Saturday, May 28, 2016

Review: Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
Published: Hodder & Stoughten (2014), Saga Press (2015)
Awards Nominated: BSFA, Tiptree, and Red Tentacle (Kitschie) Awards

The Book:

When a massive object crashes into the ocean off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria’s most populous and legendary city, three people wandering along Bar Beach (Adaora, the marine biologist- Anthony, the rapper famous throughout Africa- Agu, the troubled soldier) find themselves running a race against time to save the country they love and the world itself… from itself.”

This is the second book I’ve read by Okorafor, and I’ve also read her novella Binti recently.  She wrote in the afterword that this novel was inspired by her irritation with District 9.  It is definitely an unusually fantastical take on a first contact story.

My Thoughts:

I think I’m starting to get a sense of the general style of fiction Okorafor seems to prefer writing, violent and chaotic stories that mix science fiction and fantasy.  The premise of Lagoon is first contact with an alien species in Lagos, Nigeria, but things start to get weird very quickly.  At first, there’s the extreme alien technology that seems quite a lot like magic (excessive control over matter and energy), but that’s nothing too out of the ordinary for science fiction.  Soon, though, one realizes that the three central characters have unexplained superpowers, and that the aliens have begun waking up mythological creatures from the subconscious of the land and people. The increasingly bizarre situation is grounded in seriousness by the violent consequences for the humans caught up in the change.  Aside from the impact of aliens or mythological creatures, Lagoon does not shy away from showing the brutality of the darker side of human nature.

The chaotic aspect of the story makes it unpredictable, but a little frustrating as well.  The viewpoint is not restricted to the three protagonists, but instead leaps around wildly to many minor characters--some of whom are only around for a single scene.  A few of the one-off viewpoints are pretty neat, such as the perspective of a swordfish or a tarantula.  However, the jumping around sometimes seems to slow the central plot’s momentum down to a crawl, and to give each of the individual viewpoint characters very little time to develop beyond first impressions. All of this makes the novel feel overloaded with too many different stories, some of which receive little or no resolution. For example, there is a subplot about a secret LGBT support group trying to go public alongside the alien arrival, but it seems to be dropped partway through the novel with little resolution.  I think the intention of this approach is to show how the aliens’ arrival affects a wide variety of people in different ways, but the end result just felt a little too fractured for me.

Within the story, I was a little bothered by the inconsistency of the alien’s morality.  The aliens arrive first in the lagoon, and commune with the sea creatures.  When they meet humans, they are shocked by the violence we do to one another.  However, we later see that the sea creatures consciously kill for malice, so I’m not really sure why the aliens are so horrified only by human behavior.  For that matter, the aliens seem to regard sea creatures as people, but then do not show the same regret for killing them as they do for human beings.  I think it was primarily because of these concerns that the (somewhat) happy ending felt unconvincing to me.

On a final positive note, it was interesting to see a science fiction story set in Lagos, a place I have never been.  The story felt very grounded in location, and the many references I did not understand led me to do a lot of reading about the city online.  The Pidgin English was a little hard to follow at first, but the glossary helped.  I also got the impression that Okorafor might be using a restricted Pidgin vocabulary and grammar, in order to make things a bit easier on her readers, but I have no idea whether or not this is true.  Anyway, it’s always fun to be inspired by fiction to learn more about the world!

My Rating: 3/5

Lagoon is a science fantasy novel about first contact with aliens in Lagos, Nigeria.  The inclusion of superpowers and Nigerian mythology makes it a very unusual kind of science fiction story, and I enjoyed how entwined the Lagos setting was with the story.  The perspective jumps wildly between the protagonists and many minor characters, showing the impact of the alien arrival on a wide variety of living things.  However, I felt that the constantly shifting perspectives slowed down the plot and kept many of the characters one-dimensional.  I was also not completely convinced of the coherence of the aliens’ morality, and that led me to be unsatisfied with the way the main plot was eventually resolved. Despite my complaints, it was definitely an original book, and I have never read a first contact story quite like it!  

