Monthly Archives: August 2013

Crystal Dragon – Chapter 10

Osabei Tower

In which the First Prime wasn’t expecting Scholar tay’Nordif’s pilot… so soon.

The luck is with Tor An in earnest, this chapter. Several times he is narrowly saved from disaster.

I still find the business of the expected pilot puzzling. Claiming a non-existent pilot to buy time is one thing, but claiming an actual pilot who has arrived on other business, without knowing anything about who he is or whether he can be trusted, is quite another. (Though I suppose she does know a few things about him. The fact that he’s engaged in the puzzle of a disappearing system is quite informative in context. As is, come to think of it, the fact that he allowed himself to be brought in without immediately denying that he was the pilot she wanted.)

Also, I’m side-eying the moment where she fumbles her data-wand in her haste to download Tor An’s data. We’ve seen before what can happen when Maelyn tay’Nordif fumbles something in her haste.

(That makes two pilots now who have instinctively felt the Truth Bell as equivalent to an alarm signifying the utmost emergency. I wonder if that was a deliberate design feature, bearing in mind that the scholars themselves don’t seem to have the same reaction.)

It turns out that the scholar who had a go at Jela last chapter is Den Vir tay’Elyd, the same whose office Grudent tel’Ashon took such pleasure in raiding. He seems like a very unpleasant fellow, even compared to the general level of unpleasantness in the Tower.

Crystal Dragon – Chapter 9

Osabei Tower

In which Scholar tay’Nordif has a meeting to look forward to.

Scholar tay’Nordif seems to have been rather upset by witnessing the proving. Perhaps she has been considering how she might have done, had she been the one facing such a test — and how likely it is that before too long she’s going to find out.

I do like the line about the subdued paroxysm of joy.

Jela has a good question: where did the idea of a pilot come from? Is it just a story Cantra seized on as likely to buy more time, and it’s just her luck that there actually is a pilot coming?

Crystal Dragon – Chapter 8

Osabei Tower

In which Kel Var tay’Palin proves a point.

It’s very tempting to speculate about what might have happened had Prime tay’Palin survived a bit longer. (Tempting, too, to assume that it would have made things easier, if only because why else would the authors have killed him off?)

I’ve been trying to remember why Scholar dea’San’s surname sounded familiar. I thought at first that it was the same as the crime boss with the assumed airs, but he was dea’Sord, not dea’San. I’ve got it now, though: Vertu dea’San, Clan Wylan, is the protagonist of the novella “Skyblaze”, which is currently scheduled at the very end of the re-read.

I had also been wondering why Scholar tay’Nordif had decided to take a liking to the cat, but I think this chapter answers that question. Clearly she had been feeling a lack of somebody to talk to who would appreciate the excellence of her thought. (Either that, or she had been feeling a lack of somebody to steal her chair and lie on her keyboard while she was trying to work.)

Crystal Dragon – Chapter 7

Osabei Tower

In which Scholar tay’Nordif acquires a robe, an account, a grad student, and a cat.

Scholar tay’Nordif seems to have a fondness for quoting the philosopher bin’Arli, to the disconcertion of those around her.

Twenty-four qwint make one flan. I very much doubt that this is a piece of information that will prove useful in future, but it’s there, so I figured I might as well make a note of it.

There’s something oddly familiar about the business of ser’Dinther’s cat, but I can’t quite put my finger on it…

(I remember thinking the first time I read this that whereas ser’Dinther’s experiment was based on the assumption that he was located in the line of causality the cat would escape from, the grudent’s account of the cat’s progress sounds very much like what one would expect to see from the viewpoint of the line of causality the cat was escaping to.)

(What I’m thinking this time around is that the description of the what the cat is supposedly able to do by instinct reminds me of what Rool Tiazan is able to do deliberately, and in particular that the description of a creature in peril for its life shifting to a situation in which the peril is non-existent is, on a different scale, pretty much what the Great Migration will turn out to be like.)

(Also that the casual way these people discount their servitors is really unpleasant.)

Crystal Dragon – Chapter 6

Osabei Tower

In which you may call a scholar anything you like so long as you don’t call her late for dinner.

There’s a lot going on in this chapter.

We’re reminded a couple of times in this chapter that Scholar tay’Nordif, unlike Cantra, lacks a dancer’s or a pilot’s grace. There’s her wobble when she’s turning on her heel to look at the entrance hall — by the way, I would not handle ascending a stairway like that with anything approaching calm — and there’s the bit where she fumbles her data-case.

The scene where she accidentally assembles a jamming device and, in general, the whole business of her unconsciously acting in Cantra’s interests for reasons which she insists make perfect sense to herself, is one of the things that really stuck with me from the first time I read this.

