The Obelisk Gate, chapters 9 & 10

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Chapter 9

We hear the tale of the near-destruction of Jekity last Season. Jija heals from his harpoon wound and is accepted into Jekity. Nassun meets the other orogene children in Found Moon, including Eitz (from the coastal comm in chapter 3). Schaffa and Nassun discuss her pre-Rifting upbringing. This includes Fulcrum-style orogeny training and Essun testing Nassun's control by breaking her hand. They discuss the thing in Schaffa's head; it causes him pain, which can be eased by something from and orogene. Schaffa confirms that what's in his head is different from the other Guardians, and they'll kill him if they know about it.

Chapter 10

Alabaster tells the story of how Antimony took him to Corepoint, a city on the other side of the world inhabited by stone eaters and with a hole that goes very, very deep. The stone eaters have been in the city for a long time and there are a lot of them. Alabster tells Essun the stroy that Antimony told him, that the obelisks were created to boost orgoeny and something went wrong to eject the moon. Alabaster says that Father Earth is a sentient being, not a metaphor. Alabaster says there are three sides in the conflict: Humans and stone eaters, Father Earth, and another. Neither Alabaster nor Antimony say who the third side is, but it's perhaps related to what Alabaster found at the bottom of the shaft. Antimony wants Essun to channel the energy of the Rift through the obelisks to capture the moon.

Questions

  • Has your opinion of Essun's parenting changed after reading this chapter and what Essun did to her daughter?
  • Why did Schaffa name his complex "Found Moon" and why site it here?
  • What is the third side in the war?
  • The Shattering took place a long, long time ago. Why have it so many thousands of years ago?
  • Essun and Nassun are much more powerful than most feral orogenes, but no more powerful than Fulcrum-bred ones. Why are they the chosen ones for this story, but not some Fulcrum orogenes?
  • Jemisin continues to slowly dole out the backstory exposition. (At least this chapter wasn't interrupted by a bowel movement.) Is the pacing good for the book? What else are we learning about the wider world apart from the basic facts of Alabaster's story?

Comments

  • 1
    Yeah, so finally the big reveal chapter we’ve been waiting for. Many of my previous theories can now be laid to rest. The moon didn’t crash into earth but was cast out into long elliptical orbit and is coming back. Which is pretty cool, really, and kind of frightening. I quite like that concept.

    And wait, there were more cool concepts, too! I quite liked the idea that a person who got really old would perforce become alien. I’m not sure I agree that would happen, but I find the idea that it might happen to be pleasingly intriguing. This also adds a nice dimension to the stone eaters that I think was really lacking, this need to become (re-become?) more human, to be treated like humans. Previously they didn’t seem to be much more than diamond-toothed ghouls.

    Anyway, if this keeps up I might start to come around on these books. Even found the Nassun chapter to be interesting, where I previously didn’t care much for her, or for Schaffa.

    To answer some questions.
    My opinion of Essun’s parenting hasn’t changed. It was always that she gave her kids tough love so they could survive in a world that hated them. It seems Nassun’s opinion is coming around to mine. I still don’t find her convincing as a nine year old, but whatever. Also, I never really bought the Schaffa as abuser thing that was floated in the discussions of the first book. I still don’t. I like that both these characters are gaining depth.

    No idea why ‘Found Moon’, especially since it’s not really the moon as I previously thought. We still haven’t learned all the significance of the moon. Maybe the Moon is the third side in the war? That’s my only guess for now. Or if not the moon, the thing in his neck or whatever is behind it, I suppose.

    As for the pace of the reveal, it hasn’t been working for me. I sense that it’s being drawn out for reasons that make sense to the author but not the story. Why is big Al being so coy? I don’t believe it’s because Essun ‘can’t handle the truth’. This slow pace might make Morse sense if Essun had to travel from place to place to gather more information, which I guess is a literary trope. But in this case we can get everything we need from big Al or Schifty Schaffa - only they don’t want to let up their secrets. So that’s not really working for me, overall.
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    @NeilNjae said:

    Questions

    • Has your opinion of Essun's parenting changed after reading this chapter and what Essun did to her daughter?

