The Obelisk Gate, chapters 19, interlude, 20

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Chapter 19

Essun tries to negotiate with the Rennanis army occupying Castrima. It doesn't go well, her orogeny is disrupted by a Guardian's knife, and she is rescued by Hoa. Tonkee concots a plan to herd boilbugs into the army.Ykka yokes Essun to create an escape tunnel, and that allows Essun to learn how to yoke together all the orogenes in Castrima and the obelisks to carry out Tonkee's plan. All the Rennanis soldiers are boiled alive by the boilbugs. Some stone eaters attack; Hoa disables the first. Hoa then takes Essun to the surface. He buffers Essun's first attempt to yoke together all the obelisks. She senses the stone eaters attacking Castrima and traps them in the geode's structure. Essun turns all the inhabitants of Rennanis to stone then detects Nassun by her command of some obelisks. Essun is greeted by Hoa, Antimony, and an unknown stone eater made of alabaster.

Interlude

Hoa contemplates the fate of the surviving soldiers from Rennanis, and the destruction of the mechanisms that maintain life in the Castrima geode. Essun's right arm has become stone. Hoa discusses consent with Lerna. Hoa tells Lerna about what happened in Rennanis, and Lerna deduces that the people of Castrima could move there. Hoa explains his motives.

Chapter 20

There is a revelaiton that stone eaters can't access the obelisks. Nassun detects Essun's use of the Obelisk Gate; the grey stone eater explains things to Nassun. Nassun realises that she cannot hope to rely on either parent. Jija finds Nassun; she explains that she has done bad things, but was guided to do them. Nassun calls the sapphire obelisk and transforms it into a knife shape. Jija attacks Nassun; she turns him to stone. Steel tells Nassun that she will kill all she loves, but she can stop that by capturing the moon.

Questions

  • We now know what the Obelisk Gate is. Was sufficient piple laid to justify this revelation? Did it follow from what had come before?
  • Just as Essun was perhaps demonstrating some morality, she unleashes a biological weapon on an army, killing them all, then commits a genocidal act against a city. Are any of these actions justifed?
  • Who are the "you"s referred to at the end of the interlude?
  • Both Hoa and Steel, Essun and Nassun, want to recapture the moon. What do you think is really the difference between them?
  • Is Nassun right to think that she was guided (groomed?) into the actions she's done?

Comments

  • 1
    edited June 11

    @NeilNjae said:

    Questions

    • We now know what the Obelisk Gate is. Was sufficient piple laid to justify this revelation? Did it follow from what had come before?

    Why should it be any different. We knew something involving the obelisks was up. We knew Alabaster was trying to teach Essun before she killed him. We knew the author was not ready to reveal the wham bam thank you ma'am yet because it wasn't the end of the book yet. Then Ykka talks her into making a rear hidey hole of sorts, and Ykka can now suddenly yoke other orogenes and Essun sees that ability and uses it better than Ykka to make her gate. Jemesin says that Ykka could always do this, but she has never mentioned it before now. If you move fast enough and make enough of a bang, so that nobody looks, you can win Hugos.

    • Just as Essun was perhaps demonstrating some morality, she unleashes a biological weapon on an army, killing them all, then commits a genocidal act against a city. Are any of these actions justifed?

    Nothing she ever does is justified. The 'justification' is basically those people are assholes but these assholes over here are OUR assholes. Our gal Essun is the bestest mass murderer EVAR!

    • Who are the "you"s referred to at the end of the interlude?

    I didn't have a clue. If I start to think at all while reading this book it all starts to fall apart. :D

    • Both Hoa and Steel, Essun and Nassun, want to recapture the moon. What do you think is really the difference between them?

    One is all Gray and the other is named Hoa. One prefers mother and the other prefers the daughter. AFAICT one is a puppet on the left hand of Jemesin, the other is a puppet on the right hand of Jemesin, and Jemesin herself doesn't bother to hide behind the counter.

