The Obelisk Gate, chapters 7 & 8

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Chapter 7

Nassun and Jija travel south for a year. Jija somehow hears about a place called "Moon" that can cure orogenes. When they arrive, they're attacked by bandits and saved by Schaffa. Jija is severely injured by a harpoon in the attack. Nassun displays fine-control orogeny to sever the harpoon's chain. Schaffa does the feeding-from-sessapinae trick on Nassun, and Nassun detects that "[Schaffa]'s not alone in there."

The endnode has an gnomic reference to Guardians and Warrant.

Chapter 8

Essun picks up on some anti-orogene sentiment in Castrima, but she is enjoying settling in and engaging with mundane activities without hiding her identity. Essun goes on a short trip on the surface to see a cluster of impaled bodies. She and the hunters surmise it's a signal of a newly-established comm. Essun seems to have been volunteered to train the other orogenes in Castrima. Essun and Alabaster argue about young orogenes, the death of Innon and Coru, and Alabaster's poor pedagogcial technique. Then we're promised more exposition next time!

Questions

  • When and how do you think Jija heard of the Moon? Was it even before he left Tirimo?

  • Everyone in the book is a killer. Even sweet little Nassun slaughters everyone in a town when she's shot at. Do we care that all the characters are psychopathic, or should we treat this as a sensible response to a Season?

  • Nassun describes Jija as cracked and fragile, echoing the description Innon gave of Alabaster in The Fifth Season. Do you think Jija and Alabaster are similar characters?

  • Essun learnt about magic in the last chapter, so now Nassun has had the same revelation, independently. Really?

  • Is the impaling comm to the north Tettehee, or someone else? If someone else, who?

  • Is Alabaster angry because he's been thwarted in his plans to destroy the world (or perhaps save it), or because Essun killed Coru, or because Alabaster knows it was necessary and he'd have done the same?

Comments

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    One other thing I forgot to mention. The argument between Essun and Alabaster about teaching (or lack thereof). Is this an instance of the shift in power and dominance between them? Is that even something we should be concerned with?

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    Note in Ch.7 that what Nassun and Jija find is described as a large dome-like shape behind what seems to be a wall of soil, almost as if the moon gently fell in the mud and made a small crater around itself. So, that's the moon - it fell gently to earth. Why this is relevant we have yet to learn. Stop Salmoning, @RichardAbbott !

    That Schaffa - always popping up.

    @NeilNjae said:

    • When and how do you think Jija heard of the Moon? Was it even before he left Tirimo?

    I felt it was his destination right from the beginning, yes. How did he hear about it? Wandering Lorists? Scuttlebutt in the Flint Knapper's guild? It's a well-known alternative fact among the MSGS (Make the Stillness Great Soon) crowd? Or is Jija really a Lunar, a new class of superhero in disguise?

    • Everyone in the book is a killer. Even sweet little Nassun slaughters everyone in a town when she's shot at. Do we care that all the characters are psychopathic, or should we treat this as a sensible response to a Season?

    I think these characters were like this before the season. Jemisin gives us a clue in the next chapters (hint: we're approaching page 166).

    • Nassun describes Jija as cracked and fragile, echoing the description Innon gave of Alabaster in The Fifth Season. Do you think Jija and Alabaster are similar characters?

    Yes, but I think 'cracked and fragile' describes all the characters, and am finding them to all be similar. Maybe with the exception of the Geomest, who seems more upbeat and curious (though also very cautious). Unfortunately, she hasn't had much screen time lately, though in the previous chapters she and Essun did have a nice bit of casual one-on-one time that for once gave a glimpse into the humanity of people. I forgot to comment on that in my anti-BM rant.

    • Essun learnt about magic in the last chapter, so now Nassun has had the same revelation, independently. Really?

