Fifth Season Ch 12 & 13

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Chapter 12

Syenite demands and eventually gets some respect from the leadership of Allia. Syenite inspects the harbour and finds something unusual under the coral. After a brief discussion, the comm asks her to remove the obstuction in the harbour. She does, but her power is taken by the obelisk that is causing the blockage. The obelisk rises to float over the harbour and Syenite sees a dead stone eater trapped inside it.

Chapter 13

Tinker takes Essun and Hoa to her home. Essun surmises that Tonkee was a scholar, a geomest, at a prestigious university. Tonkee bathes and is revealed as a trans woman. The three of them continue walking south, following Nassun. They meet equatorial people and hear their stories of the Yumenes disaster. Hoa eventually loses Nassun's trail among a gathering of orogene power.

Questions

  • There are universities, with scholars and engineers. They all charge large fees, but seemingly deserve then. Is that consistent with the world?

  • Leadership is a caste and therefore hereditary. Does that work? It's in contrast with the seeming meritocracy of the Fulcrum.

  • We see Syenite handle Allia's leadership. Does she do it well? Is she better or worse than Alabaster? Does it seem in or out of character for Synenite?

  • What are the obelisks?

  • Does Tonkee have any motive to join Essun and Hoa other than curiosity?

  • What does Hoa detect, and what does the gathering mean? As a reader, are you interested?

Comments

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    Some cool description in Syenite's efforts to move the blockage... but at the same time it nagged at me. Surely in that situation she would have wanted to check with Alabaster? And surely the locals would have insisted on her doing that rather than just leaping straight in? Neither action rings true to me.

    And again, was such a thing never mentioned during her training to date? Even as a casual, "you'll never believe what an obelisk feels like" comment. I can't work out if this means the training is actually appallingly shoddy, or if she's such a tiny part of the way through that four rings means nothing.

    That aside, it was nice seeing her get some respect!

    Your starters...
    Universities... I feel this is weird world building! I can't assemble a coherent picture in my mind, and we get ad hoc glimpses of particular features which apparently the plot requires, but I can't see how the society would have generated them. To me (perhaps being an academic pedant?!) they are not universities in the normal sense of presenting a broad curriculum, but special-purpose training centres. Like a "school for mines" or similar.

    Tonkee joining... can't see any real motive except safety in numbers. This has been hinted at as a way that new comms start off at a run during a Season.

    How's detection... Again, too much ad hocness about it for me. "I can tell you which way to go... well actually I can't now and you'll have to go there the regular way". Am I interested? I guess in something the same way as I like looking out of a train window from time to time

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    @RichardAbbott said:

    Your starters...
    Universities... I feel this is weird world building! I can't assemble a coherent picture in my mind, and we get ad hoc glimpses of particular features which apparently the plot requires, but I can't see how the society would have generated them. To me (perhaps being an academic pedant?!) they are not universities in the normal sense of presenting a broad curriculum, but special-purpose training centres. Like a "school for mines" or similar.

    I get the impression of a world similar to Western 18th or 19th century. Some large cities, advanced and complex societies, but a lot of basic living arrangements in the country; and that country is most of what we've seen. I don't think we've had any character in any cities, and the largest community we've seen is Allia.

    What do others think of the world?

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    I enjoyed the chapter with the obelisk - I am curious to learn more about this obelisk and the thing inside. It occurred to me, thinking back the movie Return to the Planet of the Apes, that an ancient nuclear missile might be construed as an obelisk with being of power inside. I'm not saying that's what this is, but I mentally made a connection between the two things.

    Chapter 13, I read, but oddly have very little memory of. I didn't think anything ill about it at the time, but for some reason I've partially forgotten it already.

    I have no issue with different leadership styles. Not sure if Syenite is better or worse than Alabaster. Syenite seems a bit petty and a bit arrogant. Alabaster more arrogant, but less petty. Not sure yet which is better.

    I have no idea, yet, what the obelisk is.

    I suspect Tonkee has a motive. The world is changing - there's probably some comfort to be had in company. Furthermore, she may see potential for using the other two for some purpose not yet revealed.

    As for the world-building - I just don't feel this is the kind of novel where you worry about the world. It's clearly there to serve the story. Once the story ends, so will the world. It's a backdrop - an old west town that turns out to have only facades and no interiors, but looks good for the big shootout. I wouldn't sweat the details.

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    Something I noticed in the Essun chapter is that all of a sudden we are meeting a lot of vocabulary about the Fulcrum which we have not before in her thread. (Which is a bit odd when you think that these chapters are ostensibly spoken _to_ her not _by_ her, but I think we're way beyond worrying about that now).

    So Fulcrum stuff, including the feasibility of meeting other orogenes in a group, is becoming prominent in her sections.

    This would tend perhaps to support @Apocryphal 's suggestion that Essun is an older version of Syenite. We still don't know what happened to her life there, any offspring with Alabaster (or others), her minimum of four rings, and all, but at least we're being exposed to the idea she is familiar with that scene.
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    Catching up!

    There are universities, with scholars and engineers. They all charge large fees, but seemingly deserve then. Is that consistent with the world?
    

