Monthly Archives: June 2014

Fledgling – Chapter 12

Cultural Genetics Program
Bjornson-Bellevale College of Arts and Sciences
University of Delgado

In which Theo has dinner with her father.

So, like I was saying, after that brief moment of peace and domestic harmony, comes… more peace and domestic harmony? Whatever storm this is the calm before must be really awful.

With Kartor getting a surname this chapter, all of Four Team Three are now equipped with names both fore- and sur-.

The uncharacteristic clumsiness of Theo’s father is definitely suggestive to a reader familiar with the wider Liaden universe; we saw his old teacher pull the same trick back in Scout’s Progress.

It also brings on an observation which I’m sure is influenced by me remembering things that haven’t happened yet, but I’m going to pass it on anyway: Theo was able to catch both the objects Professor Kiladi dropped without any difficulty. Conversely, every incident of her supposed clumsiness we’ve seen has involved colliding or tangling with a person — a trend reinforced by her self-description in chapter nine. This doesn’t mean that Theo isn’t the problem, since she’s still the common thread among the incidents, but it does suggest that the problem isn’t so much a lack of control of her own movements as a flaw in her understanding of the movements of others. Put her in the middle of a crowd of people and trouble is bound to follow, but give her an inanimate object moving according to the basic laws of physics, and she’s fine.

Fledgling – Chapter 11

University of Delgado
Faculty Residence Wall
Quadrant Eight, Building Two

In which Theo gains a rug and a respite.

I like this patch of peace and domestic harmony. It probably just means things are about to get even worse, though.

It’s only just occurred to me to wonder how it’s possible for Quadrant Eight to exist, since any given area consists of no more nor less than four quadrants, by definition. Maybe the university is divided into two (or more) areas, and rather than add another layer to the addresses they just continued on the numbering of the quadrants from where the first set ended. This would especially make sense if the second area is a later addition to the original layout of the university, which would explain why the address space didn’t account for the possibility. (It would also make a nice echo of Theo learning this chapter that the founders of the university didn’t think of everything.)

I was going to say something last chapter about the Safety’s apparent determination to assume that the incident on the scavage court was Theo’s fault, but I decided not to when I started considering the limitations of seeing things from Theo’s point of view. In the light of the Safety’s official report, though, there does seem to be something there — but rather than the “predisposed to expect Theo at the centre of the trouble” kind of something I was thinking of before, it seems to be more of a “determined not to let any responsibility settle on Roni” kind of something. (And that reminds me of the thing I did say about what kind of fall-out there might or might not be for Roni.)

Fledgling – Chapter 10

Grandmother’s Library
Quadrant Three Services Zone
Faculty Residence Wall
University of Delgado

In which Theo has a meeting with her mentor.

It seems to me that there’s a worrying disconnect in the way both the Safety and Theo’s mentor respond to the incident on the scavage court. Leaving aside the question of whether it was Theo’s carelessness or Roni’s that was more responsible for Roni getting injured, it bothers me that neither seems inclined to address the fact that Roni’s response was to knock Theo down and kick her repeatedly in the ribs. It’s downright weird to have an act of willful violence skate right past after so much attention has been paid to Theo’s clumsiness; that’s no way to build a Safe society.

Actually, on re-reading, I suspect this is at least partly an artifact of the story being told from Theo’s point of view, and just because Theo’s talking-to focusses on her own part in the incident doesn’t mean that Roni isn’t getting her own similarly focussed talking-to somewhere else. But I think I’d be happier with some direct evidence of the existence of Roni’s hypothetical talking-to, because as it stands it feels like Theo is getting blamed for getting kicked in the ribs. And somehow I lack confidence in Roni getting a proper talking-to from, presumably, the same person or persons whose past responses to her behaviour have left her the kind of person who knocks people down and kicks them in the ribs.

(Am I over-emphasizing the “knocked her down and kicked her in the ribs” thing? Call it a reaction to the perceived lack of emphasis in the story, and we’ll move on.)

