Monthly Archives: July 2013

Crystal Soldier – Chapter 11

On the ground
Faldaiza Port

In which Cantra acquires a co-pilot, a mechanic, and a damn’ vegetable.

There are, at various points in the series, mentions of the Tree’s leaves rustling in a way that has nothing to do with any wind that might be blowing. In this chapter, there’s the inverse: at a moment when rustling leaves would be an unhelpful distraction, the Tree’s leaves stay still despite the wind.

What with Cantra complaining about Jela not knowing who’s after him, it occurs to me that I don’t know who’s after him either. What are the options? Agents of the Enemy disguised as humans? Actual humans who have some reason to want Jela’s efforts to fail?

As Dulsey shows hidden depths and a desire to seek an independent destiny, we get some more backstory about the way things are for Batchers. The observation that the only sure way to be rid of Batch tattoos is to amputate and regrow both arms is striking, not only for what it says about Batch tattoos but also for what it says about the present state of medicine.

Crystal Soldier – Chapter 10

On the ground
Faldaiza Port

In which you gotta know when to walk away, know when to run.

Well. This is getting quite exciting, isn’t it?

The name of Dulsey crops up for the first and not the last time.

I’m trying to remember if we see the gambler again; I have a kind of feeling we do, but it’s hard to be sure without a name to latch onto, and the situation in which we last see her in this chapter could go either way. I don’t have the same kind of feeling about the two cops, so it’s nice that they got to have so much personality in such a small appearance.

Crystal Soldier – Chapter 9

On the ground
Faldaiza Port

In which somebody is taking an interest in Jela and Cantra.

I’m not sure I have anything particular to say about this chapter. Stuff happens, but I don’t want to just recount what happened without adding anything of my own.

I did like the detail that the bar is as successful as it is in part due to suggestions from Jela. A generalist is a useful person to have around.

Crystal Soldier – Chapter 8

On board Spiral Dance
Faldaiza Port

In which Cantra yos’Phelium goes for a meal and some company, and gets more than she expected.

Enter a new point-of-view character: Cantra yos’Phelium, independent cargo pilot running solo.

With the new point of view, we get an outside description of Jela. He has eyes as black as the space between the stars, and, yes, brown skin. He’s shorter than the breadth of his shoulders would suggest — and shorter than Cantra, though that’s not so indicative since her height is “not inconsiderable”.

We learn about Cantra’s height from her own point of view, as well as the fact that she’s not as young as she was. From Jela’s point of view, we learn that Cantra has green eyes.

Quite a bit of backstory threaded through this chapter: about Batchers; about world-eaters; about the Rim, its people in general and Cantra and Garen in particular. Also about the navigation beacons, which caught my attention when first I read this, because they don’t have (or apparently need) those in later novels. Other things they don’t have in later novels include the smart clothing on display here, that can scan rooms for danger, send messages, display images in the air.

And another thing that caught my attention the first time, as someone who’d only read the later novels, is the mention and description of Solcintra, that fabled origin planet, which apparently is rather less illustrious in its own time than it appears through the filter of nostalgia.

Crystal Soldier – Chapter 7

Awaiting Transport

In which Jela heads off into the wild blue-green yonder.

Not that much happens in this chapter: a shuttle lands, Jela and the tree get in, it takes off again. The interest is in the details: about the technology of the shuttle, about Jela’s training, about Jela’s past (the intriguing description of his name as “nothing more than a quartermaster’s joke”).

Speaking of names, we learn the name of the Commander who recruited Jela to his present course of action: Ro Gayda. Absent further context, it’s not clear whether that’s all surname, or part surname and part personal name (and if so — he added, remembering Ro Laren — which is which).

There’s also an interesting description of Jela helping the tree gain a fuller understanding of flying machines.

Crystal Soldier – Chapter 6

Training Base
Mission Time: 34.5 days and counting

In which no one really wants to go to Vinylhaven.

Jela continues to dream of the days when the tree’s planet lived; we learn that this tree is too young to have known the branches-with-wings except through the memories of its elders.

In this chapter, we get the crystal to go with our soldier, as Jela learns that someone (“and we must assume that someone equals the enemy“) is dismantling portions of the universe itself, in a process the mathematicians call “decrystallization”. Somehow involved in the process is timonium, a mysterious semi-stable transuranic element of which we’ll be hearing more later. We’ll also be hearing again about the mathematician who did the pioneering work on the problem before he “had unfortunately come to the attention of those who found his theories and equations anathema”.

The elder of the two anonymous men who instruct Jela in the problem implies that it may potentially threaten the entire universe, and hints that his own thoughts tend in a remarkable direction: his studies, he says, show that there are other universes…

Crystal Soldier – Chapter 5

Isolation Ward

In which Jela is isolated, and then made an offer he can’t refuse.

Jela gets put in quarantine. The tree gets put in quarantine. Corporal Bicra, who helped carry the tree, gets put in quarantine. Justifications are available, but Jela suspects somebody’s messing about. There is a hint that Corporal Kinto may be involved, though Jela doesn’t know what his motive might be.

And we may never get to find out, since the Commander shows up and offers Jela a job.

During their conversation, we learn that Jela has in the past found himself in command situations, where he has done well by the people below him but not always got along smoothly with the people above. “Alas, some ‘above my head’ have been raised to different rules and understandings of soldiers, duty, and necessity.”

We learn that independent thought and initiative are characteristics of M Strain (not always appreciated by the people above their heads), along with a distaste for idleness. We learn some more about X Strain as well, including the first mention of them by name. We get some details about Jela’s physical appearance (he’s shorter than a lot of people) and the med tech’s physical appearance (brown-skinned). (I’m keeping an eye on this, because I notice that the cover artist has depicted Jela as dark-skinned, and I’m wondering if there’s in-text support for it.) We also have the first appearance of pilots’ hand-talk.

Crystal Soldier – Chapter 4

On the ground, Star 475A
Mission time: 14.5 planet days and counting

In which Jela wouldn’t leave ’til he’d dug up that damned skinny stick of a tree.

In Scout’s Progress, one of the chapter headings is an excerpt from Cantra’s Logbook in which she recalls Jela telling her the story of how he found the tree and how he refused to leave the planet without it. The story as she recalls it doesn’t go quite like this, but then stories often change some in the re-telling. (I suspect the embellishment about the tree being so puny Jela could pot it in a left-over ration tin of being Cantra’s own contribution, though; it doesn’t seem characteristic of Jela.)

It would appear that Corporal Kinto, if not a foe, isn’t exactly a friend of Jela’s either. I wonder if there’s something personal behind that or if it’s just interservice rivalry.