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cptn_dr
Sep 7, 2011

Seven for beauty that blossoms and dies



Lookin' forwards to my glorious resurrection

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Riot Carol Danvers
Jul 30, 2004

It's super dumb, but I can't stop myself. This is just kind of how I do things.



It's mostly a joke

Kesper North
Nov 3, 2011

EMERGENCY POWER TO PARTY

Now I wonder if John Gaius was a bunker billionaire

Sibyl Disobedience
Mar 16, 2018

A Fire Keeper's soul is a draw for humanity, and held within their bosoms, below just a thin layer of skin, are swarms of humanity that writhe and squirm.

I recently finished reading Harrow, and I'm kinda weirded out by how much these books resemble my current obsession. Because of this I have a bunch of galaxy brain guesses as to what's going on that I can't meaningfully discuss with anyone, so I'm just dumping them here. If you don't want plot predictions treat these spoiler tags with extra caution. 1-3 might be fine because it's mostly interpretations about what has already happened, but (4-6) is entirely speculation.

1. The most fun part of these books for me is they are told in hyper unreliable narrator. I mean, the central PoV character for the entire second book figuratively lobotomized herself. Palamedes also offers us some good foreshadowing early in the first book about this:

"Either this entire building was scavenged from a garbage hopper, or I am being systematically lied to on a molecular level."
"Maybe the building's shy."
"That is just tough poo poo for the building. No, there's a wrong thing here. There's a trick. Remember my fourth circle exams?"
"When the Masters shut down the entire core?"
"No, that was the third circle. Fourth circle they seeded the core with a couple thousand fake records. Beautiful stuff, exquisite, even the timestamps, and all of it obviously wrong. Drivel. No one could have believed a word of it. So why bother?
"I recall you said they were 'being a pack of assholes'"
"W--yes. Well, in substance, yes. They were teaching us a particularly annoying lesson, which is that you cannot rely on anything, because anything can lie to you."


So the biggest challenge in figuring out what's going on beneath the surface narrative is identifying which parts are lies and why.


2. Independent of that, we have some really interesting clues in the stated structure of the world: the nine houses. The two big things I've noticed is that they seem to be mirrored across the 5th house and that each end of the mirroring describes the process of life.

9th does bones, motherfucker. 1st is hard to pin down obviously, but one of the most noteworthy things about Canaan House is the fidelity of their bone constructs.
It's never stated, but I suspect both the 2nd and the 8th do blood. We hear about blood wards, and both the 2nd and 8th necromancers are described as passing energy around with their cav. At one point I believe the 8th house is described as batteries. The 8th house is also described as manufacturing multiple possible cavs to match the blood type of the eventual necromancer, which is pretty telling.
3rd and 7th do flesh. My recollection is that this is made explicit during the scene where Ianthe is helping Harrow with that whole brain problem. Ianthe also uses fat to make the hand padding on her bone arm, and Dulce uses candles for fat deposits during the group fight against the Sleeper.
4th and 6th I can't recall being ever explicitly described. We'll pull an Ianthe here and reverse engineer their specialty after we establish the others.
5th is obviously associated with the Spirit.

If you think about it in this framework, the magic specialty of both 1st to 5th and 9th to 5th is the process of life. Bone marrow creates blood. Blood passes energy onto flesh. Flesh is used to create the brain. The brain is the storage device that holds the spirit. This admittedly might be an oversimplification. I think it holds true for 9th to 5th, but 1st to 5th might represent a very different process that I haven't fully identified yet. I'm playing around with the idea that 1st to 5th relates to genetic transmission, but I'm not sure it fits. I only vaguely remember that I think book two describes the Canaan House constructs as spirits possessing the bones, and if that's not a lie it suggests that the 1st to 5th process is less "flesh and bone" than 9th to 5th.

And that tracks with the idea of mirroring, having the image recognizable but flipped in some fashion. Both 2nd and 8th are bound by duty, but one is framed in modern military terms and the other in the terms of a martially oriented religious order. As an aside, unlike houses 3 through 7, the 2nd and 8th are both same sex necro/cav pairings.
3rd and 7th are both about beauty, but the 3rd has a sense of pre-enlightenment royalty, while the 7th is almost always described in very modern medical terms, typically due to the health condition of Dulcinea.
The 4th and 6th are hard to pin down do to how little description they get, but I suspect strongly that these houses represent the brain, and their differing framework is that the 6th represents acquired knowledge and the 4th represents instinct.
The 5th doesn't have a mirror, but what sets them apart is that their necro/cav is married (which I think Gideon maybe describes as a bit icky). I suspect there's a very deliberate reason they come across as paternal, especially relative to the 4th who are the most coded as brother and sister. It's also, I suspect, extremely relevant to the overarching plot that Abigail Pent is suggested to have had a miscarriage during the book one dinner party.

One of the important bits is that the mirroring keeps the structure but flips the framing. 2nd is modern military while 8th is religious fundamentalism for example. This is precisely what the fight between the Sleeper and that Nonius is showing. The room switches back and forth between a 9th house medieval setting and the 1st house high-tech setting. If the participants can impose the framework of 9th house on the fight, the Sleeper loses access to their weaponry. On the off chance that anyone is watching Wandavision, this is kinda similar to the sword agent in the hazmat suit being interpreted as a beekeeper. Converting an anachronistic symbol to its closest acceptable replacement to preserve the perceived consistency of the current chronological framework.


3. The exact behavior of this mirroring is not something I've been able to nail down, but I'm pretty sure there's narrative recursion going on. The most obvious variant is how the first-person Harrow chapters in book two are a jumbled retelling of the Lyctor trial in book one. I think book two is relatively straightforward in this being a fake memory generated by Harrow's self-experimentation. But it's worth considering that if that entire story is false memory, how would we know if book one is any less false? Which is to say, based on a corruption of true events. I suspect strongly that there's recursive storytelling going on, and the biggest thing I have to point to is the repeated use of calling someone a cuckoo.

I don't recall which chapter this is and can't look it up right now, but in book two there's a series of chapters where Harrow is having a false memory that ends with Abigail saying this isn't right. What I suspect is that these memories of the three conspirators(?) she encounters on the Shuttle. The hardest to place is the fancy dance chapter, but I suspect that one is Camilla's. The other two are much more straightforward. The one where someone is hanging out with the 4th house cavalier and necromancer is clearly from the perspective of the second house. And the other, involves Harrow practicing with the sword, and that's 100% a reference to the weird encounter with Coronabeth towards the end of book one where she wants to duel Gideon. It's also the stretch of the book that most directly invokes the idea of the cuckoo.

Cuckoos are infamous for laying their eggs in other birds nests in order to get raised by their involuntary foster parents as their own. Ianthe is most strongly associated with being a Cuckoo and effectively stealing Corona's Lyctorhood ("It should have been Corona.") This is also weirdly echoed in house 7 when you have Cytherea replacing Dulcinea during the book one Lyctor trial. But the concept repeats itself elsewhere. Most prominently, Harrow calls Gideon a cuckoo in the first couple chapters of the book, before we have even the slightest context of why. But it's worth considering that neither of Harrow's cavs are truly of the 9th house, and therefore both a bit of a cuckoo. Open mic poetry night is described as hailing from the 8th house via his mother (sidenote: his departure from the ninth with his mom is an inversion of Gideon's arrival to the ninth, which is another example of narrative beats being inverted and reused). And if that's all accurate, I'd expect Gideon Nav to either be originally from house 1 or 2, depending on which mathematical function is in play, multiplication by -1 or subtraction with underflow wraparound.


Okay, so with that all covered, here are the book three predictions in a separate spoiler for anyone who does not want to see specific guesses. Maybe treat it like a note to yourself with the instruction to open it after reading the third book, just in case I'm actually right about anything.