    Jemisin (or should we really be blaming our narrator, Hoa?) is hitting us over the head a bit comparing Nassun to Essun, so why not? Just as previously, we had three generations of Essun, now we still do, with Nassun being the next, future iteration. I think she's intended to be similar in many ways, but also different, and at a critical future plot point she will fall onto one side of the fence or the other - become her mother entirely, or fall on the other side of the fence and become her opposite.

    • Is the impaling comm to the north Tettehee, or someone else? If someone else, who?

    It's either Tettehee, now aware that the Season has come and blaming the Roggas in Castrima, perhaps with a new Trump like leader to embolden them. Or some new people have taken the place over and it represents new people, rather than changed people. Who are the dead, anyway - the old citizens, presumably. Or 'collaborators'? They're six feet under now, so we'll need to wait to find out.

    • Is Alabaster angry because he's been thwarted in his plans to destroy the world (or perhaps save it), or because Essun killed Coru, or because Alabaster knows it was necessary and he'd have done the same?

    He's angry because he's a 'cracked and fragile' person (literally crystalline!). He is everyone he already met, to apply the same logic Hoa was applying to Essun at the end of the last book, and since the world is an unremittingly bad place, what else should we expect of characters who only ever meet other bad people? It's a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, isn't it? We're all broken because we're the sum of all our experiences, and all our experiences were shit because everyone we ever met was also broken.

    • The argument between Essun and Alabaster about teaching (or lack thereof). Is this an instance of the shift in power and dominance between them? Is that even something we should be concerned with?

    Yes, it seems so - a shift that was already well underway before we left the island.

  • 0

    Hello people, sorry for the lateness :) I had to read @Apocryphal 's contribution twice as I thought it read so much like those of @clash_bowley !

    I have decided that one of Jemisin's strengths is the description of people's appearance - it's something that I am not so very good at, as for deep-rooted historical reasons my own visual aptitude is poor. So here, and beforem, it has struck me that she does do a good job at describing what people look like. She's also good (in a kind of graphic novel way) at describing sudden bursts of violence, such as when Schaffa makes his dramatic appearance and slaughters a whole bunch of attackers.

    Was I convinced by the idea that Jija knew about a moon, though not (except in vague and general terms) where to find it - no, not really. I guess, with a year's journey behind them, the Nassun timeline is now well ahead of the Essun one, as my internal sense of Essun's move from Tirimo is that it is at most a month or two. So it's a bold move to propel Nassun so far ahead of Essun, especially if she is going to start to be taught - or maybe "cured".

    The ease with which Jija heard about the moon, and Nassun mastered the advanced skills that Essun is only just feeling her way into, reminded me of the ideas of a guy called Rupert Sheldrake - see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rupert_Sheldrake - which among other things says "Sheldrake's morphic resonance posits that "memory is inherent in nature" and that "natural systems... inherit a collective memory from all previous things of their kind." Sheldrake proposes that it is also responsible for "telepathy-type interconnections between organisms." His advocacy of the idea offers idiosyncratic explanations of standard subjects in biology such as development, inheritance, and memory."

    It has to be said that morphic resonance has not caught on with other biologists - but in fictional terms that is not a concern, and IMHO it's fair game to explore ideas which the scientific community has not endorsed! IN brief, morphic resonance holds that once something has been discovered or mastered by one person, it is much easier for other people elsewhere to pick it up. Likewise animals - some of his striking examples are of blue tits across England all adopting the same way to open the tops of milk bottles to access the cream, or on a human level, different research groups all coming up with similar findings in quick succession. I liked his books and found them quite compelling, but then I'm not a biologist. That aside, it seems to me that his ideas provide a potential explanation for why Jiji and Nassun make essentially the same discovery very easily, once someone else (Alabaster or Essun) has struggled very hard to find it out.

    Other items - killing is not just a Season thing - the authorities in the port town tried to poison Alabaster simply because he had been mouthy with them. I think it's just an ingrained habit. In that, it's quite like Game of Thrones, where society at large is extraordinarily violent and hazardous. I don't find either a very credible setting for a real world - how would you ever get crops in, conduct trade, or whatever? But some fiction writers like to use it as a backdrop for their own plots. Here, it sounds like cannibalism will very soon become a normal fact of life.

