Fifth Season Ch 18 & 19, Interlude

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Chapter 18

Essun, Hoa, Tonkee enter Castrima and discover it's a city, many Seasons old, built in a geode. There's a big sensawunda moment. Ykka demonstrates he unexplained power to "call" orogenes and stone eaters to her. Ykka explains that the air filtering systems require orogeny to operate. Essun and her gang may now be prisoners of Ykka.

Chapter 19

Syentie and Alabaster are trapped in Meov, as they would be blamed for the destruction of Allia. Alabaster is happy to be free of the Fulcrum, Syenite is not happy to be exiled. The garnet (broken, submerged) obelisk made the hole that destroyed Allia, but it's unclear why this happened and what (or who) caused it. Innon fancies both Syenite and Alabaster; they both fancy him. Alabaster is unsure what to do; Syenite is generous and plays matchmaker. They all end up in bed. Syenite realises she's pregnant.

Interlude

This implies time passes. It draws a metaphor between tectonics and life. After the last sentence, does anyone else hear Richard Burton saying, "Slowly but surely, they drew their plans against us."?

Questions

  • Ykka and Innon. We've now seen two non-Fulcrum-trained orogenes, who are open about their abilities and are in leadership positions. How are they different from the Fulcrum-trained orogones? Is their confidence a product of their abilities, or are they leaders because of their personality? Does orogeny make for a good leader?
  • Are you impressed by the city-in-a-geode? Would this be an interesting setting for a game?
  • Why would Ykka want to keep Essun & co in Castrima?
  • The Castrima chamber is a deadciv artefact powered by orogeny. What point is Jemisin trying to make by including it in the story?
  • Jemisin is careful to let us know that Innon isn't using his physicality or privilege to get Syenite or Alabaster into bed. Is it important to you that Jemisin does this? What if she just hadn't mentioned these details?
  • Both chapters have characters finding places that could be home. In both places they're welcomed but also trapped. (Arguably, the same is true of Damaya in the previous chapter.) How do the characters react to these changes? How do you think they will react in future? How will their existing relationships change?
  • Is Syenite stronger than Alabaster? Is Alabaster's crying a sign of weakness?
  • Any more ideas about who the interlude's narrator is talking to?

Comments

  • 1

    Perhaps the defining point of the story, underlining all that we have talked about world-building:
    ...Ykka... ...'it's all working now...'
    ...You grope for the words, fail. 'How?'
    Ykka laughs, shaking her head. 'I have no idea. It just works.'

    And lo and behold, if you need something to work when there is clearly not the social support network, scientific culture, or technological infrastructure to invent or support it, you just invoke the orogeny card. No limits, folks, just rock up and play!

    But seriously. If I go with the @clash_bowley don't-be-a salmon directive, then the underground city is very cool, though seemingly a bit lobster-pot like in that it's not a place one easily leaves after entering. It's a nice idea having an actual three-d space in which to have a city, rather than a series of flat levels with lifts or staircases to connect them.

    The social contrasts between Castrima / Meov. I did a bit of etymological looking around and don't think the names mean anything relevant, except Castrima suggests castle (Latin castra = fortified camp). Like with most of her names, other than the Fulcrum rock ones, they seem to be just convenient bundles of sound rather than having a deeper resonance. I have to say that the contrast seemed to me very black and white. Fulcrum leaders are controlling, vicious, ruthless, rude, brutal. Castrima/Meov leaders are open, democratic, attractive, etc. It's OK to have sex in those places just because you feel attracted to someone, as opposed to being instructed to pair up (regardless of preference) for reasons of producing specific offspring. I guess it's not yet clear whether this is just a facade, but right now the contrast is all a bit binary for me.

    I'm reading the interlude from the perspective of seeing whether @Apocryphal 's suggestion that all three women are the same (we already know that Damaya = Syenite). We have been told in these chapters that "Essun... the name you gave to people in Tirimo for years, and that name is a lie". The interlude provides a heavy-handed hint about this in the last sentence "while she - you - rested"

    I kind of like Alabaster more than most of the characters. Of course he's kind of over-powered for his role, and it's not clear to me why he didn't find a way to escape the Fulcrum long ago. But now it seems he has, and he is (apparently) free to pursue his own interests and preferences in a way impossible on the mainland. It's an interesting convention-reversal (which one suspects was one of Jemisin's many deliberate ploys to make us stop and think about prejudice) that he as a man can be expressive and allow himself to show fear, anxiety, emotional vulnerability etc, whereas the women (or, perhaps, the woman) is perennially locked in not showing things and just making them seethe around inside her.

  • 1

    Didn't we encounter the inside of a Geode in Dark Orbit? Anyway, it's OK - seems kind of like the expected thing to find in a book that's all about earth-science, no?

    Interesting analysis of the personality types, and contrasting the old with the new.

    Is Syenite stronger than Alabaster? Apart from her obvious plot protection, what makes you think so? Up until new he has seemed to be the stronger one - in terms of orogene power, rank, and social confidence. He's lost his power, at least temporarily, so I guess that makes him weaker for the time being.

    Who is that narrator? That's an interesting question. There seem like several possibilties to me, including an older Essun. The narrator has never referred to her- (or him-)self, which suggests that they are not a character currently in the book. An older Essun writing to her younger self might fit that bill.

  • 1

    @Apocryphal said:
    Is Syenite stronger than Alabaster? Apart from her obvious plot protection, what makes you think so? Up until new he has seemed to be the stronger one - in terms of orogene power, rank, and social confidence. He's lost his power, at least temporarily, so I guess that makes him weaker for the time being.

    It was a follow-up on Innon's statement that Syenite was stronger than Alabaster, as Alabaster was fragile and only just holding together. I think it was more a reference to Syenite's greater resilience.