4. I suspect the author likes to hide foreshadowing in jokes. This way the jokes make sense as jokes and aren't confusing to readers. But it also allows you to do more explicit foreshadowing without giving away the plot because people aren't inclined to look any deeper into a joke.

Given this, I think one of the most telling lines of the entire story thus far is God saying he should have mastered time instead of death. This is our clue that 1) time travel is happening and 2) God is (mostly) unaware of it.

God's sentiment that the Children of Eden are dedicated to a thing that they abandoned is misguided because they're time traveling from just-before-apocalypose into the future to put an end to God's necromancy. Hence why Commander Wake Me Up is memeing away with Eminem lyrics. The descriptions of the 1st house imply an earth that has gone through some kind of postapocalyptic scenario, whether that be nuclear war, rising sea levels, or global cooling. Canaan house was a sort of ark where the last survivors were trying to preserve what they could of the species. On a separate but semi-related note, the description of the physical structure of the house came off to me as being very tree-like.

One of the weirdest bits of potential foreshadowing for this is that I think Mercymorn is going back in time? Her incapability of remembering Harrow's age is played off as a joke, but her "mistakes" are, if I'm remembering correctly, given in a precise reverse chronological order. If she really couldn't remember then the pattern would be chaotically distributed around the originally provided age. And if she were being sarcastic, there's no reason to expect such consistency.


5. If I had to guess a literary inspiration for Harrow's emergency brain surgery, it would be Zaphod from Hitchhiker's Guide, where he had to operate on his own brain to get past the brain scan and become president of the galaxy. Now he's a bit of an idiot, but he still holds somewhere in his subconscious the plot he had to sneak past the inspectors.

In the case of these novels, all of the weird maneuvering going on in the narrative and outright deceit is what's necessary to break through all of the security around the Locked Tomb. Harrow's efforts to break into the locked tomb as a child is an echo of both Lyctor trials, and both are probably an echo for an even larger rebellion against God. Revenant haunting, like the kind that book two Abigail suspects is happening to Harrow, for example, is almost certainly being used as a way to sneak certain persons into spaces where they specifically are not allowed.


6. Given all this, I suspect that one of the influences for this story, whether direct or indirect, is the Welsh myth of the Cauldron of Rebirth. In it, the central actor of the story passes himself off as dead in order to sneak into a device that revives the dead, destroying it from within and sacrificing himself in the process.

If I'm right, then at some point God had the chance to save earth, but couldn't do it because it would mean the death of someone he cared about. Instead he mastered necromancy in order to keep that person alive in something comparable to being frozen in cryogenic stasis (making his joke about "should have mastered time" especially ironic), and used that to preserve the echoes of humanity we see in the eight houses. The Children of Eden are time-traveling forward through the river in an attempt to reverse engineer his security processes, break into the Locked Tomb, end the cycle of undeath, and try to restore Eden to a livable state. Hence, Canaan house representing wandering in the wilderness for forty years before entering the promised land.

If I'm right about the narratives we see being a subconscious re-encoding and/or ceremonial repetition of the originating narrative, then God's s/o was going to have a miscarriage (as is briefly introduced in Abigail Pent's backstory) and God did something that sacrificed huge portions of humanity to preserve his s/o and bring the child to term (reiterated as Harrow's backstory). Essentially, he'd be sacrificing the present to preserve the pretense of the viability of an incredibly narrow vision of the future. In other words, God is the biggest boomer.

How this relates to specific characters I'm not sure. I haven't sussed out the rules for that. It's sorta suspicious of the "real-ness" of anyone involved in the Lyctor trials who is not encountered outside of the Lyctor trials. Also still uncertain why Harrow was supposed to prevent the non-Camilla passengers from speaking during the spaceship encounter, and what the consequences are for letting the 2nd get some words in. What I do feel more certain about is that the plot to break into the Locked Tomb almost certainly culminates in the murder of its inhabitant. That, and I feel like it's likely that the inhabitant is one of the co-conspirators.


Anyway, even if I'm completely off, I'm pretty sure there's something delightfully clever going on here. I'm just perplexed by the feeling that I've, shall we say, seen the formula before. Though it might not seem like it, that's definitely not a criticism. I'll just have to wait for book three to see if this peculiar narrative deja vu survives intact. Might even do an uncharacteristic re-read of books 1 and 2 to see if there's anything that takes on new meaning the second time through. I did notice that in the story very early on about the ninth necros trying to talk to Gideon's mom's soul and having her only respond "Gideon! Gideon! Gideon!" is a lot more fun in retrospect once you realize that this is Wake being angry about Gideon the First, and the Ninth necros misinterpret it as the child's name.

Kesper North
Nov 3, 2011

EMERGENCY POWER TO PARTY

Whoa, great analysis! Seems plausible to me, although it's been a while since I read Harrow at this point.

The great thing about this series is it's all "Hey check out these memes and lesbian necromancers" on the surface, hiding this magnificent work of craft with a strong historical and classical reference game too - an interwoven structure of strong yet flexible supporting narrative.

boning

Sibyl Disobedience
Mar 16, 2018

A Fire Keeper's soul is a draw for humanity, and held within their bosoms, below just a thin layer of skin, are swarms of humanity that writhe and squirm.

Kesper North posted:

The great thing about this series is it's all "Hey check out these memes and lesbian necromancers" on the surface, hiding this magnificent work of craft with a strong historical and classical reference game too - an interwoven structure of strong yet flexible supporting narrative.

Exactly! And it's also done rather subtly. I don't think I would have noticed most of this if I hadn't accidentally been primed to think this way by a lot of the stuff I've been working on recently. That and my favorite poem is a historical/classical reference game, so I have a type.

But despite that subtlety it can be so incredibly blunt with things like the foreshadowing and still get away with it. All the way back in at the end of Chapter 5 of Book 1 we have what is, in retrospect, an utterly blatant Book 2 spoiler disguised as a throwaway joke:

"God, no!" said Harrow. "All you need to know is that you'll do what I say, or I'll mix bone meal in with your breakfast and punch my way through your gut."
Which was, Gideon had to admit, entirely plausible.


And whatever you want to read into that about the characters (for example, if that Mercymorn animation comes back in book 3 as something other than a theoretical exercise...), it likely suggests that the author has a relatively defined plan as to where things are going. That there's a real, actual puzzle to solve in the story and not just someone making things up as they go along. I'm feeling extra suspicious about this due to a bit I've come across in the Vox interview:

quote:

Everything came from the story template. The RBs, or the Resurrection Beasts, the Lyctors, even the magic system. That all came about precisely because of the storyline I wanted to tell.

Having a template would be super useful if your narrative structure is a recursive monomyth. As the author you'd be able to manufacture all the skeletons you could ever need, and now you just have to flesh them.

Also from that interview, she brings up the precise Biblical verse that inspired Gideon's name, which was helpful because as I was joking with someone just after finishing the books, who loving reads Judges? But the summary is almost terrifyingly precise in echoing my expectations:

Judg 6:7-27
The Angel of the LORD meets Gideon at Ophrah (modern-day Afula) where he is secretly threshing wheat in an underground winepress. He tells Gideon to cut down his father's symbol of the local fertility goddess, Asherah, and to destroy the altar to Baal. Gideon builds an altar to the LORD in its place.

Wasn't expecting "fertility goddess" to come up quite so explicitly, but this is my life now...


The other thing going on in my head because this is showing up everywhere else for me is worldbuilding as a biological metaphor giving flesh. I've been wondering if the Resurrection Beasts are essentially a cancer, and Harrow's planet killing is therefore comparable to chemotherapy harming healthy cells so the cancer runs out of places to spread. And then while running this thought through my head I come across what I'm told is a quote from the author:

"I had amused myself previously by writing fanfiction where Final Fantasy characters contracted diseases."

And I swear to Kos, if the 9 houses are a Sefirot I will be incredibly cross.

