This is another interlude that’s very significant for the characters but I can’t think of anything to say about it that it hasn’t already said itself.
Except the perhaps obvious statement that, with the number of ex-Agents increased to three, things are pretty much certain to become even more interesting. Because they just weren’t interesting enough already.
In which Val Con has a meeting, and Tolly avoids one.
I speculate that the crew who made an attempt on Yulie’s growing rooms are connected to the group Rys encountered near the gate of the Bedel. Nothing really solid to go on, just a sense that they were both sniffing around places that they ought not to even know about.
I don’t believe we’ve heard the name of Tan Ort before. I note that the description Val Con gives, as far as it goes, matches Herb’s description of the Liaden Tolly is anxious to avoid meeting, but I don’t think that necessarily means anything; the description doesn’t go very far and probably fits a lot of Liadens. There’ll be a fair few who are of a portly bearing, red hair isn’t entirely uncommon (look at Miri’s entire family, for a start), and it’s a rare Liaden who isn’t shorter than Val Con.
In which Jeeves brings an urgent request to the delm.
That’s what you get, Miri, for tempting fate by being thankful you didn’t have to deal with Pat Rin’s problem in fleecy robe and slippers.
(It occurs to me that there’s a conceptual connection between Jeeves’s intention to create a child and what Val Con and Miri were doing when he interrupted, although Val Con and Miri presumably weren’t motivated by the same intention in this instance.)
The idea of Jeeves’s child coming to Korval is interesting; Jeeves, as far as I know, is not counted a member of the clan himself, any more than the other household servants. Perhaps it’s an option opened up by the fact that he came to the delm for permission. I don’t think a household servant would normally do that; inform their employer of a factor likely to affect their performance, yes, but the decision itself would be in the hands of their own delm. (I’m thinking, among other examples, of Jeeves’s predecessor Mr pak’Ora, who was called by his delm to serve his clan in another role, with his employer being given no say and left to cover his absence at short notice.) Jeeves, of course, doesn’t have a delm of his own, which may be another factor in Val Con’s offer. If it is an offer, and not an ultimatum: there have been cases where a child has gone to another clan as Balance for trouble caused by the parent. I don’t think that’s what’s going on here, even though Jeeves admitted fault for the present emergency, but I suspect that the possibility is one of the reasons he had to stop and think before accepting the delm’s word.
I’m not sure I have much to say about this chapter, since it speaks pretty well for itself.
One detail that’s left open for speculation is why the luthia gave Rys the task of seeing Kezzi off in the mornings at the same time as she began this course of education. Is it somehow part of the lesson, too? Did Silain foresee that it would be in the act of seeing Kezzi off that he’d come to his realisation about what is going on?
In which Kamele reflects on her week, and Val Con recounts his day.
Dudley Avenue, the location of Kareen’s new establishment, was mentioned in Necessity’s Child; it intersects Blair Road, which by now should need no introduction.
I’ve been waiting for Sherman’s to put in an appearance; I had a feeling that the shooting competition would turn out to be the point where “Chimera” overlapped this novel. (I’m still shaking my head at the idea it would be a good move to start trouble at an event where the Bosses were demonstrating their shooting skills.) With that in mind, I feel safe in having another shot at predicting trouble at a forthcoming Bosses’ meeting.
Given the people involved, I also feel safe in predicting that Kamele’s determination not to shoot at the competition isn’t going to make the distance. And given those two predictions, I’m willing to hazard another, that competition targets are not going to be the only thing Kamele will find herself having to shoot at.
I hadn’t quite got what was going on with Miri’s startle last chapter, because I couldn’t quite figure out if it was in reaction to what her visitor was saying, but I decided not to say anything because I had a feeling there was something I was missing and hoped it would come clear if I waited. Which, of course, it has. (The trouble with so much happening at once is that it’s easy to lose little insignificant details like Miri and Val Con being inside each others’ heads.)
In which Quin has breakfast, and Miri is given something to chew on.
Tef Lej pen’Erit shows courage in approaching Quin for help. To some extent, it’s driven by necessity; as he says, Quin is literally the only person he knows here. But the circumstances of their previous meeting weren’t exactly friendly, so he couldn’t be sure of the reception he’d get.
It’s not clear exactly what’s going on between Villy and Quin. Partly it’s because Villy is like that with everybody, at least to some extent, but I also suspect the authors are being deliberately difficult. There’s no way, for instance, that the earlier conversation about their “date” wasn’t the result of the authors deliberately shaping the words to be misleading. But, of course, just because nothing of that sort was going on that time, doesn’t mean that nothing of the sort is going on at all.