    • Is Nassun right to think that she was guided (groomed?) into the actions she's done?

    Yes, it allows her to convince herself she is not responsible for the horrible things she does. Yay Nessun!

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    Well, this was a flurry of activity. No end of super-powers suddenly emerging, with no apparent precursor other than the immediate need for a solution. Very ex machina, it seemed to me. And coincidentally, Essun and Nassun seem to have reached near-identical stages of development, unknown to anybody before them. To me, this was so obviously simply driven by the necessity of plot, and I just couldn't see this as credible.

    More widely, I started thinking about geography. The map of the Stillness (at the start of both kindle volumes so far) does not show Castrima, or the southern Fulcrum, or anything much else of use - it is really only a map of book 1's events, and of little help for book 2. But the scale on it shows that places are typically of order hundreds or low thousands of miles apart. That figures with Essun's perception of the area - she feels that she is perceiving the land on a huge scale, and this is confirmed by Nassun's stone-eater who casually refers to half the world. So that set me thinking, how credible is it that Rennanis people would launch a seriously large military campaign across hundreds of miles to get to Castrima, in the middle of a season? I just don't buy it, I'm afraid. An earlier chapter told us of another comm just a short distance away from Castrima which was asserting its territorial rights and boundaries... the Rennanis army must have walked past (and probably fought) dozens such before getting to Castrima. Really? (And, in passing, the Castrima folk now have to walk all that way back past all those really pissed off comms in order to find a new home, presumably lavishly decorated with statues).

    @clash_bowley will probably tell me that I'm being a salmon at this point...

    Meanwhile, mother and daughter are vying to see who can annihilate more people. Essun is winning hands down right now - Nassun only managed all the orogenes in a single place, whereas Essun has just wiped out most of an army and then an entire really large comm. Nassun, you need to up your game and think about just cracking the world open a la Alabaster.

    Speaking of whom, I suppose we should assume that the new stone eater made of alabaster is, in fact, Alabaster himself. So maybe all that silvery magic stuff eventually turns you into a stone-eater. Or (since numerous folk have been turned to stone with no hint that this happy fate awaits them) you only become a stone-eater if there's an existing one there beside you as a kind of spirit guide on the journey. Somewhere nearby I can still hear Obiwan...

    I suspect I am going to get annoyed about cavalier dealings with orbital motion in book 3 (but hey, maybe that's just that old salmon again!). By guess (FWIW, which in these books is not much) is that the big showdown, represented by Essun vs Nassun and Hoa vs Steel, will be between those who want to get the moon back into a nice nearly-circular orbit again, and those who simply want a big smash-up. Right now, I don't really have any strong preference either way.

  • 1
    edited June 11

    @RichardAbbott said:
    Well, this was a flurry of activity. No end of super-powers suddenly emerging, with no apparent precursor other than the immediate need for a solution. Very ex machina, it seemed to me. And coincidentally, Essun and Nassun seem to have reached near-identical stages of development, unknown to anybody before them. To me, this was so obviously simply driven by the necessity of plot, and I just couldn't see this as credible.

    Salmoning!

    More widely, I started thinking about geography. The map of the Stillness (at the start of both kindle volumes so far) does not show Castrima, or the southern Fulcrum, or anything much else of use - it is really only a map of book 1's events, and of little help for book 2. But the scale on it shows that places are typically of order hundreds or low thousands of miles apart. That figures with Essun's perception of the area - she feels that she is perceiving the land on a huge scale, and this is confirmed by Nassun's stone-eater who casually refers to half the world. So that set me thinking, how credible is it that Rennanis people would launch a seriously large military campaign across hundreds of miles to get to Castrima, in the middle of a season? I just don't buy it, I'm afraid. An earlier chapter told us of another comm just a short distance away from Castrima which was asserting its territorial rights and boundaries... the Rennanis army must have walked past (and probably fought) dozens such before getting to Castrima. Really? (And, in passing, the Castrima folk now have to walk all that way back past all those really pissed off comms in order to find a new home, presumably lavishly decorated with statues).

