I was planning on making this sort of a weekly thing, but Melissa was curious, and well, I had only a few things to do today. Let’s crack on.
Our perspective character changes, and with it comes a shift in tense. Barsarmin is a present participle spectator, it seems. We’re given a long sequence of backstory updates from Barsamin, his thoughts running over and back to points in the past, points of history, and his current purpose. Again, there’s return to our idea of artifice, which at this point are seeming to be like alchemical androids. The technology has advanced in three hundred years, one supposes.
This chapter also yields us this quote:
He found her signature in-particular to be what he imagined a bottle of girlishness would spill, all loops and swirls.
I like this. I like both how it evokes a visual in the reader’s mind, which anchors them to the context of the story, and how it shows us what Barsarmin imagines of the world and that there is ‘girlishness.’
We’re also treated to some action, returning to that same energy that ended the first section of the book. This interrupts the thoughtful pace of a dreary task, the drudge of moving characters from point to point, and further elaborates on the world without simply having a character think about what was going on. We learn about the Alk and we hear a gun fired – screaming.
That’s something I find pretty interesting – Elliott filters perceptions of the universe through the point-of-view characters down to individual word choice. Hayr’s a bit stupid, so his narration is a bit childish. Barsarmin is introspective and defensive, so his narration is a sequence of personal reflections on him him him, and he associates gunfire with screams.
One enduring element of the writing is the way that Elliott shoves past things. I know this can be quite refreshing – I laud movies like Snatch and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels for cutting all the fat from the story. It’s still a bit abrupt though – Hayr sections still feel like there’s a laundry list being recited. “Hm, suppose I should describe Rashk, because readers don’t necessarily know what he looks like, okay, we’re off again!” Again, it’s odd that this is used to make sure we get back to the task of Mountain Boy Going For A Very Boring Walk.
For comparison, here’s a section from A Horse And His Boy, by CS Lewis, describing the trek across the desert by Shasta, Aravis, Bree and Hwin:
On again, trot and walk and trot, jingle-jingle-jingle, squeak-squeak-squeak, smell of hot horse, smell of hot self, blinding glare, headache. And nothing at all different for mile after mile. Tashbaan would never look any further away. The mountains would never look any nearer. You felt this had been going on for always – jingle-jingle-jingle, squeaksqueak-squeak, smell of hot horse, smell of hot self.
Of course one tried all sorts of games with oneself to try to make the time pass: and of course they were all no good. And one tried very hard not to think of drinks-iced sherbet in a palace in Tashbaan, clear spring water tinkling with a dark earthy sound, cold, smooth milk just creamy enough and not too creamy – and the harder you tried not to think, the more you thought.
This is part of a journey of dozens of miles across harsh desert, towards a mountain pass – and what it strives to describe is how it feels, the sounds, the sensations, of doing the same thing, over and over again, for hours.
Then again, back in Glory, we have this little gem:
“She is, like most who I deign to spend my time with, a curious and unique artifice.”
“I’m not very curious or unique, if that’s what you’re thinking,” Hayr assured him
I like this because it continues the theme that Hayr is a bit dim, but not so dim. He jumps to an assumption and tries to avoid it, ahead of time – but he doesn’t think to assert about himself, just to reflect what Rashk has to say.
Another detail I quite like is the sound of discarded boots landing on a pile of other boots. It was a lovely application of sound effects to make a moment both creepy and funny.
That’s the end of Chapter 2. What we’ve seen so far is more of the pattern – a boring task, interrupted – and further elaboration on elements in the world. This is good, this helps draw us into the world. There are character affectations, and the shift from Hayr to Barsamin helps us see where character dialogue and expression are different, rather than being absolutes of the world. Pretty sure there’s nothing too mucked up in the narrative so far, and we’ve also seen hints of a guy with a name that flashes EVIL in bright, five-foot-high letters.