    My opinion on Essun's parenting stops short at "killed her own child" and there it rests.

    • Why did Schaffa name his complex "Found Moon" and why site it here?

    Damifino. I am doing my best to not project. Projecting seems stupid and leads to salmoning. I will instead be surprised.

    • What is the third side in the war?

    See above.

    • The Shattering took place a long, long time ago. Why have it so many thousands of years ago?

    To emphasize how awesome the characters must be to finally fix it? Because Jemesin has watched a lot of Star Wars and Lucas has turned her historical scaling abilities into slime mold?

    • Essun and Nassun are much more powerful than most feral orogenes, but no more powerful than Fulcrum-bred ones. Why are they the chosen ones for this story, but not some Fulcrum orogenes?

    Ummmm, just hazarding a guess here, but maybe because they are not enslaved?

    • Jemisin continues to slowly dole out the backstory exposition. (At least this chapter wasn't interrupted by a bowel movement.) Is the pacing good for the book? What else are we learning about the wider world apart from the basic facts of Alabaster's story?

    That Jemesin does not undertand orbital mechanics?

  • 0

    Essun's parenting - my guess is that she is simply displaying the "abused child become abusive parent" theme, which does make psychological sense. Kind of spooky (and weird from a story-telling mode) that it was never mentioned before that Essun recapitulated to Nassun what Schaffa did to her. But regardless of the details, it does make sense that Essun would not act in a conventionally parent-like manner.

    I don't want to talk about the (pseudo) science, and neither does NK Jemisin, I think. But purely on that level, I'm not sure how far down the Corepoint hole could be maintained from collapsing in on itself. Aas as @clash_bowley said, the orbital mechanics are shot away. The moon couldn't possibly be on a stable orbit that lasts thousands of years between points of closest approach - even Pluto's orbit is only 250 years or so, and whilst we do have objects out there with super-long orbits, they are in no sense a satellite around one of the planets. And if the moon had been on a much shorter orbit then folk would have seen it periodically., But hey, that's salmon-talk, and we all know that it is a fantasy book with a few science words tossed in.

    Like the others, I don't find Nassun as nine-year-old convincing. But my working hypothesis is that she is the Chosen One, not Essun. In Dune terms, Essun is Jessica and Nassun is Paul - Essun's main job is to deliver Paul, though she has ambitions of her own beyond that.

    To make other literary connections, has anyone else read Colin Wilkson's The Mind Parasites? https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14495.The_Mind_Parasites - he is often likened to Lovecraft for enthusiasts of said author, but the connection here is that in Wilson's book the Moon was the home location of a group of, well, mind parasites feeding off mankind.

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    To Jemesin, science is fake news.

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    @clash_bowley said:
    To Jemesin, science is fake news.

    Just because her fantasy novel doesn't bother with science doesn't mean she personally disbelieves in science.

    Anyway, we passed the infamous 'page 166' in Chapter 10. This is page I turned to at random when we were trying to decided whether to keep reading. I was looking for something to inspire me or entice me to keep going. So opened the book at random to this page and the first new paragraph opens with the words "And the world is just shit. You understand this now." Which was the opposite of what I wanted to find, LOL. Taken out of context, it sounds like a critique of the book itself. Because it was out of context, I chose not to share it at the time.

    Also on this page, the narrator Hoa is reading Essun's mind and telling Essun what she was thinking at the time: "This is just how life is supposed to be: terrible and brief and ending in - if you're lucky - oblivion." Hence my comment in the discussion of chapters 7 and 8 that these characters didn't become like this in the course of the novel - they always were. It was destined. There's no way not to be like this on this world.

    On the matter of conceptual ideas that were introduced in chapter 10, I also liked the idea of a planet that was on some level sentient and actively working against the people living on it. That would certainly make for a bleak and difficult setting so I would need to find a way to temper this before ever using it, but I rather like it as a twist on Tolkien's theme of an evil and twisted fallen angel and acting as an implacable force of evil. And when I say I like it, I mean that I find it a compelling idea that would be fun to work out in a setting someday.