A few weeks have passed during the interludes, so apparently that meeting I was worried about happened without incident. See? I’m terrible at predicting how a Liaden novel is going to go.
If the Citizens’ Heavy Loads Committee is serious about not liking being fined if they’re caught with a load over the limit, they’re really not going to be happy about a regular system of tolls based on load weight.
In which Lionel Smealy has a deal for the Road Boss.
There’s a lot of cultural misunderstanding in this chapter; it becomes apparent long before Lionel actually comes into the presence of the Road Boss that he’s setting himself up for failure, and it’s largely because he keeps trying to interpret the Liadens as if they were members of his own culture. In fact, this chapter reminds me a lot of the one in I Dare where Jim Snyder the insurance man completely failed to deal with the newly-arrived Conrad – which is not a complaint, in case it sounded like one. It shows that Jim and Lionel come from a common cultural context, one that has not disappeared from the Surebleak cultural mix just because the mix has had a heap of Liadens dumped into it.
The fact that his entire plan is founded on the common misapprehension that Val Con is Conrad’s younger brother doesn’t help either, of course. When you’re trying to make someone a deal they can’t refuse, it helps to actually know who you’re dealing with.
Although I see how a group of people used to operating in a laissez-faire environment might find the imposition of load size limits annoying, I kind of get the feeling that that’s not really the issue. It occurs to me that a lorry running the full length of the Road at midnight might have other reasons for not wanting to have its load inspected than just the question of its size.
There’s a balance, or a reflection, in these few Interludes: Daav and Aelliana return to the land of the living, but Kar Min pel’Mather and his less fortunate colleague go forth from it.
“Interlude”, in a Liaden novel, seems to mean something like “scene important enough to stand alone and not have to share a chapter with other scenes”. I thought, when the first one in this novel was Daav and Aelliana, that it might be something like “glimpse of something happening away from the main plot”, but this one is right in the middle of the main plot. (So were the interludes in Dragon Ship and Crystal Dragon, come to think of it.)
In which the Uncle is informed of Daav and Aelliana’s decision.
In light of the earlier interlude, I don’t think the Uncle’s attribution of the decision to Daav is quite accurate, though it makes sense that he would think of Daav as the primary decision-maker when Daav is the most visible half of the partnership. It’s more a case of Aelliana, once again, acting to protect the vulnerable and preserve the clan’s resources.
More re-establishing of the situation from previous novels, with a nice seasoning of new details. We’re getting answers here to questions about the Uncle that have been lurking in the background of the series for a long time.
The reference to the Uncle having “guided captured intelligences, long accustomed to the bodiless state, into warm and waiting flesh” is intriguing. We haven’t seen anybody do that since the Enemy’s pet dramliz, way back in Crystal Dragon. (And then, it was generally bad news for the intelligence in question.) It raises so many questions: When did the Uncle do this? With which intelligences? With what aim in mind? (And is the mention of it now just adding richness to the backstory, or is it setting up a future plot development?)
Vivulonj Prosperu is presumably the name of the Uncle’s ship, which hasn’t been named up to now. It looks like it might be derived by some indirect method from the phrase “live long and prosper”, which is entirely appropriate, since that’s pretty much the Uncle’s goal.
This chapter reminds me of the one at the beginning of Mouse and Dragon when Daav applied the understanding of a delm and started picking loose threads out of the happy ending of Scout’s Progress. Indeed, this book as a whole has been engaging in that activity quite a bit. There’s an extra-textual consideration at work here: when approaching the end of a book that might be, for all one knows, the last book in the series, tucking the loose threads away neatly out of sight is a good plan; near the beginning of a book (and even more so near the beginning of a five-book sequence) is the time to pull them back out again, in the knowledge that one has space to deal with them properly.
I agree with Jeeves that “heavily armed” and “confused” are a bad combination, but I do have hope that Admiral Bunter is not quite as confused as he appears, and that “Target destroyed” means something more precise and non-lethal than blowing up the entire fleeing ship. (If only by appealing to another extra-textual consideration: having such a fatal outcome to a sympathetic character’s decisions would put the character and the authors in a bad spot to move on from.)
Even so, we’re left with a question: Why did Bechimo approve this plan? Is Jeeves overestimating Bechimo’s abilities? (After all, Bechimo has considerably less practical experience than Jeeves.) Or did Bechimo know what was likely to happen, and approve the plan for reasons of his own?