The Gradual Week 12
- Sandro accompanies the adepts to Yenna, where Renettia breaks his practice stave - he no longer needs it. There he helps a woman with a baby. Renettia says he appears to be a natural at this. Then they go to Cheoner where his next 'fare' is an older couple. Renettia sells the husband a new stave, and then they use a car to erase seven days from them. On Cheoner, there's a car for adepts to use, but on other islands they need to rent or use other, unspecified, means to get cars. Renettia drives the couple around while Sandro makes calculations. Eventually, he's no longer sure what to do, so Renettia examines his work and pronounces it to be correct, and the deficit erased. The couple are next heading to Nelquay and will need Sandro's help when they get there. Renettia will accompany him for moral support. They leave later, but arrive earlier, than the couple.
- Nelquay is in the far north, close to Faiandland. It's a cold place, and neither Sandro nor Renettia are used to it. They help the couple when they arrive on this island, but the couple seems dissatisfied - too expensive for what they did. Sandro and Renettia decide to head south, somewhere warmer - to Paneron, near Winho. Being near Winho, it has an emotional attachment to his brother.
- Paneron is a lushly beautiful island, part of The Swirl chain. It's a popular tourist destination and a transportation hub of The Swirl, so there are many adepts there - the usual crowd plus fifty more. After a few days on the island of easy detriment fixing, Renettia tells Sandro it's time for him to head off on his own. There's no more she can teach him. He plans to leave the next day. That night, at the request of the adepts, he puts on a solo violin concert in the square. The next day he goes to Dianme, the island that first stirred his heart.
- Dianme is "the cultivation of a lifetime of hopes". When he arrives, he corrects the increment, and this moves him into the warmer daylight of the day before, which makes the trip effectively instantaneous. "I had become an adept of time. I travelled free of time. I arrived at the same subjective moment as I left." However, Sandro finds Dianme bereft, with no natural music. It's not what he thought it was - not the place that stirred his early work of music, anyhow. He leaves shortly after - his journey will take him home.
- Sandro arrives at the port of Questiur in Glaund. With a plan in mind, he goes to the archive of the newspaper library in town and searches for something. Armed with this, he sets off again on a tour of several islands, arriving back in Questiur on a specific day, just in time for a specific event.
- Back in Questiur, Sandro goes to greet an arriving troop ship. Many soldiers are coming off - it's the de-mob of the 289th Battalion. Eventually, Sandro sees a small man with a violin slung over his shoulder - it's his brother Jacj. They greet in a long embrace, standing on the landing until all the remaining soldiers have passed.
- They go to a restaurant in Glaund City. Jacj explains that the last few days have been odd - that they had been dressed up for an official inspection by the Junta, but he had no idea why. Sandro, for his part, explains he's been travelling, but doesn't elaborate on any details. He does mention he's become a composer, and this doesn't surprise his brother.
- It turns out Jacj has been away for 4 rather boring years, which is why he still looks young. For Sandro, more than 40 have passed. Brothers being brothers, they find they don't have much to say. A crowd bursts in to the restaurant and the place gets loud with excitement. The Generalissima has been killed in a coup, and a general election is planned. Someone is playing rock music, a thing not normally heard. Jacj asks Sandro if he knew this was going to happen, but despite all his planning for this day, Sandro did not expect this. They decide to go somewhere quieter.
- They head back home to Errest on the train. Both wonder what awaits them? Will their parents be there? Jacj's cat? Sandro hopes to start composing again - music from his own inspiration, and not the music of the Gradual. He'll even make good on his promise to compose a triumphal march for the new government, complete with folk dance interludes and sea shanties.
- So, there it is - the end of the novel. Satisfying?
- What is your final take on this story - what Priest is trying to achieve? Is it about life and music, and how a record of life is like a sheet of music? It it more about time travel, about how travelling to the islands can be rejuvenating (despite the trials and tribulations along the way)? Is it about siezing second chances?
- Should we think about this book, or just 'feel' it?
- Just before the end, Priest spends a little more time with the adepts and we learn more details of adeptry, though it's barely anything. Why take us through this just before the close, do you think? Is it to generate a contrast at the end? The life the adept that he leaves behind could not be more different that the one that lies ahead.
- It seems he's not just going back in time (afterall, the events are already different - his brother has de-mobbed and the Generalissima is dead) so it seems likely we're talking about diverging spheres, here. Is this why (this time) he doesn't seem concerned about meeting himself at home?