Even apart from that, I don’t like Marjene because she seems to be the kind of person who, though she genuinely wants what’s best for you, is operating from a preconceived notion of “what’s best” involving a generic “you” that doesn’t consider individual differences and isn’t influenced by actual evidence. It strikes me as typical of Marjene that she greets Theo with a (presumably habitual) hug that hurts Theo’s injured ribs when she’s just finished reading the report on the incident in which Theo’s ribs were injured. I bet it didn’t even occur to her that the hug might not be the best greeting in this instance, because it would first need to occur to her that there might be such a thing as an instance in which the hug might not be the best greeting.

(I really will stop harping on Theo’s ribs now. I promise.)

And it’s not just that she doesn’t notice implicit indications that she’s on the wrong track (Theo is surely too polite to complain when Marjene rubs her the wrong way, but one would hope that an advertant mentor would start to get some idea after a while); in the case of the medication, she’s been confronted with an explicit difference of opinion, and her response is that here is an obstacle to be got around by fair means or foul, not that there might be something here to enquire into and learn from.

One thing I don’t hold against her is her reaction to Theo calling Jen Sar “Father”. That has the feel of authentic deep-down shock at behaviour she’s been brought up to consider inappropriate. I expect there are things local custom has taught me are inappropriate that I’d react to just as abruptly.

And it’s a cunning bit of storytelling that that reaction happens in the same chapter as Theo’s rumination on the Mother-Daughter Center, which provides the background that helps to make sense of the reaction. An onagrata may be handy for many things about the house, but fathering he is not for, unless and only for as long as the woman chooses. One begins to get the impression, if one hadn’t already, that a long-term relationship like Kamele and Jen Sar is not the norm.

Fledgling – Chapter 9

Teamplay: Scavage
Professor Stephen M. Richardson Secondary School
University of Delgado

In which Roni likes to score.

There are a bunch of things in this chapter it’s difficult to talk about because I’m not sure how much of what I want to say is an honest response to what’s actually come up already in this re-read and how much is influenced by remembering from the first time I read the book things that haven’t happened yet. The description of Theo’s clumsiness seems like it would be suggestive to a reader familiar with the wider Liaden universe, but do I only think that because I already know what it’s suggesting? And I’m fairly confident I figured out what was up with the mysterious research project pretty much straight away, but I’m not sure.

Another interesting aspect of the book is seeing Delgado society produce mirror images of familiar bits of male entitlement, like Ella’s eye for a pretty face a few chapters ago, or Roni’s implication here that males aren’t any good at sports. (It may well be that, as Theo suspects, Roni’s complaint is less sincere than a cover for her real source of annoyance, but if so the fact that she chose that particular complaint as a cover suggests that it’s a relatively acceptable thing to complain about.)

Fledgling – Chapter 8

University of Delgado
Faculty Residence Wall
Quadrant Eight, Building Two

In which Theo gets home late.

In the last couple of chapters we’ve started to get a clearer picture of what Kamele’s like when she isn’t (a) under a lot of stress and (b) viewed through the eyes of her also-stressed teenager.

Jen Sar may have pitched the case for Coyster in terms of the good it would do Theo to have him around, but it’s clear he’ll also do some good for Kamele, whether she’s prepared to admit it or not. (And I really hope that remark about Theo not having any strangeness to deal with was the stress talking, because it’s un-advertant to a degree that’s worrying to find in a scholar of Kamele’s standing.)

Fledgling – Chapter 7

Retrospection on an Introduction
Chancellor’s Welcome Reception for the Gallowglass Chair
Lenzen Ballroom, Administration Tower Three
University of Delgado

In which Kamele met Jen Sar.

The Chancellor’s reception is one of a small number of scenes that appear in more than one place in the series, from more than one perspective. Comparing Kamele’s version here with Jen Sar’s version in Mouse and Dragon is an interesting exercise, for the things they see differently, and especially the things which are unexplained in one and matter-of-factly explained in the other. (It also, unfortunately, shows that nobody warned the copy-editor of the latter book what was going on; not everybody makes the transition from one version to the other with spelling intact.)

Fledgling – Chapter 6

History of Education Department
Oriel College of Humanities
University of Delgado

In which the EdHist Department comes to a decision.

