The Obelisk Gate, chapters 5 & 6

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Chapter 5

Nassun and Jija are on the road, fleeing Tirimo. Nassun tries to explain that Essun told her to conceal her orogeny. We get some insights into Essun's harsh parenting of Nassun, forcing her to control her orogeny. Jija knocks Nassun off the cart, just as the Yumenes quake hits. Nassun's orogeny saves her, Jija, the cart, and maybe a few other people. Nassun changes and starts to deliberately manipulate Jija. Jija kills an injured traveller before they head further south.

Chapter 6

Tonkee doesn't know what a "moon" is, but talks about the deep (pre-Sanzed) history of the Yumenescene Leadership families. Tonkee speculates that Seasons haven't always happened, using evidence of lack of evolutionary adaptation. Yumenescene archives suggest that the obelisks kept the world mostly whole during the Shattering Season and are the key to ending the Seasons. Essun visits Alabaster, they talk about rings and Fulcrum, then he asks Essun to sess his arm. She sesses the "magic" in him and Alabaster speculates on its connection to the obelisks.

The endnote describes what appears to be a violent conflict between stone eaters.

Questions

  • The way Essun raised Nassun: is this essentially a recap of how Essun was raised by the Fulcrum?
  • In what ways are Essun and Nassun similar, and how are they different? Is Nassun really cleverer than Essun?
  • Is Jija a good parent and a good man? (Apart from the rage-induced infanticide, that is.) How should a parent raise a child in a world with possible Seasons?
  • What do people think is the relationship between Antimony and Alabaster? Protector? Predator? Scavenger? Witness?
  • Orogeny uses a mystical field that comes from living things, binding them together. Star Wars wasn't the first to use this trope. Does "magic" fit in this story?
  • Why did Jemisin have Jija (rather than some random villager) kill Uche? Would the story have been weaker or stronger if Jija was a naïve softie?
  • What do people think of the pacing? Chapter 6 is basically two chunks of exposition.
  • Structurally, the book is back to three viewpoint characters, and Essun's chapters are still told in the second person. Does this structure work? Have people got used to it?

Comments

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    @NeilNjae said:

    • The way Essun raised Nassun: is this essentially a recap of how Essun was raised by the Fulcrum?

    It seems that Essun is even worse than Schaffa. At least there was always the possibility of “advancement” with the Guardians and the Fulcrum, in the sense of gaining rank, privilege, and praise (of a sort). I was startled when the narrator described Nassun as being a skilled orogene. That strained the limits of credibility for me. If Nassun had possessed any measure of skill, it doesn’t seem like Essun ever acknowledged it or praised it, at least from Nassun’s perspective.

    • Orogeny uses a mystical field that comes from living things, binding them together. Star Wars wasn't the first to use this trope. Does "magic" fit in this story?

    Yes, I think it does. That’s how I’ve thought of orogeny since the beginning of the first book. There’s no science to it, just as there was no science to the Force (before the laughable attempt with midichlorians). That’s fine. So far there’s no science to anything else in this story, and I dint mean that flippantly.

    • Structurally, the book is back to three viewpoint characters, and Essun's chapters are still told in the second person. Does this structure work? Have people got used to it?

    Yes, I’m completely accustomed to it by now.

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    I kind of get that Essun would want to drill into Nassun that she has to hide her real self and abilities, given the likely outcome of being discovered. Earlier bits in the books have established that your orogenes have a very wide-area effect which is largely uncontrolled (especially, it now seems, during normal infant/toddler experiences) and that fine/small-scale control is a thing which has to be learned slowly. Also, given that we (seemingly) cannot take on trust assertions made by characters or author, I am not inclined to take Nassun's description of her mother as strictly accurate. At very least, they are one-sided. This actually seems totally reasonable to me given that Nassun is only just 9 at this time. How often do children say of their parents something like "that's not fair, I hate you and you hate me"? So in this instance the "unfair reportage" of Essun seems very reasonable to me. Similarly, of course she thinks she is cleverer than Essun... let's wait until she's 19 or 29 and see if she thinks the same...

    However, I agree with @WildCard that Nassun's presented level of accomplishment is unrealistic, both in terms of orogeny and her general switch to manipulation of Jiji. Again, I get that children can be manipulative... I'm just not convinced that she would be manipulative in such a calculating, adult manner.

    In short, the picture drawn of Nassun seems half credible and half not to me.

    Tonkee's suggestions about evolutionary adaptation made sense.

    On the technology front, we have horse-drawn carts but no motorised transport (if I lived in a place where volcanic ash clouds were common, I probably wouldn't have internal combustion engines either, since without serious modifications the engines don't survive more than a few hours).

    A linguistic slip which (as I frequently find with these books) threw me right out of the universe was the analogy "moving with the speed and force of a casual asteroid strike". This can't be an in-universe analogy, as their knowledge of the heavens is so vert slight. If they have no everyday concept of a moon or planets - Jiji tells little Nassun that in the old days people gave names to the stars, but there is no hint of other closer heavenly bodies - then how can they possibly use asteroid as a routine analogy? It's an our-universe word, not in-universe. As we discussed before, on a quick read I might have read past it without noticing, but on a slow read it was another thing that grates.

