The Gradual Week 5

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Summary

  1. One day Sandro notices a small announcement that the 286th Battalion will be returning home, triumphant. He's never seen such a notice before, but it catches his eye because it's only 3 number away from his brother's Battalion, the 289th. A library search reveals that other such notices have been posted in the past, but none for the 289th. This sets Sandro to wondering if maybe the 289th had been reorganized. He sends an e-mail to an advertised agency to help families track down soldiers, but gets no reply.

  2. He decides to go and greet the incoming ship with the returning 286th Battalion all the same. He takes the train to the port, but after leaving it he is intercepted by some soldiers, who bundle him brusquely into a heavy black car. The car beetles down the road and into an alley, where he is ushered through the side door of a building. They tell him he hasn't been arrested and give him a chance to fix his (now mussed) appearance, without explaining why he should. Soon his is thrust through a door into a sort of military wine and cheese party, where he finds himself introduced to a crowd by none other than the Generalissima Flauuran - chief of the ruling military junta. The generalissima calls him Glaund's greatest living composer, and offers him a commission to write a patriotic symphony for the nation. Too nonplussed to refuse, Sandro says 'yes' in spite of a number of questionable conditions. He is given a large sum in the way of a banker's draft and told that a private audience will follow.

  3. In private audience with the generalissima, she informs him of the rules of his contract. Sandro reflects on her absolute power, and for a brief moment entertains the notion of killing her on the spot, which surprises him as a non-violent person. He hates her. His anxiety rises and he expresses a need to escape. He learns that his brother, Jacj, is now a captain in the army and is alive and well - but no more information is offered, and he is discouraged from making further inquiry. He is presented with a contract, upon which his signature in not required. He is told that his wife must appear always at his side in public. Eventually, he asks to leave.

  4. Back in the streets, Sandro wanders for a time in the rain and snow until he finds a familiar cafe in which to compose himself. He descends into the metro system, thinking to go home, but at the last minute changes his mind and heads for the harbour.

  5. At the wharf, a black ship is disgorging soldiers in civilian clothes. He follows them for a time before asking if they're from the 286th. The answer is yes, but he's told not to speak to the soldiers and told where family can wait for them.

  6. Sandro returns home. He resolves to leave Glaund for good, and spends the winter putting his affairs in order. With Denn Mytrie's help, he hides his money (including the substantial amount paid to him by the government) in an anonymous offshore account on Muriseay.

Discussion

  • A sudden twist sees Sandro in the crosshairs of his (potentially hostile) home government. Were you surprised by this, or did you expect it?
  • Does the Generalissima remind you of anyone?
  • Surely, his preparations are foolproof and couldn't possibly go wrong.

Comments

  • 1

    I think we're supposed to understand that the bureaucratic stonewalling of Sandro about Jacj is deliberate, giving the first impression of a humane government while revealing nothing.

    I'm not sure if we're supposed to infer that Sandro's commission to write the music is as a result of his enquiries about Jacj, or whether it's just a coincidence. I was expecting someone to take notice of his actions, but not in this way!

    What seems out of character is Sandro's sudden decision to flee. I suppose the money gives him the opportunity to move to the islands, as he always wanted to. But it seems extreme and out of character from what we've seen before. Even if he did a poor job on the military commission, there's no reason to think his career wouldn't continue.

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    In a way, it does seem out of character because he’s never really complained about his home country or his leader before. On the other hand, I think we can accept that he’s somehow been changed by his travels in the islands, so maybe this is not so much out of character, as character change. But doesn’t it seem quite sudden, and certainly not ‘gradual?
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    I can't quite get my head round the idea that The State could so effectively suppress all information about the whereabouts of military units for so many decades! I can't think of an analogy here in our world - and certainly not in a modern connected world which we know has phones, radio, internet, a global transport network etc etc. Given that we know of a deserters' support network running through the Archipelago, it seems hard to believe that there isn't a covert information network that servicemen and women or their families could tap into.

