The Dream Archipelago Week 12: The Watched, conclusion

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Summary

  • It is five days since Ordier last say the Qataari. He awakes early in the morning, having decided that the woman is indeed an offering.
  • Jenessa wakes after him, but leaves early to take Parren to the ferry for Muriseay. Apparently his plane is ready.
  • After she leaves, Ordier prances about his room, speaking to the Qataari via their imagined scintilla. His statements contradict themselves. He embarks on a pantomime dance, but is interrupted by Luovi Parren, who catches him unaware.
  • Luovi seems to be flirting. She asks where Jenessa is, and points out that she can't be with Jacj, because Jacj left for Muriseay two days prior. She also tells Ordier that the scintilla have already been seeded. She says she knows that Ordier has been spying on the Qataari, and threatens to reveal this to Jenessa.
  • Ordier tells Luovi to leave, but when he sees she's going to wrong way, he offers to drive her into town. She refuses, and treats the offer like a threat. He lets her go.
  • Ordier then goes down to the folly to once again spy on the Qataari. As he guessed, the ritual resumes exactly where it last left off - the lies in the middle of the circle amid the rose petals. There are also petals in the folly. Ordier watches as the woman is tied, stripped, and covered in rose petals.
  • He's convinced she's an offering and decides to go down to her. He makes his way to the bottom and explores the area of the ritual, even looking inside the statues. He's convinced he's being watched. He follows the rope to the centre, but finds the woman is gone. He lies down with the knot of ropes between his shoulders.
  • He lays back amid the rose petals and stares up at the planes diverging from the vortex.

Discussion

  • What did you think of the ending? Was it satisfying? Typical for Priest? What meaning did it hold?
  • Free will vs determination are discussed in this section. What do these have to do with being watched?
  • What do you make of the the difference between Jenessa's timeline of Jacj's activities, and Luovi's version?
  • What's behind Luovi's threat to expose Ordier, and why should he care if his activities are revealed?
  • What's the significance of the vortex at the end?

Comments

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    I was disappointed by the ending. It seemed to be utterly self-centred, with Ordier concluding that the entire situation was engineered purely for his benefit and his reaction: the folly, his purchase of it, the ritual, the comings and goings, everything. Ordier concludes that it's all for him, and therefore us readers are asked to believe the same. And even, after all that, there was no conclusion.

    There was potential for the story to say something about surveillance and how the surveilled could manipulate the surveillers. But Priest flubbed that.

    I think we're supposed to believe that Janessa was telling the truth about Jacj Parren, Luovi was lying, and perhaps Luovi is working with the Qataari.

    The planes in the vortex is, I think, Priest's motif of these stories. I don't think there's much to read into it.

    In the end, I think we got an insight into Ordier's egotistical and voyeuristic fantasies, and not much more.

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    Also disappointed, after the build up in the first 2/3 which seemed very promising.

    My take on parts of it was that CP was again exploring hallucinogenic effects, this time from the rose petals as opposed to grenades or the like. So this section made me wonder if the Qataari woman had ever been there at all, or whether the whole ritual scene was basically in his head. Which would explain what we talked about earlier, that the physical appearance of said woman was not especially equatorial, and also why he becamse convinced that her eyes were those of Jenessa. He's seeing things not as they are but as his own aesthetic senses make them.

    That said, I didn't feel that enough was done with the ending, and very much echo what @NeilNjae said.

    It doesn't really make much difference, but I went with the interpretation that Jenessa was telling the truth, and Luovi lying, but I couldn't really see what motive she (Luovi) would have. And where did she go? There was a big deal about her not going towards the town and instead heading towards the broken ground where she could hide amongst huge boulders, but then what? Should we think that she was the one watching Ordier through binoculars as he frolicked about in the arena? Or was that again an unreal thing brought on by his own paranoia and the hallucinogenic effect of the roses? And do we assume that Ordier passed out? Died? Drifted off into sleep and pleasant dreams?

    I think probably the ending was typical of CP in that there was no real resolution of the events, characters or questions raised by the story. Sometimes that has worked, and I certainly am not looking for everything to be neatly tied up by the final dot. Some mystery and open-endedness is surely good. But I'd have liked a bit more follow-through of the main themes of the story, and a bit more sense that there was more than just a good setup/

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    Like both of you, I was disappointed in the ending. There were so many loose threads, and it is difficult to tie the themes together. With respect to the watcher/watched dichotomy, there isn’t really a final punchline. My initial response was the same as Neil’s.

    But having time to think a little more, I’m wondering if ‘time distortions’ are playing a role at the end, as perhaps suggested by the vortices. When Ordier wakes jump, Jenessa leaves to take Jacj to the ferry. Then Luovi shows up and from her perspective it’s two days later. The scintilla have been sowed. Ordier goes to the folly and sees what he expects - a ritual scene that picks up exactly where it left off five days earlier. Yet when he goes down to the circle, it’s all over. The scintilla have been sowed and the the Qataari have left. The planes caught in the vortex above are flying, but appear not to be moving, suggesting that, in this spot and time, all things are happening at once. Priest’s latest book, The Evidence, explores the idea of temporal distortion further, calling the phenomenon’mutability’.

    I can’t quite shake the idea that this all has something to do with quantum physics, and that the act of observing changes the properties of the observed.

    But all that said, I rather like Richards idea that the ritual is all in Ordier’s head.

    Maybe there are just too many themes and ideas in here to wrap them all up cleanly.
  • 1

    I felt this ending was flat and confusing, so I guess it's unanimous. If CP was intending us to think of time distortions, there were not enough clues to point to that. It could be, or it could all be in Ordier's head, or it could be lies, and, frankly, who cares? I was very disappointed in the ending, and felt like CP just got tired of it and threw something together so he could call it done. When CP is at his best, you are left with a crawling disgust, and when he is at his worst, an indifferent confusion.

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    @RichardAbbott said:
    My take on parts of it was that CP was again exploring hallucinogenic effects, this time from the rose petals as opposed to grenades or the like. So this section made me wonder if the Qataari woman had ever been there at all, or whether the whole ritual scene was basically in his head. Which would explain what we talked about earlier, that the physical appearance of said woman was not especially equatorial, and also why he becamse convinced that her eyes were those of Jenessa. He's seeing things not as they are but as his own aesthetic senses make them.

    I could well believe that everything Ordier saw was a hallucination. But if that was what Priest wanted us to think, he did a bad job communicating that. The same goes for time distortions or any other explanation of the story: us readers have no way of knowing what Priest was trying to say.

    As for the appearance, I got the impression that all Qataari were light-skinned, not just the woman in the ritual.


    On the other hand, is this the first real dud of a story we've had in this collection?

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