Monthly Archives: February 2014

Scout’s Progress – Chapter 30

In which there is dinner, dancing, distinction, and a difficult decision.

Aelliana’s speculation about Daav’s ringless finger reminds me that this is a parallel to Local Custom, where Er Thom also spent a significant portion going about without his ring of rank. Or perhaps not so much a parallel as a reflection, because in a way the situation here is a reverse: Er Thom’s lack of ring was a punishment, but Daav’s is more in the way of a much-needed vacation.

And when Aelliana asks him what he has around his neck, and he replies, “A chain”, it’s an obvious dodge into literal-mindedness — but it also works as an honest (perhaps more honest than he intended?) description of how he regards the delm’s ring.

I think I was a bit uncharitable toward Olwen sel’Iprith back in Local Custom. If Frad is any indication, all the members of Daav’s former team are very close, just not the kind of close that, say, Er Thom and Anne are. (Or, as we can confidently say after the happenings of this chapter, Daav and Aelliana.)

And here’s a fun thing I noticed for the first time on this re-read: the authors are ingeniously uninformative as regards the genders of Trilla’s and Frad’s chosen table partners. We learn that Frad’s companion is a redheaded Scout, and Trilla’s companions are both described as dancers, but do we get a single gendered pronoun between the three of them? We do not.

Scout’s Progress – Chapter 29

In which Aelliana frames and tries a piloting addendum under stringent field conditions.

I have to admit that the details of Aelliana’s course addendum go straight over my head. But it certainly sounds impressive.

The quote at the beginning of this chapter is the fragment that eventually grew into the short story “The Space at Tinsori Light” (which, chronological order being what it is, we have already had). Here, its purpose is only to add another angle to the introduction of the pilot’s ring.

Scout’s Progress – Chapter 28

In which Aelliana dances.

Daav doesn’t appear too put out that Aelliana has realised he tipped off Zan Der pel’Kermin, even though he asked that worthy person not mention his intervention. I surmise that he wouldn’t have minded Aelliana being told about Daav’s involvement, but wished to avoid any mention of that inconvenient person Delm Korval.

Things are going well for Aelliana and Daav at this point, but last chapter and this contain reminders that they both have troubles lurking in the background which, when they strike, are only going to strike the harder for having been successfully dodged thus far.

Scout’s Progress – Chapter 27

In which several people ask, reluctantly, “Now what?”

I’ve said this before, in the comments under Chapter 39 of Local Custom, but I might as well say it again so it appears in a post: I don’t believe that lifemating works on the basis of there being a pair of people predestined to join together. (Which is a relief, because it’s a pretty horrifying idea, as Daav suggests here: what if something happens to one half of the match before they meet, and the other is left forever incomplete?) Every time we see a lifemate bond form in this series, it’s a consequence, not a cause, something that happens to a pair of people who have already joined together in other ways. It makes sense that some people can’t form a lifemate bond at all, and that those can can’t do it with just anybody, but I don’t believe it’s as reductive as each person having one and only one possible partner.

Here’s an interesting sentence: “Jelaza Kazone had not spoken and he wished, with everything in him, to be at Binjali’s.” Is it that the Tree did manage to suggest an idea to Daav without him realising, or is it that the Tree didn’t speak because it knew that he was already, on his own initiative and by his own desire, going to do what it would have told him to do?

Scout’s Progress – Chapter 26

In which Samiv tel’Izak is introduced to the Tree.

The Tree disapproves of Samiv tel’Izak, and is not shy of making its disapproval known. What the basis of its disapproval might be is less easy to see. It’s unlikely to be merely that marrying her would make Daav unhappy; the happiness of its fellow creatures has not always been the Tree’s primary concern, and Daav was making some progress toward a comfortable union before the Tree itself stomped on his efforts.

One suspects that it disapproves of Pilot tel’Izak because she is not Aelliana Caylon and the Tree has realised, as Daav has not yet, that Aelliana Caylon is an available possibility. Presumably it’s aware of Aelliana second-hand, through Daav — though one does wonder what other sources of information it might have, remembering that it was a suggestion from the Tree which put Daav in Pilot Caylon’s path in the first place…

Scout’s Progress – Chapter 25

In which Delm Korval goes visiting.

Zan Der pel’Kirmin and his family join the collection of impressively detailed one-off characters. From the little we get to see of them, I like them a lot.

Ran Eld is locking himself into a course that’s going to take him nowhere good; every hint he gets that he might be in serious trouble is just making him stick to it with greater determination. It doesn’t help that his mother doesn’t seem to have realised how much trouble he’s in either; another delm might have twigged, for better or for worse, that there’s more to Ran Eld’s enthusiasm for this scheme than just misguided optimism. Is Ran Eld that good at deceiving her, or does she just not want to consider that her bright-eyed boy might be mixed up in something really nasty? A bit of each, perhaps.

