The Islanders Week 12: High / Brother to Cathedral

1

SUMMARY

Sentier (High / Brother)

  • Sentier is a semi-arid island with permissive laws that makes it popular with back-packers.
  • Wines are a popular export, but Sentier city remains a small backwater.
  • Near the town of Culver are unusual ruins from the time of the first (Glaundian) Federation invasion, before the making of the Covenant.
  • For a time there was an artist's colony. Bathurst was here and painted a mediocre work.
  • PENDIK MUDURNU, an astronomer, built the world's largest optical telescope here.
  • The mime artiste COMMIS and the philosopher VISKER DELOINNE both hail from the island.

Siff (Whistling One)

  • Siff has now largely disappeared, but can be visited by glass-bottom boat.
  • Artist DRYD BATHURST stayed here for a time. He engaged in cuckolding and painted one of his apocalyptic masterpieces, Night of Final Wrath.
  • A hundred years later, Siff eventually collapsed into the sea.
  • It's destruction is due to rampant tunneling by JORDENN YO and other tunneling enthusiasts.
  • Yo described the droning sound made by the wind through the tunnels as 'The Music of Sea & Skies'.

Smuj (Old Ruin / Stick for Stirring / Cave with Echo)

  • This entry consists of a journalistic account written by DANT WILLER of her visit to the island. We previously encountered Dant Willer as a journalist and E.E. CAURER's body double.
  • Willer travelled to Smuj by ferry, and found it small, charming, and unspoilt.
  • People might come here for scuba, yachting, horse racing, or the better than average food. There's also an old ruin in the hills, over a thousand years old.
  • There are 3 different ethnic Patois systems on the island, and this is one of the few places with mild ethnic tension in the Archipelago.
  • One of Caurer's Special Schools ('School of Caurer Instruction for ages 6-18) is also located here.
  • Willer gives an account of her first in-person encounter with E. Caurer, and how she gave up her career to serve Caurer (and become her body double).
  • The events described here occur after Caurer's reported death by 'infection/infestation' following Kammeston's funeral (described in the Rawthersay chapters), so presumably that death was a fiction.

Winho (Cathedral)

  • Winho is described as 'the island of whores'.
  • It is scenic & mountainous with a subtropical climate.
  • It was invaded twice by Faiand before the full force of the Covenant of Neutrality took force. The first time, they were ousted by the Glaundian Federation. Then they returned with a vengeance. Both occupations resulted in atrocities visited on the locals, including mass murder and forced prostitution.
  • The island was a special concern of ELSA CAURER.
  • For a time, DRYD BATHURST had a studio here. CHASTER KAMMESTON came to visit him for 2 weeks while researching the biography he was writing. He was so disgusted by Bathurst's personal life that he set work on the book aside for 2 years.
  • Author MOYLITA KAINE (first encountered in the letter exchange with Kammeston, then later after picking up the remains of a dead soldier from a military base) also lived on this island for a time while researching the effects of the Faiand occupations.
  • Winho is still and island in crisis. Visitors are only allowed 48 hour visas, and deserters are turned away. It seems that most island income still comes from the passing military vessels and the recreational needs of their crews.

QUESTIONS/DISCUSSON

  • These are the last of the 'gazetteer' style entries in the book (next week's entry, the last one, will be a 'story' type entry). Together, they mention most of the recurring characters in the book, and re-visit several recurring themes, like the egotistical nature of artists and the terrible ways military forces carry on. Do they bring anything new, or do they rather serve as a conclusion?
  • Do you think Priest is contrasting 'visual artsts' against 'authors'?
  • Priest spends a lot of time on the collateral effects of military activity and occupation in this book, but next to none on the fighting. Any thoughts on this?
  • Many of the translations of patois names reflect the character of the island. Some, like Whistling One for Siff, Old Ruin for Smuj, or High for Sentier and it's lax drug laws, are more or less obvious. What do you make of the likes of Stick for Stirring, Cave with Echo, or Cathedral?

Comments

  • 1

    A couple of other things. Kammeston makes a big thing about never leaving Rathersway, yet there he is in Winho. The dates in the Siff entry suggest that Kammeston, Bathurst et al. were active about 300 years before the entry was written. An entry in a book that has an introduction by Kammeston.

    There was the statement of the immortality treatment earlier. How many characters in the book have undergone it? How many are people who've undergone that treatment, had their personhood erased, and had it replaced by one of the great and the good? Is there now an ever-living Kammeston, who has both left and not left the island?

    Are we to draw a comparison between Bathurst's philandering and the soldier's whoring? Or between the destruction caused by artists and the destruction caused by war? I'm not sure these chapters introduce anything new, but they perhaps make the message more obvious.