Happy Landfill
Feb 26, 2011

But Nemo, I am Pagliacci

The nine houses being a sefirot would be pretty

Spent today listening to videos regarding ASOIF predictions based on parallel storylines that have already happened (or are likely to happen) so, Sybil, seeing you bring up the different parallels (like between Gideon's arrival and Ortus' departure) gave me a bit of a rush. Fuckin love that poo poo

Happy Landfill fucked around with this message at 05:16 on Feb 10, 2021

Entropic
Feb 21, 2007

patriarchy sucks


lol

Sibyl Disobedience
Mar 16, 2018

A Fire Keeper's soul is a draw for humanity, and held within their bosoms, below just a thin layer of skin, are swarms of humanity that writhe and squirm.

Happy Landfill posted:

Spent today listening to videos regarding ASOIF predictions based on parallel storylines that have already happened (or are likely to happen) so, Sybil, seeing you bring up the different parallels (like between Gideon's arrival and Ortus' departure) gave me a bit of a rush. Fuckin love that poo poo

That's funny, actually. GRRM has gotten his fingers in the other thing I've tracking down. I admittedly didn't notice ASOIF doing parallel storylines, but I only read the first couple books in what seems like an eternity ago. This could be worth looking into. Thank you for the lead.

Anyway, here's some more quirks I'm uncovering on a second readthrough of the first book.

1. Book of Gideon, Chapter 12:
It's dumb, but until I read an interview I never fully noticed how many Christianity references these books contain. Which is likely a good thing. Being too overt with Christian symbolism can get especially eye-rolley.

So yeah, Canaan was obvious. And Gideon was recognizable even if I didn't remember any details about the character. But missing this bit I have no excuse for.

quote:

The walls were unadorned, except for an enormous old whiteboard rimmed in metal, printed with lines for a timetable that had not been used in a very, very, very long time. The lines had blurred; the board was stained. Here and there meaningless bits of letters survived: the loop of what might be O or C; the arch of an M; a line-suffixed curve that could be G or Q. But in one bottom corner lingered the ghost of a message, drawn thickly in black ink once, now faded but still quite clear:

It is finished!

So, my initial read treated the letter descriptions as setting description fluff, the type of writing that makes my eyes glaze over. On the second read, I found myself wondering what if the letters were part of the same message. The obvious interpretation is then "OMG" which would make this a one of the earliest bits of meme-speak in the books, albeit encoded. Utilizing the power of google, other possibilities include:

'cutting myself quietly' -- don't know if this is fanfic slang, but it's pretty appropriate for Harrow in a cocoon.
Collège des médecins du Québec -- Assuming Canada beat out New Zealand in the last inhabitable sweepstakes
Office of Manufacturing Quality -- Maybe appropriate in a medical research facility, but honestly the least entertaining of these interpretations by far
OMQ customer service AI -- The idea of this being an elaborate computer simulation trying too hard to be fleshy is amusing, but this is super unlikely.

Intentionally ambiguous symbols are fun, but they can also be fundamentally possible to ascribe intent to. Playing around with them is fine, but don't get your hopes up over being able to ever identify the 'right' answer. The more distinctly telling bit is "It is finished!" which means somebody's Jesus.

The rest of the chapter has Gideon, Sexpal, and Camilla recovering Harrow from her bone cocoon, and then Gideon carrying Harrow's (mostly) unconscious body back to their room, which is now, in retrospect, so loving Golgotha that it hurts, with Harrow fulfilling the role of Gideon's cross. Or maybe Gideon is Joseph of Arimathea carrying Harrow to be burried. Or maybe the ambiguity between the interpretations is part of the point.

(Worth mentioning that later in the 3rd house Lyctor room we get this reference again in the message "500 to 50 / It is finished." If we take "500 to 50" as an earlier iteration of Harrow's "200 to 1" warcrime origin, then the function of the bone cocoon chapter becomes a bit sus)

And oh boy, do these books like slipping in Biblically-inspired subtext:

Book 1, Chapter 35 posted:

It seemed as though they looked at each other for such a long time. She took a step forward, and opened her mouth to say, Sextus, I'm sorry--
He folded his fingers together as you would a piece of paper. Her body stopped where it stood, as though steel needles had pierced her hands and her legs. Gideon felt cold all over. She tried to speak, but her tongue cleaved to the roof of her mouth and she tasted blood. She struggled--an insect pinned to its backing--and he looked at her, cold and dispassionate, unlike himself.
Palamedes surveyed his work, and he saw that it was good.

Genesis 1:31 posted:

And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

(as an aside, it's kinda interesting to me that what Palamedes does to Gideon here has a sort of resemblance to how Jeannemarie dies. Then Gideon's 'actual' death later on resembles how Isaac died. Don't know if there's anything actually to this. Idle thought.)


2. Anyway, let's go back to mirroring

I suspect a plurality of people when first reading these books have a moment where they think something along the lines of "Oh, this is Pluto." 9 houses. Each have a planet. Ninth house is tiny and lovely and dark. It's a supremely easy interpretation to seize onto.

Except it falls apart pretty quickly. The characters go to the first house, and it's clearly not Mercury (generally, I agree with the sentiment I've seen elsewhere that the 6th is the most likely candidate for any kind of planetary mapping). The obvious interpretation gets strangled in the crib. As if to drive the point home, the 5th and 6th get described as being the house most likely to be engulfed by the sun in book two.

A few posts ago I proposed a different interpretation, where the houses were mirrored around the 5th. For example, the 2nd and 8th houses both specialize in Necro/Cav energy transfer, with the direction inverted. Silas siphons from Colum, whereas Judith feeds Marta. And go back through the first book. On top of this, both the 2nd and the 8th have the motive of shutting down the trials as their top priority via confiscating the keys from the other houses. Canaan house is being described as like the 9th by Gideon in some way or another over and over. This then becomes even more explicit in the second book where the setting of the River fight vs the Sleeper shifts back and forth between the 1st and 9th houses. So clearly, the cross-5th mirroring works.

Except there's inconsistencies. Let's suppose the mirroring has a dichotomy between the body and mind. Hence why the 8th house necromancy is referred to as spirit siphoning while the 2nd house necromancy feels a lot more physical-in-nature with the Necro siphoning energy from her foes to pump blood into their cav. Problem is that the 9th is quite clearly physical in nature, so the mirroring gets ruined.

Theoretically, we can fix this. Instead of having our mirror sequence be 1->2->3->4 |5| 6<-7<-8<-9 we could have 1->8->3->6 |5| 4<-7<-2<-9. Essentially just another layer of symmetry. Might even hold up if we knew more about the 4th house and Dulce classic.

(Side fun, stumbled on 4th and 6th also having a mirroring. On one hand you have chapter 42 of Book 2 where the 4th House is basically portrayed as a child soldier factory. On the other you have the short story The Mysterious Study of Doctor Sex, which is basically the only look inside the 6th House and portrays it as a never-ending trial of college admissions bureaucracy. Same general structure vaguely comparable to Middle School, but one from the perspective of a boot camp and the other from an gifted kid academy. Body vs Mind.)

But then we get to things like Ortus/Gideon as 9th cuckoos, and those don't work on this axis at all. Or even seeing Ianthe as a Lyctor cuckoo given that she only completed the challenges first by taking the key from Pent via Cytherea and having the lock cleared of bone via Harrow. Neither of these dynamics work on any of these mirrored axis.

I think the problem with telling a simple, mirrorred story is that it's too easily solved. And then once it's solved, there's no suspense or mystery for anyone who has solved it. So if you're creating a story that is layered via self-reference you need a harder to break cypher.

What I suspect is that one of the most productive ways to get around this is deceptively simple: have the mirror axis not be fixed. If it's regularly shifting, even the readers who notice the mirroring have a much more difficult time puzzling out what it could mean because they'll find themselves frustrated by the inconsistencies. Take for instance Palamedes. He has two really intriguing moments of mirrored conversation, except, they're not with the same person.