Scout’s Progress – Chapter 24

In which Clonak tells Aelliana a story about Daav, and Korval responds promptly to an insult.

As usual I’m going to duck talking about how this chapter was emotionally affecting, and talk about something else instead, like how this chapter does some clever work of incluing and foreshadowing. For instance, the list at the beginning of the chapter of the people who have been entrusted with Daav’s private number does multiple duty by introducing the reader to Olwen and Frad, so that their names glide smoothly by in Clonak’s story later.

I even caught myself thinking that the last scene of this chapter did a remarkably good job of foreshadowing the end of Mouse and Dragon, considering that this was written so many years before that was, before I remembered that that end had already been established in another book that was in its turn published many years before this one.

Another interesting thing about the list of Daav’s near ones is that it includes, apart from Aelliana, his brother, and his former Scout teammates, one Fer Gun pen’Uldra, Daav’s father. One gets the impression that there are not many Liadens who know their out-Clan parent at all well, let alone remain so close as to include them in such an exclusive list. (The situation with Aelliana’s father illustrated in Chapter 9, where he has had no further contact with Mizel since the conclusion of contract and Aelliana doesn’t even know his name, seems more typical.) Is there a story there? If so, it’s one we haven’t been told yet; Daav’s father is mentioned only rarely, by name even more rarely, and as far as I recall has never made an in-person appearance.

Scout’s Progress – Chapter 23

In which Aelliana receives the fruits of her previous day’s work.

A relatively quiet chapter, after all the excitement, though perhaps the calm before a storm. It worries me that I can’t remember what it portends that Aelliana has been left undisturbed, nor why the house is so quiet.

“She thought the tables had been revised fifty or sixty years ago!” I suppose when eight years is half one’s lifetime, the difference between eight years and fifty is not so significant as all that.

Scout’s Progress – Chapter 22

In which Daav sees Aelliana home.

Another progression of similar situations across chapters: Two chapters ago, Daav and Aelliana started holding hands “that they should not lose each other” in the crowd. One chapter ago, Yolan took Sed Ric’s hand in the darkness, “to lead him, she told herself fiercely”, with the implication that that wasn’t the only reason. In this chapter, Daav and Aelliana hold hands again, “though the station was barely crowded”.

A thing that amused me when I noticed it: The glossary at the end of the book includes the Liaden word va’netra, which is translated as “stray puppy” in this chapter when Daav uses it to describe Yolan and Sed Ric. The word itself appears nowhere in the novel except only in English translation, but it’s in the glossary all the same.

The subplot of the stray puppies seems at first glance to have no connection to the main plot, but it has thematic links forward and back. Their situation as Aelliana describes it here, “without kin on Liad, with no hope of going elsewhere”, is the situation Aelliana herself might have been in now if the luck had not been with her. And the idea of a person being cast out from their clan is going to reappear later.

Daav tells Aelliana that the custom to shun the clanless and withhold all aid is only custom, “the Code, not the Council”. Even the Code may be less strict on the matter than it’s usually interpreted to be, at least based on the section of it quoted at the head of an earlier chapter. That excerpt is very clear that a person cast out from their clan must be shunned and denied aid by the members of the clan that cast them out, but is less restrictive as regards the members of other clans. Another clan may not offer the outcast the benefits of a full clan membership, but there’s nothing there about not being allowed to, for instance, lend them a few dex and help them find a job.

I’m beginning to worry about Voni. Does she never think for herself?

Scout’s Progress – Chapter 21

In which desperate pirates are no match for Aelliana and her co-pilot.

Aelliana’s self-confidence is coming along in leaps and bounds; here she’s making significant decisions on a moment’s notice, without hesitation or apology. And she’s spent the whole evening tracking around in public without her “armor”, apparently without missing it except that it would have kept her warm.

It’s interesting that we’ve had two chapters in a row featuring people making desperately unwise decisions out of owing amounts of money they can’t scrape together honestly. Sed Ric and Yolan are in rather more desperate straits than Ran Eld (at least for now), a fact underscored by the tiny amount of money their future depends on. The dex, according to the handy table in Balance of Trade, is the smallest unit of Liaden currency, and the cantra is the largest. The four cantra Ran Eld borrowed, probably to pay for things he could well have lived without, is worth more than a one and half thousand times the four dex Yolan and Sed Ric need. The twenty cantra he now owes is equivalent to nearly thirty-five thousand dex.

(It’s a handy reminder, too, when the cantra is the unit most often mentioned, and the children of Korval are rich enough to carry cantra coins like loose change, that one cantra is actually a quite substantial amount of money.)