact that the Deck doesn't give power. It sets the rules and it's one of the reasons why Paran makes his choice. Imposing rules on the Crippled God means limiting his power. While Rake was trying to force Paran to refuse the House of Chains:
To grant the Fallen One legitimacy is to grant him power.
Though it's true that a position on the DoD isn't determined by who kills who, so it's also true that it's not the position itself to grant special powers.
Your explanation about why the CG is on the receiving end doesn't completely convinces me, but it must be at least closer to the truth. The CG made his contact with Heboric before Rath'Fener episode, so he could have opened a link there. One hand goes into Fener, one hand goes into the CG. So it was Heboric himself to link the two.
And oh! I just figured out who's the Mortal Sword of the Crippled God. Not sure I got it on my first read. But I may be well mistaken as who I'm guessing may be Destriant instead...
I like how the QB & Bauchelain scenes alternate with Paran. There's a "to Hood with plans" that becomes kind of ironic when we find out that Hood is indeed behind most plans. We see him playing pranks to Heboric in the DG Prologue. We see him sending his former Herald to recruit the Grey Swords. And here we see another plan after the fact: he "lent" the Magi position to the Barghast sticksnare. It seems Hood isn't exactly the passive player in this game...
The scene is powerfully written and Erikson is fully grasping it in the same way Quick Ben is grasping Hood.
Not sure what he means about the "last of the dread cards". But also not sure what means QB's observation about the Barghast gods:
The damned newcomers are stretched far too thin. Wonder what's drawing on their energies?
What is it? It seems the Barghast Gods attention is somewhere else. It's probably not the Thrall protection or QB would have figured it out.
In any case I underline again that with these different PoVs that reflect and frame the situation we have a better insight about what is going on. It means that the characters' motivations are easier to follow and that one isn't simply walking while groping in the dark. We have many of the cards into play laid out. Yet more are going to be added, but at least we got a certain frame and a better idea of what kind of game this is.
who wants to read a book about a bunch of mindless pawns being moved around on a board by higher beings who know all and can see/predict all? Where's the fun in that?
This reminds me "The Steel Remains" by Richard Morgan. I'm waiting the sequel because in the first book the final revelation was that everything that happened seemed completely "driven" by a hidden hand. Which one could call Deus Ex Machina, as the plot was being steered at crucial points (without a real causality). That's why it's interesting to see where it goes in the span of the rest of the series. It worked in that book because the revelation came at the end instead of being the premise.
Point me out one comment over there that is representative of your point of view? I'm curious.
Excuse me if I resume the discussion from the other post about unrelated issues to the chapters at hand.
Other re-readers said they do not want to change a thing, so I don't want to open a fight and only add my own perspective. I'll continue to comment anyway, only later than most, and my presence isn't exactly loved.
I explained my reasons in the other comment, but I wanted to point out the discrepancy.
I think Leigh Butler is doing a great job with her re-reads. I have no intention to compare how she does things Vs how you do them, but notice this: in the current GoT reread, with my copy at hand, she covers every week two chapters. Like Malazan. Only that the number of pages involved in nowhere comparable. Take the last 4 parts of her re-read:
Part 6: 16 pages
Part 7: 19 pages
Part 8: 25 pages
Part 9: 12 pages
I think with the Wheel of Time she was doing something similar considering that some books are divided into more than 20 parts.
Now compare to the Malazan division. Last week you covered 108 pages! This week will be 98 pages!
This is what is killing me, and, imho, it's not even doing the book a great justice. This is not light, perfunctory stuff. ESPECIALLY if you compare it to the Wheel of Time, ASOIAF or The Name of the Wind.
Doing 15 pages of Malazan a week? Would be a breeze compared to this.
It's just my opinion but it may well be that we saw a lack of comments because reading 100 pages and leaving comments about them is like work and not something you can do for fun.
In any case others say it's fine, so it is fine for me as well.
I guess it shouldn't be me answering the question since I've kept my activity steady. But it's a BIG struggle.
Imho, lack of comments is due to the activity on the site going up tenfold with the number of other re-reads (and those books have a more wide appeal and are easier to read page by page). Especially now that GoT is getting the momentum. You know what happens with mass of people? They go downhill, and this is GoT moment (and I'm somewhat glad, since it deserves some success. I just wished it went more other ways as well...).
We went from a book of 500 pages, to a book of 800, to a book of 1200, with the number of pages to cover every week growing and growing (this book is almost TWICE as long as GotM and you kept the same division). I'm a big fan but Malazan books wear me down considerably. I usually let pass a number of months going from one book to the other, same as I'm doing with all other stuff I read as I mix stuff and don't read straight in a line. So committing to reading and commenting requires an effort and I noticed a similar weariness even in Amanda. Consider that the first post was a year ago, going week after week. Nothing could really hold interest and fun for so long without a break. One needs to catch breath, vary the diet and rebuild interest and appetite.
If it was me, I'd cover much less stuff over a week and better savor it. I'm struggling to keep the pace and I'm always behind anyway. Had to stop completely my read of Midnight Tides since it was too much Erikson and this reread took most of my usual reading time.
But that's the way I perceive it. I don't know if others would pay more attention or contribute more if there was a slower pace. I do believe that reading this weekly, without pauses is insane. I know a couple of readers that went through the whole series in a couple of months, but surely without writing down comments about everything they read. With or without "us" commenting I'm wondering how far you can go ;)
Not sure a reread of Gene Wolfe, Glen Cook or Bakker would fare much better. Dense stuff. Not as simple leisure, effortless reads.
Those are my guesses. Not sure why other people fell behind. I've left plenty of questions behind and even polemized a bit ;) If one looks back there plenty of stuff left to discuss.
Rake explains a lots of things to WJ and I wonder where he took that knowledge. He probably knows the pantheon and what happens within rather well, but all the details about the Claw and Heboric? Sounds like very intimate knowledge of the Malazan empire.
An important detail is that Rake confirms that the unusual practices about Fener's cult were more due to Laseen than Shadowthrone. So was ST also involved in this manipulation? The discouragement of cults within the military may have been a Kellanved thing, but it seems it was then adopted by Laseen as well.
there was a perceived need to reduce the influence of Fener, and in particular that High Priest, by agents of the Empire - likely the Claw.