    Nothing exists that the author has not specifically told you about. And if the author has not kept harping about these things, they were just window dressing and should be forgotten. Contradictory information just means there is something the author hasn't told you about, like that long underground tunnel that whisks armies at the speed of plot directly from Renannis to Castrima. Just forgot to mention it as it wasn't important before.

    @clash_bowley will probably tell me that I'm being a salmon at this point...

    Already done! See above!

    Meanwhile, mother and daughter are vying to see who can annihilate more people. Essun is winning hands down right now - Nassun only managed all the orogenes in a single place, whereas Essun has just wiped out most of an army and then an entire really large comm. Nassun, you need to up your game and think about just cracking the world open a la Alabaster.

    Come to me, Moon!

    Speaking of whom, I suppose we should assume that the new stone eater made of alabaster is, in fact, Alabaster himself. So maybe all that silvery magic stuff eventually turns you into a stone-eater. Or (since numerous folk have been turned to stone with no hint that this happy fate awaits them) you only become a stone-eater if there's an existing one there beside you as a kind of spirit guide on the journey. Somewhere nearby I can still hear Obiwan...

    Oh yes! The alabaster stone eater! I forgot to mention that! Hahahahaha! Is that going to be a big surprise move! Come on! You can do better than that! So the bits with Hoa talking to Essun are happening after she turns into a stone eater and has forgotten who she was? I am shocked! Shocked, I tell you!

    I suspect I am going to get annoyed about cavalier dealings with orbital motion in book 3 (but hey, maybe that's just that old salmon again!). By guess (FWIW, which in these books is not much) is that the big showdown, represented by Essun vs Nassun and Hoa vs Steel, will be between those who want to get the moon back into a nice nearly-circular orbit again, and those who simply want a big smash-up. Right now, I don't really have any strong preference either way.

    Yeah! Fight to the death of the mother and daughter on that dunghill! Woohoo! :D

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    On the plus side, I rather enjoyed the description of Essun entering The Big Kahuna, and even (for once) enjoyed the writer trick employed when Essun realized she loved Hoa.

    Seems like there's a budding romance between Essun and Lerna. Is them the whos of whom Hoa hints?

    Yes, I don't see much difference between the two stone eaters except that one is hopeful and the other nihilistic.

    Nassun is right to think someone is guiding her - it's very clear all the characters are being guided by the author and the publisher.

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    Descriptions are her strong suit.

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    @RichardAbbott said:

    More widely, I started thinking about geography. The map of the Stillness (at the start of both kindle volumes so far) does not show Castrima, or the southern Fulcrum, or anything much else of use - it is really only a map of book 1's events, and of little help for book 2. But the scale on it shows that places are typically of order hundreds or low thousands of miles apart. That figures with Essun's perception of the area - she feels that she is perceiving the land on a huge scale, and this is confirmed by Nassun's stone-eater who casually refers to half the world. So that set me thinking, how credible is it that Rennanis people would launch a seriously large military campaign across hundreds of miles to get to Castrima, in the middle of a season? I just don't buy it, I'm afraid. An earlier chapter told us of another comm just a short distance away from Castrima which was asserting its territorial rights and boundaries... the Rennanis army must have walked past (and probably fought) dozens such before getting to Castrima. Really? (And, in passing, the Castrima folk now have to walk all that way back past all those really pissed off comms in order to find a new home, presumably lavishly decorated with statues).

    The events in chapters 19 and 20 happen at the same time, and we know Nassun travelled for a year to get to New Moon. There have been several statements of "months passed" for Nassun. That means there's time for a group to move from Rennanis to Castrima. Danel, the leader from Rennanis, told of advancing for some time, taking over comms and sending supplies back. I think we're meant to infer that Tettehee was taken over by Danel's forces earlier, on the way to Castrima.

