Feb 272012
 

In Conquest Born
In Conquest Born by C.S. Friedman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A story told over a span of decades. This is exactly the kind of story I normally thrive on. And there is no doubt that I liked this book. There is, however, something ineffeable that detracted from my ability to give it a five.

Whether it’s the dramatically mysognynistic outlook of the Braxana, or the conclusion,(where we discover that the progenitor of the Azea, the millenia old enemies of the Braxana, is the child of the Braxin progenitor.)I cannot say. The story is definitely about the people, and less so about the worlds, the setting, the technology or the epic struggle. There are no glorious space battles here. There is one space combat sequence, one (and a few fragments of) physical combat, and lots of telepathic conflict.

The title of the story takes its queue from the birth of the Braxin-born Zatar who, in order to be blessed according to Braxan custom must be named in the shadow of conquest and death. So, the Braxan break the latest (of almost one thousand) truces and Zatar is named. Anzha is born at about the same time to a pair of Azean. Each is atypical for their anscestry. And each will meet the other. Eventually.

I was drawn to this primarily because I’d read The Wilding and (thanks to Goodreads) figured out that the two stories were related. This makes me want to go back and read the other book, as I understand it is a stand-alone novel set in the same universe, and I wonder how Friedman has changed the world between the first and second book.

View all my reviews

Feb 082012
 
Where we are introduced to the Domers, the facility administrator Yaan, and two previous characters are brought to the Domes: Shayah, our now named female Tekk-human from the Talguth, and Frederick-Raayat-Tyr. In four scenes we’re succinctly told a lot about Dome life, and the kind of people who live in the Dome. We’re introduced to a earthborn human that is transferred to the Domes to join the scientists—who is expected to be trouble. The pacing and excitement in the story are really ramping up. What kind of firestorm can we expect from this melting pot? Let’s go find out…

C.S. Friedman’s The Madness Season Chapter 16.

Yuang: Dome Five

I love the opening to this chapter:

He couldn’t fix it. Immediately we know the conflict. Try though he might, the machine defied him. He hoped that if he fought with it long enough, followed every circuit from beginning to end with careful enough eyes, he might come up with a different cause for the trouble they were having with it. Not only can he not fix it, but the problem that he’s having is bad and he wishes it were otherwise. A more acceptable cause. But he had been through every circuit at least twice, had tested every component he could remove or reach, and the diagnosis remained the same. A biochip had died. Simple. It had to be replaced. Simple. I love the rhythm of the last four “sentences.” Short, staccato and as pleasant as machine-gun fire.

“Shit.”

We can tell instantly we’re following a new character. Is it a Tekk? Is it one of the fabled human intellectuals who were spirited away by the Tyr? (We’re told in Chapter 13 something about the Domes. That’s where our Tekk would be transferred to the Domes on her way to another ship.)

Yaan, the man trying to fix the chip. Tereza, a fellow researcher. Sung, a fellow researcher. Tereza’s had word from the Tyr, they’re not only sending a Tekk to fix the chip but also delivering another earthborn. Yaan can’t bear the thought of either. Hints that the humans had bombed and electronically erased much of their own knowledge during the Conquest. But why?

The earthborn might read about such things, might know hte history, the when and the how and supposedly the why of them … but would never consider all the implications. Never.

Which tells me instantly why. I’m pretty sure I suspected even in my first read through. As Yaan considers the difficulty of breaking in a new earthborn addition to their team, he reveals the fate of the last transfer:

“He killed himself,” he said quietly.

* * *

Yaan, we learn, is in charge of the facility. Twelve unit managers and their assistants are crammed in to  a lounge that Yaan had fought tooth and nail to create. The Tyr delegation was thankfully small, from the Talguth. A Raayat, a Tekk woman of African heritage and the earthborn transfer.

With a deep, heartfelt sigh of dread, he knew that this one was going to be trouble. Big trouble. He assessed the youth with a practiced eye, and felt himself growing more and more worried. The man—say rather, boy—was sixteen. If that old. Bad, very bad. Not yet a child, not quite an adult, filled with the insecurities of both and an admixture of hormones that practically guaranteed overreaction to stress. Bearing himself in a manner that implied he had come to work, he had come to do things, he was very excited about being here and could they please, please, get through the preliminaries very fast, becauseh he couldn’t wait to get started.

We’re going to lose him, Yaan thought grimly. One way or another.

I love the treat implied in that last sentence. Here is a man who has done everything to create a little comfort for the people in his facility. Here is a threat to that comfort.

* * *

Yaan and our female Tekk (nameber Yol Shayay To Hegyam Haal) go to the equipment with the defective chip. Yaan leaves the equipment open to clearly tell the Tekk that he’d tried to fix it without her and that she was not welcome. Had she been there to fix it, he thinks, she could have replaced the unit in five minutes. Instead, Shayay launches into a passionate monologue about her reason for accepting transfer: The Tekk have been submitting to the Will so that they could establish a network of communication, and with it now in place they need information that will reveal the Tyr’s weakness and allow humanity to reclaim their freedom. Yaan is reluctant (or unable) to help.

She stared at him for a long while in silence; the markings on her face made it impossible for him to read her. At last she told him, “In seventy-four days I’m scheduled to be transferred to another longship. To join a tribe of strangers, whose language base is different than mine. To give my body to a stranger for use, and commit myself to making babies for him … all so that I could be here today. To talk to you.” Another long silence; he didn’t dare meet her eyes. “I’ll be back when the biochip is tested, to install it. We’ll talk then.”

* * *

We conclude with a scene showing a conflict between Yaan and Frederick-Raayat. Frederick wants to observe science-humans, but the humans have claimed to the Tyr that observation diminishes creativity. For the moment, Frederick accepts this, and departs but clearly the matter is not settled.

Outside the Dome, a firestorm was just igniting.

