Monthly Archives: July 2014

Saltation – Chapter 1

Shuttle Approach
Anlingdin Piloting Academy

In which Theo arrives at Anglingdin Piloting Academy.

Theo is off to piloting school (and, since it’s apparently still within a year of her time on Melchiza, it looks like she achieved the six month prep time Jen Sar said would be the minimum if she was a good student).

She turns out to be wrong about not seeing the three student pilots again soon, although perhaps the encounter by the luggage will be their last; it’s been a while since I first read Fledgling and I don’t remember. Somehow, though, I doubt it. I do recognise two others who appear or are mentioned in this chapter as people Theo will be encountering again with some regularity.

Fledgling – Chapter 42

Number Twelve Leafydale Place

In which Theo turns fifteen.

This is one of those cases where I don’t feel inspired to talk about any of the things I might have talked about if I were reading the novel for the first time, and there weren’t many new things I noticed. Although I did notice this time Jen Sar’s fishing trip in the mountains, which I suspect was at least partly intended to lay a foundation for a tale to tell anyone who asks where the idea of the old-style Gigneri came from.

I will note that this is another novel I like more after this re-read than I thought I did after I read it the first time.

It’s not easy to establish precisely when Fledgling takes place, due to a lack of outside referents. From Theo’s age we know that it’s more than fifteen years since Jen Sar came to Delgado at the end of Mouse and Dragon — but, as Theo points out in this chapter, that’s Delgadan years, and we have no indication of whether those are longer or shorter than Standard Years, let alone by how much. All we can say with confidence is that it’s after Jen Sar’s last scene in Mouse and Dragon and before his first appearance in Plan B. (The suggested reading order by internal chronology on the authors’ web site places Fledgling after Plan B, but that’s a clear case of bending chronology for the good of the story flow and reading experience, making it in effect an entire novel-length flashback; there is no possible way Jen Sar’s scenes in Plan B happen before Fledgling.) The positions I’ve given Fledgling and Saltation in this re-read are approximations achieved by starting at the end of Saltation and counting backwards based on my memory of what occurs in them; I’m taking notes as I re-read and hopefully I’ll end up with a less approximate idea of how much time they cover. (But when I publish my own suggested reading order by internal chronology at the end of the re-read, it’s likely I’ll be adopting the strategy of bending chronology for the good of the story flow and reading experience, the good sense of which becomes more apparent to me the further the re-read progresses.)

Tomorrow: Saltation

Fledgling – Chapter 41


In which Kamele and Theo go home.

Immediately, Theo is thrown into a situation that shows how much she’s changed in the six months she’s been away. (Incidentally, considering they spent maybe a week on Melchiza, that means they spent the better part of three months on Vashtara in each direction. Kind of drives home what a serious undertaking the trip was.) The terminal is the kind of chaotic jostling situation that would have been a disaster during her “clumsy” phase, but not only does she not create any disasters, she deftly avoids several that might have been caused by the inattention of the people around her. And the fact that Kamele essentially chose to throw her into this situation by sending her off to get the luggage unattended shows that Kamele trusted she would be able to get through it unscathed.

(On the other hand, the luggage scene also shows Theo with a new habit that’s going to cause her some trouble in Saltation. Continuity!)

Boy, that terminal helper is really inadvertant. Somehow, I doubt that the comment Kamele left on his feedback form was a complimentary one.

I’m pretty sure the reunion in this chapter is the first time in the book we’ve seen the entire family interacting; we’ve had Theo with Jen Sar, Theo with Kamele, and Kamele with Jen Sar, but not all three, for the entire time the family has been living separately. The occasional moments when all three have been in the same place together (such as when Theo showed Kamele and Jen Sar the snake AI) happened off the page — until now, when the family is properly back together.

Fledgling – Chapter 40

Mauve Level

In which Jen Sar attends a meeting.

