Fifth Season Ch 16 & 17

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Chapter 16

Antimony the stone eater carried Syenite and alabaster to the island of Meov, to escape the destruction of Allia. Alabaster speculates about factions of Guardians, describes the ways Guardians kill, and mentions that orogeny is more flexible than rock moving (as if we didn't know). They meet the inhabitants of Meov and learn the comm is several Seasons old, the people make a living through piracy, and no-one on the mainland knows the island is inhabited.

Chapter 17

Damaya settles in to life in the Fulcrum, and seems to be a model and capable student, spending her spare time exploring the Fulcurm complex. Binof Leadership Yumenes appears one day and entices Damaya to find the hidden something; hidden at the centre of the Fulcrum, and hidden at the start of the Sanzed empire. Damaya uses orogeny to find doors. They find the socket in the centre of Fulcrum, and Timay Guardian finds them. Damaya's mind is somehow affected by the socket. Timay starts ranting about someone being angry and wanting communion. Schaffa kills her; Timay's episode seems to be not unheard of among Guardians.

Finally, Damaya is "offered" the chance to take her first Ring test. Do you think she passes?

Questions

A lot happened in these chapters.

Within-world

  • Who or what triggered the eruption that destroyed Allia? If a who, why?
  • Alabaster has to unlearn what the Fulcrum taught him, but he's not the first high-ringer. Why does Fulcrum / the Guardian order suppress knowledge of what orogeny can do? Do they know all it can do?
  • Is the Guardian ability to reflect orogeny, and turn flesh to stone, the same as Hoa's?
  • Castrima and now Meov: these are two communities where orogenes are welcomed, if not leading. How do you think these communities will be different from the Sanzed norm we've seen until now?
  • Grit life seems cheap. Why doesn't Schaffa (or someone else) kill Damaya?
  • What are Schaffa's true feelings towards Damaya?
  • Did anyone spot the connection between Damaya and Syenite?

About the text

  • The interlude prompted thoughts of missing islands, and now the characters are on one. Was the technique successful? What else have we been primed to expect?
  • What is Jemisin trying to say about Alabaster, by making his mother tongue that of the islanders' rather than Sanze-mat?
  • Binof seems to have no idea of the danger she's in, or what life is like for grits and orogenes. What do people make of her privilege?
  • Jemisin often uses the technique where a character works out some puzzle and just tells us that the character has solved it, without telling us the solution. (Us readers are expected to work it out, perhaps with heavy-handed clues just after). Does this technique work?
  • We've not paid attention to the chapter endnotes. Have people been reading them? Do they add to the story?

And finally

  • Wild speculation time: What are the needles in the socket? What formed the socket? What was Timay ranting about? What was in Timay's skull?

Comments

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    Ch16: I think (but am not sure) that Antimony is different from the stone eater in the damaged obelisk. Did they communicate? Or did Antimony just rescue Alabaster and Syenite? How much time has passed?
    In passing, the island boats are wooden and not sophisticated. I'm taking the advice of @clash_bowley and abandoning any real hope of making sense of the world, but if I was still doing that I'd notice that there are no engines and no evidence of metal, plastic, polymer or other exotic substances!

    Ch17: Schaffa's actions seem random, and so far as I can tell we just don't know why he "promoted" Damaya rather than maiming, banishing or killing her. Since she is alive as Syenite with four rings, I guess we assume she passes.

    Questions: the Allia eruption was one reason I wondered if considerable time had passed, for us to go from safe and uneventful to trashed. Unless we just assume it is Act of Stone Eater, maybe as a kind of tit for tat for the Guardian being violent.

    Damaya/Syenite... @Apocryphal did! Reading the chapters twice, Syenite has a memory of what happened to Damaya when Timay was executed, but at the point of reading you can't possibly know this. So it's not a clue, just a clever look-at-me snippet.

    I thought from the description that Alabaster had learned the language rather than being a native. Isn't there something about the conversation going too fast for him?

    I don't think we see how people at large view Binof. Damaya goes along with her after initial reservations, but gets enthusiastic about the quest. Timay seems to respond to her caste but might already be possessed (or whatever).

    I've been reading the end notes but have taken them to be just background fluff as they don't usually seem to either expand or challenge the chapter content. They come over as folklore rather than science, and as such make sense for how you'd try to pass on wisdom across seasons. As mentioned before, Alabaster and others are quite hostile to the content and accuracy of the lore as a whole.