Concluding this chapter, we end with the following hooks:

  • Shayay is offering some kind of alliance between the Tekk and the scientists in the Domes.
  • Nogyat is young, dumb and full of …
  • Frederick and Shayay are both on Yuang.
  • What kind of science are they doing? Rats brains in blenders?

Stakes: Nogyat, the earthborn transfer is a danger to the domes. Shayay, the female Tekk wants cooperation from the scientists which is a danger to the domes. Frederick, the Raayat, wants to observe science-humans, which is a danger to the domes. Doom, doom, and more doom.

Jan 282012
 
This chapter is one of my favorite in the novel. Daetrin awakens from near death and is introduced to Kiri, the Marra, our Marra. Kiri begins revealing the relationship between Daetrin and the Marra race, and Daetrin accepts challenge of defeating the Priest-Marra of Cantona.

C.S. Friedman’s The Madness Season Chapter 15.

Daetrin awakens in the Honaqa Gorge. A brief exchange between a young woman we don’t immediately recognize and Daetrin takes place, in Greek, and then Daetrin is pushed back in to unconsciousness (to facilitate healing.) The young woman (later to be named Kiri) awakens Daetrin long enough to feed him her blood, then he passes out again. He awakens again, and this time he’s stronger but still severely wounded.

… She had drawn me against her, and her offer was unmistakable. It was there in the scent of her flesh, in the pounding of her blood beneath her skin, so close against my face. I felt the last vestiges of my self-control slipping away into darkness, and I lacked the strength—and the desire—to fight for its return

Who are you?

What are you?

Why?

How many year had it been, since I had last tasted human blood? Even in the Time Before that was a rare occurrence; I would no more have forced that attention upon a woman than I would any other violent hunger. Animal blood had sufficed for me, as it did for most of my kind. And I had forgotten. The intoxication of feeding on one’s own kind. The heady flavor of human life. The feel of a woman’s body in my arms, and the heat of her blood as I drank it in—the scent of her, so very female, which awakened other hungers—the need to hold her, to drink her in, until my body shivered in pleasure, my desperate hunger reduced to mere desire. I had forgotten there was anything like this … and maybe, in fact, I had never known. What human woman could ever have given herself in this way, with so little fear of consequence?

Again Kiri and Daetrin talk. She explains the nature of the Marra and then asks him the nature of his kind. He is embodied (not Marra), she is not. There’s more, but you should read it yourself. A lot of dialogue that gives you subtle hints; Kiri seems vulnerable despite being Daetrin’s healer and protector.

Then, when Daetrin awakes, he is alone.

Terrible emptiness inside me: I convinced myself that it was only hunger, a physical yearning, and had nothing to do with my isolation. It was good to be free of fear for once, with no one to answer to but myself. No aliens to analyze, no humans to deceive, no home to worry about defending. Nothing to save, or abandon. An animal freedom, dream-pure. It was a welcome relief.

Wasn’t it?

And when Daetrin takes the form of a cat (he’s always near his original mass when he shape-shifts) and encounters Kiri, in the shape of a mountain cat.

Which is when I heard the other cat coming. I drew myself back and hissed, an instinctive reaction; hunting cats defend their solitude with vigor. But I wasn’t prepared for what bounded out at me, with such playful enthusiasm that I was knocked back onto my haunches in surprise, all my hostility suddenly deflated.

It was a mountain cat, female, smaller than myself, in that stage of life just past kittenhood. And I would like to say that I knew what it really was because my senses were so keen, or my reasoning so sound. Or because my cat-body could pick up the scent of alienness that surrounded her, or some similarly impressive accomplishment. But the truth was simply that she still had human eyes—the same human eyes—and the chestnut fur with russet tipping, that perfectly matched the shade of her human hair.

The cat psyche is a straightforward thing, infinitely simpler than its human counterpart. In it there is no conflict of id or superego, no wrestling of divergent emotions, no clouding of issues with intellectual complexity. As a man, I would have greeted her return with misgivings, any hint of happiness stifled by my concern over her nature and purpose. And alarm at her shapechanging. But as a cat I was simply glad to see her, my joy unfettered by human concerns. And I think it showed.

She padded near to where I stood, and extended her nose for perusal. I sniffed her gingerly, knowing that feline instinct was wary of any new scent. But her sent was arm, encouraging … even mildly arousing. It circumvented the biochemical channels that warned of danger and left, in its wake, an offer of companionship.

Later, after hunting, they talk again.

“You are feeling better?” she asked.

It occurred to me suddenly that she really didn’t know the full extent of what she’d done. And how could she, when even I barely understood it?

“You saved my life,” I said quietly. With as much gratitude in my voice as that one phrase could contain. And hunted with me, which no woman has done in centuries. Memories arose within me, painful and compelling. Brigid. Bianca. Yolanda. For a moment I was lost, hunting in those other times. Feeling the pain all over again, as fate took each companion from me. And the loneliness—always the loneliness.

The chapter concludes with Daetrin agreeing to follow Kiri to Suyaag, the human capital of Meyaga, once he has freed Cantona from the Priest-Marra.

Concluding this chapter, we end with the following hooks:

  • Daetrin feels an emotional/sexual bond to Kiri as a result of her feeding him “human” blood, and because of her hunting with him. What’s going to happen between then?
  • Daetrin commits to traveling to Suyaag with Kiri, a merging of purpose. What will this mean for Daetrin’s future?
  • Daetrin commits to expelling the Priest-Marra from Cantona. Will he succeed?

Stakes: Free the Cantonan people from the Priest-Marra, learn his abilities, test himself before he proceeds with his fight against the Tyr.

Jan 272012
 
I’ve been a little lax with posting my reviews. I’m going to try to catch up this weekend, get a few scheduled in advance.

In this very short chapter, we evaluate a flashback moment. Based on context, it must be Daetrin’s POV. He’s in a church, during an era when there is a Plague.

C.S. Friedman’s The Madness Season Chapter 14.