So there are at least two sides, probably not dependent one from the other. Heboric's knowledge (about the Empress and Kellanved not being assassinated) is one factor, but there was another about reducing Fener's influence regardless. And not simply Heboric's situation causing all the rest.
This means that we have one answer about what happened to Heboric (because of Laseen's enmity), but we don't have a complete answer about why there was this specific intent against Fener, maybe shared by both Emperor and Empress.
Rake also completes the picture we get from DG about the Jade statue and Heboric dragging Fener down in the mortal realm, united with the scenes in this book with Rath-Fener's hands (even if I'm still filled with questions), and here telling how Heboric's hands waited in Fener's realm and ultimately pushed it out when Chaos tore down the barrier.
It's odd that Rake doesn't close the connection. We know that Heboric touched the Jade finger, which is the object Rake defines as forged within the warren of Chaos. So the warren of the Crippled God. Already in DG the connection between the Jade statue and the Crippled God was obvious, the connection between the CG and the warren of Chaos less so, but it has been underlined a number of times in this book instead. Rake doesn't know that Heboric touched this Jade finger, but he should be aware of the nature of the CG power (even more so because of Crone).
One also wonders if the CG is now in control of Fener's warren. Because the scene with Rath'Fener's hands is only explainable that way (the CG was there on the receiving end, in place of Fener). Is Fener holding even a position in the Deck of Dragons? Because the CG could have done without Paran's sanctioning now that he took over a warren (like ST with the Shadow warren).
It's even more impossible trying to figure out what was "foreseen" and manipulated and what wasn't. Paran loses himself into that mental speculation.
His point of view is interesting because he completes the step that Rake made before during the council:
We cannot be controlled. The truth laid bare is we fight for our own freedom. No borders for Moon's Spawn. No world-spanning peace that would make warlords and generals and mercenary companies obsolete. We fight against the imposition of order and the mailed fist that must hide behind it, because we're not the ones wielding that fist.
Besides, Korlat justifies her surprise at Rake's words with "the Draconian blood within him". Draconian blood that is made of chaos. So the natural opposition to order.
Paran closes this pattern like a circle (and his PoV comes after Rake "questioning" Paran's role):
A mitigator of power whose task was to assert a structure - the rules of the game - upon players who resented every challenge to their freedom to do as they pleased.
So against Rake. It's as if Rake here takes the role of Icarium in the previous book. Aware of being a huge threat. Rake starts to realize his position and understands that Malazan Empire's reaction to him is legitimate. He just doesn't go all the way, realizing that Paran's role is meant to counterbalance both Rake and the Crippled God.
Paran's other consideration are deep but questionable:
Paran had begun to suspect that the Elder Gods had not orchestrated matters to the degree Nightchill had implied; that opportunism and serendipity was as much responsible for the turn of events as anything else.
Yet we know to what extent K'rul manipulated things beyond even the scope of events known by Paran (Toc and all his group). He definitely sets everything up. Maybe not the ultimate "shove" that came from the other book, but everything else was carefully anticipated.
It's curious because while Paran's thoughts are plausible, one could also read them out of context. Paran questions causality, but the reader questions the solidity and extent of Erikson's long term plotting. So those "doubts" are well written in the scene, but also lingering with us as readers, while we wonder both about the same questions, as well as Erikson's control of the whole thing...
I'm wondering if Erikson wrote that scene fully aware of this particular ambivalence.
I never had a problem with the Mhybe's scenes but the one in this chapter isn't merely "fine", it's one of the VERY BEST in the whole book. Written splendidly. Amanda dismissed it in less than a line, Bill criticized it, but I thought the book reached an impressive height with just that scene. I am awed again.
Not only the kind of pain and reactions of the Mhybe are justified, but I think that they deserve to be voiced. Cutting or reducing these scenes would be... unjust. It's the reader involved here and I think the Mhybe is repaid by being read. In this case the mercy and compassion is that of the reader. A request of empathy (and similar to the excerpt of chapter 16). A request that is not obviously forced and it's the reader to decide how to react to it.
Bill's arguments are legitimate. It would be interesting to hear Erikson opinion, but the use of the Rhivi woman wasn't so unacceptable to me. I do not think that her presence is "augmenting" the Mhybe's pain. She isn't worsening her condition from my point of view. Sometimes a mirror helps understanding and acceptance. This woman is like a mirror. The Mhybe interprets her like someone living constantly in a world of terror, but to me this sounds as a "blind" view as it was blind considering the wolves a threat to her life. She misjudges her, frames her from her blind point of view.
What we see here is the pain that is part of the journey made by acceptance (that Kruppe described earlier). As in the overall pattern there's no sight of salvation at the end. It's all dark. But in both cases there are occasions for healing. So I see this Rhivi woman as an occasion of healing (and probably the Mhybe would have refused any other presence). And the Mhybe's reaction looks to me as a slow and painful healing that is happening.
Her condition also puts her above mortal passions and out of the context. She doesn't care about what happens outside. The microcosm within her becomes macrocosm (and in this there's the foreshadowing). It's a curse but the strong part is how these patterns belong to us all. We aren't reading something so distant. It's just without veils.
Instead what seems really unjust is how the following scene with Kruppe begins:
"Dear lass, you look weary. Settle here with magnanimous Kruppe and he will pour you some of this steaming herbal brew."
"You look weary" and "magnanimous" clash quite a bit when moving from the Mhybe to Kruppe and Silverfox (speaking about tea). And it seems a bit too bold to not be deliberate. I think this contrast legitimates again the Mhybe's feelings. And I think that Silverfox words "I can be nothing other than an abomination" underline how there's an impassable barrier between them. In this the indulgence in the symbolic relationship between mother and child is justified, or it would be lost. Taken a step further we see them wounding each other, realizing they are doing it, but unable to prevent it.
What I consider superfluous and I'd gladly have cut is, in the previous scene with Whiskeyjack and Dujek, that line in italic. The final line is already plain obvious and I think Erikson could have played better by keeping his cards closer to his chest. In a way one could say that having WJ's PoV it would have been cheating the reader to keep that kind of info hidden, but then he plays with it anyway, so it was better if it was kept more subtle. Or maybe Erikson thought that it was already too obvious and so stretching it would appear as pretentious.
