3. Language / style


When I was first typing up these questions, I wasn’t thinking about the language of the book as dreamlike, but I’ve decided that’s better than “perceptual language about concepts,” which is included but doesn’t exhaust what I’m thinking about the language.

I loved the lyrical nature of the language in Piranesi. The language here isn’t exactly lyrical, but it is worthy of note. I really noticed the descriptions in the Night World. In the chapter entitled “Night World” (101, 102 in my edition), before imbibing, she describes an orexin as having “eggy eyes, poached by his illness; skin like white wax.” When Trish takes her first drink there, she says, “Three sips in, my expectations go colorless.” I thought that was a noteworthy piece of perceptual language about a concept. And then, she says Mr. Harkonnen “smells like nothing unexpected: burned coffee grounds, Old Spice aftershave. These odors are flung like harpoons—they sail out of the Night World and back across the highway, wrenching whole continents of normalcy into this dark tent….” Maybe it _is _lyrical. It certainly gets dreamlike in places.

What do you think about the language she uses?


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    I thought it was really wonderful when I first read the book, back in our early Google years. This time around I also still liked it, but because I was listening to the Audio version, wasn't really able to make any particular notes. I do remember that bit about the old spice... Yes, its pretty good, says I.

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    Well, I've commented elsewhere about what I thought about the language. Florid, maybe... full of adjectives and riddled with similes certainly... but I found it dull rather than lyrical, I'm afraid.

    I don't know if there's a more suitable discussion point coming up, but it seems to belong here... it didn't seem to me to have a conclusion or resolution (admittedly I was skimming by 3/4 of the way through and might have missed it). But I don't recall either thread about baby or patient being resolved, nor the question about the corruption at the heart of the organisation, nor the question of the main character's own self-doubts or personal history, nor the issues surrounding the baby's family. Did anything get resolved? My memory of the book is that it just stopped with no real conclusion?
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    It didn't draw a conclusion, per se. It's implied (not explicit, I don't think) that the lead character informed on her bosses, so she did make that choice. And I don't think it meant to conclude all of the plot elements. It was a book that brought to light a number of ethical issues and it leaves those on the table for the reader to think about.

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    Answering the ethics question (#5) led me to think further on this one.

    In this novel, Trish begins with a very clear ethical bias toward the public good. She uses the story of her dead sister and a selection of truths to convince people to give something personal to what she sees as a good cause. When the story begins, she is even at the point where she has convinced parents to allow their babies (who cannot themselves give consent) to do the same. She is firmly dedicated to this cause.

    Over the course of the novella (keep in mind, it's only 110 pages) various events erode her convictions. She gets to know the harkonens, who act like Fred Fintstone's little angel and devil over her shoulder. Her interactions with them reveal that their motives - and by extension everyone's motives - are not so easily explained. Is the mother altruistic and agreeing to the procedure because she believes in the Good? Or because she believes in what she's been told is 'right.' Who decides whose 'right'? Probably the Storch brothers, Trish's bosses. But do they have the moral authority to decide what's right. When she discovers that Baby A's dreams are being sold on the black market in order to fund the program as a whole, Trish's faith in them as the arbiters of 'right' is tested, and it fails.

    At the end of the book, Trish realizes that the entire programs is little more than a house of cards. She removes one of the foundational cards by reporting on the sale of Baby A's dreams. This will no doubt bring the house down. She comes to this conclusion after spending a night wandering the streets with Mr. Harkonen. Mr Harkonen has put the doubts into her mind about what is right and what isn't. And what is good and what isn't.

    So, does the book draw a conclusion? YES. It draws the conclusion that ethics are not simple. It draws the conclusion that ethics are not simple even for those who are highly educated, accomplished, and at the centre of the decision making process. It draws the conclusion that there are no 'right' answers.

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    As an aside, it's surely impossible for a speculative fiction author to choose the name "Harkonnen" for a major character without evoking Dune. Does anyone have any thoughts as to this choice? Are the parents of Baby A being implicitly labelled as the Bad Guys?
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    I just now searched for it, and found this interview in which she says Dune was seminal for her. https://www.fantasybookreview.co.uk/top-100-fantasy-books/

    So she knew what she was doing.

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