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

TV Musings: Colony Season 1

Colony is a science fiction drama by USA network, featuring the aftermath of Earth’s occupation by an alien force.  I thought the idea sounded interesting, and the cast has a lot of familiar faces from other memorable shows. The early episodes were entertaining enough to prompt me to watch more, but I didn’t really get hooked on the show till near the end of the season.  Initially, I thought the story was moving too slowly, and I was frustrated by the complete absence of and lack of information about the occupying alien force.  It seemed too much of a small-town drama for my tastes, and I feared it was going to end up as an episodic story focusing on the conflict between the collaborators and the human resistance.  As I continued to watch the season, though, I enjoyed how the story exceeded and defied my expectations.  Be warned, there are some spoilers of the first season below (though I tried to avoid major plot points).

The basic setup, as introduced in the first episode, does not feel too out of the ordinary for this kind of drama.  The couple Will and Katie have been separated from a family member, their son, during the invasion.  A person in power, the human overseer Snyder, offers his help to locate the child in exchange for Will’s collaboration in fighting the human resistance. Katie, following her own conscience, joins the resistance and agrees to spy on her husband’s work.  This situation could easily have led to a static situation, with the resistance and the collaborators constantly failing to wipe each other out.  However, Colony is a serialized story, and I’m happy to say that the writers are not afraid to allow the story to change as needed over time.

From the very first episodes, I was very surprised by the character of Will--one of the main forces behind the escalation of the plot.  One might assume that Will would only reluctantly join the collaborators, and his loyalty to humanity would keep him from scoring any significant successes against the rebels.  One would be very wrong.  I had a lot of theories about why Will is so aggressively competent, some relating to how he was likely trained as an FBI agent in the past.  Regardless of the reasons why, his efficiency in crushing the human resistance far surpasses his wife Katie’s abilities as a fledgling resistance spy.

This difficult situation makes Katie one of the characters who changes the most throughout the season.  Her character has so many conflicting motivations, and she has no one she can truly turn to in order to help sort them out.  For instance, she agrees with her husband’s collaboration in order to locate their son, but she also wants to use his position to feed information to the resistance.  In the resistance, she wants her comrades to survive and succeed, but not at the expense of her husband’s life or her family’s safety.  On top of this confusion of priorities, she is also a civilian woman who is becoming progressively more involved in a paramilitary organization, a process that is not without psychological trauma.  It was interesting to see how she would try to reconcile her loyalties, and I don’t think her path is leading where she expected to go.   

Other notable characters in the first season include Eric Broussard and Alan Snyder.  Broussard is Katie’s contact in the resistance, a man who is both sincere and kind of terrifying. Snyder, the bloc’s overseer, initially seems to be a cardboard villain.  As you continue in the season, though, you begin to see that this perception is a result of viewing him from a limited perspective.  When more details of the state of the world begin to come to light, his decisions begin to seem understandable and even forgivable.  In fact, when the show finally began to reveal glimpses of the bigger picture, it changed the way I thought of many events that had happened earlier. At the end of the season, there are still no answers about what the aliens want from us, or about the purpose behind how they are organizing the occupied Earth.  However, I’m now pretty confident that the answers exist, and that it will be surprising when they are finally revealed!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Review: Persona by Genevieve Valentine

Persona by Genevieve Valentine
Published: Saga Press, 2015
Series: Book 1 of the Persona Sequence

The Book:

“When Suyana, Face of the United Amazonia Rainforest Confederation, is secretly meeting Ethan of the United States for a date that can solidify a relationship for the struggling UARC, the last thing she expected was an assassination attempt.

Daniel, a teen-runaway-turned-paparazzi out for his big break, witnesses the first shot hit Suyana, and before he can think about it, he jumps into the fray, telling himself it's not altruism, it's the scoop. Now Suyana and Daniel are on the run--and if they don't keep one step ahead, they'll lose it all.”

This is the first book I’ve read by Genevieve Valentine, though I initially planned to read some of her work when Mechanique was receiving award attention. I am not into circus stories (though I’ve heard some great things about Mechanique), so I held off and planned to read one of her future novels.  Now, the time is here, and on with the review of Persona!