From a purely informational basis, this page-and-a-half chapter adds nothing to the story. (Really, it doesn’t.) The narrative is historical, it presents a time in the POVC’s life when they are living in a community that has been struck by the Plague. They are trying to establish themselves within the community, and they are faced with a priest who conducts a ritual (communion and consumption of the Body and the Blood of Christ).

Informationally we are presented with:

  • His mother was a priestess and oracle (possibly predating Alexandria.)
  • His father was a scholar of Alexandria, trading his knowledge for acceptance (and other necessities and luxuries.)

The timing of the piece is indistinct. There’s a lot of periods when the Plague ran rampant through the world. The was an epidemic in Asia in the late 1800s that even made its way to California via Hawaii. Based on what we know, it would have had to have been late 1800s to early 1900s. The one thing I found when looking up information on the Plague is that it did not reach the same level of severity in Europe that it did in Asia— and because of the lack of specifics we can’t know where we are, or when we are.

What the timefugue does do though is set the mood. We know that Daetrin fell off a cliff and nearly died (it was possible he died, but unlikely… he is the protagonist after all.)

There are thematic similarities between the last chapter and this one. The hostile community. Daetrin’s attempts to fit in (but the conclusion of this chapter says he never fits in). The priest. The chapter moves the mood and pacing from Daetrin’s attempt to flee (and near death experience) to something more claustrophobic. In this scene/chapter, we’re not shown anything outside of the church and we’re told little more. There’s a sense of brooding danger, hidden just out of site.

I’m left with the conclusion that the point of this scene is to draw back from the fast pacing of Daetrin fleeing and transition to a lower paced scene.

Concluding this chapter, we end with the following hooks: None, this short chapter suggests that Daetrin is not dead.

Stakes: None.

Jan 222012
 
In this Chapter, we see the world through the Tyr’s eyes. What might otherwise be considered “a day in the life of” provides meaningful hints about future events. The scene also hints and suggests at themes tied to the title of the novel.

C.S. Friedman’s The Madness Season Chapter 13.

This chapter comes in at approximately 900 words. A single scene that depicts the interaction between the Tyr-whole and the Talguth-Tekk (who is also starsha), we’re told that two children have died and that the Talguth must trade Tekk for genetic diversity. The brief scene provides us a look in to the mind of the Tyr-whole,

… One of its Raayat on board the Kamugwa was in the presence of an acceptable human contact, and therefore It used that body as a mouthpiece, even though it was far gone in to season. (Soon, soon. How long must It wait? It needed/ they needed/ a Burning …)

I could make all sorts of inappropriate (out of context) comments here, but I’m not that snarky.

The scene also provides us hints as to the actions and motivations of the Tekk. The Tyr decide that the Talguth-Tekk will transfer to the Domes where eventually the Kamugwa will retrieve her (the Tekk). We’re given a feel for how information passes between the Tyr bodies:

… It consulted Its charts through a distant Kuol, …

and

… It paused, to question its distant contact. …

and

… It accepted the lists from here, and transfered [sic] them into its other brains. …

Lastly, a hint is thrown out about the titular season (it happens midway through the scene, but I’m putting it at the end of my write up for emphasis):

There was no time in the foreseeable future when the Talguth and the Kamugwa could rendezvous. And with summer coming, things would become even more difficult…. [sic, yes, there really are four periods, at least in the kindle version.]

 

Concluding this chapter, we end with the following hooks:

Stakes:

Jan 182012
 
In this chapter, Daetrin attempts to connect with the Meyagan human settlement of Cantona, with dire consequences.

C.S. Friedman’s The Madness Season Chapter 12.

A summary

Outside Cantona, reconnaissance.

Foreshadowing: The longer Daetrin remains a wolf, the more wolf-like his thinking becomes. The building, or temple, in the center of town.

Unanswered questions: We’re not certain how long it’s been since the last chapter with Daetrin, but we get some hints. Five days spent traveling as a wolf (since when? since where?) Two days after landing on Meyaga, Daetrin got some information about the humans living on this planet and stole some blankets and shoes (but where is the blanket?) Daetrin has flees (but it’s a passing comment that doesn’t seem to have any relevance.) He managed to do some hunting and skinning pelts from animals (suggesting a lot of time has passed, but it’s not stated explicitely.)

At the gate to Cantona, meeting the future neighbors.

Foreshadowing: Shaving the hair off ones head seem to be the dominant style

Unanswered questions: What is this custom you speak of, “passed’n”?

***

Escorted inside Cantona, ’til ye can be passed’n.

Foreshadowing: Tyr’s eyes.

The detention cell, what’s this “passed’n” all about?

***

The detention cell, shaved pate.

***

Farms outside Cantona, the Meyagan locust-rat.

This is the first really action oriented scene for Daetrin. The Meyagan locust-rat (which Frederick previously mentioned as “an overabundance of herbivores” had created an ecological imbalance that prompted the Tyr to bring predators) swarms the Cantonan fields and eats all of their crops. Daetrin fights a losing battle, killing hundreds (or thousands?) of the creatures with the Cantonan residents. A few people die who had fallen in the path of the rats. The quantity is dramatically told:

The mangy horde was three or four feet deep, and the Cantona warriors waded through them as through a whirlpool. With long, deadly polearms they scythed through the mass of hungry flesh again and again and again, each stroke claiming half a dozen lives from among those who were struggling to breach the defensive wall. But for each one wounded, there were hundreds more; for each one killed, there were thousands.

and

And finally, when the survivors had eaten their fill and swarmed back the way they had come, through the several gaping holes in the perimeter fence, there was nothing left but a field of pillaged stalkes, and the bodies of those thousands who had lost their lives in the plundering.

That is one mean and lengthy sentence.

Foreshadowing: A dead villager’s face is etched in Daetrin’s memory.

***

The detention cell, bring out your dead.

Continuity error:

The fallen invaders would serve the colony with their flesh, but for how long? A few hundred animals, against the loss of a whole season’s crops.