Book 1, page 141/448 Chapter 12 posted:

"It's unbelievably dangerous down there, Ninth. Stop splitting your forces."
"Dangerous how?"
"If I knew," said Palamedes, "it'd be a hell of a lot less dangerous."
Gideon was impatient with vagaries. She wasn't in Drearburh now. "How do you figure?"
...
He said coolly: "Because I'm the greatest necromancer of my generation."
The unconscious figure sacked across Gideon's shoulder muttered, "Like hell you are."
"Thought that would wake her up," said Palamedes, with no small amount of satisfaction. "Well--I'm off. Like I said, liquids and rest. Good luck"

Book 2, page 360/510 posted:

The nun did not answer. Ianthe made her voice as low and coaxing as it could go, and she pressed: "Make me understand what this is worth to you, Ninth. Think about what you've promised. Consider what I am, and what use you might get from me. I am a Lyctor. I am a necromantic princess of Ida. I am the cleverest necromancer of my generation."
"Like hell you are," said Harrowhark.
"So impress me," said Ianthe, unmoved.

Ok, so maybe just joke re-use. But then there this pair of hypotheticals meant to assuage Gideon of her guilt:

Book 1, page 292/448, Dulceina/Cytherea posted:

"There was nothing you could have done."
"Bullshit there wasn't anything I could have done," said Gideon, "I've thought of everything I should've done. There's about fifty things I could've done and didn't."
...
"Oh, could've ... should've" she said. "You can could have and should have yourself back into last week ... back into the womb. I could have kept Pro by my side, or I should have gone with him. I can go back and make things happen perfectly if I just think about what I should have or could have done. But I didn't ... you didn't ... that's the way it is."

Book 1, page, Palamedes posted:

"Here's a confession for you: I killed Magnus and Abigail"
Gideon blinked at him.
"If, the second I stepped off my shuttle," said the suddenly revealed double murderer blithely, "I had snatched Cam's dagger and put it straight through Teacher's throat, the Lyctoral trial could never have begun. There'd have been uproar. The Cohort would have arrived, I'd have been dragged away, and everyone else would have been sent safe back home. Because I didn't kill Teacher, the trial began, and because the trial began, Magnus Quinn and Abigail Pent are dead. So: I did it. It's my fault. All I ask is that you put some pen and flimsy in my cell so I can start on my memoirs."

It's the same sentiment in two very different contexts, with the first being expressed through emotion and the latter being expressed through logic. Of course, there's nothing inherently "Weird mirror reality bullshit" in either of these quote pairings, but when there's a broader pattern the previously innocuous start becoming suspicious.

Along these lines, it's funny that Palamedes' supposed confession here is to the crime that we now know Cytherea committed. Could that mean there's a reflection of truth in Cytherea's hypothetical of should having yourself back into last week so "I can go back and make things happen perfectly."

Book 1, 306/448 posted:

"Then can you tell him to maybe stop acting like he read everyone's feelings in a booke ages ago? Because that would be completely sweet," said Gideon

(Another fun example of mirroring occurs between Cytherea and Harrowhark relative to Abigail Pent. In book one, Cytherea kills Pent and tells us that while Pent's soul-seeing thing is inconvenient, what she really found threatening was Pent's hobby of history. That it threatened to out her. Especially interesting since Pent had the key to Cytherea's original 7th house room.

In book two's bizarro Lyctor trial, Harrow considers killing Pent for the opposite reason: Pent's soul-seeing can detect Harrow's dark warcrime secret.


3. On the purpose of Canaan House
As much as I like those examples of mirroring in these books, they're easy to explain away as being simple narrative devices that I'm reading too much into. I think that if you're trying to convince people of funky narrative shenanigans, it tends to be more convincing if you can derive hidden plot explanations. Feels much more concrete. So let's ask ourselves: what even is the point of Canaan house. Conveniently, the characters have already debated this for us:

Book 1, 302/448 posted:

Her own necromancer settled back and said, "You are convinced by your ... megatheorem idea, then"
"Yes. Aren't you?"
"No. It's sensational."
"But not out of the question. Look. The tasks and challenges--the theories underpinning them--they're really not that disparate. Neural amalgamation. Transferral of energy. As we saw in the entropy field challenge, continuous siphoning. The magical theory's astonishing. Nobody has pushed necromantic power this far: it's unsustainable. If the intent is to show off the sheer breadth of Lyctoral power--well, they did. I've seen the winnowing tests, and if the self-replicating bone golem had been the only thing in it I would still be kept up at night. I don't know how the hell they did it."
"I do," said Harrow, "and if my calculations are right I can replicate it. But all this is more than unsustainable, Sextus. The things they've shown us would be powerful--would bespeak impossible depth of necromantic ability--if they were replicable. These experiments all demand a continuous flow of thanergy. They've hidden that source somewhere in the facility, and that's the true prize."
"Ah. Your secret door theory. Very Ninth."

So who's right? Surprise! They both are. Kinda. In Book 1, Ianthe spells out the megatheorem for us.

Book 1, 382/448 posted:

"Step one," she said, singsong, "preserve the soul, with intellect and memory intact. Step two, analyse it-- understand its structure, its shape. Step three, remove and absorb it: take it into yourself without consuming it in the process."
"Oh gently caress," said Harrow, very quietly. She had moved back to Gideon's side now, slipping her journal back into her pocket. "The megatheorem." -- I like to believe that Harrow is mostly upset here at the upsetting outcome of Palamedes being right
"Step four, fix it in place so it can't deteriorate. That's the part I wasn't sure of, but I found the method here, in this very room. Step five, incorporate it: find a way to make the soul part of yourself without being overwhelmed. Step six: consume the flesh. Not the whole thing, a drop of blood will do to ground you. Step seven is reconstruction--making spirit and flesh work together the way they used to, in the new body. And then for the last step you hook up the cables and get the power flowing. You'll find that one a walk in the park, Eighth, I suspect it was your House's contribution."

While we're here, it's worth pointing out that despite the Eighth step presumably being from the Eighth house, it's a mistake to see these as being predictably ordered. Step Four is almost certainly from the Seventh house. Potentially a fun game to try to attach a house to each step. Could be revealing.

Anyway, as amusing as the idea of Harrow being wrong about something is, we have the mirrored version of Canaan house in book two. And sure, this telling is almost certainly less true than the first book, it still might a truth in it.

The focal point of book two's misadventures in Canaan house is the Sleeper

Book 2, 111/510 posted:

"Part of the path is independent research, Lady Abigail," said Teacher, smiling. "The other part, the greater part, is the silence ... is the care. You are not alone in the facility. In its heart lies the Sleeper, and how long that creature has lain there I do not know; but I do know that they are your greatest threat, for although they lie in sleep ... in that sleep, they walk."
"There's a--monster in the research laboratory? And we've got to--fight it?"
"No, no!" said Teacher impatiently. "Lord Over the River have mercy! The Sleeper cannot die. I doubt they can be wounded; they certainly cannot be killed. The greatest advantage we have is that the Sleeper sleeps deeply! The second threat to your work is if the Sleeper wakes--it has never happened, though I know the Sleeper years to escape its incognizant sate and pick up where they left off--for if they wake, none of us will live."

The first reaction to this speech that we hear is "--isn't how it--", which is almost certainly a play off the repeating phrase in this book: "This isn't how it happens." Likely correct. But let's get the best description of the Sleeper that we can find:

Book 2, 182/510 posted:

"What did the Sleeper look like?"
"You've all seen it through the glass," said Dyas. This was not entirely true. Ortus refused to go anywhere near the glass-faced coffin in that central room, or the somnolent corpse within, and quaked at his own breathing. Harrowhark did not fear to look more closely at the death Teacher had promised them, ensconced within that frozen, clouded plex. She had been nonplussed to discover that the Sleeper slept dressed for an emergency, as Dyas recited now: "Breathing apparatus over the face--orange hazard suit--oxygen hood."

