Claw of the Conciliator, chapters 4 to 6

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Severian receives a letter supposedly from Thecla- who survived and escaped according to the letter. He dashes off to a cave where the letter said to meet where he is assailed by ape creatures-- who are awed by the Claw when Severian pulls it out and it shines with light in their presence.

Comments

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    Some action, but again, Severian is shown to be the favored fool of God, as he should have died for his sheer stupidity. :D

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    We also discovered that Severian lost Dorcas, Talos, and the rest during the crush at the wall. This makes his lack of concern for them callous. He may not have much affection for Talos and co, but he did seem rather protective towards Dorcas.

    I'm glad we won't be getting more torture/execution scenes.

    @clash_bowley : "Favoured fool of God" is a lovely way of describing Severian. He really is a bumbling fool throughout this story. And he's destined to become the supreme leader? In a few months, he says?

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    Am I the only one who assumes the letter from Thecla was a fake, penned by Agia in order to create another trap?

    Re: the whole 'lack of concern for Dorcas' line - there's a maxim in history that says "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence." Just because he hasn't mentioned Dorcas much in his recollection of past events, doesn't mean he had no concern for her. In fact, he did admit to dreaming about her earlier.

    But that said, he's clearly most in love with the the most recent girl to cast attention his way, whoever that may be at any given moment.

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    @Apocryphal said:
    Am I the only one who assumes the letter from Thecla was a fake, penned by Agia in order to create another trap?

    Why do you think i called him a fool? :D

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    Oh yes, the letter's seems like it's very likely to be a fake from Agia. For all Severian felt he was powerfully attracted to Agia, he spent an awful lot of time in her company talking about Thecla. And I agree, he's an idiot.

    I agree his attitude towards Dorcas feels callous. It doesn't feel like she's important to him. The most generous interpretation is that she's unimportant to the story he's telling, but I don't feel too generous towards him at the moment.
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    I do agree that he is far too easily inclined to take the letter seriously... perhaps thinking with some part of his body other than his brain?!

    But taking a step back, I do feel that Gene Wolfe is capturing something important here. In the first book we moaned about how Severian was kind of passive and pushed around by events. Now he is making decisions and taking the initiative, and we are fussing at him for being kind of impulsive and stupid!

    But given that he had been brought up in what seems to be a rigid and rule-bound culture, it seems altogether likely to me that he simply has no capacity to make sensible, empathetic and thoughtful choices. All his life to date has been circumscribed by dogma and ritual... of course he is kind of reckless and childish in his actions now. The question will be, can he survive this phase, learn from it, and arrive at a more mature place, or will he just be a Star Trek red shirt guy?
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    And I should have said, if it's not obvious, that I am really enjoying book 2. It seems to me that Wolfe has hit his stride with the story in terms of language and pace, and it really feels as though we (and Severian) are getting somewhere... his literal journey being just a metaphor for his personal one.
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    I totally agree with @RichardAbbott . It was reported earlier that the Book of the New Sun is about a young man raised in difficult circumstances who learns to transcend those, so we should not, perhaps, expect him to make all the right choices.

    One thing I do wonder at, though, Richard, is why you are enjoying book 2 so much more. I'm struggling to see much difference between the first and the second in terms of language, pace, and progress. Can you explain further puh-lease?

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    I'm with @RichardAbbott : I like that Severian is taking the initiative and setting out to achieve things. Yes, they're stupid decisions, but at least he's acting rather than reacting.

    I'm looking forward to finding out who owns the destrier he stole, and what their reaction will be.

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    edited June 9

    I agree, @RichardAbbott - I am much happier with him making decisions and doing something rather than dithering and having stuff done to him. Doesn't make those decisions any more intelligent, though! :wink:

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    @Apocryphal said:
    One thing I do wonder at, though, Richard, is why you are enjoying book 2 so much more. I'm struggling to see much difference between the first and the second in terms of language, pace, and progress. Can you explain further puh-lease?

    It's a good question :smile: Having thought about it off and on during the day, I have the following ideas:

    1. I think the language is more direct - you haven't needed to provide nearly so much by way of explanatory notes about weird words in these first 6 chapters! And I think this genuinely reflects less reliance on strange vocabulary. Yes, I get that he is using unfamiliar words to paint a society which is different from anything current, but there were many times during book 1 that I felt something along the lines of "Come on Gene, we don't need quite so much of a thesaurus". It felt (I may have mentioned this before) a bit like when some of my historical fiction writer friends feel compelled to put in lots of old words (transliterated into modern lettering) such as Wealsch (Welsh) and so on. For me, a little of that goes a long way, and too much rapidly becomes a barrier.

    2. I like it that Severian is becoming more assertive - we all know that he is kind of doing crazy things right now, but as mentioned before I think that is entirely believable given his upbringing. But more importantly...

    3. I really like how some of the history and mystery of Urth is being allowed to ooze out of the writing - "what creature it was we had called out of the roots of the continent I think I now know"... and all of the mythology about this which is starting to appear. I feel that we are being introduced to deep things about the world and its vasy prior history, not just some itty-bitty details about the guild.

    4. I also like the glimpses we are given of Severian's now-self (the one writing the account) as compared with his then-self of the time of events. To a degree we have always had a few of these, but I feel that these reflections are becoming more thoughtful and incisive.

    In short, it's the sense of vistas opening up, both external and internal, which I am appreciating.

    There might be a 5 or 6 when I've thought about it some more...

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    Thanks @RichardAbbott ! Those all make sense, though on the matter of #1, I've been keeping track of the words for the lexicon, only I haven't had the time to write them up. I don't think the number of words has changed - perhaps you have become accustomed to their presence, instead, since as @dr_mitch pointed out in his introduction, the meaning of the text seldom hinges upon their meanings.

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    LEXICON

    A caloyer in red stood beside the scaffold clutching his little formulary; he was an old man, as most of them are... By ancient custom, we must not use the steps... I was, very possibly, the only person who present who knew of the tradition; but I did not break it, and a great roar, like the voice of some beast, escaped the crowd as I leaped up with my cloak billowing about me.

    Caloyer: A French word for a Greek monk.

    And again, such wonderful imagery. I love this whole leaping on the stage thing, and the effect of the flying fuligin cloak must have been something to see.

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