This could be explained if of the thousands who died, only a few hundred were in any shape to be eaten. (There was a fire line built and a lot of the rats had swarmed over the fire, being roasted…) However, it’s not made clear why there is a delta between thousands dead but only a few hundred that are edible. (It’s also not relevant to the story.)

***

The Temple, meet and flee the Priest.

All about us were people. Perhaps a hundred. Men. Experience had taught me that humans were cruelest when segregated by sex, and the cold feeling in the pit of my stomach became lead. What had I let myself in for?

The last line is repetition for dramatic effect (he’s asked himself that more than once this chapter.)

Foreshadowing within the scene to hint at a Meyagan plant that becomes phosphorescent when it begins to die. Friedman reveals this information a little bit at a time, from Daetrin’s POV, as he struggles to remember the relevant information he overheard. During the “passin’n” ceremony, Daetrin comes to a startling realization:

I knew him for what he was—or rather, more accurately, for what he was not—and for what he had done to the humans here. Because he wasn’t human. Not in any sense of the word. Though he wore a human body, though he played their religious games like a master, the intelligence that shown in those eyes—and the power, the triumph—were from some other source. And that source was fully capable of killing me through our contact, as swiftly or as slowly as it chose. Just as it had with the cloak. Just as it had with God alone knew how many human beings.

Continuity: The Priest doesn’t find him inside the Temple before he escapes.

The priest would know this place, I realized.

The priest would know how to find me.

Only the priest doesn’t.

Complication: Daetrin can’t shape change when he is under the sun-fever that renders him more like humans.

Outskirts of Cantona, on the run

The cliff-side, the fall and the raven

Concluding this chapter, we end with the following hooks:

  • Daetrin met something nasty in Cantona. What is the Priest? (Is it a Marra, or something new?)
  • What’s with the rumor of Tyrran eyes?
  • Did he die?

Stakes: Death.

Jan 152012
 
I thought, as long as I’m doing an analysis of the book, and as long as I’ve reached the end of Part One (Act I, for all intents and purposes), I’d take a moment to do a little analysis of the Act.
  • Characters introduced
    • Human race. The smart ones have been moved away from Earth, but we don’t know much more than that. There are at least two human colonies (for what reason?) We’re introduced to a myriad number of people who are long dead (via Daetrin’s flashbacks to the past).
    • Daetrin is considered a sub-type of the human race by the Tyr and himself. He displays a few characteristics which are non-human, which causes us to question his true nature (not to mention the jacket text for the story calls his true nature in to question). As the story progresses, he begins demonstrating abilities that make you wonder if he is indeed human. He hints strongly that he might fit all the criteria of the human vampire myth, but he also provides enough similarities that you wonder if he might be a long lost Marra.
    • Human race. Tekk are considered a subtype of the human race. They appear to be stereotypically human, except that the hraas do not kill them, and they have very brutal social programs for culling those who are considered weak. (Specifically, the hraas kill their young, but those not killed are forever spared from future attack by the hraas.) We’re only introduced to two Tekk. First a woman of African descent, and second is Ntaya, a starsha among the Tekk. Tekk appears to be derived from Tech, since the African woman was seeing performing technical support on a computer when first introduced. The Tekk appear subserviant to the Tyr Will, but they do not. While it never says “the Tekk do not serve the will of the Tyr,” there is a statement that the subserviance is a facade; this amounts to the same thing.
    • Tyr race. Broken in to three subtypes of which we’re aware: the Honn, or warrior caste; the Raayat, or scientist caste; the Kuol, or leadership caste. The Tyr have subjugated all of the known universe. There may be parts of the universe they have not subjugated, but if they exist, they have not been shown. The Tyr replaced the Saudar. Among the Raayat, there is one who Daetrin names Frederick.
    • Saudar race. Now deceased. Scientists, Diplomats; the Saudar loved knowledge for its own sake.
    • Marra race. Disembodied, FIFO memories, able to shapechange their physical form (which is nothing more than a time-space anchor to permit them to interact with the physical world.) The Marra consume life energy to sustain themselves and to control their physical shape; they value identity and interaction over life. We’ve been introduced to three Marra: the unnamed Marra, the Tsing-Marra and the Kost-Human-Marra.
    • Tsing race. Hexapedal. The only one we are introduced to directly ends up a meal for our Marra POVC (point of view character). They are also subjugated by the Tyr.
    • hraas race. First, why is hraas not capitalized? Panther-like predator. Able to sense life. Hates the Tyr. Culls the “weak” Tekk children. Intelligent, but seemingly more instinctual than sentient.
  • Random statistic, the word “was” appears 500 times in the first 15% of the kindle version of the manuscript. (I estimate that this means that 2-3% of the manuscript’s word count is the word ‘was’. Since I was looking to see how my own writing, or other author’s writing compared against a published author, I did this rough analysis. 2-3% seems to be fairly standard. My take away: Active voice is great, but some passive voice is appropriate in all works.)
  • Of eleven chapters,
    • five are very short (some as short as two pages).
    • three are nothing but background (shown history, with some tell)
    • one is from the hraas perspective, one is from Frederick-Raayat’s perspective, one is from the Tekk perspective, three from the Marra perspective (with part of one of those being from the Tsing-food character’s perspective), and five chapters from Daetrin’s perspective (two of the Daetrin perspective chapters are flashbacks/world building).
  • Act I analysis summary
    • Setting: Earth, Shian, Longship Talguth, Unnamed Tsing-colony, and Meyaga (a human colony).
    • The call to action for Daetrin comes in the form of the Tyr taking him from Earth to be studied.
    • Daetrin refuses the call to action, intending to do nothing more than survive under Tyrran rule. (Play labrat, but never really comply with the Tyr’s effort to understand Daetrin’s nature.)
    • When Daetrin learns that Kygattra has no day/night cycle, he is faced with a choice between death and fleeing. This is the second call to action. He chooses to flee, which forces him to cross the threshold. Escaping from the Tyr is a victory, but now Daetrin must fight the war.
    • Chapter 9 is where the Act I climax occurs; chapters 10-11 are falling action for the first Act, wrapping up the loose ends before Act II begins.
  • Likes:
    • I (still) like the SciFi treatment of a Fantasy trope. (Vampires, in space?!)
    • I enjoy the narrative style. (3rd person limited POV for all but one chapter, and I like Daetrin as a character.)
    • I enjoy the (mostly accurate) science, soft though it is.
    • I enjoy the aliens (Tyr, Tsing, Marra, and hraas, and the now dead Saudar)
    • There are no lengthy descriptions of anything, which some authors do to pad word count.
    • The story is mostly show. Tells are tucked in between dramatic events. Even the backstory chapters are mostly show.
    • Minimal repetition.
    • I like the structure of Act I which, so far, follows the form discussed in Joeseph Campbell’s The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Friedman may or may not have intended this.
  • Dislikes:
    • I wouldn’t have any, except that I’m reading a lot more carefully with an eye on learning something from the reading. Understanding what I like (in another author’s writing style) helps me understand my goals as a writer (not that I want to try to duplicate Friedman’s narrative style.)
    • DAW Books, now owned by Penguin, did a crappy job converting this treasure to ebook format. A lot of words are mispelled in the kindle version that are correctly spelled in the original paperback version that I own; there are also a number of punctuation mistakes (including missing spaces) which are also kindle-specific mistakes.
    • These do not detract from my enjoyment of the novel, but I must admit these to be completely honest (the point is to identify things that I don’t like, so that I know what not to do in my own writing):
      • I dislike continuity errors, thankfully these are minor or infrequent. It’s tough to catch all errors. Sometimes you write something in a short hand where the narrative in your head makes sense and is consistent, but the word choice implies something other than your intended meaning. Everyone makes the leap with you, so it gets published without correcting the wording.
      • There are some logical errors, which it’s tough to be critical: not everyone arrives at the same conclusion as myself. While I deduce that this means there must be a flaw in someone else’s logic, it’s possible the flaw is my own. I am pretty sure I understand the consequence, which is why I consider them logical flaws in the narrative. Thankfully, these are all second level flaws, which is to say that each perceived flaw is a consequence of a conflict between a logical consequent of one statement and another statement.
      • I dislike repetition (within the same scene or paragraph), but thankfully its rare.
      • I dislike violations of known physics, in SciFi. Being uneducated about physics when I first read this, it wasn’t a big issue because I didn’t know any better. Now I do.