About the initial scene with Quick Ben I'm wondering if the image of diamonds within the rotten corpse is metaphoric or literal. The metaphor is explicit, and it's also literal because we've seen Burn's rotten corpse (somewhat) and the diamonds when Quick Ben plunged in to go visit the giants within:
A vaguely human-shaped figure towered over him, easily fifteen times the wizard's own height, its bulk nearly reaching the cavern's domed ceiling. Dark flesh of clay studded with rough diamonds gleamed and glittered as the apparition shifted slightly. It seemed to be ignoring Quick Ben - though the wizard knew that it had been this beast that had saved him from the Crippled God. Its arms were raised to the ceiling directly above it, hands disappearing into the murky, red-stained roof.
One also wonders if the vision itself is literal or metaphoric (done to let QB understand). Actually here it says "may the house shine and sparkle even as it burns", and see in the quote above how the flesh "gleamed and glittered". It just can't be casual and in fact a couple of pages later they talk about the poison and K'rul.
The scene also plays in a interesting way. I think QB is mostly thinking aloud, following the slight cues offered by Talamandas and seeing what sticks. The discussion offers a "frame" of the overall war, again with the Crippled God at the center. I wonder again the role of the Queen of Dreams. QB says she can be a bridge to the Sleeping Goddess so there must be something going on between K'rul and his power of using dreams (and shaping spaces as warrens) and whatever peculiar power the QoD may have.
The relationship between Korlat and WJ seems to me too sparse and summarized. We get these short scenes and even in this case we see matters of trust that develop in a matter of pages. I wouldn't know how to fit it better in the book, but this development seems too neat and explanatory. The scenes make a point, solve it, then move onto something new. Every chunk has its meaning but it feels like they have been aligned too neatly.
The discussion about "liberation" and "occupation" is very actual and I won't delve in it. But it seems to me that WJ and Dujek here consider themselves cornered again by the Empress:
The truth? That we've got a knife at our throats. And the hand holding it - on Empress Laseen's behalf - is right here in this very camp, and has been ever since the beginning.
Weren't these problems with the Empress solved? And wasn't the hiding of that knife a resource for them instead of a threat? But it's interesting that it is WJ to voice these thoughts, and not Dujek. And I think later will be shown that they have a different opinion on this specific aspect. So it makes sense that WJ feels threatened, while Dujek instead has full trust in this perceived threat.
At the council:
"I heard you the first time, Kallor. Your penchant for repetition is wearisome.
That made me laugh. A "penchant for repetition" after all is Kallor's own curse ;)
When they start telling what is going on in the south I thought about Lady Envy in retrospective and how the whole scene was deliberately set-up by K'rul and her. One could imagine Lady Envy actually doing an effort to make feel Toc at ease, maybe even hiding the true aspect of the wolf and dog. Not like it worked really well, but it is amusing to consider that all the reactions Toc had were probably anticipated and handled for "his best".
Another obscure aspect I left out: what's Itkovian's gift?
The part I find weird is that he seems to "embrace" all the pain. He suffers for it and even dies from the pressure. But when Paran brings him back... the pain seems gone. More than embracing it, he seems to work like a portal. To where is unknown. But in the book the scene is not put that way. He didn't deliver those souls to someone else (or maybe ultimately to Hood?). So where have they gone?
It seems as if after enduring all that pain, all of it vanishes without leaving a trace. Including Itkovian. He isn't done but he also doesn't seem to carry that kind of burden he seemed to receive. He somewhat purified it, but again, where is it gone?
Or was it maybe that Itkovian was necessary so that those souls could be purified and released (where to?)? But then again, the pain couldn't have vanished after being momentary suffered by Itkovian. Is it really like a momentous thing that needs to be endure and then is gone?
I feel like I'm being too obtuse, though. I understand the point of these scenes and maybe I have this reductionist impulse to narrow down the concrete specifics when there isn't really a need to do that.
I was expecting to understand more clearly on a reread the scene between Itkovian and Rath'Fener, instead it was more confusing now than in the first go. A number of important details are hard to pinpoint and this adds to the confusion.
One of these aspects escaping me is the way death is intended even before Fener's demise, including the role of Hood (and whatever happened before Hood). What kind of release are these gods offering when they "work"? And what's the difference when they do not work (in Fener's current case)? Is this answer consolatory or real? In the real world we know how to frame these questions, since uncertainty is what we have to "rely" on. But in the Malazan world the gods are real, and so also their answer to death may be real. How they concretely answer it then, and what happens when they don't?
What's the difference between a soul that passes Hood's gates, one that goes to Fener, and one that is refused by both? This side of "fiction" it's all about speculation, but in the Malazan world that barrier that divides life from death is gone, or at least much reduced (and so it's put into words and described, as opposed to our reality where it lays beyond words). What's the idea of afterlife in Malazan mythology?
Part of what I don't understand is how the Crippled God (if it's him) got at the receiving end. Fener falls and one would guess that his place is empty at least till someone claims it (maybe like the warren of Shadow and Shadowthrone). The CG didn't seem involved with Fener's fall, and actually couldn't be, as cooperation between CG and K'rul isn't in any way plausible.
Whatever should wait on the other side is hinted here and there:
"By the Abyss, Itkovian - there is no crime so foul to match what you're about to do! His soul will be torn apart! Where they will go, there are no creatures of mercy!
"They" refers to the hands? What kind of creatures are expected on the other side? Why no mercy, and what's in its place?
When Itkovian embraces Rath'Fener he perceives what we assume is the Crippled God beyond:
Seeking to make of the unexpected gift of a mortal's two hands... something of beauty. Yet that man's flesh could not contain that gift.
Horror within the storm. Horror... and grief.
Yet this description somewhat clashed with the harsh laughter typical of the CG. Or with the way he treated Munug. He seemed a cynic, that would find beauty in what was instead horribly twisted. His gifts are gifts of pain.
And why "the man's flesh could not contain that gift"? Is this Heboric he's speaking about? The gift would be about giving him back the hands, so why he can't receive them (and he does, he receives the "ghost hands", so I could say that his plan worked perfectly)? So why the grief for something that couldn't be done? What is that the CG attempted to do? What is that he actually obtained?
And then weeping? Is this truly the CG?
Then the sensation was gone, fleeing him as the alien god succeeded in extracting itself, leaving Itkovian with but fading echoes of a distant world's grief - a world with its own atrocities, layer upon layer through a long, tortured history.
