The Dream Archipelago Week 5: The Miraculous Cairn pt 1

1

Summary

  • We meet Lenden Cross, a native of Jethra who has been away a long time teaching, now returned. Lenden is intending to visit Seevl. We later learn that this is to put the affairs of an Uncle Tom in order.
  • Because Faiandland is at war, Lenden must obtain permission to travel and is told to report to the police station. There Lenden is met by a female constable named Sarjeant Bella Reeth, a young and attractive woman. She tells Lenden that she is to be the escort on the trip to Seevl. Lenden doesn't think one is needed, but the decision has already been made.
  • They drive through Seevl, a place largely cleared out of people (the government has been relocated) due to the war and a bombing.
  • Reeth takes them to the Grand Shore Hotel, where rooms have been booked - presumably at the government's expense. The hotel is also empty. They are the only guests.
  • Having nothing to do, Lenden invites Reeth head to the bar for a drink, and exchange a little information.
  • Meanwhile, we learn of Lenden's previous relationship with the island. Aunt Alvie and Uncle Tom lived here, and when Alvie turned sick, the whole family visited regularly. These were boring trips for Lenden, who really had nothing to do but be around old and sick people. There was a cousin, Seraphina, who spent time with her, but Lenden didn't seem to be able to make any connection with her.
  • After drinks and dinner, they return to their rooms. A little while later, Reeth (now to be called Bella) knocks on the door and asks if she can use a plug in the room for the hairdryer. There is some sensual tension between the two, what with the crawling on the carpet for the plug and nothing but a towel between the two.
  • In the end, Bella propositions Lenden, who declines and isn't sure why. Bella returns to her room.
  • Lenden reveals a personal conflict between sexual attraction and repulsion ever since those times spent with cousin Seri.

Discussion

  • You may recall that Seevl is the island of vampiric towers. The towers and the mood of the place are mentioned only so far in passing here.
  • There is some similarity between the circumstances of this story and the other set on Seevl - both feature characters who have travelled from abroad in order to put a relative's affairs in order. Do you think there's a reason this is used twice in a story about Seevl?
  • No word of a cairn of any kind yet in the story, one notes...

Comments

  • 0

    I went back and reread the Seevl chapter in Islanders to see how much overlap there was, but in this case (contra some of the previous bits we have read) there is almost none, though the overall setting (mountainous, close to the mainland, with barren moorlands etc) is of course consistent.

    One clear difference was that in Islanders, the psychic/vampiric impact of the towers was apparent to visitors as soon as they landed (or in some cases, even as they caught sight of the towers). There was a whole subplot about particular kinds of glass that acted as a kind of insulator to block the effect. In this case, although Lenden Cross finds his childhood trips to the island to be boring, this does not seem related in any way to the towers, but rather to the content of the trips, which so far as he was concerned were done under duress and because as a child he had no choice about it.

    It was slightly refreshing in this story that the couple thrown together under strained circumstances didn't take early advantage of the situation to leap into bed! In Islanders, there was a brief delay involving a bolster and some imagined glass, but neither of those barriers lasted very long. Here, the two protagonists, and especially Lenden, clearly come along with baggage which is blocking the straight-to-sex angle.

    And yes you're right, there are no cairns as yet, miraculous or otherwise.

    In terms of its place in the book and the wider series of books, I felt this was quite an accessible portion which got you directly into some sense of progress, and in which the motivations of both people and organisations seemed to make sense.

  • 1

    Religion appears! Not only do we have religion, we have Catholicism! I think it's the first time religion has been mentioned in either this book or the previous one. Priest doesn't particularly do anything with it, but it exists.

    The other thing I noticed: the Archipelago is somewhere you visit, not somewhere you live. Of all the stories we've read, I can only recall one that had people at home, and even that revolved around a mysterious other island. (The story with the mapping drones and the island with explosions in the tunnels.) People are always visiting other places, with the feelings of dislocation that come with it.

    @RichardAbbott said:
    One clear difference was that in Islanders, the psychic/vampiric impact of the towers was apparent to visitors as soon as they landed (or in some cases, even as they caught sight of the towers). There was a whole subplot about particular kinds of glass that acted as a kind of insulator to block the effect. In this case, although Lenden Cross finds his childhood trips to the island to be boring, this does not seem related in any way to the towers, but rather to the content of the trips, which so far as he was concerned were done under duress and because as a child he had no choice about it.

    I don't know, there seems to be a clear message from the text that the towers greatly contribute to Lenden's feelings of unease. There's plenty else that's unpleasant, but the towers are called out as something distinct.

    It was slightly refreshing in this story that the couple thrown together under strained circumstances didn't take early advantage of the situation to leap into bed!

    Not through lack of trying! Is there some wish-fulfilment here? Middle-aged man meets attractive young woman in uniform and she immediately falls for him and tries to get him into bed.

  • 0
    > @NeilNjae said:
    > Religion appears! Not only do we have religion, we have Catholicism! I think it's the first time religion has been mentioned in either this book or the previous one. Priest doesn't particularly do anything with it, but it exists.
    >

    I meant to mention this before and sadly forgot... the casual mention of Catholicism, and the phrase the priests used "bore her cross" seemed weird interjections into a world that by and large has no signs of organised religion. I'm sure Catholic theologians would be delighted at the thought that it exists in broadly the same form in an entirely different world, but it didn’t work for me, and threw me out of the internal world of the story.

    I remember us talking during Islanders about the unexplained similarities with Western Europe and fairly liberal Western religion, but this was at a very general level, not so very explicitly.
  • 1

    The 'Lord of Mystery' has performed a misdirection and fooled all of us in one regard, as you'll see with the next chunk of reading.

Sign In or Register to comment.