I’ve said before that one of the things I’m enjoying about doing this re-read is being able to trace connections and find repeated names that I wouldn’t have noticed at the speed I normally read. In this chapter, the familiar name is Professor Skilings, revealed here as one of the conspirators, but already known to us from Chapter Sixteen as a high-ranking member of the faculty with a reputation for being a bad enemy to people who gain her enmity, and also incidentally the lady whose play for Jen Sar, though unrewarded, inspired Kamele to place her relationship with him on an official footing.

Sub-Chancellor Kylin’s name, on the other hand, doesn’t ring any bells.

It’s interesting that Jen Sar’s response to having a gun brandished at him is to hide behind the furniture. It’s possible that he’s playing it safe, since the years he’s spent living on a safe world might after all have dulled his edge to the point that he can’t be sure of being able to handle the situation, but don’t think I believe that, and I rather suspect he’s playing safe more because nobody on Delgado knows that he has experience being at the wrong end of a gun, and he’d prefer to keep it that way.

Kamele’s hand gestures, the ones which Theo finds reminiscent of hand-talk without being actual signs she recognises, might be Liaden gestures Kamele has picked up off Jen Sar. I seem to recall similar hand gestures being used by Liadens in conversation in past stories; the clearing-away gesture in particular sounds familiar.

Fledgling – Chapter 39

Melchiza Station

In which Theo and Kamele start for home, Jen Sar enters the home stretch, and Hafley can never go home again.

Clyburn stops pretending to be the kind of bubble-headed male no Delgadan would suspect of being a criminal mastermind, and is revealed to be, among other things, a pilot. Which suggests further covering-up from his relative in Admin, since he wasn’t issued a pilot’s ID when the research team arrived. It also makes me wonder again about the divided motivations of the blue-shirts: if he’s a pilot and a native Melchizan he must have known enough about how Melchizan pilots think to be able to predict that they’d protect Theo. Although that assumes he knew Theo was a pilot, and I get the impression that came as an unpleasant surprise to him on the bus; apparently he wasn’t paying enough attention to Theo on the Vashtara to notice how she’d been spending her time. He must be kicking himself for that now (or, if he’s the kind of person who is never at fault for their own lapses of judgement, finding some excuse to blame Theo).

For all the trouble it’s caused in the past, Theo’s pilot nature has been really helpful several times this trip, both in obvious ways like protecting her at the Transit School and in indirect ways like leading her into a situation where she can, unlike the sheltered Kamele, recognise violent intent in time to avoid danger.

Fledgling – Chapter 38

City of Treasures

In which Kamele and Theo are reunited.

It’s all very well for the Chaperon to say that perhaps Kamele might tour the school next time she visits; even supposing there’s any likelihood of a next time, which I doubt, I somehow suspect that no matter how many visits Kamele might make it will always turn out that the schedule is too tight.

The detail about Jen Sar having installed an Orbital Traffic Scanner in his office to keep him company while Kamele and Theo are away is one of those prequel-type details that doesn’t seem particularly significant to someone following the story in chronological order, but has a special resonance to those of us who first read the series as it was published: it happens that in publication order the first time we met Professor Jen Sar Kiladi he was sitting in his office listening to the Orbital Traffic Scanner at just the right moment to change the course of his life.

Fledgling – Chapter 37

City of Treasures

In which Theo is getting along better than might have been expected.

I have a suspicion that Hafley is telling the truth when she says that she would have had Beltaire come along, given the choice, but not with the motive she suggests. Until the research team produces solid evidence, Beltaire’s observations are the key to their case, and if she were to come along on an interplanetary journey you never know but that something might happen to her — even without the hints we’ve been getting that something is likely to happen to her in any case if she ever returns to Melchiza.

Her accusation that Kamele is too ambitious, on the other hand, is a classic case of accusing one’s opponent of one’s own sins.