    Are there any likeable characters? Maybe Lerna? Of course he's very much in the background, so could easily become cannon fodder at any moment... or if he becomes a major character perhaps he'll turn dark and deadly as well. Maybe Tonkey, though she apparently stalked Essun for years and adopted a very shady cover in order to do so.

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    @RichardAbbott said:
    Hello people, sorry for the lateness :) I had to read @Apocryphal 's contribution twice as I thought it read so much like those of @clash_bowley !

    Oh, come on. I'm at least 50% more verbose!

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    @Apocryphal said:

    @RichardAbbott said:
    Hello people, sorry for the lateness :) I had to read @Apocryphal 's contribution twice as I thought it read so much like those of @clash_bowley !

    Oh, come on. I'm at least 50% more verbose!

    That's what tipped me off :)

  • 1

    @RichardAbbott said:

    @Apocryphal said:

    @RichardAbbott said:
    Hello people, sorry for the lateness :) I had to read @Apocryphal 's contribution twice as I thought it read so much like those of @clash_bowley !

    Oh, come on. I'm at least 50% more verbose!

    That's what tipped me off :)

    Pithy! That's me! :D

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    edited April 30

    @NeilNjae said:

    Questions

    • When and how do you think Jija heard of the Moon? Was it even before he left Tirimo?

    It would have to be. They have been moving in more or less a straight line, which accounts for why Nissun couldn't be found - Jemesin had to invent the only horse and wagon in the world so the flint knapper and daughter could outdistance her.

    • Everyone in the book is a killer. Even sweet little Nassun slaughters everyone in a town when she's shot at. Do we care that all the characters are psychopathic, or should we treat this as a sensible response to a Season?

    Have I mentioned how I don't like anyone in these books? Every one of these people is an asshole, and I don't blame Father Earth for hating them.

    • Nassun describes Jija as cracked and fragile, echoing the description Innon gave of Alabaster in The Fifth Season. Do you think Jija and Alabaster are similar characters?

    ... I think everybody is similar. Even more so than Game of Thrones - nice call @Apocryphal! Everybody is hateful, petty, vindictive, and deeply stupid on some level.

    • Essun learnt about magic in the last chapter, so now Nassun has had the same revelation, independently. Really?

    Hi! Welcome to the World of N. K. Jemesin!

    • Is the impaling comm to the north Tettehee, or someone else? If someone else, who?

    They are the Bad Bad Guys, as opposed to the Bad Guys, AKA everyone else.

    • Is Alabaster angry because he's been thwarted in his plans to destroy the world (or perhaps save it), or because Essun killed Coru, or because Alabaster knows it was necessary and he'd have done the same?

    Are you reading the same book? EVERYBODY IS ANGRY!

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    @RichardAbbott said:

    I have decided that one of Jemisin's strengths is the description of people's appearance - it's something that I am not so very good at, as for deep-rooted historical reasons my own visual aptitude is poor. So here, and beforem, it has struck me that she does do a good job at describing what people look like. She's also good (in a kind of graphic novel way) at describing sudden bursts of violence, such as when Schaffa makes his dramatic appearance and slaughters a whole bunch of attackers.

    This has come up a few times before. Is the general consensus that Jemisin is good at physical description? People, places, action, what they look like and what happens?

    Are there any likeable characters? Maybe Lerna? Of course he's very much in the background, so could easily become cannon fodder at any moment... or if he becomes a major character perhaps he'll turn dark and deadly as well. Maybe Tonkey, though she apparently stalked Essun for years and adopted a very shady cover in order to do so.

    There's something here, I think, about Jemisin's thinking on what makes a "survivior". Many characters are callous and brutal: is that the only what to survive in a harsh world, or are there other ways to live through a Season? I'll draw attention to the difference in Essun between how she was on the road (and in Tirimo) and how she thinks now she's in Castrima. Before, she was surrounded the people and things that could instantly turn on her and kill her. Now she's properly part of a comm, she can relax and be "herself".