    Who is that narrator? That's an interesting question. There seem like several possibilties to me, including an older Essun. The narrator has never referred to her- (or him-)self, which suggests that they are not a character currently in the book. An older Essun writing to her younger self might fit that bill.

    I'm enjoying all the speculation!

    And as per the other thread, what are your thoughts on the chapters? What did you get out of them that I didn't?

  • 1

    @NeilNjae I don't think I got anything out of them that you didn't, and probably less than you did, LOL.

    I definitely took the comment about 'she.. you' in the interlude as confirmation that Syenite and Essun are the same. Apart from that, I haven't formed any new opinions in a while - I'm mostly just following the story to see where it goes. I've now gone on ahead and read the next two chapters, of which I have some more thoughts - but they'll have to wait for the next thread.

  • 1

    There were only a few things that caught my attention in these chapters.

    The title of Chapter 18 begs me to keep looking for meaning below the surface.

    The hexagonal shaft under Allia goes all the way down to the core. That’s a deep shaft! Powerful deadciv tech.

    Syenite directly links it to the garnet obelisk, which makes me think I’m right about the Pit being the former resting place of an obelisk. (Maybe that was obvious to everyone else, but I wasn’t certain until now.)

    The interlude identifies Syenite and Essun, so I think we’re safe in saying they’re all three the same person, or at least multiplicities. :P

    Regarding the question about using the city in the geode as an RPG setting, I say yes. I can see this in the Underdark, with gnome tinkers running around keeping the oxygen flowing.

    What system would you use to build orogenes, guardians, and stone eaters? FATE with some stunts? It’s been forever since I’ve played GURPS, but I suppose you could do that. You know what; I bought Savage Worlds a couple of years ago for a campaign that never got off the ground. I’m guessing you can build these characters with that. I might have to play around with that this week. The college I work for has extended spring break an extra week and has told us to spend this week figuring out how to teach our classes online the rest of the semester. Luckily I already know a thing or two about talking about interesting things online and don’t anticipate any problem converting the format. So I’ll have time to burn this week. Fingers crossed.

  • 1

    Questions

    • Ykka and Innon. We've now seen two non-Fulcrum-trained orogenes, who are open about their abilities and are in leadership positions. How are they different from the Fulcrum-trained orogones? Is their confidence a product of their abilities, or are they leaders because of their personality? Does orogeny make for a good leader?

    They are more skilled, but less restrained.

    They are leaders because the author wants them to be leaders.

    Orogeny is good for anything, car washes, back rubs, better coffee AND sex!

    • Are you impressed by the city-in-a-geode? Would this be an interesting setting for a game?

    Not particularly impressed. It's basically a scaled up Crystal Cave.

    • Why would Ykka want to keep Essun & co in Castrima?

    Because Castrima is where the cool people go, obviously!

    • The Castrima chamber is a deadciv artefact powered by orogeny. What point is Jemisin trying to make by including it in the story?

    That the current culture is not necessarily like those that came before, and there is more than one way to skin a cat.

    • Jemisin is careful to let us know that Innon isn't using his physicality or privilege to get Syenite or Alabaster into bed. Is it important to you that Jemisin does this? What if she just hadn't mentioned these details?

    She wants to pound home that the good guys don't use privilege, just in case we miss that message the other 1400 times she makes it.

    • Both chapters have characters finding places that could be home. In both places they're welcomed but also trapped. (Arguably, the same is true of Damaya in the previous chapter.) How do the characters react to these changes? How do you think they will react in future? How will their existing relationships change?

    They act like humans, even though they aren't. No matter how cool a place is, there's always something to bitch about!

    • Is Syenite stronger than Alabaster? Is Alabaster's crying a sign of weakness?

    All women are stronger than men. That is a given.

    • Any more ideas about who the interlude's narrator is talking to?

    Not to me!

  • 0
    > @WildCard said:
    > The hexagonal shaft under Allia goes all the way down to the core. That’s a deep shaft! Powerful deadciv tech.
    >
    > Syenite directly links it to the garnet obelisk, which makes me think I’m right about the Pit being the former resting place of an obelisk. (Maybe that was obvious to everyone else, but I wasn’t certain until now.)
    >

    I'm not sure that the hexagonal shaft is s dead civ thing. I took it to be a stone eater thing which (so far as I can see) represents magic or divine intervention rather than human civ. There don't seem to be any limits to what stone eaters can do.

    Also, do volcanoes really go down to the planet's core? On Earth it's typically just the mantle. I have a feeling that a hole down to the core would essentially signal the breakup of the planet. But that's probably md just being a salmon... in this book, orogenes can do practically anything, and stone eaters absolutely anything, so what does it matter about geology?
  • 1

    @RichardAbbott said:

    Also, do volcanoes really go down to the planet's core? On Earth it's typically just the mantle. I have a feeling that a hole down to the core would essentially signal the breakup of the planet. But that's probably md just being a salmon... in this book, orogenes can do practically anything, and stone eaters absolutely anything, so what does it matter about geology?

    Volcanoes aren't simple pipes to the mantle. There's hotspots and bubbles and magma chambers and dykes and all sorts. I'd expect the channel at Allia to fail quite quickly as magma comes up, cools and depressurises, and then clogs the hole.

    And on a planet with an 15,000 km diameter, a channel a few tens of metres wide isn't going to cause major issues with the planet as a whole. On the other hand, if the hole was made by something literally punching its way in, that's a lot of energy and would cause a large impact crater. That's not what we see at Allia. So, magic.

  • 1
    The shaft seems way too perfect to be anything but magineering. My only guess right now, and it’s a wild one right now based on on the only other clue we’ve been given as to why the world is like this, and that’s that it might have something to do with the missing moon. What if this was the tether point for a cable that once held the moon to earth, for example?
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