(I was reminded, the first time I read it, of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, in which being possessed by a disembodied spirit is similar: one finds oneself doing unexpected things, and unconsciously inventing explanations for why one did them. There’s also something similar in A Fire Upon the Deep, though I don’t remember whether I’d read that yet. And there are also cases in real life, although not — as far as we know — with another consciousness directing them: some psychologists reckon that our motivations are, to a greater or lesser extent, a story we tell ourselves after doing what our instincts and unconscious urges prompt us to do.)

(Superficial aside: Scholar tay’Nordif talking about her patron from the house of the horticulturists reminds me of Mr Collins talking about Lady Catherine de Bourgh. Carnivorous Rosings?)

Meanwhile, it begins to become really apparent that in the Tower the cut-and-thrust of academic debate is taken rather more literally than we’re used to. And I’ve got to say that I’m detecting an undercurrent to Scholar tay’Welford’s expressions of concern about his boss’s health.

Speaking of health, the news that Liad dea’Syl’s students have been dying untimely is unreassuring (although not, by this point, very surprising). I wonder if that includes Jela’s instructors?

Crystal Dragon – Chapter 5

Osabei Tower

In which Maelyn tay’Nordif is welcomed home, a pleasure that continues to elude Tor An yos’Galan.

Jela’s party succeeds in winning entry to the Tower, with a thesis calculated to draw attention and give Scholar tay’Nordif reason to ask nosey questions about Liad dea’Syl.

It’s interesting, considering what I recall about what happens later, that Scholar tay’Welford is the designated viewpoint for the admission scene. Although that, of course, may simply be because he’s the admissions board’s designated expert in Scholar tay’Nordif’s specialism. (On the gripping hand, that’s not an unrelated coincidence.)

Tor An, meanwhile, is having trouble drawing anybody’s attention to his problem. Apparently people really aren’t all that interested in other star systems going missing. Though if everybody who insists on being interested winds up getting shot, perhaps that’s not as surprising as it first appears.

His polite sarcasm when he’s talking to the X Strain captain reminds me strongly of certain of his descendants.

Crystal Dragon – Chapter 4

Landomist Port

In which Maelyn tay’Nordif encounters Landomist’s curious local customs.

Jela’s having a rough time of it, though presumably not as rough as he would have had if he’d tried going it alone. The portmaster’s first impression of him backs up what Cantra told him about how out-of-place he is.

In the process, we see that Maelyn tay’Nordif doesn’t regard him as Cantra did, though she does have some concern that her friend and patron’s gift not be too badly damaged. (I wonder if there is such a person as Panthera vas’Chaler, really?)

Incidentally, I find that I can’t refer to Scholar tay’Nordif as just “Maelyn”. She’s not that kind of person.

Though I notice the portmaster was warming to her quite a bit by the end of their encounter. I suspect the influence of the famous aelantaza pheremones.

Also, I just have to mention: carnivorous roses.

Crystal Dragon – Chapter 3

Light Wing
Doing the Math

In which is introduced Scholar Maelyn tay’Nordif.

(Because it would have been unkind to Tor An, however tempting, to call it “In which no one really wants to go to the Ringstars.”)

Tor An continues to be dogged by irony. A fabric-of-space problem, indeed.

I feel like I ought to say something about the advent of Maelyn tay’Nordif, which was a striking event the first time I read it. I’ve had enough time to get used to it since then, though, that nothing’s really coming to mind.

(If Cantra yos’Phelium is Daav yos’Phelium’s Grandma, is Maelyn tay’Nordif Jen Sar Kiladi’s?)

Crystal Dragon – Chapter 2

Spiral Dance

In which Jela and Cantra nail their colours to the mast.

I once encountered, somewhere online, a very disgruntled review of this novel written by someone who’d picked it as their introduction to the Liaden Universe. Looking at the amount of assumed knowledge in this chapter alone, I can see where they were coming from. (And in fairness I’ve gotta say the cover doesn’t really do much of a job of warning you that this is part two of a two-volume novel.)

Though it does at least find plot-appropriate excuses to recap the tree’s history (I like the description of the trees holding the enemy at bay by will “and by won’t”) and the appearances of our principals.

We get the first explicit statement of Jela’s built-in time limit, and something approaching an explanation. “Safer that way,” says Jela, though I notice he doesn’t say for whom.

New e-books

Sharon Lee and Steve Miller have announced the recent or imminent release of several new chapbooks in e-book form, including two set in the Liaden Universe.

Technical Details will contain the short stories “Landed Alien” and “Eleutherios”, previously published on the Baen website.

Moon’s Honor will contain a novella of that name recounting, per the blurb, “a first meeting between priestess of the Goddess, Moonhawk, and traveling magician, Lute”. (The indefinite article is important; this is the second first meeting between Moonhawk and Lute to have been recorded.)

This is slightly awkward news, because I have no idea whatsoever whether “Moon’s Honor” goes before or after the existing set of Moonhawk & Lute stories. I could easily learn what there is to be learned by reading it straight away, of course, but having now embarked on the re-reading project, I find myself reluctant to break sequence.

I may just flip a coin.