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    >Before, she was surrounded the people and things that could instantly turn on her and kill her. Now she's properly part of a comm, she can relax and be "herself".

    She’s definitely still surrounded by people that can instantly turn on her and kill her, including upwardly mobile but untrained orogenes, mysterious stone eaters who want to munch on orogenes, some of whom are in hiding, and disgruntled muggles who think there are too many orogenes (“we only need one”) and would normally kill them on site. So she certainly can’t relax. Luckily her normal self is pretty tense, so she can probably be normal. She did relax a bit while Tonkee was doing her hair, but that was in private and with a safe person.

    No, I don’t really see a change in her personality, nor a reason for it to change.

    As for life on the edge, the people in the arctic and Newfoundland outports are pretty neighbourly...
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    > @NeilNjae said:
    > (Quote)
    > This has come up a few times before. Is the general consensus that Jemisin is good at physical description? People, places, action, what they look like and what happens?
    >

    To clarify my personal view... I think she is good at physical description of people and their diversity.

    Places... not so sure about this. Yes as regards the port town and island life. But I don't have a clear idea in my mind about The Fulcrum. And the continent feels all very uniform to me... Jiji and Nassun have travelled for a year to the deep south, verging on the Antarctic regions, and I didn't get any sense that much had changed. Nassun, as a bright 9 year old, hasn't noticed or commented on new vegetation or animals, they haven't (apparently) had to cope with mountain ranges or big rivers... it all seems very samey.
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    @RichardAbbott said:

    To clarify my personal view... I think she is good at physical description of people and their diversity.

    Places... not so sure about this. Yes as regards the port town and island life. But I don't have a clear idea in my mind about The Fulcrum. And the continent feels all very uniform to me... Jiji and Nassun have travelled for a year to the deep south, verging on the Antarctic regions, and I didn't get any sense that much had changed. Nassun, as a bright 9 year old, hasn't noticed or commented on new vegetation or animals, they haven't (apparently) had to cope with mountain ranges or big rivers... it all seems very samey.

    Yes. I have no concept of place in this series.

  • 0
    > @Apocryphal said:
    > I think these characters were like this before the season. Jemisin gives us a clue in the next chapters (hint: we're approaching page 166).
    >

    Can you let us know when we get there... a page number doesn't mean anything on my kindle!!!
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    I was jolted by the phrase “satellite Fulcrum” in the Antarctics, since such a big deal was made earlier that Essun didn’t know the word. Then in the same paragraph, Nassun overhears Jija asking if someone has heard of the Moon.

    My favorite hermeneutical phenomenologist was Paul Ricoeur. He had an approach to texts that I try to employ.

    1) Pre-critical: This is a first naïveté, a reading of a text as it presents itself, taking it at face value. This move attempts to bracket any critical examination. This is a move toward fusion. I am shaped by the text. I feel at home in the text. It functions as an external authority over me. Employing this pre-critical consciousness is very difficult to do once one has been trained in any critical method.

    2) Critical: This is a reading that uses all critical faculties to examine the text that one has first encountered in the pre-critical consciousness. There are lots of theories and methods that can be employed here, not all of which are compatible, but they don’t have to be. This is a move of suspicion. I shape the text. I function as an authority over the text, determining the limits of its meanings. I accept it or reject it on my terms.

    3) Post-critical: This is a willed, second naïveté in which one returns to the text as it presents itself but having been transformed by the critical exercise. One engages the text as it presents itself but not in a pre-critical manner, rather having come through the fires of criticism. This is a move of distanciation, a term Ricoeur adapted from hermeneut Hans-Georg Gadamer, that moves in a circle from losing oneself in (or perhaps under) the text to defining oneself above the text to understanding oneself in front of the text.