My Thoughts:

Persona is a short, fast-paced thriller set in an unusual near-future.  In this world, politics has been merged with celebrity, for the purpose of keeping the general public entertained.  Each country has its own ‘Face’, an attractive young person that becomes the personification of their country to the world.  Faces don’t truly wield political power (that falls to the real politicians behind the scenes), but their carefully arranged romances, friendships and scandals draw global attention to their countries. Considering the role celebrity and the meaningless scrutiny of private lives currently plays in American politics, I can see this as an extrapolation from the present. The other major change in this future society is the illegalization of the free press (if I understood correctly), which I find much harder to believe.  Transparency and freedom of information are so strongly idealized, I don’t think most countries would take their destruction easily.  There was not much time to flesh out the worldbuilding in this brief novel, but it is also the first of a series that I expect will eventually provide the answers to the remaining questions.   

Suyana and Daniel’s story moves forward with high momentum, and their experiences slowly reveal their world and the secrets beneath the reality-TV veneer.  Flashbacks of Suyana’s life fill in the blanks of the political system and her place in it.  The whole novel takes place over a relatively short length of time, so I liked that the flashbacks provided a bit more of a foundation for understanding the protagonists.  In general, I also felt like this story would translate exceptionally well to a visual medium, both due to the trendiness and visual appeals of the dystopian premise as well as the similarity of the plot’s arc to a cinematic thriller.  It would make for an unusual film, too, since few of the characters are white.  In fact, I even found an interview from last year where Valentine put together her own dream cast.  In terms of its appeal as a novel, though, the pacing and action made it exciting and often hard to put down.

I enjoyed the perspective of the two protagonists, even when I wasn’t alway completely convinced by their motivations.  For instance, I did not altogether buy the speed with which Daniel’s loyalty to Suyana developed, especially since it sometimes seemed to lead him to act against his own interests in ways that would propel the plot. All the same, I was curious to see how both Suyana the ‘Face’ and Daniel the ‘Snap’ coped with the ridiculous demands their society makes on them. I appreciated the parallels between their two positions, how both of their paths involve the sacrifice of authenticity and privacy.  As a Face, Suyana makes her life into a performance, though she fights to keep some free will behind the scenes.  As a Snap, Daniel’s life is an open book to his superiors, and any action he takes against them could have deadly consequences.  They both take face similar cages, and their roles even force them to be isolated from one another. I’m interested to see how this will progress, and to see if either of them can find a way to build a life with integrity.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Persona gives an entertaining look at a near future with no free press and public global politics that have devolved into essentially celebrity reality-TV.  In this world we follow Suyana, a low profile political ‘Face’, and the illegal paparazzi, Daniel, who rescues her during an assassin attempt. The story is fast-paced, with details filled in along the way, and I hope there will be more information on how the current society came to be in future novels. Though Persona is the first book of a series, it also tells an exciting story that comes to a satisfying close.  I’m looking forward to the release of the next novel, Icon, this June, to see where Suyana and Daniel’s lives will lead them next.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Read-Along: Kushiel's Justice by Jacqueline Carey [END]

Welcome to the 9th and final week of the read-along of Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Justice. If you’re interested in joining for the final book of the trilogy, keep an eye on our goodreads group for more information.  Susan of Dab of Darkness provided this week’s discussion questions, which cover chapter 66 through the end of the novel.  Thus, beware of spoilers for the full novel below!

1) In this section, Imriel had plenty of farewells and also reunions. Which ones did you find the most interesting or touching? 

Given our discussion about Ysandre never visiting Alba, I was pretty shocked that Sidonie was in Alba to meet Imriel.  Now, I’m even more disapproving of Ysandre’s apparent lack of interest in her husband’s homeland.

2) Maslin decides to stay in Vralia as an ambassador. What do you think of his decision? When Imriel, Phedre, and Joscelin depart, Phedre says something privately to Maslin that causes him to collapse to his knees and weep. What do you think she said? 

I think I was less surprised than Imriel was, because it did seem like he was building up a place for himself.  Not to sound unkind, but I think Maslin will enjoy being the sole beautiful d’Angeline in Vralia.  This is a place where he can’t be overshadowed, and where he has a defined and valuable role.  Hopefully, it will be good for him, and homesickness won’t hit him too badly.

On what Phedre said, I am not sure.  Maybe something about his father?  She helped him along the way by telling him stories about his father’s courage and bravery.