In this chapter we start to get a clear picture of what Kamele’s motives are: she suspects that the scholar recently disbarred for falsifying sources is only part of a larger, yet-undiscovered problem, and has moved back into the mainstream of University life so that she can tackle it in a direct and timely fashion. (With, humming along underneath, the thought that maybe, if she hadn’t chosen to live outside the Wall, she might have noticed something before the problem got so bad.) Career advancement for its own sake, the part of her explanation to Theo where she resorted to general statements, isn’t a particular concern for her, but makes a plausible explanation for general inquiry, since it would be unwise to talk widely about her suspicions until she knows how bad the problem really is, and preferably has a solution in hand.

We also get, in passing, an explanation for Professor Appletorn’s mood in Theo’s class, which I appreciate. It would have been easy to write a bad-tempered teacher making Theo’s life difficult for no particular reason just because that’s what teachers in books do; having something behind it doesn’t, given the nature of the something, make him a better person but it does make him a more rounded character. And being another consequence of Kamele’s move helps build up Theo’s difficulties from the move and the feeling that the characters’ actions have consequences beyond the obvious.

The mention of the Antonio Smith Method of forensic literature analysis jumped out at me rather, the first time I read this chapter. It’s not that there haven’t been references to other SF works in the Liaden series before (there’s a Christopher Stasheff shout-out later in this same chapter), but most of those are older works; this one is striking because it’s a reference to a character, in a work, in a medium that are all younger than the Liaden series itself. ANTONIO SMITH, FORENSIC LINGUIST (the block capitals are mandatory; Smith is the kind of hero who doesn’t so much introduce himself as announce his presence) made his debut in the webcomic Narbonic in August 2000, when the Liaden universe was already a decade old.

Most of Kamele’s colleagues are new, but her friend Ella has already appeared once in this re-read, at the reception where we first met Kamele, and Kamele first met Jen Sar. Which leads us nicely into Kamele’s moment of retrospection…

Fledgling – Chapter 5

City of Efraim

In which Theo goes shopping.

This is a quiet chapter in terms of what actually happens, but it introduces a lot of details that will crop up again later, especially during Theo’s bus trip.

Theo’s memories of her father in this chapter contain several call-backs to Scout’s Progress and Mouse and Dragon, with his ring and the toasted cheese sandwiches.

Mmmmm, toasted cheese sandwiches. I haven’t had a good toasted cheese sandwich in ages. I don’t seem to be able to find cheese that toasts well, lately.

Fledgling – Chapter 4

Scholarship Skills Seminar: Advertancy
Professor Stephen M. Richardson Secondary School
University of Delgado

In which Professor Appletorn is late.

I don’t know if Advertance, as defined here, is an original concept, but it was new to me when I first read this novel and I’ve found it a useful concept on several occasions since.

It’s already been mentioned a couple of times that Theo is a member of Learning Team Three; in this chapter we begin to get an idea of what that involves. Each team attends classes together, and if one member of the team falls behind the whole team gets marked down, because the expectation is that the team members will support each other. Having been selected for a mix of abilities, so that a student weak in a particular aspect of scholarship may learn and improve from the example of more able teammates, they’re not necessarily friends, as evidenced by Roni last chapter choosing to spend her free time with another team. Or maybe that’s just Roni, whose weak point is evidently teamwork.

Here’s a thing: Professor Appletorn addresses his female students as “Miss Waitley”, “Miss Grinmordi”, etc., but the Safeties address the same students as “Ms. Waitley” and “Ms. Grinmordi”. I wonder if that’s significant.

Fledgling – Chapter 3

Fourth Form Ready Room
Professor Stephen M. Richardson Secondary School
University of Delgado

In which Theo goes to school and learns something helpful.

It’s the return of our old friend, The Scene Where The Heroine Looks In A Mirror. At least this one does a reasonable job of staying inside the viewpoint character’s head. (And now I’m trying to remember whether we’ve ever had a scene where any of the male characters looks in a mirror for the benefit of the readers. I don’t recall any, but I’m willing to believe that that’s a fault in my memory rather than in the story-telling.)

I’m not sure I approve of that clock. It would depend to some extent on whether everybody is given the same amount of time between the first announcement and the note being made in their file, and what happens to people who are genuinely incapable of getting out of bed quickly. Either way, it’s the first of several details in this chapter that are starting to build up a picture of Delgado as a society that pays really close attention to whether its citizens are doing What’s Good For Them.