I think I see, now, what the point of having Theo assigned to the Parole Class was: So that it could be revealed at an appropriate moment in an attempt to make Kamele abandon her research and rush off to rescue Theo — which would probably, given the security set-up, only be possible if the whole research team agrees to leave the archive with her, thereby bringing the research trip to an end — or else to reduce her usefulness to the research effort by distracting her if she does remain in the archive. (An appropriate moment being one after Hafley’s cover has already been blown to such an extent that it won’t be giving anything away to reveal that she has secret knowledge about what’s been happening to Theo.) I don’t think it’ll work, though, precisely because Hafley’s accusation of ambition isn’t true; Kamele is here in service of a greater cause than her own ambition, and knows that she can’t turn away now even for Theo’s sake. I doubt she’s going to be badly distracted, either; she’s already proven that she’s made of sterner stuff than Hafley thinks, and I suspect Hafley’s just given her more reason to concentrate on getting the job done.

Fledgling – Chapter 36

Transit School

In which Theo and Kamele make progress.

On Melchiza, pilots are recognised as rare and special people, and apparently this means that Melchizan pilot culture is affected by the Melchizan attitude that leaders should stand aloof and not hold themselves back trying to help others less special. Inspector Vidige’s lesson about a pilot bearing sole responsibility for the decisions he must make is not entirely new (I’m particularly reminded of Aelliana in Scout’s Progress, and the lesson that she must learn to back her own judgement if she wishes to be a pilot), but the emphasis is different. At least it’s somewhat softened by Pilot-Instructor Arman’s comment which suggests that Melchizan pilots do form bonds of loyalty with their crew (like the brother’s friends in the folk tale?); self-sufficiency is one thing, but if they’d been taking it to the extent of not even trusting a co-pilot that would have been asking for serious trouble sooner or later.

Fledgling – Chapter 35

Efraim Agricultural Zone

In which Jen Sar, Theo, and Kamele pass beyond the gatekeepers.

It’s good that it’s Appletorn who gets to explain to the Chapelia why their course of action is not as desirable as they might have thought; if too much of the work of saving Delgado fell to Jen Sar the outsider, one might start wondering whether it was worth the effort of saving. Looked at another way, it simply makes sense that it’s Appletorn who produces that explanation; after all, he’s the man whose profession is Advertancy, the practice of knowing what you’re getting yourself into.

Incidentally, it’s looking increasingly likely that my question from way back about whether the Chapelia has any male members can be answered in the negative.

Pilot-Instructor Arman’s test of Theo seems rather unforgiving; if she hadn’t known how to handle a bowli ball properly, she could have been seriously injured. Is it that if she had been laying an unearned claim to the bowli ball, it would have cancelled out the testimony of her dancing and left her, in Arman’s eyes, not enough of a pilot to deserve protection?

I’m getting the distinct impression that Hafley knows about Theo being reassigned to the Parole Class, although since they’re now being held incommunicado she has no way of knowing that Theo hasn’t gone. And that makes me wonder: since they are being held incommunicado, there’s no way of using Theo’s situation to exert pressure on Kamele, which makes it look like nothing more productive than spite at Kamele standing up to her about continuing the research.

Fledgling – Chapter 34

Efraim Agricultural Zone

In which Jen Sar and Theo each enter unexplored territory.

The folk-tale, and Theo’s response to it, shows a lot about the differences between Delgado and Melchiza. The moral ascribed to it is revealing about how Melchiza comes to be the way it is. The difference between Delgadan and Melchizan ideas of appropriate emergencies for childrens’ television perhaps says more about Delgado than Melchiza, or at least shows Delgado as standing further than Melchiza from present-day America on this subject.

The dance around Theo’s class assignment suggests that Melchiza’s Security apparatus, though omnipresent, is not directed always to the same goal. The order for Theo to be moved into the Parole Class must have come from some branch of Security — one suspects the branch which contains that helpful lady with the blue buttonhole who was so eager to help the research team avoid doing any research, or perhaps, if it’s a distinction with a difference, whoever might have been on the other end of Hafley’s mumu before she was made to turn it off — but Pilot-Instructor Arman seems to be of the opinion that whatever they’re up to is not worth endangering the health of a pilot.