Jan 152012
 
Another short chapter, this time from the perspective of the hraas, those deadly killers the Tyr use as pets or guards. Punctuated by three short statements: the hraas dreams, the hraas remembers, the hraas hates. We now evaluate the current state of the galaxy from the hraas’ perspective.

C.S. Friedman’s The Madness Season Chapter 11.

Strophe one:

The hraas dreams: of an indeterminate time (timing of this piece is defined in strophe two) when it lived on a world, hunted and fed.

Strophe two:

The hraas remembers: When the Tyr came, they broke the mesh which tied the hraas to all other living things. Without the mesh, the hraas could not attack the Tyr.

Strophe three:

The hraas hates: The hraas live among the Tyr, in their ships (and elsewhere?), driven nearly insane by the absence of the mesh. Occasionally they rend something that disrupts the mesh further out of hatred, but until the Tyr are “made right” … “there would be no pleasure.”

The hraas waits.

Continuity: How does the hraas know the name of the Tyr? The hraas don’t appear to use auditory communication, and this chapter further reinforces the idea that the hraas are more bestial, instinctual than truly sentient. Answer: The chapter isn’t in a limited POV. Friedman steps out of the limited 3rd person POV to the omniscient to communicate something that would have taken a lot more words to communicate purely from the hraas’ perspective.

I often throw around terms like “cheating at narration” when critiquing someone’s work, but it’s important to recognize when doing a critique when the author has changed their style of writing (intentionally) versus a mistake in style. In this chapter, we’re looking not at a specific hraas but rather at the species as a whole, for this reason it’s not really cheating at narration.

Concluding this chapter, we end with the following hooks:

  • The hraas are, in fact, intelligent. (Though the question remains, how intelligent? They’re not tool users, they can’t communicate with other species, etc..)
  • We’re introduced to the idea of the mesh and how it ties all living things together, but the mesh is disrupted by the Tyr. Why?
  • The hraas are unable to attack something, like the Tyr, without the mesh. Why? How does this work?
  • This indirectly fleshes out the relationship between the hraas and the Tekk, by tells us more about the hraas themselves.
  • The hraas hate the Tyr for having taken them from their world.

Stakes: The hraas are in captivity, waiting for a day when they can break free of the Tyr.

In the previous Tekk chapter, the Tekk POVC speculated as to the reasons why the hraas act the way they do. In this chapter, we’re given that answer. In essence, what we’re seeing here is Friedman array a number of potential allies who might all work towards a common goal: defeating the Tyr.

Jan 152012
 
Daetrin has escaped and Frederick-Raayat is left to ponder his disappearance. What does it all mean? (It’s a short chapter, which I’m posting way late in my day. I plan to do another tomorrow morning after I’ve slept.)

C.S. Friedman’s The Madness Season Chapter 10.

After learning that Daetrin has escaped, Frederick-Raayat does not die. That doesn’t seem like something that should come as a shock, but turn Friedman loose on the problem and suddenly the lack of dying becomes a momentous and telling events:

A lesser Tyr would have died, at this point. Faced with the Tyr-whole’s inexorable logic—that the human must be her, that he could not possibly be anywhere else—but seeing with its own eyes that the human was nowhere in sight, a Honn-Tyr would have been judged to be malfunctioning, and would be discarded. Perhaps after that more Honn would come, and would also see that the human was indeed absent; then, swayed by their consensus, the Tyr would reconsider. But for that first discoverer, that supposedly malfunctioning brain, there would be only death; malfunctioning parts must be excised quickly, if the whole of the Tyr was to prosper.