What's clearly going on here is a sci-fi story being explained by fantasy-framed characters. "Legendary" weapon that fires "metal projectiles." Described by Ortus as "Like something from an old story." If I had to make a guess, it's based off of Captain Wake Me Up's ship flying to the Ninth, but eh, could be more complicated than that.

What's more interesting to me at the moment is the book one parallel to this: the Locked Tomb.

Book 1, 358/448 posted:

"Beyond the doors there's just the rock," she said. "The rock and the tomb surrounded by water. I won't bore you with the magic or the locks, or the wards or the barriers: just know that it took me a year to walk six steps inside, and that it nearly killed me then. There's a blood ward bypass on the doors which will only respond for the Necromancer Divine, but I knew there had to be an exploit, a way through for the true and devout tomb-keeper. I knew in the end it had to open for me. The water's salt, and its deep, and it moves with a tide that shouldn't exist. The sepulchre itself is small, and the tomb..."
Her eyes opened. A small astonished smile creased her mouth. The smile transformed her face into an affliction of beauty that Gideon had heretofore managed to ignore.
"The tomb is stone and ice, Nav, ice that never melts and stone that's even colder, and inside, in the dark, there's a girl."
"A what?"
"A girl, you yellow-eyed moron," said Harrowhark. Her voice dropped to a whisper, and her head was dead weight in Gideon's hands. "Inside the Locked Tomb is the corpse of a girl.
"They packed her in ice--she's frozen solid--and they laid a sword on her breast. Her hands are wrapped around the blade. There are chains around her wrists, coming out of her grave, and they go down into holes by each side of the tomb, and there are chains on her ankles that do the same, and there are chains around her throat.

So imagine the same trick is going on here: that we're hearing sci-fi technology described by a character from a fantasy framework. It's pretty clear then that this is cryogenic storage, and that the Body is a pizza delivery woman from the past
"This isn't how it happens."
Yes, right. So, what's in the Locked Tomb?

quote:

These experiments all demand a continuous flow of thanergy. They've hidden that source somewhere in the facility, and that's the true prize

Book 1, 339/448 posted:

"That doesn't add up. The spell you're talking about is not within the range of a normal necromancer, Septimus. Impossible for a necromancer in their prime, let alone a dying woman."
"A dying woman is the perfect necromancer," said Ianthe."
"I wish I could get rid of that idea. Maybe for the final ten minutes," said Palamedes. "The technical fact that dying enhances your necromancy is vitiated considerably by the fact that you can't make any use of it. You might have access to a very personal source of thanergy, but considering your organs are shutting down--"

Book 1, 293/448 posted:

"When you don't have it too badly--when you can live to maybe fifty years--when your body's dying from the inside out, when your blood cells are eating you alive the whole time ... it makes for such a necromancer, Gideon the Ninth. A walking thanergy generator. If they could figure out some way to stop you when you're mostly cancer and just a little bit woman, they would!"

"Gideon," she said, "I told your necromancer I didn't want to die. And it's true ... but I've been dying for what feels like ten thousand years. I more didn't want to die alone. I didn't want them to put me out of sight. It's a horrible thing to fall out of sight ... The Seventh would have sealed me in a beautiful tomb and not talked about me again."

Book 1, 339/448 posted:

"The Seventh aren't just soul-stoppers and mummifiers."
...
adepts of the perfect death...

quote:

"Step four, fix it in place so it can't deteriorate. That's the part I wasn't sure of, but I found the method here, in this very room.

Once you put together the pieces, it seems pretty likely that we know what's going on with the Locked Tomb. It's a perpetually dying woman frozen in time; the power source that God or whoever is drawing all the energy from to keep this society running. But there's peculiarities...

For instance, why would what is ostensibly a 7th house project be hidden on the 9th? Why does Harrow's backstory of breaking into the tomb seem to echo the Lyctor trials? Why does Ianthe know so much about Beguiling Corpse that it makes Harrow visibly suspicious?

But here's the fun one: who is inside the Locked Tomb? Here's the most fun possibility, because it's the most at odds with the official narrative and therefore the most peculiar: Abigail Pent.

Based off what? Well, there's a cluster of chapters towards the end of the 2nd book with ???? titles. Fun ones. Deceptively important I think, but evasive. The formal dance one gives me the most difficulty. Anyway, all three of these chapters end with "This isn't how it happens," said Abigail." Maybe has some "you will deny me three times" energy. But it happens enough that there's a good chance the phrase gets carved into your memory banks.

Which then proves perplexingly useful if you read the book over again

Book 2, 23/510 posted:

Harrowhark closed her eyes, which shut out Ortus's tremulous, worried face and the shadow of the Body-faced serving girl that fell over the desk. The shadow told her nothing. Physical evidence was often a trap. She shut out the new and rusty rapier that now creaked in the scabbard at Ortus's hip. She shut out the comforting smell of dust made hot by the whirring heater in the corner of the room, mixing with the just-milled ink in her inkwell. Tannic acid, human salts.
"This isn't how it happens," said the Body.
Which gave Harrow a curious strength.
"I need you to hide my infirmity," said Harrowhark. "You see, I am insane."

We 'know' the Body is the resident of the Locked Tomb. And here the Body says Abigail's big line. Therefore, Abigail is the Locked Tomb resident!

...but identity is slippery. The Gideon -> Ortus word filter is the most obvious case of this, but why should it be the only one. Is the Body even 'real'? Is Abigail? I have a fondness for media that can simultaneously sow such extreme levels of trust and distrust, so this is my jam, but I understand that unreliable narrators tend to annoy a lot of other people.

But maybe we should anticipate that the identity of the resident of the Locked Tomb slips around a lot. Hell, book 2 ends with Harrow climbing inside the tomb AND the insinuation that Gideon has, at some point, been there as well. It's almost as if the tomb, it's resident, and it's purpose are not fixed. That they shift around depending on the perspective.

Book 2, 384/510 posted:

"But why make so many changes? Why is this narrative so different? This isn't how it happened at all. I understand that ... that Gideon had to be--absent, but why...?
"This isn't a picture you're drawing, Harrow," said Pent. It's a play you're directing. You set up the stage in the River, you pulled in ghosts as your actors, and you enforced certain rules to keep your cast on-script. But now another director is trying to hijack the play, and the struggle for control backstage is leaking over into the action out front. You're being ousted."

And that would be a particularly nasty narrative trick, so it of course defines the array of outcomes that I'm hoping for.

Sibyl Disobedience fucked around with this message at 23:43 on Feb 15, 2021

silvergoose
Mar 18, 2006

IT IS SAID THE TEARS OF THE BWEENIX CAN HEAL ALL WOUNDS



Love the post, but one thing I specifically disagree with.

It's pretty obviously our solar system, but the houses are not named by distance from the sun, but to me, by order of settlement. First is earth, second the warlike soldiers is Mars, jovial fifth is jupiter with its poems about a giant red spot, sixth is mercury closest to the sun, seventh is the other close by and it's obsessed with beauty which fits Venus.

Sibyl Disobedience
Mar 16, 2018

A Fire Keeper's soul is a draw for humanity, and held within their bosoms, below just a thin layer of skin, are swarms of humanity that writhe and squirm.

Ah, planet theory. There were parts of that I wanted to touch on, but it kept getting bigger than I wanted it to be. And to be honest, I think I need to re-read book two before I'll feel fully comfortable talking about it. Especially since there is a passage I can't find through search that maybe I misremembered/made up, that would be extremely relevant should it actually exist which I am now uncertain of.