    The world isn't consistent - that is @Apocryphal's point about the western set. It is a set, not a world. I have just stopped looking for any consistency.

    Leadership is a caste and therefore hereditary. Does that work? It's in contrast with the seeming meritocracy of the Fulcrum.
    

    Surprised me! This is the first time that leaders are described as a clan. This is consistent with inconsistencies! :D

    We see Syenite handle Allia's leadership. Does she do it well? Is she better or worse than Alabaster? Does it seem in or out of character for Synenite?
    

    Meh? Well enough! She gets her respect, if that was what she was looking for. I somehow doubt it was that simple, and she probably doesn't know yet.

    What are the obelisks?
    

    Plot devices

    Does Tonkee have any motive to join Essun and Hoa other than curiosity?
    

    Besides plot reasons? Curiosity seems to suffice for the nonce!

    What does Hoa detect, and what does the gathering mean? As a reader, are you interested?
    

    Hoa detects a gathering of orogenes, it seems, but whatever it exactly is, like anything else in this setting, doesn't seem to be high on Jemesin's list of priorities at the moment. Not that that is a problem. We paste things together from bits and pieces.

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    edited February 29

    As a side note, you mention that Tonkee bathes and is revealed as a trans woman. I have no idea why this is important. This is similar to the boy without a penis earlier. Why are we supposed to care whether or not Tonkee is a trans woman? Is it important to the plot? why show us this now? Is she treated any differently? I think not. No one seems to care, so why do we? It looks like token trans people to me. If Tonkee were treated differently as a trans woman, then it might be important, but based on what we have seen and the penis-less boy earlier, it seems not. Really, a trans woman whose trans-ness is immaterial is just a woman like any other. Chechov's gun. If you are going to show something, use it.

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    @clash_bowley Whilst I agree with most of your comments, to be strictly fair Chekhov would not expect the gun to be used straight away! It's ok for it to be left in the background for a while rather than snatched off the wall and fired...

    But this made me think of a wider issue. So far as I can tell the central characters are human (as human as us, I mean, rather than just humanoid which the stone eaters are). But also (so far as I can tell) this is not set on Earth, not even in the remote past or future. So why humans? Maybe we're waiting for yet another Big Reveal? Or maybe they're not human, so we didn't ought to be surprised by different combinations of sexual organs? I have a sneaking suspicion that it's another thing we're never going to have explained...
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    @RichardAbbott said:
    @clash_bowley Whilst I agree with most of your comments, to be strictly fair Chekhov would not expect the gun to be used straight away! It's ok for it to be left in the background for a while rather than snatched off the wall and fired...

    But this made me think of a wider issue. So far as I can tell the central characters are human (as human as us, I mean, rather than just humanoid which the stone eaters are). But also (so far as I can tell) this is not set on Earth, not even in the remote past or future. So why humans? Maybe we're waiting for yet another Big Reveal? Or maybe they're not human, so we didn't ought to be surprised by different combinations of sexual organs? I have a sneaking suspicion that it's another thing we're never going to have explained...

    I thought of that, but I have just recently cast off the shackles of logical expectations, and realized that though we have no idea what species these people are, Jemesin will or will not grace us with that knowledge if and when she so chooses. Perhaps we should pray for relevation? :D

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    @clash_bowley said:
    As a side note, you mention that Tonkee bathes and is revealed as a trans woman. I have no idea why this is important. This is similar to the boy without a penis earlier. Why are we supposed to care whether or not Tonkee is a trans woman? Is it important to the plot? why show us this now? Is she treated any differently? I think not. No one seems to care, so why do we? It looks like token trans people to me. If Tonkee were treated differently as a trans woman, then it might be important, but based on what we have seen and the penis-less boy earlier, it seems not. Really, a trans woman whose trans-ness is immaterial is just a woman like any other. Chechov's gun. If you are going to show something, use it.

    The counter to this is "repesentation matters," and it can be important for fiction to feature a range of characters that reflects the population that reads it. It can be important that trans people, or gay people, or disabled people, are visble in a work, exist as characters, and aren't defined solely by how they diverge from the "default" straight white man.

    Looking at race in this book, there are a range of skin tones described, from Alabaster's near-black to Schaffa's paper-pale, with most people being some kind of brown. Is that important to the plot, or to the value of the work? Earthsea also has a default skin tone darker than European. Again, what's the point of that?

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    First, I understand and LIKE inclusiveness. I just want it to mean something. If it doesn't mean anything then these are just token characters, like the one black guy in a 1960s drama. Again, skin tone means nothing, because Jemesin has transferred the racism from skin tone to orogeny, and is using orogeny to pound home Lessons We Need To Learn like the X-Men used mutants. I get that. Show us or tell us once that skin tone and transsexuality are not important. No need to tell us the skin tone of every character if it really means nothing.

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    I think it's fine to have a trans character, even if them being trans plays no role, and is no big deal. Same goes for having a range of skin tones, with skin tone being mentioned as part of physical description.

    Conversely, tokenism is bad. I don't think there's tokenism here, but I can see why it looks like there might be.

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