I have my theories here, but I noticed no one brought this up, so it must have a very simple explanation that I'm missing entirely. What those lines mean to you?
For me, it links back to Paran calling the jade hand as "Obelisk". And the idea that the Crippled God isn't just one god, but a whole world embodied by the god, similar to Burn.
Also, could someone explain me this passage:
The Reve of Fener voiced the truth of war. It spoke true of the cruelty that humanity was capable of unleashing upon its own kind. War was played like a game by those who led others; played in an illusory arena of calm reason, but such lies could not survive reality, and reality seemed to have no limits. The Reve held a plea for restraint, and insisted the glory to be found was not to be a blind one, rather a glory born of solemn, clear-eyed regard. Within limitless reality resided the promise of redemption.
The first part is ok, but what is the meaning of the last line? "Reality seemed to have no limits" seems referring to what I quote below (the descending spiral, the horrors of reality have no limits), so where does redemption come from?
I'll tell one huge delusion I had on my first read. In this chapter some attention is drawn on a Gidrath solider sworn to Hood. It's obvious that this attention hid something and I had my theory. I noticed he wielded two longswords, one of which was bent (and he was also described as a huge guy). Spoilers are a bad thing and from glancing at the Dramatis Personae of future books I noticed there was a Harllo. Obviously, he wasn't dead, and it wasn't the first time a character returned. In this case I got a big man, sworn to Hood (who may have returned him to life), and wielded a bent sword (maybe bent when he tried to defend Gruntle from the attack of the K'ell hunter). I was absolutely convinced it was Harllo... And I was utterly wrong :)
Now wondering if this guy is instead a certain other character in DG... (and probably being horribly wrong again)
In any case, the fact that Hood, through this Gidrath warrior, is supporting Itkovian feeds the suspect that this transition from Fener to Trake is something that was anticipated and planned not just by K'rul, but by Hood as well (and again, it would be necessary to justify DG's Prologue and Hood's interest in Heboric).
Itkovian's thoughts before the more important scenes offer an important context:
We are all pushed into a world of madness, yet it must now fall to each of us to pull back from this Abyss, to drag ourselves free of the descending spiral. From horror, grief must be fashioned, and from grief, compassion.
Gruntle's ascension was itself played as a descending spiral. We see him later snapping out of it, but there's again this idea that humanity is caught in between. I'm wondering what's Erikson's idea of compassion here specifically. How do you turn an horror like the siege of Capustan into compassion?
My interpretation comes from what is shown later, the way Itkovian tries to embrace Rath'Fener. Compassion seems to me strictly bound to forgiveness. The necessity to understand and then forgive. So an opposite idea from judgement, guilt or punishment (hence a view of afterlife as punishment or reward for what one has done during his mortal life). We may expect that Rath'Fener is going to pay, and maybe he does, but this seems more part of the consequence of mortal life than his ultimate destination. So is this form of compassion specific of Itkovian or it would be fashioned in a similar way if the soul was being received by Fener or Hood?
Not finished commenting previous chapters but I wanted to recommend to fellow re-readers a movie:
The Tree of Life by Terrence Malick. Recently won the Palme D'Or at Cannes. I consider it a kindred work to the Malazan series, and it should be watched regardless.
It's a really beautiful and unconventional movie. A rare thing and unlike every other movie you could have seen. It tells the story of a family in the 1950s from the point of view of the mother, the father and one of their sons. The scenes surface from memory like a stream of consciousness, always grasping for sense and meaning. Slices of life alternating with images of the birth and death of the universe. From cells to galaxies. Think to the hallucinated end of 2001: A Space Odissey mixing with the touching scenes of the life of this American family.
Within the single life there's the search for the meaning of the whole universe, and the way one is forced into the world, to change and adapt. To face the darker sides of life, and coming to terms with them. It's a cosmic movie about everything. But with this "everything" disclosed and explored within one life, yet reflecting everything that is outside.
One of those who worked on the movie said it is: "a very powerful movie about memories, emotions, and our place in the world."
I think it's filled with compassion in the way these stories are told, and it forces one to reconsider his position in the world.
And despite all this ambition it's also a simple movie whose meaning is easily understood. So do not worry about watching cryptic sequences that hide obscure interpretations. You will understand what it wants to tell you.
Damn, you want to demolish a so pretty theory like that? ;)
But yeah, it's true. I think what I said is mostly correct, it probably only needs a better "calibration"...
Still, this aspect troubles me.
I'm still not yet done commenting the previous chapter, but I wanted to write a few things about the excerpt at the beginning of this one, since I think it has certain connections with the "system" I had figured out as the structure to the whole series.
That excerpt contains the whole deal, if you read between the lines.
Amanda is confused by the Barghast gods, but this particular aspect seems clear to me (maybe because I'm wrong, or maybe because I analyzed it in previous chapters as it was unveiled). The Barghast descended from Imass, and the Imass (gods) held the Beast Throne. Lady Envy (beginning of chapter 9) said that all Imass gods are gone now (and Paran in one of his mental travels saw the Beast Throne empty). Those gods disappeared as direct consequence of the Ritual that made Imass like animated skeletons. They gained immortality, but lost all humanity, including their gods. After the ritual the Barghast continued their life scattered all over the planet, but as a stagnant society, as their gods couldn't provide guidance.
Primordial in their aspect, these ascended spirits emerged from the Hold of the Beast, that most ancient of realms from the long-lost Elder Deck.
These spirits are those that Hetan retrieved from the Thrall "basement". They are the ancestors of the Barghast, buried with their boats since they were the very first to arrive on Genabackis. So they "emerge" from the Hold of the Beast because they share that original link and closeness to the Imass.
Possessors of secrets and mysteries born in the bestial shadow of humanity, theirs was a power wreathed in antiquity.
What's humanity? That's an interesting question as I'm not certain at what point one draws the line. What one should realize at this point is that "humans" descended from Imass. Barghast are considered human, yet the Imass were non-human. So I could imagine that the transition is due to evolution. But I'm not completely sure.
The "bestial shadow of humanity" may mean just that: that humans descended from Imass (Beast Throne). So it's both a new power, and an old one. Also hinting at the evolution as we learn it at school: from apes (bestial) to humans. Erikson plays with patterns that are wholly contained in the "real" world.