The Raayat, however, was Raayat, and among its subtype temporary malfunctions were tolerated.

The struck-through sentence adds repetition of the information that comes before it, and is unnecessary (unless the reader is slow). Otherwise, it’s a beautiful look in to the mind of the Tyr. It also explains the Honn that dropped dead when the Marra reconstituted herself in chapter two.

As a reader, I’m paying attention to these kinds of things. Mostly. Maybe I notice it more because this is a re-read and I understand the importance of events. Having a preconception is important to comprehension (it can speed the rate at which you comprehend a problem), but it can lead to a perception bias. Maybe I didn’t notice it the first time I read the book, but I’d like to think I did. Before I learned that authors fill their stories with paragraphs of description that do nothing to move the story forward, I used to eat books whole and regurgitate random facts at whim. These days, not so much anymore—these days I bore easily with large paragraphs of fluff information. My eyes actually float over such paragraphs, as I figure that nothing can be contained within them that is important.

I read a beta manuscript recently where I forgot a innocuous clue in the first five pages, which explained a series of events that happened half-way through the book. I think I would have remembered the clue, except that I knew from conversation with the writer that the bike had become a car; and so when the characters decline to take the car during a rain storm, I attributed the cause to an editing mistake. I’d forgotten the single comment made in chapter one where the writer had mentioned that the car was not a convertible, but roofless, the roof having been torn from the body at some previous time in the cars history. I like to tell myself I would remember, but would I? In chapter one, the fact isn’t that important. It’s a random bit of trivia. In this book, at least, the death of the Honn in chapter two was a fairly momentous event; the Honn had, after all, just attempted to kill the Marra POVC.

The Raayat considers what the empty cell holds, as far as clues. It contemplates it’s relation to the Tyr-whole. We’re shown the internal conflict and turmoil that Frederick-Raayat experiences at Daetrin’s disappearance:

The Raayat had needs. There were periods of confusion, when its natural facilities deserted it. There were times when even its Tyr-sense seemed dull, when the backlog of knowledge which was its birthright was nearly impossible to access, and it floundered in ignorance. Before the coming of the human, it had had to deal with those times by itself. No other alien would help it; no other Tyr was approachable. But the Earth-human… The Raayat remembered when the last fit of madness had possessed it, when its world had shattered in to a mass of disassociated slivers. It had taken it time to communicate its need, but once it had done so that human had helped it.

Of course, what Frederick-Raayat is contemplating is the media scene (another scene that I love, for the subtle clues it gives us to Frederick’s state of mind, the scene being told from Daetrin’s limited POV.) The underlined word is the twelfth occurrence of the word madness in the story (so far). It’s the first, I think, that has been applied to the Tyr/Raayat.

Concluding this chapter, we end with the following hooks:

  • Frederick-Raayat-Tyr is finally able to name the disconnect between itself and the Tyr-whole: Aloneness. Frederick understands the meaning of this word because of Daetrin’s escape, even though the Tyr apparently do not. (This is a bit weird, if the Tyr’s consciousness is singular-but-distributed, instead of a hive-mind of individuals. If there was only one consciousness, the Tyr, then it would be alone and by itself, by definition. Yet, the only potential independence we see within the Tyr-whole is the Raayat and Kuol. There’s also a second level continuity error here, but I can’t explain it without giving you the climax of the story. Hopefully I’ll come back to it when I get to that chapter.)
  • Who will Frederick find next to fill the Daetrin-shaped hole?
  • Why do Raayat lose connection with the Tyr?

Stakes: The Raayat needs others to fill the void left by Daetrin’s escape. Frederick needs people to help him fill the emptiness created when the Tyr-whole becomes inaccessible to the Raayat.

Note: By “second level continuity error” I mean a continuity error that isn’t a direct contradiction with a statement (shown or told), but rather a contradiction that is inherent in the logical consequence of what we’re shown or told. For example; if I describe an animal as a having only sharp teeth, like a cat or dog, and later describe the animal as an herbivore, there is no direct contradiction in these two statements. However, based on biology, we know that the teeth of an animal typically reflect it’s dietary needs. An animal with nothing but blunt teeth (i.e., pre-molars, molars) is clearly an herbivore; an animal with canines is a carnivore. Telling us that the animal has sharp teeth and then telling us it is a carnivore defies bi0logy, even if the two statements are not directly in contradiction with each other. Another example would be describing an alien that is mammalian, but lays eggs. By laying eggs, you defy the biological classification.

Jan 122012
 
Following Daetrin, we’re offered more evidence that there is some relationship between Daetrin and the Marra. We’re shown strange behavior by the Raayat. We’re given a flashback. Daetrin performs SCIENCE! During one of Daetrin’s scientific experience, he’s told something cryptic by a Tekk-human. And finally, having answered the Call to Action, our hero sets in motion a plan to escape the Tyr. But will he succeed? Let’s find out…

C.S. Friedman’s The Madness Season Chapter 9.

We return to Daetrin’s POV. He’s still on the Longship, still where we left him, and still struggling with his sanity. Does he trust his senses, or not? Does he trust his memory, or not? Looking in the mirror he realizes that he has gray sideburns, which is, of course, impossible. After focusing on an image of himself without the gray, he looks again in the mirror and discovers he looks the way he should. This doesn’t comfort him, in fact…

 The Tyr had suspected me of being extraterrestial in origin. Could it have been correct? Might that explain some characteristics which seemed bizarre by Earth standards, but were consistent within an alien context? I had clear memories of the father who raised me, the mother who left me, the sister who was lost to me after some tragic accident … but I had other memories, too, which were clearly riddled with fantastic inaccuracies. Were those images of family no more than false memories, which only seemed true when viewed through the haze of centuries? Was I, in fact, something other than human?

So, the longest Marra span is around five hundred years (at least, the longest that our unnamed Marra knows). Daetrin only remembers being alive for the last five hundred years. Coincidence, I hear you say?