3) Imriel & crew make it to Skaldia where they dine with Aldemar and meet some interesting merchants. Do you think the Unseen Guild had a hand in any of Imriel's recent adventures? 

Aside from the last part, I don't think so. Unseen Guild members who randomly materialize to make sure Imriel gets through safely… this sounds an awful lot like Melisande’s allies to me.  With that on mind, what has Melisande been up to?  She has been nearly absent for two full books now.  Surely whatever she’s planning will pop up in book three. 

4) Finally, Imriel is reunited with Dorelei's kin. There's a solemn burial of Berlik's skull, which is followed by a boisterous party. If someone was burying a skull at your feet, which would you prefer - serious ceremony or rowdy affair? 

If I were grieving, I’d prefer the serious ceremony.  I don’t think I could handle the kind of rowdy wake they held, it would hurt too much.  If I were Dorelei, though, I guess it would be nicer to hear people remembering me with love and warmth.

5) Sidonie and Imriel are finally together openly. Some still do not approve. What challenges do you foresee for them? 

It looks like it will be a political battle from here on out, so that’s nothing new to either of them.  It was nice that Imriel essentially got Drustan’s blessing.  In any case, he knows that Drustan is not opposed to their relationship, but can’t support it publically due to his wife’s opinions.

Ysandre is going to be a problem.  She has not always been the most reasonable person in the world.  I agree with Imriel that she’s being quite a hypocrite about this, given that she was the one who insisted everyone accept Imriel despite his parentage. It is also not going to look good for Ysandre as the Queen of Terre d’Ange, if she attempts to force her daughter to violate Elua’s one precept.

Also, I don’t think Ysandre has thought through the likely results of her opposition.  It is extremely unlikely that Sidonie will just drop the man she loves and let her mother dictate her life.  If Ysandre insists on making this an ultimatum, the most likely outcome is that she is going to lose her relationship with her daughter.

Other Things:

--I realize they meant no disrespect to Dorelei, but I think Sidonie and Imriel could have waited more than a day after the funeral before they started sleeping together. It’s not like they were short on time.

--I hope Alais finds happiness in Alba.  That’s kind of a tricky spot—she’s marrying someone she doesn’t love so that she can stay in the nation she loves.

--I have a lot of sympathy for Talorcan.  Even though he knows Imriel did care for her somewhat in the end, I can see why the rage, grief and frustration is twisting him up inside. I hope he is able to heal.

--Lastly, I had a lot of fun reading this book with everyone and I'm looking forward to reading the conclusion of Imriel’s story!

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Read-Along: Kushiel's Justice by Jacqueline Carey, Part 8

Welcome all to the eighth week of the read-along of Kushiel’s Justice by Jacqueline Carey! This is the penultimate week, and many things are starting to be resolved.  This week’s questions cover chapters 57-65, and are provided by me. Feel free to check out our goodreads group if you're interested in joining future read-alongs.  

Please beware of major spoilers lurking below!

1. Imriel actually gave up the quest for justice before he found Berlik, and would have left empty-handed if the man had not come to him.  Does knowing that their eventual encounter was of Berlik's choosing change the way you think about how it finally ended? How do you think this will affect Imriel, moving forward?

I really appreciated how the culmination of the quest was handled.  The same end result would have been achieved if Imriel had killed Berlik in Alba, but it would have had completely different meaning for both Imriel and Berlik.

On Imriel’s side, the difficulties he encountered in his pursuit of Berlik stripped him of all support and help, until there was only his will left.  He spent many days in the company of only his own thoughts, and eventually decided to stop hunting for Berlik.  When Berlik finally came to him, Imriel followed, but more out of obligation to see the task through than out of passion for vengeance.  To me, it is meaningful that he carried out the execution without the rage he must have felt after Dorelei’s death.  In the end, Imriel didn’t want to take a life, and he only did so in service to justice, at the request of the condemned.  

On Berlik’s side, I think it was good that he had time to consider the state of his soul. I liked that he found comfort in Yeshua, even though he did not convert.  I feel like he did find redemption, though it was through offering his own life to pay for his actions.  When he finally met Imriel, he was at peace and ready to accept the consequences of his actions.