Indeed, the other gods must have felt the tremor of their rising, rearing their heads in alarm and consternation. One of their own, after all, had just been abandoned in the mortal realm, whilst a First Hero assumed the warrior mantle in his place.
Why the alarm? I think not simply because one god (Fener) was cast down and replaced, but because it was replaced specifically by a "First Hero". We've seen in past chapters that First Heros shouldn't be considered gods, as if this claim could be something that defies the rules. Something contrarian to the original "order" of the pantheon. An outrage. A challenge.
And we've seen that this movement (out Fener, in Trake) has been set into motion by K'rul (an Elder god who may have changed his perception), maybe by Hood, and then "approved" by Paran in the previous chapter. It's Paran that welcomes this change. And it's Paran who carries this sacrilegious banner (to Gruntle):
It never goes how you think it should, does it, priest? That's the glory of us humans, and your new god had best make peace with that, and soon. Gruntle, keep playing by your own rules.
And, earlier, he voices the same intention by calling Nightchill a "patronizing bitch" and saying:
I'm beginning to think you all deserve each other.
It's a much different war than the one Nighchill intended. It's not anymore about the threat of the Crippled God.
The last part is both confusing and enlightening:
Burn's sleep was fevered. Human civilization floundered in countless lands, drowning in the mire of spilled blood. These were dark times, and it was a darkness that seemed made for the dawn of the Barghast gods...
I read cause and consequence between the first line and the next. The many wars are maybe the consequence of Burn's tormented sleep? It brings back to the "metaphorical" idea that the seer explained to Quick Ben. As if life is itself Burn's own dream. Yet the metaphor can't be stretched too far as there are contradictions.
The last line is more clarifying, leading back to a much different idea of "war", and the "system" I was hinting at. If we consider Barghast as "men", as human, then it's a dawn, in darkness, of humanity itself (of which Shadowthrone is just another "act"). An idea of change that is born in darkness.
With the promise of turning the whole game.
As I've said: after the slowness of the action scenes we get again the speed of introspection!
It's a great idea to "introduce" Paran's dream of consciousness with Picker's PoV. It creates a game of mirrors as Picker's forthright and rebellious attitude toward Paran is not unlike Paran's toward Nightchill and her manipulations. Both missing large chunks on the big picture they are caught within, but also not moving on certain principles. In Picker's case we get again an impression similar to GotM, where Paran was the stanger no one was trusting.
Her whole PoV helps again clarify situations and motivations (I said something similar in a comment to a scene in Chapter 15), while also moving the plot as we get to see what is happening around the city from the "vantage" point where the Bridgeburners and Gruntle's squad are. Especially, she offers a workable interpretation to what happened with the torcs. After she speculates that Trake may have organized the whole thing it's Stonny to suggest a better alternative. Trake has recently died and he didn't seem in the position to do a whole lot, but Stonny's newfound god, K'rul, has been actively engaged in a number of manipulations, probably setting up the replacement of Fener with Trake (and in this, apparently, cooperating with Hood). And it's definitely K'rul, through Keruli who has lead Gruntle directly to Capustan, even if this particular may be more consequence than cause (maybe someone else could have filled Gruntle's role).
So we get a good insight into motivations and also a scene that develops again characterization. With Paran's forced solitude becoming for the Bridgeburners a reason for suspicion, making him a stranger again, someone who doesn't fully belong to the company. And that's what prompts Picker to violate Paran's space, pressing with unrelenting questions. Again similar to the way Paran confronts Nightchill.
That scene is interesting because it offers insight in what is happening on a higher level, so it offers a "frame" for everything else, and in a series like this one the hint of a frame is precious. The fact that Heboric has caused Fener to "fall" in the mortal realm suddenly makes more sense and acquires more significance if we consider the excerpt that introduced the current section and that revealed Heboric was not one of the priests, but the Destriant. So a position of power (power that he still retained, even if cast out of the cult). It's also interesting that in the vision Paran called the giant jade statue (that we know is related to the Crippled God) "Obelisk". One of the unaligned? Obelisk is Burn. So why this kind of identification? Maybe Paran confuses the Jade statue with Burn because they are chained together? It's possible, as it's possible that the position in the deck is ambivalent and not specific of Burn. But I suspect there's more behind this parallel. Anyone has theories?
And what's Nightchill's purpose with this interference? It's her showing Paran the scene with Heboric, letting Paran know that Fener is now vulnerable. So does the transition from Fener to Trake also need to be sanctioned? It doesn't seem the case as Shadowthrone wasn't sanctioned by anyone.
Then Paran underlines how he "cut those strings", and it is because he is in this kind of "unaligned" position that he was probably picked for this role. He would still listen, but not being simply used: "Give me cause, and I'll come down it."
His declaration to Nightchill is one of those that set rules, without caring about cause:
Abyss take you, is pain your only means of making us achieve what you want? It seems so. Know this, then: until you can find another means, until you can show me another way - something other than pain and grief - I'll fight you.
But I think Paran here is also taking defense of two other characters: the Mhybe and Toc. No matter what their story will "mercifully" lead to, right now they've only known pain. Is this really necessary? Nightchill and K'rul on this level are equals. We suspect K'rul has "mercy", but with both Toc and the Mhybe he's following the exact same pattern that Nightchill is using with Paran: she keeps him ignorant. Toc and the Mhybe both suffer without knowing WHY. And both are again being lead through nothing but pain, with the very remote possibility of a greater cause (or at least we, as readers, have it).
So, again, Paran's challenge not only is a valid one, but also one we can use for our True world. What is the point of all this pain in the world? Is it truly necessary in some obscure way or it just can't be answered?
I completely side Paran's position. His fight is above all things and the only principle one can follow even in blindness (since again both him and us are blind to whatever reality and purpose may ultimately exist).
I'm utterly confused about the two hounds being Darkness hounds. It doesn't quite fit with House of Chains. I guess this is another aspect that needs more attention since it opens too many questions (like why Shadowthrone controls them, why they ended up as statues, and so on).
The rest of the scene seems to clarify that Nightchill didn't catch Paran's attention to "sanction" Trake's ascension, but to do something to free Draconus ("we need him"). Yet it doesn't flow too logically as Drakonus "sought to outwit a curse". But he didn't seem to succeed since he's still in there. And he "made use of" Paran within the sword. Nightchill tells Paran that Draconus can only be freed if the sword is destroyed, so what is that Draconus has figured out in the meantime? How does he plan to keep all other spirits trapped after the sword is shattered?