    The patois names may have some hidden message, but I'm not clever enough to begin to decipher it.

  • 0

    Another recurring theme is a constant tension between "this island is so great that nobody leaves it once having come" versus "these well-known people have all lived on pretty much very listed island". And also, I guess, a tension between how difficult it is to plan movements around versus how many places people have visited. Perhaps this apparent "everywhere we go we find the same people" is actually telling us that the purpose of the gazette is not to exhaustively describe the islands in toto, but rather to highlight the lives of a handful of people that the author(s) consider important?

    In connection with the soldiers, have we ever learned what the fighting is all about? Are they kind of wargames that the northern countries play at somewhere safely remote from their own dwelling places? Or are the stakes real? From the islanders' perspective it all seems incomprehensible, with the spin-off off of considerable numbers of mostly young people adding to the islands' population.

    Immortality: yes, good thought @NeilNjae - perhaps the immortals regularly fake their own deaths so as not to arouse hostility from the rest?

    I don't think any of us has got to grips with the names, and whether there is any kind of pattern to them. In parallel with this read, I have been working my way through the Expanse series (someone else in the club was doing this, maybe @dr_mitch or @Ray_Otus ? Anyway, one of the many excellent things about that series is the way the authors take seriously Belter communication as a patois amalgamation of lots of Earth languages. To my ears it doesn't work as well in the streamed version, but the written one is delightfully done in terms of giving you just enough points of contact to know what is intended. Here, in contrast, all we have is a large collection of names which (so far) have defied understanding and grasping the rationale.

  • 1

    Yes, I've read all of the Expanse, including the short stories (which I recommend). Pretty great stuff. Not high literature, but solid storytelling in a hard (-ish?) SF world.

    I'm behind on Islanders, but hope to catch up soon.

  • 1

    @Apocryphal said:
    QUESTIONS/DISCUSSON

    • These are the last of the 'gazetteer' style entries in the book (next week's entry, the last one, will be a 'story' type entry). Together, they mention most of the recurring characters in the book, and re-visit several recurring themes, like the egotistical nature of artists and the terrible ways military forces carry on. Do they bring anything new, or do they rather serve as a conclusion?

    More circling back. Reinforcement in case you didn't get it yet.

    • Do you think Priest is contrasting 'visual artsts' against 'authors'?

    No. They are both pretty much jerks in the book.

    • Priest spends a lot of time on the collateral effects of military activity and occupation in this book, but next to none on the fighting. Any thoughts on this?

    Like most authors, he hasn't the slightest idea on what the military actually do or how they work, so he makes stuff up out of whole cloth. Writers like Varley or Tolkien who served are a different story.

    • Many of the translations of patois names reflect the character of the island. Some, like Whistling One for Siff, Old Ruin for Smuj, or High for Sentier and it's lax drug laws, are more or less obvious. What do you make of the likes of Stick for Stirring, Cave with Echo, or Cathedral?

    Priest playing silly games again.

    I couldn't even accept Winho as a entry unrelated to any of the others. It's so absurd and stupid as to be objectionable in and of itself. Women without men will all become whores because what else could they possibly do? Male children born to these whores over the hundreds of years since the removal of the men will make no difference to the previous inevitability, and will apparently pimp out their mothers, sisters, and wives. That is stupid, disgusting, and ridiculous on the face of it.

  • 1
    edited April 23

    @NeilNjae said:
    A couple of other things. Kammeston makes a big thing about never leaving Rathersway, yet there he is in Winho. The dates in the Siff entry suggest that Kammeston, Bathurst et al. were active about 300 years before the entry was written. An entry in a book that has an introduction by Kammeston.

    Yes, that's a mystery. My working theory is that the intro wasn't written by Kammeston at all. Perhaps by his brother before he died? Probably it's all just games.

    There was the statement of the immortality treatment earlier. How many characters in the book have undergone it? How many are people who've undergone that treatment, had their personhood erased, and had it replaced by one of the great and the good? Is there now an ever-living Kammeston, who has both left and not left the island?

    Maybe... or maybe Kammeston's 'never leaving the island' was always just a fiction.

    Are we to draw a comparison between Bathurst's philandering and the soldier's whoring? Or between the destruction caused by artists and the destruction caused by war? I'm not sure these chapters introduce anything new, but they perhaps make the message more obvious.

    I think Bathurst is drawn to places like this, if nothing else. I didn't see anything new here, either, but I miss as much as the next person.

    The patois names may have some hidden message, but I'm not clever enough to begin to decipher it.