Trembling, I knew that I stood balanced on the brink of madness. Insanity and longevity are a truly terrifying combination …

The whole episode reminds him of why he has always hated mirrors.

Later, the Raayat comes to wake him.

Was the Unstable One living up to its epithet at last?

The Raayat leads Daetrin to a room, some kind of multimedia processing center. The Raayat shows Daetrin photos and orders Daetrin to interpret them. After many photos, too many for Daetrin to keep track of, and much anger on the Raayat’s part, Daetrin finally begins to grasp what the Raayat is looking for.

… “A farm. Earth-farm.”

There was silence. I felt my heart skip a beat. Had I failed it one time too often?

“What do you see?” it asked me again.

Hesitantly, I answered “It looks like an Earth-farm—”

“What do you see?”

I looked up at it, into eyes that were framed in swollen red. What did I see? Or, what did I perceive? They were two different questions, I realized suddenly. And I had been answering only the latter.

The Raayat’s hand was on my shoulder, the pressure of its tension near to drawing blood. I turned quickly back to the screen and told it, “Cattle: there.” I pointed. Then, moving my finger in illustration, I pointed ou the other vital farm-signs. And explained how I had deduced that this was indeed a farm, and why it was probably not something else.

And I waited, my breath held, for a response.

Its hand on my shoulder loosened. …

The interrogation continues, but with less frustration and at a slower pace. Daetrin speculates on the cause of the behavioral shift. Finally, when the episode comes to a conclusion, Daetrin wonders how the Raayat could seem to have missed the gestalt of everything that Daetrin had told it.

I love the implications in this scene. It’s the perfect kind of dramatic scene (show don’t tell). It shows us something new and makes the reader guess as to it’s cause. Then it poses the question to frame the reader’s mind, aligning the reader towards the story goal.

… The Raayat was part of the Tyr, and the Tyr was not crippled in this manner … therefore the Raayat could not be. Which brought us back full circle …

When the pair reach Daetrin’s cell, the Raayat having decided that the excursion was over, Daetrin asks the Raayat what it sees. The Raayat responds that it sees Leyq on the walls. Guidelines of color, visible only to Tyr-sight, that codify direction and distance (to what?)

Flashback:

Our POVC character is captured, we assume it’s Daetrin (it fits the narrative). While the captors dictate terms, the POVC speculates. Who ordered this assault, their motives, what he might do to escape. In a moment of distraction, he makes his escape. Outrunning his pursuers, he takes to the roofs where they do not think to chase him, believing him incapable of using his abilities because of their Christian magic (prayers and holy water are magic? I guess it’s a useful summary.) Everything in Florence is lost to him, and he cannot escape the city injured until he has had time to heal.

I struggle with the purpose of this flashback. Having read the chapter, I assume it’s to reinforce the knowledge that Daetrin once shapechanged with ease, that he once was more aware of his nature. This becomes critical to the (very) next scene, so it is relevant. It also adds a bit of action/drama to the narrative, speeding up the pacing and increasing the tension. (Which might be the exact reason why it’s added before the next scene, now that I think about it. The next scene is really just a scientific experiment. I bet if you removed the dramatic/action sequence immediately prior to the science, it would have been a little flatter, a little less tense.)

Returning to the present:

Daetrin decides to perform a SCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENT to try to understand the conflict in his perceptions. Ah, I love this idea here as much as I loved it when someone wrote fan fiction of Harry Potter doing the same (which, naturally, the fan fiction came much later than this book did.) However, there’s two continuity errors:

Earlier in this chapter, we have three changes in Daetrin’s appearance:

  1. Daetrin changes his hair so that he has gray sideburns (gray sideburns are a cosmetic change).
  2. Daetrin restores himself to normal.
  3. He saw a reflection of himself, looking anything but human (but how he looks is unexplained; he’s contemplating what manner of creature fits the criteria he has for his nature).

We don’t see Daetrin’s appearance change again.

Earlier in chapter 6, Daetrin discovered the zipper on his clothing jammed (but no mention of buttons.)

In this scene, Daetrin is lining up evidence

  1. Evaluating the malformed buttons on his clothing.
  2. No mention is made of a jammed zipper.
  3. His hair (again) has gray sideburns, which he cuts a bit off to compare against his reflection.
  4. When he looks in the mirror, he sees the reflection he saw when he last looked in that mirror.

1&2: His clothing could have both, he could have lost the zipper, or, he might not have been able to separate the zipper from the clothing without ruining the clothing (whereas a button was easily removed).

3: He might have changed back to the older image after he last looked in to the reflection, before the Raayat came. This would have been done off screen.

4. Err… the last time we saw him looking at himself, he looked anything but human, and he flipped the mirror over so as to not look at himself again. Any additional looking had to happen outside of the narrative.

After attempting to alter his appearance, and failing, he sees himself in the mirror again with the gray intact. OK, let’s let that go and move on. He performs a series of experiments, trying to change his human appearance, trying to submit to the timefugues to take a non-human appearance, trying to make any change whatever… and failing. He decides that all this means he’s possibly cured of whatever madness had overcome him when he drank blood again, but he’s afraid of what the Tyr will discover when they experiment on him, and so he must complete his experiments—test himself according to the parameters of his madness. By facing this down, he hopes to rid himself forever of his mystical past and root himself firmly in the world of science. SCIENCE!

While attempting to prepare for his next experiment (something to do with the lab and mixing chemicals under the watchful gaze of the Raayat), Daetrin struggles to get the Raayat to explain its seeming individuality and how that relates to the whole. It’s a pointless conversation, one they’ve had many times, but it distracts the Raayat from watching Daetrin too closely. When that tactic fails, Daetrin inquires about his destination, Kygattra. The planet has no day/night cycle, the Raayat informs him. A planet that orbits the sun the way Earth’s moon orbits the Earth: One solar rotation is the same as one planetary rotation—one side of the planet is always facing the sun. A death sentence for radiation sensitive Daetrin.