Another of Paran's comment probably frames the "war" even better than Nightchill's own description:
"The struggle before us is no different from a military campaign - incremental engagements, localized contests. But the field of battle is no less than existence itself. Small victories are each in themselves vital contributions to the pandemic war we have chosen to undertake - "
"Who is 'we'?"
"The surviving Elder Gods... and others somewhat less cognizant of their role."
I'm beginning to think you all deserve each other.
Also wanted to add that the "notion of mercy" and necessity of pain link back to the dialogue between Korlat and the Mhybe in chapter 15, which also frames it more at the human level.
And from this POV we get that the Mhybe's fear is unjustified. The wolves are hunting not to feed but to "deliver,"
Well, let's hope they don't deliver death ;)
I was thinking that this aspects reads like a ghost story. In some typical ghost stories the ghost isn't really a danger even if it produces a lot of scares, in many cases it's actually there to protect from something, as a benevolent intent. So usually the point is to actually confront it in order to understand why it's there and how to deal with it. Even in the case of the Mhybe there's a necessity, her own, that needs to be answered. But in order to do that she has to face and confront that fear. Come to terms with it, and also with herself.
By the way, was it Tool riding the Hound/Garath? It's a part of the story I don't remember and it's already odd seeing Tool riding something, even more weird that it is the hound instead of the ay. I guess they have some sort of link, then?
Not much to analyze about the part I read. It's not a case I say that the slower transitions in these books are those that move the plot the most :) In this case, and probably one reason why this book is one of the most appreciated, it's only halfway through and we are getting the "payoff" already. The Bridgeburners approaching Capustan makes a great scene with that typical "down in the trenches" style that reminds Glen Cook as well. The utter chaos at the explosion of the munitions, the mad race, then an eerie moment of calm, with the "zombies" trailing after them. A dead city in every possible sense. Even if the battle isn't over we get the impression that everything has been broken and left there, abandoned.
I think Bill interpreted it perfectly:
I don't think what Erikson is offering up here is a relativist viewthe idea that both sides are equally horrific regardless of intent. Intent does count for something after all. But I think (and obviously this is my interpretation) what is happening here is he is requiring clear sightone cannot hide true ugliness underneath the veil of intent. Nor does intent "cleanse" you.
It's too easy and extremely frequent to see scenes "dressed up" with meaning and justifications. The story here on the wide level does it too: try to answer all that is going on, find some kind of motivation. It connects with the perception of history we got through Duiker. And there's also this necessity, in and out the books, to tell and hear stories in order to understand. A human necessity. But it can also be twisted as words deceive and are meant to put meaning where there is none, find a cause when there's only personal convenience.
Not "trusting" this pattern is something that Erikson does radically, instead of applying it selectively and conveniently. In fact the most visible example of this is not in Paran's thoughts in this chapter, but it is in the previous. In that excerpt where Erikson "challenged" the reader regarding the First Child of the Dead Seed:
Dare you step behind his eyes
even for a moment?
Do not dare judge him hard
lest you wear his skin.
And even more in general Erikson challenges and defies the boundaries themselves. While I liked both GotM and DG, it was with the novellas that Erikson got my unconditional appreciation, because it's there that I understood how this stance was radical. Always trying to see what's beyond the limited space, defying those limits and categories.
And again, it's "Fantasy" as a genre and the battle it fight for its legitimacy, since the genre itself is victim of categorization and prejudices. Erikson is probably the writer that learned the most the lesson, and applied it unconditionally. Many other writers just seem to rise walls elsewhere, instead of toppling them wherever they rise.
Finished the chapter. I think the excerpt at the beginning of chapter 17 is relevant for what follows as for what precedes it:
What the soul can house, flesh cannot fathom.
Especially with the last lines of the chapter:
"I am the Shield Anvil." I am Fener's grief. I am the world's grief. And I will hold. I will hold it all, for we are not yet done.
Maybe a contrast, as one could interpret that line as ambivalent: the soul can be darker and more perverse than the pain that is implied in nature, as it can also elevate to embrace values that make men better, like in Itkovian example. It's like a pit that goes both ways, almost bottomless. Also implying the theme of the endless struggle that is life.
I've criticized the chapter in the previous comment but there are also high points. For example in the structure of the PoVs that enhances the effect. At the beginning of the chapter there are two scenes in succession, one with Itkovian, the other with Gruntle, both being "swarmed" in the battle. Itkovian barely makes it, while Gruntle has to "ascend" to the top of the house (and maybe inverted in what they represent as the human struggle).
The other two scenes are both external. We see the end of the Grey Swords through Iktovian's vision, sharing it with Rath'Fener, and then we see again Gruntle from Buke's PoV. They are "moments", like pictures taken, that have a lot of epicness. The external PoV is a way to mirror the future memory of these events.
The contrast is that Erikson's writing is so precise and essential in descriptions that the risk is that there's no time to let these events sink in the perception. The books are so ruthless and fast that one amazing event is replaced by another, and then another without much possibility to empathize with it and absorb it fully. I'm reading Janny Wurts at the moment and there's quite a bit of contrast since her writing has very slow and minute psychological development that makes every slight nuance feel like a major development (and they ARE usually a big deal).
I'm not saying that the latter is better (a rather slow, duller read that requires some dedication), but I sometimes feel that when Erikson accelerates the pacing, as to match a cinematographic style, he also loses something.
Read most but not all the chapter. Not much to add to comments of my own, the scenes here are mostly straightforward.
I see a pattern in the way the two threads are opposed: one (Itkovian) is descending, and the other (Gruntle) ascending. Even if neither is pleasant or reassuring. I especially liked how the (super)heroism of Gruntle is played down by Buke, who's more horrified than awed by the sight of his friend (who survived, after all).
I know that what happens to Gruntle has been criticized a number of times on forums as an example of D&D leveling characters. That kind of snarky criticism and one of the favorite arguments wielded by Erikson detractors. But I've never understood it because, beside the similarity on the surface, it's not the way ascendancy works in the series. Neither it is the case in this instance. Gruntle doesn't "level up" because he kills so many, and so racks "experience points". It seems actually he's picked long before the fight starts, and the only elements that seem to contribute to the transformation are Gruntle himself, from a side, sinking in the role without resisting it, and the blood on his arms that seems to be "absorbed".