    I don't think there's a 'hidden' message, myself. I think many of the English translations actually reflect the nature of the island. But I'm not sure that's consistent across the book. I didn't immediately see how all the names were relevant. Perhaps they weren't.

    @RichardAbbott said:
    Perhaps this apparent "everywhere we go we find the same people" is actually telling us that the purpose of the gazette is not to exhaustively describe the islands in toto, but rather to highlight the lives of a handful of people that the author(s) consider important?

    Hence the name 'The Islanders'?

    In connection with the soldiers, have we ever learned what the fighting is all about? Are they kind of wargames that the northern countries play at somewhere safely remote from their own dwelling places? Or are the stakes real? From the islanders' perspective it all seems incomprehensible, with the spin-off off of considerable numbers of mostly young people adding to the islands' population.

    I think Priest's message is that war does more harm than good. Possibly he's tapping into something other authors have touched on (LeGuin, Freya Stark) which is that some people fight because they want to fight.

    Immortality: yes, good thought @NeilNjae - perhaps the immortals regularly fake their own deaths so as not to arouse hostility from the rest?

    It was mentioned that they do.

    @clash_bowley said:
    No. They are both pretty much jerks in the book.

    People who put themselves in harms way to rescue people, recoup the bodies of the fallen, and write about social atrocities are jerks?

    Like most authors, he hasn't the slightest idea on what the military actually do or how they work, so he makes stuff up out of whole cloth. Writers like Varley or Tolkien who served are a different story.

    What did he make up about the effects of military occupation that didn't add up? I don't think he attempted describing how the military actually works. The whole notion of travelling around the world to fight for nothing is clearly a metaphorical construct.

    Women without men will all become whores because what else could they possibly do? Male children born to these whores over the hundreds of years since the removal of the men will make no difference to the previous inevitability, and will apparently pimp out their mothers, sisters, and wives. That is stupid, disgusting, and ridiculous on the face of it.

    I suppose that might be true if that's what Priest had written. All he said was that the men were 'disappeared' (presumed massacred) and the remaining women, having no recourse, either fled or found a way to live as prostitutes. This is hardly far-fetched; Isis did this even recently. Priest then he goes on to say that that Winho still has a prostitution problem because of the passing military ships. He never says the locals are pimping out their wives and sisters, or even that the prostitutes in question are locals, though it's implied some are. The book I'm reading points to the aggressor nations as the problem, and the locals as victims.

  • 1
    edited April 23

    @Apocryphal said:

    This was my reply, which was not mentioned and thus looked like this was Richard's reply

    No. They are both pretty much jerks in the book.

    People who put themselves in harms way to rescue people, recoup the bodies of the fallen, and write about social atrocities are jerks?

    Apologies. I was thinking about Bathurst and Kammeston and Yo. I had forgotten about Kaine.

    Women without men will all become whores because what else could they possibly do? Male children born to these whores over the hundreds of years since the removal of the men will make no difference to the previous inevitability, and will apparently pimp out their mothers, sisters, and wives. That is stupid, disgusting, and ridiculous on the face of it.

    I suppose that might be true if that's what Priest had written. All he said was that the men were 'disappeared' (presumed massacred) and the remaining women, having no recourse, either fled or found a way to live as prostitutes. This is hardly far-fetched; Isis did this even recently. Priest then he goes on to say that that Winho still has a prostitution problem because of the passing military ships. He never says the locals are pimping out their wives and sisters, or even that the prostitutes in question are locals, though it's implied some are. The book I'm reading points to the aggressor nations as the problem, and the locals as victims.

    We agree to disagree here. You seem to have read something completely different than I, therefore there is nothing we can say.

  • 1

    @clash_bowley There's that old question about whether the writer or the reader is more important :-)

  • 1

    True enough! :p

  • 0

    Fictoplasm mentions The Dream Archipelago in passing in their most recent entry (which actually discusses a podcast about The Channel Islands).

    http://www.fictoplasm.net/2021/04/18/podcast-sunday-3/

  • 1
    > @Apocryphal said:
    > (Quote)
    > Hence the name 'The Islanders'?
    >

    This made me think of the long-running UK soap opera Eastenders, a moderately dark series which - like The Islanders - doesn't attempt to cover all of London's East End, nor all the people who live there... just a particular subset living in a small geographic area thereof.

    Now, I'm not saying that CP is writing the book version of a soap, but there are a few similarities... the focus on a few key people, the attention to their slightly scandalous goings on, the vagueness of the wider context, the unimportance of the large mass of people who are nor major figures.
Sign In or Register to comment.