One of the better sources I've seen for the planet reference is this tumblr chain: https://zenosanalytic.tumblr.com/post/626105852556918784/harrow-the-ninth-wordplay-and-implication

I know, I know. It's borderline unreadable. I don't get tumblr and don't know how to fix that. Summary of major points:

-Sixth and Seventh get described as being closest to sun/Dominicus
"I killed Dominicus," said Mercymorn. ... "The sun must have died immediately, and those grey librarians will be the first to know about it--then the Seventh, and Rhodes..."
"The sun has stabilized. Hope the Sixth House didn't get cooked in the flare."

-Fifth has a poem about a red spot, which among other supporting evidence suggests it as Jupiter
-"Tridentarii" and the trident knives potentially suggest an association between the Third and Neptune
-Dulcinea is the Duchess of Rhodes, which has the association of, the Venus of Rhodes, and thus the Seventh and Venus

There's some other more speculative bits, but one really important observation that I do not have an answer for

quote:

The Resurrecting King took on the expression of a man working out a very difficult and emotionally taxing anagram. He said, “Ortus,” again, but the bile was sputtering up into your throat…

The post points out that Ortus Nigenad is an anagram for Gideon Saturn.

So yeah, open and shut case. Houses are planets. Except, well...


quote:

YOU LIED TO US

The first/ninth dichotomy is an illustration of parallel symbolic encoding. Wrapping a description of reality in a false metaphor that...mostly holds up. Until it doesn't. Reading the Doctor Sex short story, I could see the Sixth being some lovely research installation on Mercury. But I could also see it as being a CPU. If I wanted to extend this metaphor, the 1st is the Power Supply, the 5th is the Hard drive, the 4th the RAM, the 2nd Firewall. The 3rd is what the UI designer thinks the UI looks like; the 7th is what the UI actually looks like. The 8th is your browser history and the 9th is your private browser search for Frontline Titties of the Fifth.

I'm mostly joking here. Though I can't help but add that Cytherea as Dulce refers to the 6th as the thing-in-the-machine, which is pretty suggestive.

But there's a lot of patterns you can read into the houses, and I suspect only some of these are unintentional. For instance, I don't think the 2nd is the army. That's the 4th. 2nd is closer to the marines/spec ops. 3rd is actually the Navy, I'm increasingly thinking. The captain of the Erebos is named Sarpedon, who in one myth is the son of Poseidon, also known as Neptune. Babs as a Navy brat tracks quite well. And shipping is always the branch of the military that is most essential to that "gleam of a jewel" wealth of the 3rd. And if we apply the mirroring framework over this, then the 6th, 7th, and 8th are tech support staff, which I think holds up quite well.

But we could also go back to my theory of 9th -> 5th and 1st -> 5th as mirrored energy conversion processes, one of flesh and one of spirit. Do these represent Thanergy and Thalergy? Ultimately, the problem with finding meaning in the Houses and their order is that there's too many viable interpretations. Which, don't get me wrong, is actually really fun.

But let's take the "order of settlement" planetary theory, run with it, and see what happens.

The first weird bit kicks in with the third, but let's break things down first to see why.

The initiation of this theory is pretty obvious. We think the 9th is Pluto, but the 1st appears to be Earth, and therefore distance from the sun doesn't work. But if we switch to order of settlement, everything becomes a lot neater. 2nd seems to be Mars, red and warlike, and it's also the most likely candidate for a secondary planetary settlement.

We also see a lot of planetary allusions. 6th is clearly stated to be closest to a heat source. 7th is the next closest, and a whole lot of elements tie the 7th to Venus. 5th obviously becomes Jupiter. It's basically one of the puzzles where you use the clues to match people to some identifier using hints like "is next to" or "likes Tridents" or "is poisoned and constantly dying."

But like I said, the 3rd is a bit weird. People in that tumblr thread are undecided on the 3rd, 4th, and 8th. Neptune is the most popular association for the 3rd, but it seems likely that in some grouping these are the post-Jupiter gas giants. So the question is, why would humanity jump from Mars to Neptune?

And you know, maybe the Trident stuff is a red herring. 3rd is actually Saturn, 4th is Uranus. Solving too little heat was an easier problem than solving too much heat, and Saturn's gravitational field was less of an initial problem than Jupiter's. So we have as a settling order Earth -> Mars -> Saturn -> Uranus -> Jupiter -> Mercury -> Venus -> Neptune -> Pluto. A little unexpected, but not an implausible technological progression. The repeated use of demesne could be suggestive of settling the moons on a planet rather than the planet itself, though I vaguely recall the 7th (and therefore Venus) described having a demesne, which complicates things. Rhodes as an orbiting space station/artificial moon?


This leads to something even weirder though. We're forced to question ourselves, what's the order of operations: the ecosystem collapse of the earth, the actual abandonment of the earth, the settling of other planets, the research into Lyctorhood, and the Great Resurrection.

Internally, I'm primed to assume that the ecosystem collapse of the earth lead immediately to the need of the Great Resurrection. I'm learning to suspend this assumption as something neither known nor unknown. But it's certainly the case that planetary settlement doesn't jive with it.

We're shown evidence that the houses existed before Canaan house was abandoned and therefore before the original Lyctor creation and Great Resurrection. We can also strongly suspect that the order of Lyctorhood in no way corresponds with the House order. I believe Augustine (Lyctor #1) is clearly described as being from the Fifth. And Gideon (Lyctor #3) and Pyrrha are strongly implied to be the residents of the 2nd's room where Jeannemarie gets, well...crucified now that I think about it.

So it seems like the earth was kinda hosed, probably by rising sea levels. Humanity builds themselves an Ark, probably in New Zealand. (though looking back on it, I'm not sure the physical descriptions of Canaan house in book 1 and 2 are consistent with one another). Humanity uses Canaan house as a platform to colonize other planets. Then, after having colonized at least a couple of the planets, people get called back to Canaan house to address a new crisis, which necessitates the Great Resurrection.

So that's a mostly viable timeline. But there are still oddities. Think about Mars. We assume it's the 2nd planet because Ares/Mars is the god of war, because the 2nd are described as wearing red, and potentially because Mars being the 2nd makes our order of settlement theory work, and that feels satisfying.

But if you have the capability to terraform, why waste Mars, the most promising surrogate planet in the galaxy, on a military colony. A military against what? The only bit of Earth still inhabitable is under your control, there's no suggestion of any antagonistic alien life, and you haven't teched to necromancy yet so the whole planet killing gig isn't necessary at this point.

Maybe the 2nd only became militarized after a certain point. The necromancers' enemies seem to have some association with the River. The 5th is also described as being next to the River. Is the River the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. On a purely symbolic level that could maybe track (certainly gives some unexpected credence to "Frontline Titties of the Fifth") but on a literal level something really loving weird has happened to the galaxy to make these symbols work the way they do. So either the symbols themselves are misleading us, or they're suggestive of a much weirder epistemology of the Locked Tomb's Solar System than we've previously been entertaining.

And on that point, ordering settlements via planet don't honestly make a lot of sense. Barring some extremely improbable tech, we'd never settle Jupiter. We'd settle its moons. And we'd likely jump back and forth between planets as the order of moons in the solar system from most hospitable to least would certainly not follow a linear pattern. For all we know the 8 houses are located the 8 moons of Jupiter for some reason, and all the 9 planet associations we're noticing were engineered in after the fact, in order to make the alien feel more human.


So I think at this point it's worth questioning what exactly the center of the universe is in this particular universe.