For sure this is the sort of stuff that can tick off certain readers and kill their suspension of disbelief. I'm personally somewhat in the middle, as I don't argue about what is going on or refuse it, but the over-the-top stuff also works for me like a veil and so these scenes are less visceral and effective because they also feel more artificial. Especially these where the characters behave less human-like and more like god-smitten (for example the way the Grey Swords go to their death).
Ah, it's also nice that Hood comes hidden in his cowl, as is the typical image of death, but one also wonders if it's not a nice trick used to not reveal his true identity ;)
The reason why he appears could either be for emphasis, as it could be something more. As someone pointed out it was the Grey Sword who attacked his "herald", and this also means that Hood was already interested in them and part of the manipulation that brought Fener down, replacing it with Trake. Remember the prologue of DG? He mocks Heboric, and this was long before this scene. So Hood was part of this manipulation, maybe along with K'rul.
I wonder: could Hood have appeared just to mock Brukhalian, knowing that his death was basically the finishing act of his god? What Hood is witnessing there is a switch in the pantheon he was planning and expecting, so maybe Hood was more interested in its own ends than to celebrate the heroism. He summons a suggestive rain, but one could still wonder...
I think the scene between Whiskeyjack and Korlat mirrors the one with him and Dujek. These were somewhat lacking in the first book, the kind of stuff that was needed. What I mean is that we see characters voicing their thoughts and elaborate on what just happened. The book and the flow of events can be confusing (even worse in GotM, without a foundation), so it helps a lot if there are scenes like these that describe, re-frame and interpret.
And more: as Bill said, these also build characterization and give characters more flashed and understandable motivations. We see them react plausibly. So, more than seeing WJ doing and saying nice things, the sympathy with the character is built through understanding. We can relate directly because, while reading, we also share a similar confusion and bafflement. This book, being also more "tell", is oddly easier to follow even if crowded with facts, characters and themes, because the characters offer patterns of interpretation to the reader. A way to frame pertinent questions, and exclude those that are only the product of confusion. Erikson for once is at least offering some forms of guidance.
The scene between Kruppe and the two soldiers protecting Silverfox is pure awesomeness. Amanda says that in the end Kruppe sees straight through them, but I didn't see evidence of this in the text. If anything I interpreted it as a way for Erikson to invert what he just established. We saw WJ persuade Dujek of the "singular" genius that is Kruppe. And then? We see Kruppe being outclassed by two plain (and cleverly unnamed) Malazan soldiers. In fact if you re-read the beginning of the scene you see it nicely set-up with an indulgent list of titles. I think it was a great way to mock Kruppe and not take the idea of his genius too far.
And again there's a certain link with what Kruppe says to Murillio and Coll, and what I mean when I say that Kruppe is the manifestation of the idea of playing outside the frame (of the story). The image he gives of his "worldview", is a nice metaphor of the same concept:
for whom the world is as a pearl nestled within the slimy confines of his honed and muscled brain. Uh, perhaps the allusion falters with second thought... and worse with third.
Even more interesting because I was thinking the same thing a few days ago, well before reading this scene. More precisely what I was thinking (and I think I have also written something in previous chapters about the Mhybe) is that the Mhybe's pain is due to limited perspective. The pain is due to not being able to see through the veil. To find answer. It's not the physical pain, but the impossibility of finding a reason, a worthy cause (which fuels her guilt, since she has a "cause", that she didn't accept). The Mhybe, as in her dream, is lost and fleeing. A problem of sight.
Kruppe instead is "out of the picture". So he sees the range of what's inside. Pain is not pain if you know it will be answered. You can be compassionate toward it, still let it happen if you know that it is required to achieve something. What can't be tolerated is pain that you don't know if will be answered, or if you fear it won't (the faith, see Itkovian's doubts).
So back to Kruppe's metaphor of the world, like a pearl (precious) contained within his mind. Not just an image to praise his own intelligence, but the idea that he "embraces" the world. He then adds:
Kruppe tries again! For whom, it was said, the world is naught but a plumaged dream of colours and wonders unimagined, where even time itself has lost meaning
He adds the "time". Not just the frame of the world is embraced (and so contained), but even the time whole. Which leads back to what I was saying. How can Kruppe tolerate the sight of the Mhybe's pain without feeling anything and just going his way making jokes and eating pastries? He can because he's aware of two points. The first is that he thinks that pain is necessary ("this is a journey of the spirit"), the second is that he knows where it is going. That it has a purpose. That the pain is part of a growth, an experience that can't be "spared" or avoided (we can argue this point, like Bill did).
This "necessity" of pain is also being discussed earlier between Korlat and the Mhybe when they talk about the Rhivi's ritual when killing a goat. How do you justify even this pain? Through necessity.
I'll repeat that the Mhybe's PoV is one of the best executed ones. If anything we can criticize Kruppe's.
And then, after seeing Kruppe "humbled" by the two Malazan marines, we see Brood humbled by Crone. I though it was an awesome thread through this whole chapter ;) Love when Erikson plays on this level of self-awareness (the metafictional titty-pincher!)
Only time for a couple of things today.
The first about the excerpt at the beginning of the chapter. Divided in two. The first general, the second specific. The first I think it's musing about the nature of dreams, something we all share. It works on a simple level but I wonder if Erikson wanted to reach further. For example it reminds me the fancy theory that in dreams we are all linked, like a common consciousness that may as well transcend and connect different realities. As if while dreaming we get feedback from other worlds/alternate realities. Probably Erikson didn't think of anything so absurd but there may be something about the collectivity of myth.
The second part seems more specifically in-character. So the Rhivi. It reminds directly the sort of dreams the Mhybe is having.
Being this book surprisingly "linear" (not sarcasm), the idea introduced in the excerpt feeds directly the scenes that follow. In this case Kruppe's words offer a similar kind of musing of the common nature of dreams. The first part (the one specific, this time) defies me, but the second (general) is straightforward:
Sweet sleep, in which hidden poetry resides, the flow of the disconnected, so smooth as to seem entwined. Yes?