    Timay's little flid... as mentioned, I have given up hope of making coherent sense of what and why, and am just drifting along with the chapters.
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    @RichardAbbott said:

    I don't think we see how people at large view Binof. Damaya goes along with her after initial reservations, but gets enthusiastic about the quest. Timay seems to respond to her caste but might already be possessed (or whatever).

    By "people" I meant "we, the readers," and not how the in-universe characters react to her. Sorry that wasn't clear.

    Not that it negates your answer in any way!

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    @RichardAbbott said:
    Ch16: I think (but am not sure) that Antimony is different from the stone eater in the damaged obelisk. Did they communicate? Or did Antimony just rescue Alabaster and Syenite? How much time has passed?

    At this point we have no details - and may never get any - but Antimony and our buddy from the obelisk are different stone eaters. Antimony rescued S&A, but we don't know how long ago.

    In passing, the island boats are wooden and not sophisticated. I'm taking the advice of @clash_bowley and abandoning any real hope of making sense of the world, but if I was still doing that I'd notice that there are no engines and no evidence of metal, plastic, polymer or other exotic substances!

    Haha! Metal? Metal is useless! It rusts! All metals! 'Rusting' is a swear word! Clever, no? Give up your dreams of metal and use your sessapinae!

    Ch17: Schaffa's actions seem random, and so far as I can tell we just don't know why he "promoted" Damaya rather than maiming, banishing or killing her. Since she is alive as Syenite with four rings, I guess we assume she passes.

    Give up your quaint notions of cause and effect! Mwahahahah!

    Actually, as I said before, once I gave up logic, this book became far more entertaining. I was spending all my mental energy salmoning against the current. Once I realized that this was a comic book without pictures it was so much easier! Still HATE the second person thing, and probably always will!

    Questions: the Allia eruption was one reason I wondered if considerable time had passed, for us to go from safe and uneventful to trashed. Unless we just assume it is Act of Stone Eater, maybe as a kind of tit for tat for the Guardian being violent.

    Discard your calender. You are salmoning!

    Damaya/Syenite... @Apocryphal did! Reading the chapters twice, Syenite has a memory of what happened to Damaya when Timay was executed, but at the point of reading you can't possibly know this. So it's not a clue, just a clever look-at-me snippet.

    I thought from the description that Alabaster had learned the language rather than being a native. Isn't there something about the conversation going too fast for him?

    I think Alabaster already knew this language. It seems to be the same one he has used fitfully throughout.

    I don't think we see how people at large view Binof. Damaya goes along with her after initial reservations, but gets enthusiastic about the quest. Timay seems to respond to her caste but might already be possessed (or whatever).

    Well, Binoff got disappearded, so we are sure to see her again in a surprise twist later on in the saga!

    I've been reading the end notes but have taken them to be just background fluff as they don't usually seem to either expand or challenge the chapter content. They come over as folklore rather than science, and as such make sense for how you'd try to pass on wisdom across seasons. As mentioned before, Alabaster and others are quite hostile to the content and accuracy of the lore as a whole.

    IIRC, Alabaster's main problem with the lore is that there are some tablets missing.

    Timay's little flid... as mentioned, I have given up hope of making coherent sense of what and why, and am just drifting along with the chapters.

    Embrace that drifting feeling! There is no coherence and never was. Go where the current takes you and gawk at the pretty scenery! This trilogy won the Hugo three years in a row, so this is the new face of SF!

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    > @clash_bowley said:.
    > (Quote)
    > Haha! Metal? Metal is useless! It rusts! All metals! 'Rusting' is a swear word! Clever, no? Give up your dreams of metal and use your sessapinae!

    Oh man, I'm trying not to be a salmon, but those little voices in my head keep talking to me. Electric lights... we've had a couple of mentions of these (Damaya, in finality: "still lit with candles and the occasional electric lantern"). Can you imagine these being possible without extensive metal working? Have we seen anything like a generator? Look now, we haven't even seen a wheel...

    A search for "electric"... mild spoiler... reveals we are soon going to come across turbines and hydroelectric power... all apparently with no sign of a wheel,and a real down on metal. Maybe there's a class of 20-ring orogenes who can manipulate subatomic particles whose sole job is to push a few electrons round so Guardians and maybe Leaders can have light?

