Monthly Archives: December 2014

Plan B – Chapter 24

Lytaxin War Zone
Altitude: 12 kilometers

In which Shan finds himself in a war zone.

First published description of how the Tree talks, I think, and the most talkative it’s been since the prequels. Maybe it’s significant that this is one of the seedlings; perhaps being talkative is an attribute of the young.

In a moment that relates to something we’ve discussed in the comments, Shan reflects on the traditional differences between yos’Phelium and yos’Galan, and acknowledges that genetically there’s not actually much to choose between them. I wonder how much that extends to un-war-like Cousin Luken; we know Line bel’Tarda has had at least one infusion from relatively-respectable yos’Galan, but I don’t recall any mention of piratical yos’Phelium doing likewise.

I don’t remember now what I made of Shan’s encounter the first time, before I’d read the short stories about Lute. Re-reading it now, with those under my belt, two things occur to me. One is that Lute and Moonhawk have unfinished business in this when that is going to catch up with Shan and Priscilla sooner or later. The other is that I like the bit of business with the dagger; it’s very Lute.

Plan B – Chapter 23

Merc Hall

In which Edger and Sheather change course in response to fresh information.

I suppose technically Edger has come to the correct conclusion, but I’m dubious about his premises: surely the same bustle would be afoot without Val Con’s involvement. (Then again, perhaps it wouldn’t. The luck moves in strange ways around Korval.)

I’m struck by the term “blood war”, which more than one merc has now used to describe the Yxtrang invasion, but I don’t think any of the Yxtrang themselves have used. Perhaps it’s a merc term, used to distinguish a conflict with motives other than a nice big paycheque.

Plan B – Chapter 22

Ending Jump

In which Nova and Liz change course in response to fresh information.

There’s been some development in Liz and Nova’s relationship. When we last saw them, Liz was reserving the nickname “Goldie” for occasions when she particularly wished to annoy Nova. Now it appears to be her default address, and Nova seems to have given over being annoyed by it.

Plan B – Chapter 21

Dutiful Passage
In Jump

In which the Passage is welcomed to Lytaxin.

Another chapter where much happens, but all I can find to talk about is minor details like this:

The message signed by Grandmother Cantra establishes that Plan B is very old. It’s even older than the Council of Clans, which wasn’t chartered until the sixth year after Planetfall.

Plan B – Chapter 20

Erob’s Hold
Practice Grounds

In which Val Con and Nelirikk speak of Jela.

The news that the entire 14th Conquest Corps is acting out of turn suggests the possibility that the Yxtrang we’ve encountered so far, who value prestige over effective action, are atypical, and most Yxtrang are more sensible. On the other hand, there’s still the decision High Command made about Nelirikk, and if Yxtrang High Command doesn’t behave typically of Yxtrang, who does? Perhaps these Yxtrang are atypical not in the sense that they behave unlike Yxtrang, but only in taking typical Yxtrang qualities to an unusual extreme.

The bit about what “the Troop did not know — or did not tell” is interesting, in light of the prequels. The Troop does know how Jela died, or at least did at the time, since Cantra told them; indeed, Jela’s Troop was named in his honour only after he died. Perhaps the story was lost to memory because it contained too many things that the Yxtrang would not wish to remember: Cantra herself, for one.

Plan B – Chapter 19

Jelaza Kazone

In which Anthora counts stars.

Re-reading in chronological order, it’s easy to lose track, but I think this might be the first published appearance of the Tree in person, as it were, although it’s appeared a time or two as an impressive object on the skyline. Likewise, I think this is the first published mention of Cousin Luken, whom Val Con neglected to mention to Miri a few chapters back.

(And no mention of Cousin Luken’s obligate heir, who in the entire series has only been mentioned once, and that in a story set many years before this; I suppose we must take it that in this present she no longer stands among the surviving members of the Clan.)