As for how it will affect Imriel moving forward, I think the way this ended will go a long way towards helping him be at peace with himself. I don’t think Imriel is a murderer at heart (he has killed before, but only in defense), and I think killing Berlik in rage would have harmed him more than he might have expected.  This way, I think he can eventually accept that justice was done, and that he has honored Dorelei’s memory.

2. I was definitely not expecting to see Maslin in the Vralian wilderness!  What do you think of his motivations?  Do you think it's still possible for them to build the friendship Imriel wanted so dearly many years ago?

I was very surprised that Maslin, of all people, would travel through the wilderness searching for Imriel!  It sounded like his initial plan to come to Vralia was a hastily-made promise to Sidonie, but that he also had a lot of time alone with his thoughts on the way.  I don’t completely understand what drove him forward past the point when he realized that he did not truly love Sidonie, but only the idea of her.  Maybe it was just that he was already in Vralia by then, so it was too late to turn back?

I was so excited to see he and Imriel starting to finally become friends! Maslin’s envy made sense, but I think traveling with Imriel and seeing the real pain behind the poet’s songs helped him to put things in perspective.  I really hope they can continue to be allies from here on out.

3. Imriel feels very strongly about going back through the places where he was dishonest or where he caused pain (Miroslas, Tarkov, the Vralian capital).  Do you think these stops were necessary?  Do you think he was right to not go to the pilgrim family that took Berlik in?

I don’t think anyone would have blamed Imriel if he hadn’t visited these places, but I respect his decision to do so.  I saw the whole journey back as a chosen penance for Imriel.  He had just served justice, and he wanted to make sure that he did not avoid it for his own actions.  I’m not sure what I think about the pilgrims.  They’re also never going to know what happened to Berlik, but then they were only briefly involved in his life.  They may be happier not knowing.

Also, what a happy surprise at Tarkov!  It was really nice to see Phedre and Joscelin again, and they definitely helped to smooth things over.  I wondered, when Imriel mentioned bringing the head to Alba and Phedre burst into tears, if she was remembering Eamonn and Grainne.  She had plenty else to cry about (Dorelei, Imriel being hurt and in danger), but it seemed that particular comment struck her unexpectedly deeply.

4. We have another myth in the making: the dark angel and the light angel, battling for Berlik's soul.  Clearly this isn't literally true, since Maslin knew nothing about Berlik.  Do you think it carries any metaphorical truth with respect to Berlik's struggle with his guilt?

I am not really sure if I think this has any metaphorical truth.  Berlik’s two choices were to accept Yeshua’s grace and continue his life, or to offer his own life to pay for his crimes.  I’m not sure which of the two options would be light and which would be dark.  It makes sense that the stories that build up around these things have such a black/white view, but I appreciate that the situation itself is so much more complicated.

5. It looks like Tadeuz Vral will have another Yeshuite advisor now, in the Rebbe from Miroslas.  Do you think this will impact the path of Vralia in the future?  Do you think Imriel's deceit will affect Vralia's relationships with Alba and Terre d'Ange?

The war was completely in the background, but it sounded like a pretty terrible thing.  Micah’s Yeshuite country is now placing populations in siege and converting them by force. I hope that the Rebbe will be a more peaceful and non-violent influence on Tadeuz Vral, moving forward.  

I was pretty surprised that Tadeuz was so unforgiving of Imriel.  I guess I thought that avenging his murdered wife and son would have been a mitigating factor in the deceit.  I can see this poisoning Tadeuz’s view of Alba and Terre d’Ange, but I think trade is too important for him to refuse to deal with them in the future.  I think it might strain the relationships between the countries, though.

Finally, in honor of US Mother’s Day, a nice quote about motherhood:

“Did you expect me to invoke the aid of the Master of the Straits and threaten to bring heaven’s wrath down on Vralia if Prince Tadeuz had sought retribution against Imriel?” Phedre asked mildly. 

“I thought it was possible.” His voice was grave. “You have named the young man your son. I do not discount the ferocity of a mother’s love.” 