Dreams are the symbolic world, and what is more symbolic than poetry, where every word is charged with meaning? The "flow of the disconnected" is a great way to define it, as dreams follow their own rules that we find hard to rationally grasp, but it's also the level where all things are deeply connected, beyond our awareness (or "below", more than beyond, the Midnight Tides of the soul).
The other thing I wanted to point out is the scene between Brood and Kruppe. First I'd ask if someone could make a sketch since I was never able to visualize what the hell exactly happened ;) Then the scene reinforces my association between Burn and K'rul. I had speculated (and then disproved myself) that K'rul could be a manifestation of Burn while she's asleep. The fact that they are somewhat associated and made one is obvious if one consider that the same "blood" that came out of the warrens (the last scene with the arrival of the Trygalle) is now coming out of the ground. Yet we've been told that what attacks the warren is alike the Morn's rent. The warren of Chaos. While what attacks Burn is instead the fact itself that the Crippled God is chained to her, so the "poison".
Which leads to how Kruppe was able to survive Brood's hammer. You want to know my first theory? The mule. I thought that the power was cleverly hidden right in the mule, and so Kruppe wasn't hit just because he was under the mule's protection. What I thought was that the mule was K'rul's soletaken form, or something like that. Speaking of the most wonderful shaved knuckle in the hole possible...
Instead now I'm thinking that Kruppe wasn't hit because of this subtle association between K'rul and Burn (and so nothing specific of Kruppe's own power). The hammer is the will or power of Burn. So it deliberately avoids Kruppe because "aware" of the link with K'rul. It's the will of Burn that "legitimates" Kruppe's position (showing Brood that they are on the same side, having the same patron).
Those necromancers have a... well, almost childlike curiosity about the nature of death and undead and demons, don't they? Their desire to see the first child of the Dead Seed is suddenly all-consuming.
I was thinking about this as well and from my point of view they are again like Lady Envy in previous chapters.
They (in this case) THINK of being out of the frame. Making the rules instead of suffering them. That's why they take a beating, they just didn't expect it could happen. Marble the Malefic actually frames them rather well:
His face twisted. "I am second only to Rath'Shadowthrone himself! Do you not know me? Do they not know me? I am Marble! Also known as the Malefic! Feared among all the cowering citizens of Capustan! A sorcerer of powers unimagined! Yet they..." He sputtered with fury. "A boot to the backside, no less! I will have my revenge, this I swear!"
"Ill-advised, priest," Buke said, not unkindly. "My employers - "
"Are arrogant scum!"
Childlike because they can also appear as clueless and strangers to the world. The lesson they take is one of modesty.
I liked a bit less the second half of the chapter. The beginning of the siege seems written very well. With plenty of visual descriptions that capture exactly not just the "look", but the way the character relate to it personally. Every line is meaningful and to the point. For example it's wonderful how Itkovian refuses to look back at the city until dusk. There's this sense of dread but also blind hope (that doesn't conflict with his pragmatic sense, though):
As darkness closed around him, he listened to the rocks pounding the East Watch redoubt, and turned for the first time in hours to view the city.
Entire blocks were aflame, the fires reaching into the night sky, lighting the underbelly of a turgid canopy of solid smoke.
I knew what I would see. Why then does it shock me? Drive the blood from my veins?
Suddenly weak, he leaned against the merlon behind him, one hand pressed against the rough stone.
These descriptions aren't detached from the perspective and have emotions carved in. They are written the way they are felt, building at the same time plot and character.
There's something in the style that is not absolutely perfect, and it is about Erikson's indulgence in introspection. I feel the introspection appropriate, but sometimes it seems overwritten in some specific contexts. For example when characters voice the same thought through different descriptions of it, "dressing" and coloring it in various ways, finding metaphors. Especially in quick and shocking scenes this can appear as a too stressed contrast (an example I made is about Gruntle's apparent death some chapters back).
Another example on a similar line is how Emancipor Reese describes what he just saw: "He's sewn them together, a bloody, throbbing mass on the kitchen table!" That seems an adjective too far. From my point of view it would feel ok in prose, but it isn't coming off as natural and plausible in dialogue (and same principles applies to the introspection, which is more "literary dressed" than how a mind would approach it naturally). It sounds fine if it belongs, say, to Bauchelain, who has a way to manipulate and focus on the language itself, but on other characters it feels out of place.
Anyway, about the siege it's Erikson to define the rules. After DG one expects that something IS going to unexpectedly happen and change the natural course of events. And in a way this can run counter to the building of tension as the readers expects that the events will unfold unpredictably and very differently from how they were built up (and so the "hands off", no personal investment attitude that is a risk). Constant surprises can become itself a repeating pattern. In fact certain elements still repeat it:
At long last, the siege had unsheathed its sharp iron. The waiting was over.
And they won't hold those walls. Nor the gates. This will be over by dusk.
So again setting the horizon of possibilities that the reader learns to expect will be defied. But as I said in this instance Erikson prepares the way by also defining other stricter rules:
There would be no T'lan Imass, no T'lan Ay, to come to their rescue. And no relieving army to arrive with the last grain of the hourglass.
Capustan was on its own.
This somewhat resets back the balance. Because those sort of thoughts are of the kind that the reader learned to develop at this point. So defusing them makes the story return within the controlled and limited perspective of the characters. So the feeling that everything could truly happen. A true sense of danger.
Instead, as I said, I liked less the second half because it broke a bit that tension, and introduced again the fancier elements that can contrast with the most visceral ones. Gruntle becoming super-hero, and B&KB with Buke turning into birds to go take a look at Anaster. These scenes, coming after the dramatic beginning of the siege seen from the limited perspective, make an anti-climactic development. A difference of tones that clashes a bit because it breaks the rhythm in a moment that I don't consider very appropriate. It's almost a distraction. The transition doesn't work so great from my point of view.
The other aspect is again about the wasteful use of ideas. The part where Itkovian starts to have doubts about his vows is one of the most fascinating of the book. It's a complex and interesting theme, as well as character development. Yet this whole thing basically happens and is over in the span of one page. First Iktovian voices his doubts, then he goes to visit Karnadas who defuses and turns on its head the whole thing. An awesome piece of writing, but that feels like Erikson didn't know how to better use that idea and give it space, and so only closed it in order to move on with the rest (the siege was pressing).
So it's a chapter that from my perspective joins some of Erikson best writing with some of his flaws. And it is problematic because it's here that the story moves toward its first climax.