The Dream Archipelago Week 10: The Watched, part 1
- We meet Yvann Ordier and his girlfriend, Jenessa. Yvann is a wealthy but retired entrepreneur, and Jenessa is an anthropologist.
- They are on the island of Tumo. Yvann settled here because he wanted to get away from it all.
- Jenessa is her to study a people called The Qataari, who were originally indigenous to the Qataari peninsula, but have been forced to relocate to a secluded valley on this island because of the war being fought in the south.
- We are also introduced to 'scintillas', nano-bot spying machines that seem to be everywhere. They keep appearing in Yvann's home, though he tries to detect them and remove them. Yvann made his fortune in the scintilla business, but now wants nothing to do with them. Yvann thinks that the latest sctintillas invading his home are part of an organized deployment.
- Jenessa and Yvann spend the morning together, but Yvann is anxious for Jenessa to leave, because he'd like to do something surreptitious - spy on the Qataari, and in particular one Qataari woman. He has become obsessed with her and unspecified Qataari 'rituals'.
- Finally, after some sunbathing and routine chat, Jenessa leaves for work. Yvann heads out to an old stone folly on his property that overlooks Qataari territory and brings his binoculars. He begins to spy, but we do not learn what he sees.
- When Yvann stands in his folly, observing the Qataari, fragrant Qataari Rose petals waft up to him on the wind.
- That evening, Yvann drives to Jenessa's apartment in Tumo Town. She has invited him to dinner so he can meet another anthropologist. Yvann doesn't seem much interested, but this seems important to her.
- The anthropologist is Jaqj Parren, and his wife is Luovi. Parren seems to have a cunning/questionable plan to watch the Qataari by plane. Jenessa seems sceptical, even scandalized.
- We learn that the Qataari are a people that refuse to be watched. When they know they are being watched, they freeze in place and refuse to act.
- The Qataari are described as a 'race' - one of the better known races in this world. Though they are insular by nature and keep others out, they do at times travel abroad and, when they do, it is to achieve great things. There are many stories of accomplished Qataari warriors, doctors, architects, builders, playwrights, artists, athletes, mathematicians, and disaster relief workers.
- A Qataari woman once explained that the Qataari are but actors, playing roles that are predetermined during a ritual that somehow resembles improv theatre. However, no outsider has been able to observe the Qataari doing this - or anything, really.
- In the valley on Tumo where the Qataari have settled, they have cleared farmland in which to raise the Qataari Rose - a fragrant rose with narcotic properties.
- Some familiar themes emerge - our characters are outsiders who came to the Archipelago. Yvann goes do far was to say that once people come here, they can't easily return home to the north. So it seems to be a one-way trip for most.
- Watching and spying is a major theme, and there are many layers. Yvann made the scintillas, tools for watching. He also made the scintilla detectors, tools for observing and locating the scintillas. He himself doesn't like to be watched. But he does like to discretely watch the Qataari, who themselves don't like to be watched.
- Do the Qataari live in a quantum world, where the act of watching changes that which is being observed?
- The role of Qataari as itinerant master craftspeople seems at odds with their other qualities. Why do you suppose Priest introduced this?
- More themes - old stoneworks with odd, forbidding, holes in them. These are places where one can hide and watch.
- More themes - narcotic effects in the air, which call into question the things the main character experiences. This hasn't happened yet in this novel, but Priest seems to be setting it up. We also encountered this in story called The Negation, in this book.