    I’ve tried to approach this book series with this hermeneutic. I’ve returned again and again to the text, after having critiqued it (though not in the same fashion as some others here), delighting in the texture of possible (and possibly conflicting) interpretations I find through womanist criticism or the interplay of presence / absence, regardless of whether Jemisin intended to put those elements there.

    It’s been hard to maintain a post-critical consciousness while reading this second book, though. I’m not seeing anything new. (Perhaps that’s my fault.). And I keep getting yanked out of pre-critical consciousness as I attempt to approach each new chapter because things like this pop up. Why would the narrator use the word “satellite” here? It hinders my trust of the text (not merely the narrator) even in a post-critical manner. I’ve been more trusting of the text than some here, and I’m ready for some pay-off for that trust. And I don’t necessarily mean pay-off in the sense of a juicy plot point or anything like that. I have made myself vulnerable before the text, and I’m not feeling any reciprocity. I’m ready for something to justify my post-critical trust. I haven’t given up on it; I still have hope. But it’s getting hard, y’all!

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    I just posted my comments for Chs 9 and 10, and perhaps described moving from critical to post critical. To misquote Monty Python “She turned me into a newt, but I got better.”
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    I haven’t yet read the next chapters. It will probably be the weekend before I have the chance.

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    @WildCard said:
    I was jolted by the phrase “satellite Fulcrum” in the Antarctics, since such a big deal was made earlier that Essun didn’t know the word. Then in the same paragraph, Nassun overhears Jija asking if someone has heard of the Moon.

    I agree - NK Jemisin is either careless with these occasional "our-universe" words (as opposed to "in-universe" or else she uses this as a device to deliberately jolt the reader. Either way, it doesn't work for me.

    My favorite hermeneutical phenomenologist was Paul Ricoeur. He had an approach to texts that I try to employ.

    1) Pre-critical... 2) Critical... 3) Post-critical:

    I hadn't come across this approach before (at least, not with formal names attached) and it is interesting. With this book, I usually read each pair of chapters twice (time permitting, which sometimes it doesn't) and I wonder what difference there might be of persevering for a third time?

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    @WildCard said:
    It’s been hard to maintain a post-critical consciousness while reading this second book, though. I’m not seeing anything new. (Perhaps that’s my fault.). And I keep getting yanked out of pre-critical consciousness as I attempt to approach each new chapter because things like this pop up. Why would the narrator use the word “satellite” here? It hinders my trust of the text (not merely the narrator) even in a post-critical manner. I’ve been more trusting of the text than some here, and I’m ready for some pay-off for that trust. And I don’t necessarily mean pay-off in the sense of a juicy plot point or anything like that. I have made myself vulnerable before the text, and I’m not feeling any reciprocity. I’m ready for something to justify my post-critical trust. I haven’t given up on it; I still have hope. But it’s getting hard, y’all!

    Structurally, there hasn't been a lot happening so far in this book, especially with Essun. It seems like there's a lot of exposition, lining up people and places for what comes next. (I can't remember the story of this book very well, but I think there are more events and changes coming soon.) This could be because of the volume of exposition, or it could be attempting to establish a "new normal" so with have something for contrast when the changes happen.

    As for the "satellite" comment, I think Jemisin is more interested in "painting pictures in your mind" than coherence. At the risk of demonstrating my ignorance of art history, is Jemisin being an "impressionist" rather than the more formal "academic" painter or words?

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    @NeilNjae said:
    As for the "satellite" comment, I think Jemisin is more interested in "painting pictures in your mind" than coherence...

    I think that's a fair comment, but it is also at odds with the internal narrative device that the book is (as we have collected decided) largely dictated by Hoa to Essun. So (IMHO) the language ought to reflect what would paint pictures in Essun's mind, not ours.

    If as an alternative device the book had been addressed to us - "so, gentle reader, let me tell you about how Essun came to Castrima..." - then it would be appropriate to use language to pain pictures in our minds. I keep feeling (and I interpret @WildCard 's comments to mean the same) that she is using our language but passing it off as Essun's.

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