During Daetrin’s distraction, the Raayat circles back around to the earlier conversation and essentially invites Daetrin to name the Raayat-part-that-is-separate-from-the-Tyr. Our Raayat-Tyr becomes Frederick-Raayat-Tyr. At 29% through the book, we’re presented with the Call to Action: Daetrin is willing to die to protect “his people” (which clearly isn’t the humans). He will betray his people if he allows the Tyr to land him on Kygattra. So, he must leave the Longship by any means necessary (up to and including his own death).

Planning to try to escape, Daetrin dreams of his plans; he dreams of blood. (Not clearly in the literal sense, but it’s possible.) And then the moment arrives, and he begins his escape. First, to get past the door. The mechanism that opens it is heat sensitive, but only accessible from the outside. Somehow, he guesses, he must have generated enough body heat during his delirium that he was able to activate the sensor from inside the cell. If he can do it once, he can do it again, and so he triggers the timefugue:

I relived the incident, again and again, until my body shook with the force of the repeated memory, and I was filmed with the sweat of exhaustion. My shirt clung to me, dampened by my efforts, but still I persevered. Over and over, an endless loop of memory which must eventually take control of the body that harbored it, and force whatever process had once taken place to repeat itself, here and now—

I admire the rhythm of this (short) paragraph. I’ve been studying sentences that I really like a lot lately, trying to deduce how rhythm works. Sometimes I get it, sometimes I don’t. I try to grasp the technical aspects of the sentence (and I hope I do a good job):

The first sentence is three connected clauses. The first clause (“I relived the incident”) is modified by an appositive phrase (“again and again”). The second clause (“until my body shoot with the force of the repeated memory”) is dependent upon the first clause, connected via the dependent marker until. The third clause (“and I was filmed with the sweat of exhaustion”) is independent, but has a casual relationship with the previous two clauses. That is to say, that because Daetrin relived the incident, until his body shook with the force of repeated memory, he was filmed with the sweat of exhaustion.

Second sentence is clause, appositive phrase, conjunction, second independent clause.

Technically speaking, in the third sentence just before the conjunction “and”, the comma is unnecessary. While unnecessary, its inclusion doesn’t destroy the meaning of the sentence. Its addition turns the clause “and force whatever process had once taken place to repeat itself” into a non-essential element. However, the sentence remains structurally sound if you were to remove the non-essential clause. Let’s take a look, shall we: “Over and over, an endless loop of memory which must eventually take control of the body that harbored it, here and now—”

The effect of this paragraph is rendered (less eloquently): I did something, I kept doing it until it generated a physical reaction (not the one I wanted). Despite the stress of my efforts, I continued. I kept doing it in the hopes that my memory of a past incident would control my body in the present.

I actually got the idea to do this kind of analysis from a web search I did recently for sentence rhythm which led me to Purdue OWL. Thanks Purdue OWL. They had a re-write of the Gettysburg Address; a comparison between the original speech and a rewrite using less florid [but more modern] speech. The re-write lost something in the translation. I think I’ve contained the same essential elements in the rewrite, but the impact, the essential meaning is lost. (It’s become all facts and no soul.) It provides (I hope) an excellent comparison to illustrate rhythm. And that’s the reason that I continue to love this prose.

Daetrin opens the door, escapes in to the corridor, and suddenly his plans are rendered askew: he’s encountered a Tekk woman, the dark skinned woman he met previously in the lab.

“There are no eyes,” she told me, “among the Tekk.”

Hrm? This is a curious phrase. It seems to mean that the Tekk do not report things that they see to the Tyr. (As this is a re-read, I appreciate the subtlety of this sentence. Like the seyga, it foreshadows a later event. How positively sly you are, Friedman.)

Daetrin departs the corridor, leaving the Tekk-woman behind, going to the animal penns. Once there, he tranquilizes one of the human predators and drinks its blood. Once he’s returned to his cell, before the translation (the FTL jump to the next solar system), Daetrin conducts his experiments again. This time, he feels more energetic, more alive. And there are results. His form is reverted from the aged image to the young image he had briefly before. Then, he transforms himself in to a wolf. Successfully. He’s forced to confront his real nature, but despite the shock he confronts it calmly. He now has a real chance of escaping the Longship, preventing his delivery to Kygattra and his eventual death (not to mention the death of everyone else like him who are still on Earth.)

Scene-break.

When we return, the Tyr are delivering the caged animals to Meyaga. The narrative is remote, unemotional, and not that dramatic. There are phrases though:

[Describing the Tyr’s method of trying to establish an ecological balance on Meyaga.] A creature with limited creative capacity must feel its way through life via trial and error.

and

I drank it [Daetrin’s heightened senses] in until the last glimmer of twilight had faded, and the light of a thousand alien stars blazed furiously against the stark black backdrop of the Meyagan night. A thousand brilliant points of light that burned my eyes as I stared at them, and filled me with the wonder of  their power and beauty—as well as my own vulnerability.

and (in closing)

Feeling a sudden hunger for human company—and for an additional kill, to strengthen me for my journey—I turned my nose into the most promising wind, and followed the scent of man into the forest.

Hrm? This is either context pollution, or Daetrin just decided to start eating humans. If you remove the interjected clause, the sentence reads: Feeling a sudden hunger for human company, I turned my nose in to the most promising wind and followed the scent of man into the forest. Which has a completely different meaning than when you consider the sentence, interjection included. But which is it? I’ll save that answer for a later post.

Concluding this chapter, we end with the following hooks:

  • Daetrin is hungry.
  • Daetrin craves human company.
  • Daetrin may or may not crave human blood.
  • Daetrin is on Meyaga, away from the Tyr, and planning to fight them somehow.
  • What are the humans like on Meyaga?
  • What will Daetrin do on Meyaga?
  • What will happen to Frederick-Raayat?

Stakes: Low. He’s safe for now, his nature is known to him again, he’s recovered powers he’d given up, he’s no longer held prisoner by the Tyr. Things seem to be looking up. It’s a perfect bookmark moment.