The Obelisk Gate, chapters 15 & 16

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Chapter 15

Nassun, Schaffa, and Umber visit the Antarctic Fulcrum and question the orogenes there about their lack of Guardians and why the orogenes are still alive. After some verbal fencing, Schaffa loses patience and kills the orogenes in the room. Nassun recognises a torus-slap and hand-breaking as things Essun learned from Fulcrum. After the killing, Nassun waits outside and is overcome by hatred. She uses the sapphire obelisk to turn all the orogenes to stone. There is some kind of stand-off between Schaffa and Umber.

On the way back, Nassun and Schaffa don't trust Umber, as Umber perhaps thinks Schaffa should have killed Nassun. The grey stone-eater (who represented Rennanis at Castrima six months and a chapter before). The stone eater offer to teach Nassun how to fight the thing controlling Schaffa. Umber agrees to not kill Nassun, despite her being very dangerous.

Chapter 16

Hoa emerges in his stone-eater form, and is revealed as the stone-eater who was trapped in the garnet obelisk at Allia. They discuss whether either of them are "people". Hoa says he is protecting Essun from other stone-eaters. Essun and Hoa talk to Ykka, who has been talking down a lynch mob. Hoa says that some stone-eaters want to kill all humans. Ykka and Essun argue about the loyalty of the stills in Castrima

Questions

  • Is Nassun a destructive and uncontrolled weapon, or a manipulated child? How could she atone for killing the orogenes in the Antarctic Fulcrum?
  • The phrase "lynch mob": a deliberate reference to racial violence in the US, or a general turn of phrase?
  • Essun's distrust of stills: a reasonable defence mechanism, or racism itself?
  • What do us readers think of the revelation that much of what we see has been the result of a conflict between stone-eaters, and between stone-eaters and other factions?

Comments

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    Is it just me or did the writing style change significantly in chapter 16? Essun’s dialogue somehow seems very casual, suddenly.

    On the matter of Stone Eaters, I’m not surprised, but I also find it hard to care. We still know next to nothing about them. It seems to me that in a world where a bizarre magical race has lived forever underground that the surface dwellers knew next to nothing about, there would be umpteen stories and myths circulating. Yet that doesn’t seem to be the case, here. Sure, we get some pithy stone lore, but where’s the non-stone lore? Anyway, the point being that as a group the stone eaters have no real personality, so why do we care about their factions? Compare this to what Tolkien was able to do with Sauron, despite the fact he never appeared on screen.
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    I have to admit that I didn't realise at first reading that Nassun had killed all the orogenes at the Antarctic Fulcrum (AF) - it took @NeilNjae 's commentary and a reread to get it. I had just assumed Umber and Schaffa had done the deed while Nassun was meditating on an obelisk. Either way, we have a lot more gratuitous slaughter. Nassun, having been shocked by accidentally doing it to one kid she knew, doesn't seem particularly ruffled by doing it to a whole bunch she doesn't.

    Atonement? You need a moral framework of some kind to contemplate that, and this world doesn't have one. It's not that people (including orogenes and stone eaters in that category) are immoral... they are just amoral, and don't appear to have any kind of religious, spiritual, or rational basis for morality.

    Both Nassun and the stone eater use the word _wrong_ about AF, which sounds like moral judgement, but in Nassun's case she means "connected to something that hurt me" and in the stone eater's "misinformed". So they're both making pragmatic assessments, not correlating with morality.

    This connects, I think, to @Apocryphal 's comments. It's hard to care, or even be interested, in the stone eater factions, because there's nothing really to choose between them! It's not like there's anything to prefer or admire about one lot rather than another... they're all self-serving, and their actions are wrapped up in their individual agendas. It looks as though we are heading towards a showdown between Essun and Hoa, and Nassun and Steel (I am assuming that both grey stone eaters are the same). But either way I can't think of any reason why I should favour one faction over another... they're all (apparently) essentially the same.

    Essun has seemingly discarded all of her original determination to find Nassun. At the moment, N seemingly thinks of E a whole lot more than the other way round.

    It hadn't occurred to me to connect "lynch mob" specifically to the US, as I just think of it as a generic phrase. Did it originate with slavery? If the reference was deliberate, it just went straight past this (UK) reader without impact. That would be fine... I can totally live with allusions in a book that not everyone gets, and fully expect that's the case with my own writing (which is highly unlikely to win a nebula award or whatever)... the only difference would be that my allusions are likely to be literary rather than recent historical.

    Finally, is anyone else bored of hair being described as ashblow? The word appears on almost every other page! And I have no idea what it's supposed to look like... in contrast to her usual descriptions of people, it conveys nothing to me and I have no sense how to visualise it. Long? Grey? Straight or wavy? Attractive or ugly? Answers on a postcard please...
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    Looking up "ashblow hair", I came across this post from Jemisin on the races of Broken Earth (only contains information on The Fifth Season.

    And it seems "lynching" as a term originated in the US, and seems to be strongly linked with mobs of white peoples killing black people.

    As for the lack of moral code, I agree: there doesn't seem to be anything about moral teachings in the world of these books, beyond the stonelore attitude of "do what you must to survive". Even edicts like "love thy neighbour" are only there because communities are more robust than individuals.

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    In my book ‘ashblow’ is covered in the glossary in the appendix. The description isn’t great, but basically makes me think of an Afro or mat of tight dreads. Classically this hair is tinged Grey, like ash, not not always. I don’t know. I picture Don King.
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    Thanks both (of course I had to look up who on earth Don King was). As well as having no previous idea what to imagine, I also feel that she uses the word far too many times, and some alternate descriptions would have helped in both visualisation and literary merits
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    Out of idle curiosity, I looked up the etymology of "lynch", and apparently it considerably predates the main era of abolitionists vs slaves, and is instead linked to either William or (more probably) Charles Lynch... in both cases relating to the persecution of loyalists (ie British supporters and sympathisers) by folk committed to the American Revolutionary movement. Of course, etymology is only half the story, and it may well have become more intimately linked to the issue of slavery at a later date.
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    edited June 4

    @NeilNjae said:

    • Is Nassun a destructive and uncontrolled weapon, or a manipulated child? How could she atone for killing the orogenes in the Antarctic Fulcrum?

    She is a stone killer, like everyone else in this world.

    • The phrase "lynch mob": a deliberate reference to racial violence in the US, or a general turn of phrase?

    Of course it is deliberate!

    • Essun's distrust of stills: a reasonable defence mechanism, or racism itself?

    Just more racism.

    • What do us readers think of the revelation that much of what we see has been the result of a conflict between stone-eaters, and between stone-eaters and other factions?

    Whatever! Who cares? It's just more awful people.

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