“Ah, well.” She favored him with another sweet, disarming smile.  “I would have negotiated first.” ~p.594

Review: Kushiel's Scion by Jacqueline Carey

Kushiel’s Scion by Jacqueline Carey
Published: Tor, 2006
Series: Book 4 of Kushiel’s Legacy

The Book:

“Imriel de la Courcel's birth parents are history's most reviled traitors, but his adoptive parents, the Comtesse Phedre and the warrior-priest Joscelin, are Terre d'Ange's greatest champions. Stolen, tortured and enslaved as a young boy, Imriel is now a Prince of the Blood; third in line for the throne in a land that revels in art, beauty and desire. It is a court steeped in deeply laid conspiracies...and there are many who would see the young prince dead.

Some despise him out of hatred for his mother, Melisande, who nearly destroyed the entire realm in her quest for power. Others because they fear he has inherited his mother's irresistible allure...and her dangerous gifts. As he comes of age, plagued by unwanted desires, Imriel shares their fears. When a simple act of friendship traps Imriel in a besieged city where a dead man leads an army, the Prince must face his greatest test: to find his true self.”

This is the fourth book in the Kushiel’s Legacy series, and I took part in a community read-along, for which you can see the spoiler-filled discussions here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8.  Next week, I’m hoping to put up a review of Genevieve Valentine’s Persona and my thoughts on season one of the science fiction television show, “Colony”.

My Thoughts:

This novel marks the beginning of the second phase of the Kushiel’s Legacy series. The first three novels followed the journeys of the legendary anguissette and courtesan, Phedre, while this second trilogy follows her foster-son Imriel.  I thought Phedre was an amazing narrator, unlike any epic fantasy heroine I’d read before, so I was a little worried about whether Imriel would be able to live up to such high expectations.  In fact, Imriel has similar worries regarding comparisons to his parents--he wants to be a good enough person to erase the stain of his birth parents’ treachery, as well as heroic enough to emerge from his foster-parents’ shadow.  He consistently underestimates his own worth, but his striving to become a better person makes him an endearing narrator.  I think the first novel of the new trilogy does a good job of establishing his character and his voice.  At the same time, I liked that Phedre and Joscelin, as well as many other familiar characters, were still occasionally present in the story.  I think the comfort of having familiar characters around made it easier to get to know the cast of the next generation.  

Along with it’s new narrator, Kushiel’s Scion quickly makes it clear that this trilogy is going to be a different kind of journey than the trilogy that came before. Phedre’s story was an epic fantasy adventure with a romance that grew slowly, through shared experiences and hardships.  Imriel’s story, on the other hand, seems to have more of a personal, introspective bent.  I would say that it is more of a coming-of-age story combined with romance, albeit in an epic fantasy setting.  The story features topics that are still familiar in the modern age, as Imriel grows up, goes to college, makes friends and enemies, engages in ill-advised love affairs, and struggles to come to term with his past trauma, heritage, and familial obligations.  In short, Imriel is a young man learning how to define himself, and it is primarily this process that drives the plot.

During his process of self-discovery, Imriel encounters some external conflict as well, through political turmoil in Tiberium (a.k.a. fantasy Rome) and an unexpected siege.  However, Imriel always seems largely incidental to these situations.  For comparison, Phedre’s adventures generally carried deep personal stakes for her, as well as for her homeland.  In Kushiel’s Scion, none of the conflict has much of anything at all to do with Imriel or Terre d’Ange. There is the risk that events could cost him his life, but it is only because he’s in the wrong place at the wrong time.  At one point, a specific plot twist is even needed to prevent Imriel from simply walking away from a dangerous situation that does not directly involve him.  Despite this, the stories of Tiberium and the siege are still entertaining in their own right, and they do influence Imriel’s maturation. Further, it was fun to see yet another new land and experience a new richly-imagined culture, just as I have come to expect from each book in the series. Overall, I’m still enjoying the continuing story of Terre d’Ange and Kushiel’s followers.

My Rating: 3.5/5

Kushiel’s Scion marks a departure from the previous trilogy, both in a change of narrator as well as a change in focus.  The new narrator is the troubled young man, Imriel, who Phedre and Joscelin rescued from slavery.  Having endured horrific events as a child, and growing up in the shadow of traitorous biological parents and heroic foster-parents, Imriel struggles to define himself and to become a good person.  Rather than the focus on grand betrayals and adventure of the previous trilogy, Imriel’s story is more of a personal tale of coming-of-age and self-discovery.  While he did encounter some larger conflicts along the way, these generally left me with the feeling that he was a side character in someone else’s story. Regardless, this was an entertaining introduction of the narrator for the next trilogy in the Kushiel’s Legacy series, and I am looking forward to seeing where his life will lead him.  