    Those salmon voices just keep calling...
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    edited March 7

    Are the voices Salmon Dave singing "Sole Man"? That would be fishy on any scale!

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    @clash_bowley said:
    IIRC, Alabaster's main problem with the lore is that there are some tablets missing.

    More than that, I think. In the first conversation he and Syenite had about it, he said "Stonelore changes all the time... every civilisation adds to it; parts that don't matter to the people of the time are forgotten... some old tablets... what was on [them] was different, drastically so, from the lore we learned at school. For all we know, the admonition against changing the lore is itself a recent addition".

    He comes over as decidedly sceptical about it as a source of reliable information.

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    Probably because Jemisen wrote them... :D

    I kid! I kid!

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    I’m over a week behind in commenting. I haven’t read read Chapters 18 and 19 yet, so my comments here come with no foreknowledge.

    1) Part of the spoiler in that list I mentioned a few weeks ago is contained in these chapters. The link between Damaya and Syenite (same person?) comes up here, so I’m less squeamish about talking about it. Reading that spoiler certainly diminished my enjoyment, since part of the fun is to speculate about things like that.

    2) Antimony’s ability to move through stone, leaving the surface at one point and popping back up somewhere else reminds me of rhizomes, plants that put down roots that move horizontally under the surface and then produce other shoots that break the surface. All the shoots are connected by the roots. Binof’s remark, “There's always something going on beneath the surface,” in Chapter 17 yanked me back to this and stands as a guiding metaphor for my experience of this book.

    I’m familiar with rhizomes through the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, who build on Michele Foucault’s seminal The Archaeology of Knowledge. Foucault says not to take knowledge at face value but dig down and examine the unseen rules on which knowledge is built. He says what is taken to be knowledge, particularly common knowledge, is an attempt by the powerful to define the reality of those over whom the powerful exercise their power. This hegemony is maintained not only with power over someone but with their tacit approval, as they internalize the power structure inherent in the common knowledge by accepting external authorities, such as priests or presidents or professors or scientists. (I couldn’t think of a “p” word for that last one.). I’m reminded of the theme of control that shows up over and over in our book.

    He says all of this is possible only because of the underlying, unseen, and unconscious rules that govern the limits of systems of thought. Scratch the surface, examine those rules, and you get to see that what looks continuous on the surface is really marked by discontinuities under the surface, buried by power. I’m not a Foucauldian, so my quick and dirty description probably isn’t exactly right.

    Deleuze and Guattari take these ideas and twist them rhizomatically, saying those discontinuities Foucault points out are evidence that reality is not a unity but a multiplicity, taken from the phenomenological philosophical tradition. Multiplicities are not simply multiples; they are structures containing both continuity and discontinuity. It’s a way of critiquing the classical philosophical notion of the One/Many binary opposite.

    Foucault says that what looks like one might actually be many, and Deleuze and Guittari say that what look like many might really be one. Again, hugely simplistic paraphrase on my part.

    We are definitely seeing this book’s world as a multiplicity rather than either a unity or a multiple. The rhizomatic nature of the story (stories), with its fragmented knowledge (which is the author’s own tool of power over the reader! I just came to this realization.) is frustrating some and delighting others —. Well, at least it’s delighting me. :) I’m not looking for a unitary world or even a unitary narrative.

    3) The Pit — inverted obelisk/phallus? Something heavy has been there and is not there any longer. An inverted rhizome? The absence implies its presence.

    All this fries my brain is such a wonderful way!

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    @WildCard said:
    We are definitely seeing this book’s world as a multiplicity rather than either a unity or a multiple. The rhizomatic nature of the story (stories), with its fragmented knowledge (which is the author’s own tool of power over the reader! I just came to this realization.) is frustrating some and delighting others —. Well, at least it’s delighting me. :) I’m not looking for a unitary world or even a unitary narrative.

    Good analysis! The issues of frames around knowledge, and alternatives to them, is something to look forward in the next chapters.

    I think it's clear that the several strands in the book are there to give different perspectives on ... whatever it is the Jemisin is trying to communicate. I'll leave it up to others to say whether there's one theme or many, and how the different perspectives relate.