I’m not entirely sure of the identity of the extra person whom Anthora can’t put a name to. All things considered, I think it’s probably her uncle Daav, who is “momentarily beyond the clan”, as Val Con told Miri earlier; she’s never met him in person, since he left Liad before she was born, so she wouldn’t have a personal familiarity to match the impression to. (Supporting this conclusion is the observation that the authors found an excuse to remind us of his existence earlier in this same chapter.) But I don’t know how much we’re supposed to read into that bit about it being “at the extreme edge of her ability to read”, and sometimes that leads me into more esoteric speculations.

Plan B – Chapter 18

Department of Interior Command Headquarters

In which the Commander of Agents reviews the facts.

I’m thinking about doing a post at the end of all this about Things I’ve Learned Doing This Re-Read. If I do, “reading one chapter a day works much better for books with even-sized chapters” is definitely going to be one of the Things.

Here’s another Commander to add to that confused tangle. I wonder if the position of Commander of Agents is modelled on the position of the Scout Commander. The Department doesn’t like the Scouts much, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be so, particularly since a significant number of Agents are former Scouts.

Plan B – Chapter 17

Erob’s Hold
Practice Grounds

In which Nelirikk is introduced to his new compatriots.

It occurs to me I’d never given much thought to how old Nelirikk is. If he’s been shaving for 25 years, that would put him… about 40 years old? A few years older than Val Con and Miri, anyway. (Miri’s just turned 28 Standards, and Val Con’s in his early thirties. Nelirikk’s precise age remains uncertain, given lack of information regarding Yxtrang physical development and the exchange rate between Standards and Cycles.)

I don’t think I’d noticed quite so clearly in earlier readings how much leeway Nelirikk’s given in this chapter, what with being unlocked, unguarded, unescorted, and entrusted with weapons he could do a lot of damage with if he chose to. It makes sense, though; if Val Con’s right about him, he can be trusted to behave, and the only way to make progress with him is to show him that he is trusted. And if Val Con’s wrong, I suppose, better to find out as soon as possible.

The business with jin’Bardi is one of my favourite scenes in the novel.

Plan B – Chapter 16

Epling Street

In which Sheather pays a visit to the home of an Elder.

Poor Sheather. He’s trying so hard to be inconspicuous and unthreatening, but he doesn’t quite grasp the inherent handicaps he’s carrying in those areas in the estimation of Terrans.

Plan B – Chapter 15

Erob’s Hold
Freeze-Dry Prison

In which the Lytaxin Combined Forces gain a new recruit.

Val Con reporting Nelirikk as an example of a “potentially sapient race” is one of my favourite moments in a chapter with many excellent moments.

Incidentally, Val Con’s account of their first meeting confirms that he held the rank of captain before being promoted to commander, though that still seems to me backward from the way I’m used to seeing ranks work. Come to think of it, the same thing is visible this chapter with the mercs — Commander Carmody outranks Captain Robertson — but I don’t think I ever paid that much attention before because I figured a merc unit might use whatever ranks it likes, and it makes sense for Suzuki and Jase to be the Commanders when they’re the ones in command of the unit. For that matter, it’s been mentioned in the past that the individual in command of the Scouts is the Scout Commander, which is presumably different from being a scout with the rank of Commander. At this point, I’m about ready to just throw up my hands and go on to a less confusing subject.

The name of Nelirikk’s “toy”, the Shibjela, calls back (or forward, if one is reading in publication order) to a weapon called a “shib” that Jela carries in Crystal Soldier. The two weapons don’t actually seem very similar beyond being worn, contrary to their names, concealed in the belt; Jela’s shib is described as more like a whip, with a flexible ceramic cutting edge that can slice through bone. Perhaps it was the product of old technology since lost, or perhaps what was lost was a detailed description of what it actually was, and either way the Shibjela is somebody’s best attempt to recontruct it with the knowledge and technology available.

I did wonder briefly if the medic named Chen, who comes to attend to Nelirikk at the end of this chapter, was the same person as “Doc Tien”, who saw to him when he was first brought in, give or take someone’s attempt to pronounce a name from an unfamiliar culture. But Chen is male and Tien was female, so that’s unlikely.

I wonder what it says about the Yxtrang worldview that they have one God of Quartermasters but multiple Gods of Irony.