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    @NeilNjae said:
    The events in chapters 19 and 20 happen at the same time, and we know Nassun travelled for a year to get to New Moon. There have been several statements of "months passed" for Nassun. That means there's time for a group to move from Rennanis to Castrima. Danel, the leader from Rennanis, told of advancing for some time, taking over comms and sending supplies back. I think we're meant to infer that Tettehee was taken over by Danel's forces earlier, on the way to Castrima.

    Hmm yes but that's my point really. Rennanis is a very long way away from Castrima. Such a large army would take a very long time to get there. Are we to believe
    a) that Rennanis would leave itself so depleted of personnel during a Season?
    b) that they would specifically set to to target Castrima, having left well before most of the key recent events that might have attracted attention (they must have been well on their way before the stone eater confrontations started)
    c) or alternatively they have such vast armies and resources that they are expanding in all directions at once, which seems improbable given all else we have learned

    We have been told that Castrima-under is undetectable to orogenes, so presumably if they were led there it would have to have been by stone-eaters. But what would draw their interest? Essun had not developed most of her super-powers until very late on, so she surely cannot have been the lure. The only thing that comes to mind is the room which having on been talked about has since been totally dropped, viz the chamber with the rusty bits of metal which almost seized control of Tonkee. It is something of a mystery to me why that particular item has been so ignored, when the description of what was in the room was amongst the most vivid of the entire work so far? But perhaps that remains to be revealed? Meantime I still don't see the logic behind the Rennanis force turning up in such huge numbers just then.

  • 1
    edited June 13

    @RichardAbbott said:
    Meantime I still don't see the logic behind the Rennanis force turning up in such huge numbers just then.

    Ha! You and your crazy 'logic'! That will never be a thing! It's just a quaint old superstition!

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    edited June 13

    @RichardAbbott said:
    Hmm yes but that's my point really. Rennanis is a very long way away from Castrima. Such a large army would take a very long time to get there. Are we to believe
    a) that Rennanis would leave itself so depleted of personnel during a Season?
    b) that they would specifically set to to target Castrima, having left well before most of the key recent events that might have attracted attention (they must have been well on their way before the stone eater confrontations started)
    c) or alternatively they have such vast armies and resources that they are expanding in all directions at once, which seems improbable given all else we have learned

    Salmoning aside (i.e. this is all post-hoc rationalisation of the needs of the pulpy plot)...

    It was mentioned that many of the force attacking Castrima was made up of people "recruited" from comms annexed before Castrima. Danel said the long-term target was the Antarctic regions, where they may be more light to grow crops. But Alabaster and Essun have been in Castrima for most of a year, easily long enough for Grey Man / Steel to find Castrima as a target and guide the Rennanis forces that way.

    We have been told that Castrima-under is undetectable to orogenes, so presumably if they were led there it would have to have been by stone-eaters. But what would draw their interest?

    Hoa was there. There was enough interest in Castrima for Antimony to take Alabaster there soon after Essun and Hoa arrived. Both orogenes have a history of interaction with obelisks and stone eaters.

    The only thing that comes to mind is the room which having on been talked about has since been totally dropped, viz the chamber with the rusty bits of metal which almost seized control of Tonkee. It is something of a mystery to me why that particular item has been so ignored, when the description of what was in the room was amongst the most vivid of the entire work so far? But perhaps that remains to be revealed?

    Another loose thread is that Alabaster never actually said what he found in the shaft at Corepoint. Something down there scared him, but we don't know what.

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    > @NeilNjae said:
    > (Quote)
    > Another loose thread is that Alabaster never actually said what he found in the shaft at Corepoint. Something down there scared him, but we don't know what.

    Interesting points about the Rennanis attack, though I still have trouble with the idea that a comm would deplete itself of so many people for any reason during a season. And from what we have heard, almost all comms tend to kill off orogenes and the like at the drop of a hat. My main wish is that the maps would have _all_ the key places on them, not just the book 1 ones.

    But it's a good reminder about the Corepoint thing... I had totally forgotten about that.
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