    "Magic" - TBH it is a relief to see the book start to nail its colours more firmly on the fantasy side of speculative fiction, rather than struggle to place itself on the science fiction side :) And yes, midichlorians were going through my head just like everyone else's.

    Pacing? I'm still not convinced that Essun would just abandon her quest for Nassun so readily - we learn that a decent amount of time has passed, and that Essun is trying to participate in the several routine activities of the comm, even those for which she has no real aptitude. What's with this? The only rationale I can think of is the aside note (which I thought was well conceived and well-positioned) in which Essun muses that after the loss of Alabaster, she had "tried to create a lesser version of the family she'd lost" - now that Alabaster is back, the tug of that second "lesser" family has declined substantially.

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    I agree with @RichardAbbott , except that I don't find the evolution argument convincing. Seasons may come regularly, but they are still relatively few and far between. I think they are too infrequent to be the cause of adaptations, but frequent enough to create many isolated communities. So, in effect, I think it would be natural to have more diversity (and we do - orogenes, guardians, stone-eaters, and muggles) and some few adaptations to 'Seasonal weather' (which we also do, as listed in the text) but I wouldn't expect the entire human race to have been adapted to seasons equally. Also, clearly if humans were ill-adapted to seasons as is, they would have died off long ago - and obviously they haven't.

    The Nessun chapter didn't hold my interest, much. I just see another cocky and disgruntled person here, exactly like almost everyone else in the book. @RichardAbbott covers my feelings well. Obviously she has a role to play in the book and I'm mildly curious as to what it might be, but I don't care much for the character or her motivations at this point.

    Chapter 6 was much more interesting. I started reading and thought 'ah, finally Jemisin is through playing games and will reveal why the moon is important' but then was mightily disappointed when that reveal was again put off because Alabaster needed to take a dump. Really?! Bowell movements are suddenly important to the plot?

    And rather than be relieved at the reveal that 'magic' is at the heart of everything I thought it was rather trite and the handling of the reveal:

    There's a word for this...
    Oh, do tell me!...
    No, 'tis but a trifle and would not interest you...
    Please sir, I really am interested...
    Ah, but it really isn't important...
    No, I need to know! Words are suddenly very important to me, and you already denied me once with your bowell super powers...
    Ok, the word is....
    Yes...?
    It's...
    Yes...?!
    ...
    'Magic'
    Oooooh. Ahhhh.

    So yeah - potential blown, as far as I'm concerned.

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    @Apocryphal said:
    And rather than be relieved at the reveal that 'magic' is at the heart of everything I thought it was rather trite and the handling of the reveal:

    There's a word for this...
    Oh, do tell me!...
    No, 'tis but a trifle and would not interest you...
    Please sir, I really am interested...
    Ah, but it really isn't important...
    No, I need to know! Words are suddenly very important to me, and you already denied me once with your bowell super powers...
    Ok, the word is....
    Yes...?
    It's...
    Yes...?!
    ...
    'Magic'
    Oooooh. Ahhhh.

    So yeah - potential blown, as far as I'm concerned.

    Hugely funny, a much needed relief in the middle of a long task... thanks :)

  • 1

    @NeilNjae said:

    Questions

    • The way Essun raised Nassun: is this essentially a recap of how Essun was raised by the Fulcrum?

    More personal and less institutionalized, and I think focused on keeping her alive rather than just conformation.

    • In what ways are Essun and Nassun similar, and how are they different? Is Nassun really cleverer than Essun?

    I don't think either is particularly clever, to tell the truth. More manipulative? Let's go with that.

    • Is Jija a good parent and a good man? (Apart from the rage-induced infanticide, that is.) How should a parent raise a child in a world with possible Seasons?

    "Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?"
    Sorry, child murder disqualifies one right off the bat.

    • What do people think is the relationship between Antimony and Alabaster? Protector? Predator? Scavenger? Witness?

    Meh? It's whatever Jemesin wants. I just go with whatever!

    • Orogeny uses a mystical field that comes from living things, binding them together. Star Wars wasn't the first to use this trope. Does "magic" fit in this story?

    Why the hell not? it sure as hell ain't science! :D

    • Why did Jemisin have Jija (rather than some random villager) kill Uche? Would the story have been weaker or stronger if Jija was a naïve softie?

    You have to be a naive softie not to kill your child? Jemesin is into child killing. It's all the rage.

    • What do people think of the pacing? Chapter 6 is basically two chunks of exposition.

    More 'splosions!

    • Structurally, the book is back to three viewpoint characters, and Essun's chapters are still told in the second person. Does this structure work? Have people got used to it?

    It does what the author wants, apparently, but I still hate it. It grates, everytime.

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    Dammit! I forgot about the dump! She might as well have said "And we'll find out, right after these important messages!"

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    > @clash_bowley said:
    > "Aside from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?"
    > Sorry, child murder disqualifies one right off the bat.
    >

    Apologies to you @clash_bowley and all my other US friends... it took me a couple of mins to get this one, but eventually it filtered through :)
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    Sorry, @RichardAbbott! Wasn't thinking how US-Centric that was! :p

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