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    @WildCard said:
    2) Antimony’s ability to move through stone, leaving the surface at one point and popping back up somewhere else reminds me of rhizomes, plants that put down roots that move horizontally under the surface and then produce other shoots that break the surface. All the shoots are connected by the roots. Binof’s remark, “There's always something going on beneath the surface,” in Chapter 17 yanked me back to this and stands as a guiding metaphor for my experience of this book.

    I’m familiar with rhizomes through the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, who build on Michele Foucault’s seminal The Archaeology of Knowledge. Foucault says not to take knowledge at face value but dig down and examine the unseen rules on which knowledge is built. He says what is taken to be knowledge, particularly common knowledge, is an attempt by the powerful to define the reality of those over whom the powerful exercise their power. This hegemony is maintained not only with power over someone but with their tacit approval, as they internalize the power structure inherent in the common knowledge by accepting external authorities, such as priests or presidents or professors or scientists. (I couldn’t think of a “p” word for that last one.). I’m reminded of the theme of control that shows up over and over in our book.

    I like this analysis and the lateral approach to the writing: however I think that biological metaphors are a very long way from Jemisin's thinking. We have seen almost no interest in the plant life of this world. However, I think that what you are saying could very easily be mapped onto the behaviour of rock strata, following unexpected lines and curves under the ground and resurfacing at a distance, all because of the long history of deposition and subsequent morphing under pressure. So I definitely have sympathy for what you are saying... but I just don't see it in terms of plant life!

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    I've been keeping up on my reading - less so on my commenting. I'm not altogether sure how much I have to say at this point. I'm basically seeing evidence in these chapters to support my early theories; in a few cases they have been shown to be correct - in others, we're still waiting to see what develops. Early on, I said that Jemisin doesn't care about setting except where it serves the plot. My opinion hasn't changed. I never jumped on the salmon ladder, really, because I didn't think it was the kind of setting that warranted that kind of scrutiny.

    It might warrant scrutiny of themes, though, which is interesting to me. So far not much has jumped out at me - unlike with Sarah Canary, none of the characters are spouting wise phrases from which we could draw clues as to the hidden meanings - but maybe Jemisin is still building a foundation? @WildCard 's share on Foucault etc. is pretty interesting. I'm not convinced that Jemisin is operating on this level of metaphor, but if it helps a reader to appreciate the novel I think that's pretty cool.

    @WildCard said:
    He says what is taken to be knowledge, particularly common knowledge, is an attempt by the powerful to define the reality of those over whom the powerful exercise their power.

    Kind of like the 'knowledge' of trickle-down economics, the economic benefits of privatization, and the protestant work ethic, I suppose.

    @WildCard said:
    Deleuze and Guittari say that what look like many might really be one.

    Like, for example, the work of Russian trolls inciting white supremacists to violence, interfering with the DNC, and 'Her Emails' all at the same time.

    @NeilNjae 's questions on each pair of chapters continue to be interesting to me, but I have to say they aren't things I've really made mental notes on as I've been reading, so when I read the questions a few days after having read the chapters, I'm often scratching my head, thinking 'huh - I never thought about it' or 'was that something I should have been paying attention to?'. I guess this illustrates that there are different ways to read a novel.

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    @Apocryphal said:
    @NeilNjae 's questions on each pair of chapters continue to be interesting to me, but I have to say they aren't things I've really made mental notes on as I've been reading, so when I read the questions a few days after having read the chapters, I'm often scratching my head, thinking 'huh - I never thought about it' or 'was that something I should have been paying attention to?'. I guess this illustrates that there are different ways to read a novel.

    They're the things that occur to me, as an attempt to start conversations. They're not meant to be in any way proscriptive. If you have your own thoughts, please come up with them! I'm aware that me posting questions may restrict the discussion too much. If my thoughts aren't helpful for the club's discussions, let me know and I'll stop doing them.

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    @NeilNjae said:
    They're the things that occur to me, as an attempt to start conversations. They're not meant to be in any way proscriptive. If you have your own thoughts, please come up with them! I'm aware that me posting questions may restrict the discussion too much. If my thoughts aren't helpful for the club's discussions, let me know and I'll stop doing them.

    Yes, I know. I didn't think they were prescriptive - just demonstrating different ways to think about the book. And that's certainly helpful, as far discussion goes, so no worries. And yes, if I think of anything to add I certainly will. I didn't mean my comment as a criticism - sorry if it came across that way - just an observation to explain why I may not specifically address some of them in my post.

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