But of course it's the sun! We used to assume a geocentric model as a species. But eventually we discovered that wasn't true. So now we safely know that the sun is the center, and this is no longer an assumption but rather proven fact that we never have to question again. Must never question again, if we're feeling a bit 8th about it.

quote:

The Emperor of the Nine Houses drummed his fingers over his belt. It still hurt you a little, to look into his terrible eyes: the irises like black shadows of the Canaanite white, the iridescent absence of colour, a shade rather than a tint; the purity of the white ring; then the matte black of the sclera. You had never become used to it.
"A myriad ago, I resurrected nine planets," he said. "And I reignited the central star, and I called it Dominicus. As a reminder. Dominus illuminatio mea et salus mea, quem timebo? God is my light. Harrowhark, if I went under--I'd enter that senseless state, and I am God. What if, forty billion light-years away, my people looked up to see Doinicus falter and go out? What if the very house beneath their feet died all over again, as I turned my back upon it?"
You said, "So if you die, the Houses die with you. The star warming out system fails, and --becomes a gravitational well, as I understand it?"
"Yes. A black hole, like the one that took out Cyrus
...
I think you are one of the only Lyctors who can really and truly understand apocalypse ... It is not a death of fire. It's not showy. You and I would almost prefer the end, if it came as a supernova. It is the inexorable setting of the sun, without another hope of morning."

quote:

YOU LIED TO US

So, mistaken assumption #1: the ruining of the Earth, whether due to global warming, nuclear war, whatever, was the apocalypse singular, and what necessitated the Great Resurrection. Assuming what we're told here is accurate enough, it seems far more likely that the ascent to Lyctorhood was predicated by an even greater apocalypse, the death of the Sun and the subsequent localized heat death of the solar system.

Possible subsequent mistaken assumption #2: Dominicus is just the Sun restarted in the same place. When we create any kind of a number system we centralize it around some particular assumption of origin. Hence, the numbering of the planets we're most familiar with is ordered by distance from the sun. If, however, the Sun for reason changed places, or numerical ordering system would seem rather nonsensical to someone only familiar with the now re-ordered solar system. Given enough mythological space they'd likely invent explanations to justify the ordering given the perspective of their current understanding of the function of the universe. Hence, from an even more blind outside historical perspective, some archaeologist might find that a numerical understanding of the historical would hold up until it suddenly doesn't. That at some point, perhaps 10,000 years ago, a threshold was crossed and the perspective of society shifted unannounced.

To take it in a more textually literal way, if you go back and read the books, keep track of how many times characters are described as a supernova or a black hole. Or how the 'deaths' of Cytherea via Palamedes in the first book and God via Mercymorn in the second mirror each other in extremely weird ways. Both entail supernovas. Both result in what reads as a complete personality shift of the resurrecting character. And in both cases that personality shift coincides with the character being no longer locked in stasis. And seemingly irreverently but especially curiously, Ianthe gets described as animaphilic twice that I've found. First by Palamedes towards the end of Book 1, and then again by Mercymorn at the start of Book 2. It's a peculiar...insult? I cannot recall anything remotely similar to it showing up anywhere else.

And finally, Harrow and Gideon's characteristic eyes. They're a black hole and a supernova.

So anyway, maybe the solar system interpretation is a red herring. Maybe it's not. Either way, be suspicious of the sun. It's probably a lie.

Sibyl Disobedience fucked around with this message at 23:14 on Feb 15, 2021

Kesper North
Nov 3, 2011

EMERGENCY POWER TO PARTY

This continues to be utterly fascinating.

Have you considered that one or more Houses may reside on a minor planet?

I ask because Ianthe is Princess of Ida, and both Ida and Ianthe are minor planets in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/243_Ida
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/98_Ianthe

silvergoose
Mar 18, 2006

IT IS SAID THE TEARS OF THE BWEENIX CAN HEAL ALL WOUNDS



...huh. Okay that's downright intriguing.

silvergoose
Mar 18, 2006

IT IS SAID THE TEARS OF THE BWEENIX CAN HEAL ALL WOUNDS



I kinda like it a lot, because the third is the rich house, and asteroid mining is one of those things supposedly going to make spacefaring worth it...

Entropic
Feb 21, 2007

patriarchy sucks


https://twitter.com/catpotion/status/1362622580654440449

Entropic
Feb 21, 2007

patriarchy sucks


The fan art continues to be great

https://twitter.com/naomistares/status/1364465577960615938?s=21

Entropic
Feb 21, 2007

patriarchy sucks


OK I am genuinely worried there is gonna be some sort of fan backlash when there is not a happy Gideon/Harrow ending in the third book.

https://twitter.com/rocketbelle/status/1364712256961994761?s=20

Rand Brittain
Mar 24, 2013

"Go on until you're stopped."

When you get right down to it, those two are terrible for each other.

Entropic
Feb 21, 2007

patriarchy sucks


Don't tell tumblr that.

Riot Carol Danvers
Jul 30, 2004

It's super dumb, but I can't stop myself. This is just kind of how I do things.


Y'all got weird opinions and predictions.

Sibyl Disobedience
Mar 16, 2018

A Fire Keeper's soul is a draw for humanity, and held within their bosoms, below just a thin layer of skin, are swarms of humanity that writhe and squirm.

Kesper North posted:

This continues to be utterly fascinating.

Have you considered that one or more Houses may reside on a minor planet?

I ask because Ianthe is Princess of Ida, and both Ida and Ianthe are minor planets in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/243_Ida
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/98_Ianthe


I honestly hadn't done a lot of thought about the technical details of the planetary stuff at all. I was mostly focused on how the default explanations weren't trustworthy, and you pointing out that one of those throwaway interpretations might actually have a leg to stand-on is an unexpected delight.

The particularly clever thing about the worldbuilding in these books is that the books themselves are this peculiar hybrid between character-driven fantasy and mystery, structured in a way that if you're here for the character/fantasy elements you don't have to interact with the mystery elements at all. But the result of all the thought that went into the mystery side of things is that the worldbuilding has this earned legitimacy to it. But to pull this off the books have to simultaneously have to have to be incredibly deceitful and incredibly honest. [Entering spoiler-ish territory] As the books put it:.

quote:

because Mercy always lied when one thought she wasn't going to, and never lied when one assumed she would, and mixed it up every so often to unbalance everyone further.

Aside from their more literal purpose, quotes like this give us a quick peak into the thought process that went into crafting the mystery of the universe itself, and in particular how to deceive the reader fairly. Like a kind of Chekhov's Gun for rules of the narrative itself. The idea that the houses are a relatively straightforward allegory to the solar system as we understand it is one of those false things. Not a lie so much as merely picking a signifier that we would auto-fill we an untruth. The books also told us they'd be doing this too.

quote:

You dropped back under, and you did not hear the gunshot; you were, not for the first time, overwhelmed with the suspicion that you were standing in the middle of what you had thought to be scenery, only to reach out and discover that it was all so much flimsy. You were not a central lever within a mystery, but a bystander watching a charlatan display a trick. Your eyes had followed a bright light or colour, and you realised with a start that you ought to have been watching the other hand. You were standing in a darkened corridor, and you could not turn around, and then a brief explosion of light revealed to you that it wasn't a corridor at all, and it had never been dark.

But you were always too quick to mourn your own ignorance. You never could have guessed that he had seen me.


One of the more seemingly innocuous examples of this deceiving answer, this charlatans trick is the conclusion of the Camilla/Palamedes short story The Mysterious Study of Doctor Sex. In it, Archivist Zeta offers a nice and tidy wrap up to the motive that kicked off their mystery.

quote:

Archivist Zeta showed up when I was done and the Warden was mostly done. “Well, you were bang on right,” she said. “We bagged up the hallway skeleton, and found an ancient AWOL tag on it from two hundred years ago. It went missing from—guess—Copper Garden duty. Worse, the committee gave us on-the-spot permission to exhume Doctor Sex—they do move quick when you use the R word—and would you believe it? His finger bones were worn down! He’d tried to open that thing from the inside. Ghoulish. Sex was one intense revenant.”

The Warden said, “That’s been nagging at me. If he was that intense, why did he stop at the last leg? Why not open the box all the way?”