    On the other hand, the idea that The State would apparently provide these sources, yet not actually provide genuinely useful information seems credible to me. I guess I was expecting something more subversive to be going alongside that.

    I wonder if the Generalissima realises the musical monstrosity she is "asking" Sandro to write? Or if it all seems totally in keeping. Very much echo @NeilNjae saying that while it is no surprise that Sandro's rather naive searches drew official attention, the nature of the response seems strange. Is it to force his hand into either exposure or else tethered loyalty?

    @Apocryphal said:

    • Surely, his preparations are foolproof and couldn't possibly go wrong.

    Given that his earlier searches were uncovered (and surely it wouldn't take a lot of technical knowledge for him to work out this could be done) I am surprised that he was so confident about his money movements. Ad that The State wouldn't keep slightly closer tabs on what he was doing with the large sum involved.

    The intensity of his reaction to the Generalissima came as a surprise to me. I mean, I get that as an artist he would find the constraints of The State to be frustrating, but this seemed a much more visceral and personal reaction, to a person who (apparently) is almost never seen in an official capacity and lets others do the up-front stuff.

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    I think his confidence comes from naïveté.
    Is the Generalissima Margaret Thatcher?
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    @Apocryphal said:
    Is the Generalissima Margaret Thatcher?

    She was hardly someone who stayed in the background and didn't want to be seen by the public :) On the other hand she apparently did have fantasies of being royalty rather than an appointed official put in place by an elected government, so maybe there's something in that!

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    @RichardAbbott said:
    I can't quite get my head round the idea that The State could so effectively suppress all information about the whereabouts of military units for so many decades! I can't think of an analogy here in our world - and certainly not in a modern connected world which we know has phones, radio, internet, a global transport network etc etc. Given that we know of a deserters' support network running through the Archipelago, it seems hard to believe that there isn't a covert information network that servicemen and women or their families could tap into.

    On the other hand, Sandro's not really been looking for unofficial sources of information on military, and there's been no real reason for him to be contacted by the deserters' network.

    Given that his earlier searches were uncovered (and surely it wouldn't take a lot of technical knowledge for him to work out this could be done) I am surprised that he was so confident about his money movements. Ad that The State wouldn't keep slightly closer tabs on what he was doing with the large sum involved.

    But he's shown no real attempts to leave Glaund before now, so he probably isn't tracked that closely. After all, he went once before, returned, and had a bad experience from the trip. Why would the civil service allocate someone go through all the hassle of getting court orders to view his financial records, and then monitor them and trace the movements? I can see he was assessed as a low-risk person and therefore ignored until he fails to deliver the symphony.

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    @NeilNjae said:

    @RichardAbbott said:
    I can't quite get my head round the idea that The State could so effectively suppress all information about the whereabouts of military units for so many decades! I can't think of an analogy here in our world - and certainly not in a modern connected world which we know has phones, radio, internet, a global transport network etc etc. Given that we know of a deserters' support network running through the Archipelago, it seems hard to believe that there isn't a covert information network that servicemen and women or their families could tap into.

    On the other hand, Sandro's not really been looking for unofficial sources of information on military, and there's been no real reason for him to be contacted by the deserters' network.

    Given that his earlier searches were uncovered (and surely it wouldn't take a lot of technical knowledge for him to work out this could be done) I am surprised that he was so confident about his money movements. Ad that The State wouldn't keep slightly closer tabs on what he was doing with the large sum involved.

    But he's shown no real attempts to leave Glaund before now, so he probably isn't tracked that closely. After all, he went once before, returned, and had a bad experience from the trip. Why would the civil service allocate someone go through all the hassle of getting court orders to view his financial records, and then monitor them and trace the movements? I can see he was assessed as a low-risk person and therefore ignored until he fails to deliver the symphony.

