Sword of the Lictor, chapters 13 to 16

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Severian, leaving Thrax, travels through the mountains and comes to an isolated house, looking for food. While there, he encounters Agia, who tries to kill him, but the house has fallen on tragedy, and it is attacked by an alzabo, who has consumed two members of the household. Holding their memories, it seeks to consume the rest.

Severian defends the household, but gets no help from them and he is forced to fight in the dark. It is a stalemate, and Severian agrees to let the alzabo leave, vowing not to hunt it nor remain to defend the household- a woman, a boy with the same name as him, and an old man.

Thoughts:

  • The alzabo really is nightmare fuel. The minds held within it. Sure, just the memories of those eaten, for a little while, distorted through the beast's instincts..right?
  • There's a revelation from Agia. Hethor was working for her, and the attacks on Severian by the salamander and the earlier notules were his doing. The sailors in the void know strange things.
  • And in case we were waiting for it, we come to another Severian moral failing. I was impressed when he chose to defend the family, but he didn't stick to it, in almost a fit of pique at nobody giving him a light.

Comments

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    I quite liked the idea that the Urth is so old they've sunk extensive mines down into old settlements and buildings, from which to mine... stuff.

    Agia shows her head, and more background is revealed. Am I the only one who doesn't recall who Hethor is?

    I think you're being a little harsh on Severian, here - these people harboured Agia, then let her escape, drew the ladder up after her so Severian was stuck below, and refused to give him the tool he needed to properly defeat the beast. It's not like he's mad they wouldn't light his cigarette.

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    I'm with @Apocryphal here... the people in the house basically hung Severian out to dry, and his best chance of survival was to negotiate. And he didn't actively help the alzabo, just promised to keep out of its way.

    I liked the way that the memory-sharing effect on humans of the alzabo is now revealed to be simply a natural function of the beast, which itself has a moderate level of intelligence

    But on a bigger scale, I loved some of the imaginative sweep of these chapters, especially the descriptions around his climb down the enormous cliff. The Earth is so old that the heat and vulcanism has gone out of the core, and vast natural formations are now caused by collapse and shinkage rather than tectonics and magma rising. Gene Wolfe's vision of the far future is quite unlike many others I have read, and I am finding it very compelling.

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    Maybe I've just got used to being harsh on Severian after the last book!
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    @RichardAbbott said:
    I liked the way that the memory-sharing effect on humans of the alzabo is now revealed to be simply a natural function of the beast, which itself has a moderate level of intelligence

    Does it? Or is the intelligence solely the result of the minds it's consumed? It could well be the case that the alzabo is intrinsically no more intelligent than say a bear. It only becomes intelligent when it consumes an intelligent mind.

    It reminds me of the "headhanger" monster from RuneQuest / Glorthana, which absorbs memories from the people it eats. I'm sure there's another creature in sff fiction somewhere that works the same way: it's only intelligent after consuming a mind.

    @Apocryphal said:
    Agia shows her head, and more background is revealed. Am I the only one who doesn't recall who Hethor is?

    IIRC, Hethor is the stuttering one from the group of executioner groupies we saw a while back. He followed Severian for a while, along with Jonas until they were separated at the Wall.

    I have a question about Severian's approach to Agia. He has no real compunction against killing. Agia said she'll continue to use Hethor's creatures (and other means) to kill Severian. Why does Severain not kill Agia, and indeed promise not to kill her in future?

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    > @NeilNjae said:
    > Does it? Or is [the alzabo's] intelligence solely the result of the minds it's consumed? It could well be the case that the alzabo is intrinsically no more intelligent than say a bear. It only becomes intelligent when it consumes an intelligent mind.

    That's a really interesting angle which I hadn't thought of. I guess it would make it a particularly interesting entry into a game, as it would be largely unpredictable to players exactly how much skill and cunning it displayed
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    edited September 12

    @NeilNjae said:
    I have a question about Severian's approach to Agia. He has no real compunction against killing. Agia said she'll continue to use Hethor's creatures (and other means) to kill Severian. Why does Severain not kill Agia, and indeed promise not to kill her in future?

    Have we not sufficiently established that Severian thinks solely with the brain between his legs? What I don't get is why Agia cares so very very much. I think it's odd.

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    > @clash_bowley said:
    > Have we not sufficiently established that Severian thinks solely with the brain between his legs? What I don't get is why Agia cares so very very much. I think it's odd.

    Go question. Is she out for revenge, or is there more to this. I suspect the latter.
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