Balance of Trade – Chapter 36

Day 177
Standard Year 1118

Irikwae Port

In which there are several reunions and a parting.

The “toy” Jethri encounters is recognizably similar to the learning toys Cantra had her own encounter with, though considerably older and understandably more decrepit. After a thousand years and more, it’s not remarkable that it malfunctions; more remarkable that it functions at all. (Though I wonder how much of the malfunction is age and decrepitude, and whether any of it comes from trying to get into the mind of someone who no longer speaks the language.)

Characters using depilatory cream instead of shaving their faces is one of those science-fiction markers that I’ve seen on and off since I was a beardless youth myself (and probably goes back much further than that). I gather, though, that it’s one of those science fiction ideas that will always remain a marker of science fiction because it seems simple in concept but is actually tricky in practice. The trouble, as I understand it, is that a man’s facial hair is generally some of the toughest hair around, and a cream strong enough to dissolve it is also strong enough to do some harm to the parts of a man’s face he was planning on keeping.

The Ruby Club is obviously pretty sleazy, even if you don’t know about the Liaden taboo that’s been alluded to but not so far stated outright. If you do, it’s really sleazy.

From there, it becomes a day for being reunited with friends, including Tan Sim and Miandra, each of whom has been having a rough time since he saw them last, and Captain ter’Astin, who is not giving anything away about what kind of time he’s been having.

It’s good to see Tan Sim again. I like Tan Sim.

I like Scout Captain ter’Astin, too. On this occasion, we get confirmation that he has some facility at sensing the thoughts of others, which had been hinted at on the previous occasion when he and Jethri met.

Speaking of things hinted at on previous occasions, we get another of those remarks about family resemblance, this time applied to Jethri and Arin.

The parting is Jethri from the weather device, which for all that it’s caused a deal of trouble might also be considered an old friend in respect of how much it represents to Jethri of his links with his father.

6 thoughts on “Balance of Trade – Chapter 36

  1. Ed8r

    PA: Though I wonder how much of the malfunction is age and decrepitude, and whether any of it comes from trying to get into the mind of someone who no longer speaks the language.

    My first time through, I really expected that it would be revealed that besides having quite a facility for recognizing and “befriending” the real fractins, that Jethri was going to turn out to have some of the mental shields/protections that Cantra did, leaving the “toy” attempting to “burn through” the block. I suppose the authors may have been looking for a way to show us how the deteriorating timonium has affected some of the Old Tech and made it dangerous…or rather more dangerous.

    With all the hints and suggestions about Jethri’s built-in abilities, I was left very disappointed that he wasn’t more involved in untangling the secrets of the Old Tech.

    By the way, was it curious to anyone else that there were references to the Old War, a war which took place in the Old Universe? It surprised me to see it referred to that way.

  2. Ed8r

    OP: It’s good to see Tan Sim again. I like Tan Sim.

    I thought we’d see more of him than we do. In the end, even after Trade Secret, I felt we hadn’t seen enough of him. I’m hoping the authors are including him in the sequel we know is currently being written.

  3. Othin

    Thinking on th use for depilatory cream I’m pritty astonished that it seems to be used only by males so far. One might suspect a use for other body hair as well – especially removal of armpit hair which has been a part of american culture for some decates by now.

    This leads me to suspect similarties between Liaden and Asian bodies. Liadens seem to have next to no armpit hair as well as minimal hair on legs. And properly a taboo of removal of pubic hair for both sexes – which is strong enough to withstand spreading such fashion from Terran worlds to Liaden worlds, even though some pilots and scouts will have encountered it.

  4. Othin

    This is the first time the authors use the “they” pronoun for a single person, indicating unclear gender (Ruby Club). I had not noted this before. It makes the use in Traders Leap much more consistent.

  5. Othin

    Despite Jethri having now been immersed in Liaden culture for more than 135 days he is still thinking in Terran timeframes, his week has 7 days and not 12.

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