    Both fair points - he's probably seen as uninteresting and low risk

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    @Apocryphal said:
    Discussion

    • A sudden twist sees Sandro in the crosshairs of his (potentially hostile) home government. Were you surprised by this, or did you expect it?

    He has barely mentioned the government before this, and not mentioned any member of it, yet now he hates the Generalissima so virulently he wants to kill her? And WTF is this contract about? It is the stupidest contract ever thought of. It almost seems designed to make Sandro emigrate! Quelle suprise! And now in the crosshairs of this deadly brutal Junta, he has no problem transferring all that money offshore? I roll to disbelieve!

    • Does the Generalissima remind you of anyone?

    No. Should it?

    • Surely, his preparations are foolproof and couldn't possibly go wrong.

    Actually, I expect they are foolproof, because that's where the author wants him to go.

  • 1
    @clash_bowley your going to hate the next batch of chapters.

    The thing is, this setting is built like a house of cards. A house of cards can be a marvel to behold, but it doesn’t bear close scrutiny. The minute you take one card out to examine it more closely, the entire house falls down, and you can never rebuild it exactly like it was.
  • 1

    @Apocryphal said:
    @clash_bowley your going to hate the next batch of chapters.

    The thing is, this setting is built like a house of cards. A house of cards can be a marvel to behold, but it doesn’t bear close scrutiny. The minute you take one card out to examine it more closely, the entire house falls down, and you can never rebuild it exactly like it was.

    An excellent simile, Apochriphal! I hope I can get through it by gritting my teeth and refusing to examine what I am told... :P

  • 1

    Speaking of the next batch - it is scheduled to include chapters 36 to 40, but I'll ask you to include 41 as well, as the end of 41 is a better logical break. This adds about 5 pages.

  • 1

    @clash_bowley I think we can examine it metaphorically, but the logic being used is not the logic we're used to. We may all struggle to find what that logic is, by the end. You know how in the multiverse, physicists say that different universes have different laws of physics? Well, we've found ourselves in another universe. There's no point complaining it's not the universe we're used to. We can either (a) enjoy the trip passively and just follow the story, or we can (b) actively try to figure out what the new physics are, or we can (c) leave this universe altogether by closing the book and going back to our own universe, where we can tell everyone what a bad trip we had and how they didn't use forks. I'm certainly going for option B right now. I'm not ready for option C but I'm not ruling it out, either!

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    > @Apocryphal said:
    > Speaking of the next batch - it is scheduled to include chapters 36 to 40, but I'll ask you to include 41 as well, as the end of 41 is a better logical break. This adds about 5 pages.

    No problem... I haven't started this week's chapters yet so will just push on to include 41!
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    > @Apocryphal said:
    > @clash_bowley I think we can examine it metaphorically, but the logic being used is not the logic we're used to. We may all struggle to find what that logic is, by the end. You know how in the multiverse, physicists say that different universes have different laws of physics? Well, we've found ourselves in another universe...

    I'm going with my Faeryland analogy that struck me when he lost/gained all that time on the first orchestra tour! Traditionally in such things the person ends up unable to settle in either world - he or she has lost his or her taste for the original one, can't fit in so well anymore, so tries to go back, but you can never really tread the same waters twice.
  • 1
    That’s an interesting take.
  • 1

    @Apocryphal said:
    @clash_bowley I think we can examine it metaphorically, but the logic being used is not the logic we're used to. We may all struggle to find what that logic is, by the end. You know how in the multiverse, physicists say that different universes have different laws of physics? Well, we've found ourselves in another universe. There's no point complaining it's not the universe we're used to. We can either (a) enjoy the trip passively and just follow the story, or we can (b) actively try to figure out what the new physics are, or we can (c) leave this universe altogether by closing the book and going back to our own universe, where we can tell everyone what a bad trip we had and how they didn't use forks. I'm certainly going for option B right now. I'm not ready for option C but I'm not ruling it out, either!

    Yes. You are correct. I have to deal with it one way or the other.

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