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Read-Along: Kushiel's Justice by Jacqueline Carey, Part 7

Welcome to week seven of the read-along of Kushiel’s Justice by Jacqueline Carey!  We’re winding down towards the end now, with only two weeks left to go.  This week’s questions cover chapters 47-56, and are provided by Lynn of Lynn’s Books.  If you’re interested in this and/or other read-alongs, check out our goodreads group!

1.Imriel seems to be having a lot of adventures by himself for the past few chapters.  What do you make of his adventures and his character as the story progresses?

I thought it was interesting that he had noted this was the first time in many years that he had been truly alone.  Even as an ‘orphan’ child in Elua’s sanctuary, Imriel was always a part of a group or a family.  I think he functions better when he has other people to keep his perspective grounded.  Right now, his travels seem less like an adventure than a grueling journey full of mishaps.  If Berlik really does want to meet his avenging angel, he could have made himself a bit easier to find.

2. What do you make of Urist’s misfortune? Do you think he will play a further role in the story?

I don’t think we’ve seen the last of him.  While Imriel is out wandering in the sticks, Urist is right next to ben Ximon and the Vralian leader.  They don’t share a language yet, but I imagine they’ll learn to communicate.  He’ll probably end up involved in the current Vralian civil war in some way.

3. Berlik seems to be receiving a lot of help on his travels, he seems very sad and repentant - what do you make now of Imriel’s mission?  Will he succeed or is he changing?  And is this mission worth the price?

I have a lot of conflicting feelings about this.  To paraphrase Imriel, I’m sure Berlik is very sad, and I’m also sure that he would still kill Dorelei and their unborn child if he had it to do over again.  Given that, he has proven himself unsafe to society, and he should be removed from it.  However, he has already more or less done that, by heading out into the Vralian wilds to contemplate his guilt alone for the rest of his life.

I don’t know what this mission will do to Imriel.  It would have been much simpler if he could have hunted down and killed Berlik in Alba.  Now he has spent so much time and so much pain in the single-minded pursuit of Berlik.  I am not sure I can see how he would be able to back down now.  He would feel that all his suffering was for nothing, and the Albans would take it as an insult to Dorelei’s memory.  I do think Imriel is going to find it harder than he expected to execute a repentant man.

4.  Joscelin seems to have become known as an ‘angel’ and Imriel as an 'avenging angel’ - any thoughts?

I think it’s kind of funny that Joscelin has turned into an 'angel' in this story, but also fitting.  I think the description fits well for Imriel as well.

5. The war that is looming - how do you see this affecting what is yet to come for Imriel?

In some ways it’s a little lucky, because that and the cold are probably hampering communications.  Otherwise, he might have been recaptured.  He usually ends up involved in whatever war or battle is at hand, so I expect he’ll end up rejoining Urist and the Vralians at some point.

6. What did you think of Imriel’s thoughts about the Gods and the fact that we sometimes change them by twisting the truth a little as time progresses?

I’m really exhausted this weekend, and not sure I’m sufficiently coherent for theology discussion.  I’ll give this question a try, though.  First, this thought kind of assumes that at one point mankind understood God fully, so that we initially had a perfect perception of Him/Her that has then been twisted over time.  I don’t think this can be true, because no human being at any point in history had a perfect understanding of God.  Since we don’t fully comprehend the truth, then we can’t be certain whether any change over time is bringing us closer or further from an accurate understanding of the mind of God. 

One can pursue understanding through prayer and worship, as the Yeshuites do and as Imriel does for Elua.  I think it is this pursuit that is worthwhile, and which brings you closer to God.  Still, people can come to very different conclusions about the same deity, and there’s no one who can definitively say who is right and who is misinterpreting.  It would be enlightening, as Imriel commented, to be able to see God’s reaction to his believers’ perceptions of Him.  Unfortunately, I don’t think that kind of enlightenment is often (or ever?) granted during a human lifetime.