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    @RichardAbbott said:
    The moon couldn't possibly be on a stable orbit that lasts thousands of years between points of closest approach - even Pluto's orbit is only 250 years or so, and whilst we do have objects out there with super-long orbits, they are in no sense a satellite around one of the planets. And if the moon had been on a much shorter orbit then folk would have seen it periodically., But hey, that's salmon-talk, and we all know that it is a fantasy book with a few science words tossed in.

    I got the impression the moon's on a long-period solar orbit, not a terrestrial orbit. Maybe it comes back to the inner system every couple of centuries, but it's only a distant and transitory phenomenon, much like a comet. But even so, that invites all sorts of comparisons to the Breakaway event of Space: 1999.

    @RichardAbbott said:
    Like the others, I don't find Nassun as nine-year-old convincing. But my working hypothesis is that she is the Chosen One, not Essun. In Dune terms, Essun is Jessica and Nassun is Paul - Essun's main job is to deliver Paul, though she has ambitions of her own beyond that.

    But, at least as far as we know, Essun wasn't the result of a deliberate breeding programme (as Alabaster probably was).

    @clash_bowley said:

    @NeilNjae said:

    • Essun and Nassun are much more powerful than most feral orogenes, but no more powerful than Fulcrum-bred ones. Why are they the chosen ones for this story, but not some Fulcrum orogenes?

    Ummmm, just hazarding a guess here, but maybe because they are not enslaved?

    But Essun was free, then enslaved, then free again. And why isn't she presenting the slaves as freeing themselves?

    Bringing these two thoughts together: the Chosen One / bloodline trope reminds me of the White Saviour trope common in much US pop culture, where someone from outside a group (e.g. a white man) comes in, displays innate prowess surpassing the "natives" and solves all their problems for them. Is Jemisin recapitulating this pattern?

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    @Apocryphal said:

    Anyway, we passed the infamous 'page 166' in Chapter 10. This is page I turned to at random when we were trying to decided whether to keep reading. I was looking for something to inspire me or entice me to keep going. So opened the book at random to this page and the first new paragraph opens with the words "And the world is just shit. You understand this now." Which was the opposite of what I wanted to find, LOL. Taken out of context, it sounds like a critique of the book itself. Because it was out of context, I chose not to share it at the time.

    Aha, thanks for the info! One of the more interesting parts of the interview with NK Jemisin that @NeilNjae posted about the other day (https://www.ttrpbc.com/discussion/436/interview-with-nk-jemisin) was when she described how she tried writing about "nice people" but publishers didn't like it, then rewrote it so that

    “All of them were horrible people. They’d shank each other for, like, nothing. And I wrote this angry story about this lone brown girl going into this place full of mean white people,” she says. It went to auction, with three different publishers fighting over it. “And I’m like, this is what you want?” she says. “I was pretty bitter … I’d taken such care in [The Killing Moon] to include sympathetic white people, but that wasn’t what they wanted.”

    Soi I guess you could say that she might blame the publishing industry for how her characters turned out...

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    edited May 7

    @Apocryphal said:

    @clash_bowley said:
    To Jemesin, science is fake news.

    Just because her fantasy novel doesn't bother with science doesn't mean she personally disbelieves in science.

    I meant as a author. I have no idea nor do I care what she thinks as a person. As an author she writes whatever the hell she wants, presents it as if it were science, and expects you to go along with it.

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    > @RichardAbbott said:
    > (Quote)
    > Aha, thanks for the info! One of the more interesting parts of the interview with NK Jemisin that @NeilNjae posted about the other day (https://www.ttrpbc.com/discussion/436/interview-with-nk-jemisin) was when she described how she tried writing about "nice people" but publishers didn't like it, then rewrote it so that
    >
    > “All of them were horrible people. They’d shank each other for, like, nothing. And I wrote this angry story about this lone brown girl going into this place full of mean white people,” she says. It went to auction, with three different publishers fighting over it. “And I’m like, this is what you want?” she says. “I was pretty bitter … I’d taken such care in [The Killing Moon] to include sympathetic white people, but that wasn’t what they wanted.”
    >
    > Soi I guess you could say that she might blame the publishing industry for how her characters turned out...

    Wow! We’ve been laying the blame at the wrong 🦶 🦶
  • 1

    Regarding the science of this book, it bounced me into critical mode again by saying the stars are all wrong on the other side of the world. The stars are all wrong on the other side of the equator, which one can experience by traveling along this world’s mono-continent.

  • 0
    > @WildCard said:
    > Regarding the science of this book, it bounced me into critical mode again by saying the stars are all wrong on the other side of the world. The stars are all wrong on the other side of the equator, which one can experience by traveling along this world’s mono-continent.

    Totally
  • 1
    edited May 10

    @WildCard said:
    Regarding the science of this book, it bounced me into critical mode again by saying the stars are all wrong on the other side of the world. The stars are all wrong on the other side of the equator, which one can experience by traveling along this world’s mono-continent.

    This is exactly what I meant. I just roll with whatever she says while reading.

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    @Apocryphal said:
    On the matter of conceptual ideas that were introduced in chapter 10, I also liked the idea of a planet that was on some level sentient and actively working against the people living on it. That would certainly make for a bleak and difficult setting so I would need to find a way to temper this before ever using it, but I rather like it as a twist on Tolkien's theme of an evil and twisted fallen angel and acting as an implacable force of evil. And when I say I like it, I mean that I find it a compelling idea that would be fun to work out in a setting someday.

    I had not yet read this chapter when I posted about pre-critical, critical, and post-critical approaches to a text. I see here Essun expressing a critical view of the legends about a living Earth, thinking that surely the Earth is simply stone. So is Alabaster pushing her back to a pre-critical view, or is there something more to this exchange? He has already called orogeny magic.

    In our world, surely a mythic-literal embrace of a magical world(view) is a pre-critical stance, but in a world where magic is real and the Earth literally Is alive, what would that do to this three-part progression? It would be a shock to my critically informed thought system if I came to learn that Santa is real, that there really was a worldwide flood, or that Zeus really does live on Mt. Olympus and throws lightning bolts around.

  • 0
    > @WildCard said:
    > In our world, surely a mythic-literal embrace of a magical world(view) is a pre-critical stance, but in a world where magic is real and the Earth literally Is alive, what would that do to this three-part progression? It would be a shock to my critically informed thought system if I came to learn that Santa is real, that there really was a worldwide flood, or that Zeus really does live on Mt. Olympus and throws lightning bolts around.

    In a novel which contains magic, surely there are only a few main assumptions that an author can make, the most common of which are 1) magic is ubiquitous and not a surprise to anyone, or 2) magic is rare and largely unknown, but someone stumbles into it and has to adjust their world view accordingly. Rivers of London was definitely a (2) by this category. Jemisin seems to be working in a mix of them, in which magic / orogeny is (1) common (though despised) but the underlying reality of Father Earth is (2) generally perceived as unreal.

    In passing, does anyone have any thoughts as to why she chose to personify Earth as male rather than female? Is it just so she can introduce yet another angry violent male figure, or is there something else?
  • 1

    @WildCard said:
    I had not yet read this chapter when I posted about pre-critical, critical, and post-critical approaches to a text. I see here Essun expressing a critical view of the legends about a living Earth, thinking that surely the Earth is simply stone. So is Alabaster pushing her back to a pre-critical view, or is there something more to this exchange? He has already called orogeny magic.

    But the word "magic" has meaning only for us, the reader; it has no meaning for Essun. It's an inversion of the word "orogeny" which is deeply meaningful for Essun but is a nonsense word for us readers.

    Is this intended as a signal that the book is moving toward more traditional fantasy tropes?

  • 1

    @NeilNjae said:

    But the word "magic" has meaning only for us, the reader; it has no meaning for Essun. It's an inversion of the word "orogeny" which is deeply meaningful for Essun but is a nonsense word for us readers.

    Is this intended as a signal that the book is moving toward more traditional fantasy tropes?

    Don't get caught in the 'this word is not known in the fiction' trap, @NeilNjae! Jemesin refuses to play by those rules! Remember 'satellite'? Q.E.D.

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