The Archivist fiddled with one of the hairpins at the back of her bun, eyes distant. Then she said, “His study had been sealed. He knew that the Archies might not get to him for years and years and years. What’s inside that sphere is paper . . . real, delicate paper . . . and even if he didn’t know precisely what it was, he may have had a good idea. Opening the sphere would have meant exposing it to the elements. He preferred to defer the satisfaction of solving the puzzle fully so that someone in the future could benefit from his final deduction.”

“That’s conjecture,” said the Warden.

“Oh, entirely,” said Zeta. “But it’s what I hope to God I’d do in his position. Maybe the last burst of spirit energy left him after he destroyed part of his host body, and he was just too exhausted to continue. Who knows?”

Zeta's answer gives the reader a sense of closer, but Palamedes is right. It's bullshit. Or more precisely, it's structured in a manner that implies an obviously wrong interpretation. Doctor Sex's motives are much better explained earlier via, let's call it, npc dialogue:

quote:

Archivist Zeta burst out with, “But why? Revenants come back out of passion, Sextus! It must have been his final theory—his final project, but there’s nothing that looks like that here.”

I said, “What was his final project about?”

One of the Collections team said, “It was post-Resurrection thalergy fluctuations, wasn’t it? Wasn’t his crackpot theory that there was greater thalergy and thanergy saturation right after the Resurrection?”

“He was doing archaeological forensic thalergy,” said someone else. “Destroying the Archeo budget grinding up paper.”

So we know that Doctor Sex wasn't particularly respectful about the sanctity of paper. We also know that he was researching "post-Ressurrection energy flows," and that, given our meta-knowledge that the letter he was obsessed with was about Lyctor ascendance:

quote:

Darling girl,

Tomorrow you will become a Lyctor and finally go where I can’t follow. I want you to keep this letter when you are far away and think of me and want me and can’t have me, and know that no matter how far you travel, nor how long the years feel, the one thing that never stays entombed is

So here's a very different theory: Palamedes is sending himself messages from the past. Or something akin to that. My evidence:

quote:

"Then can you tell him to maybe stop acting like he read everyone's feelings in a book ages ago? Because that would be completely sweet," said Gideon

And yeah, it's a theory that breaks the brain a bit, but isn't Harrow doing the same thing in her own way with her letters from previous Harrow?


With that introduced, let's talk about the matter of Gideon's shades in book two. Specifically, why are they there?

quote:

I peeled open the envelope--you'd seeled it up tight, though I was pretty sure that Tridentarius had busted it open in between, she was just that type--and found a little piece of flimsy with the edges still ragged from where you'd torn it. The letter was wrapped around a black, folded-up bunch of angles: smoked glass, tin black frames, mirrored lenses. A little bend in one arm, but otherwise--you'd kept my sunglasses.

Ok, so, a little less literal.

Obvious assumption: glasses are there to hide Gideon's eyes in Harrow's body, which we recognize at this point in the story as kind of a big deal. Problem: They never once were successful in hiding the eyes from anyone. Mercy and Ianthe had already seen them, and they get taken from Gideon-Harrow by Gideon Classic before ever successfully deceiving anyone.

So wait a second, why does Gideon Classic take the sunglasses. Obvious answer: Pyrrha has already taken over Gideon Classic's body and needed to hide her eyes so she wouldn't be detected by Gaius, Augustine, or Mercymorn, and could (presumably) kill Wake before anyone reacts.

So then, superweird question: why does Harrow-1 leave Ianthe a message to give to Harrow-2 only after Harrow-2 gets taken over by Gideon-2 so that Gideon-2 puts on a pair of sunglasses so they can be taken by Gideon-1 who is really at that point being piloted by Pyrrha. Obvious answer: Time Heist????????

Ok, so I'm getting real silly at this point, but the point is that the course of interactions in this scene is really weird. It defies simple reads of logical consistency, but it's also too perfectly interacting to be a bunch of coincidences. One big collective lie that simultaneously has a sense of coherent truth underlying it if you could just see the big picture.


Having finally read through book two a second time, it's extremely obvious how many weird bits it has that basically has a flashing neon sign screaming "THIS HERE IS A WEIRD BIT." Take the battle for the control of the play in the River. We're supposed to think that the Sleeper was expelled and the battle resolved. Is it? Abigail and Co peace out in this emotional scene that basically tells Harrow to let Gideon go:

quote:

This is your ripped-up corner of card," said Magnus. "You're a smart girl, Harrowhark. You might turn some of that brain to the toughest lesson: that of grief."

But after that whole elaborate conclusion, Dulcie stays behind and a couple chapters later makes the opposite case, and at the end Harrow very explicitly does not do what Abigail and Magnus were trying to convince her to do. I feel pretty confident that the battle between Nonius and the Sleeper was a false fight for control. The real fight is something more akin to Magnus vs Dulcie. To that end, take a look at this weird passage from earlier in the book.

quote:

When the cavaliers came to bear away the Warden (less heavy than his cavalier: only Magnus and the Seventh, Protesilaus, bore him, with Ortus hovering on the sidelines), the chair bound girl gave a woeful little sigh.

"Oh, goodbye!" she called out suddenly, to the corpse borne aloft. "Goodbye, Palamedes, my first strand-- goodbye, Camilla, my second ... One cord was overpowered, two cords could defend themselves, but three were not broken by the living of the dead."

Harrowhark suddenly felt something, in her core, though she did not know precisely what it was. Somehow in Canaan House her ability to feel had been blunted, leaving only a sense of dislocated longing, a bizarre yearning as though flipping through the pages of a book for a proverb she remembered but could not find.

Something weird is going on here, and Dulce is yet again not what she seems. I'm inclined to trust her though for what I recognize are entirely emotional reasons, but trying to explain the why will sound entirely insane at this juncture. So I'll just end thing with an entirely unrelated prediction: A.L. and Pyrrha are in love with each other.

Uranium Phoenix
Jun 20, 2007


RADIOACTIVE DUST SURGE DETECTED


You've discovered that if you believe you can't trust the text of the book, then you can make up an entirely different story than the one written.

Entropic
Feb 21, 2007

patriarchy sucks


Things always get weird when there's an extended wait for the next chapter of any media with an intense fan community.

silvergoose
Mar 18, 2006

IT IS SAID THE TEARS OF THE BWEENIX CAN HEAL ALL WOUNDS



Have people started making Hades Alecto crossovers yet?

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019


Entropic posted:

Don't tell tumblr that.

But maybe do tell tumblr that Gideon is a tough, cool lesbian, who is a lesbian in the sense of being a recognizably female woman who is hot for other recognizably female women. Because without the "Griddlehark" caption my take on that pic was "why did somebody post a pic of some Goth chick and her boyfriend?"

Sibyl Disobedience
Mar 16, 2018

A Fire Keeper's soul is a draw for humanity, and held within their bosoms, below just a thin layer of skin, are swarms of humanity that writhe and squirm.

Uranium Phoenix posted:

You've discovered that if you believe you can't trust the text of the book, then you can make up an entirely different story than the one written.

Having only found two worthy candidates in the last decade of looking, let me assure you that no, no you cannot.

That being said, if you're too eighth to imagine that unreliable narrator might be in play in a book where one narrator has given herself a lobotomy and the other narrator is able to fight the big-bad minions without succumbing to madness likely because she lacks the training to see them for what they are, you're always welcome to use the ignore button.

Riot Carol Danvers
Jul 30, 2004

It's super dumb, but I can't stop myself. This is just kind of how I do things.


Everyone posted:

But maybe do tell tumblr that Gideon is a tough, cool lesbian, who is a lesbian in the sense of being a recognizably female woman who is hot for other recognizably female women. Because without the "Griddlehark" caption my take on that pic was "why did somebody post a pic of some Goth chick and her boyfriend?"

I hope that you're aware that the artist of that particular piece is herself a lesbian and is one of many lesbians who draw Gideon, some of whom interpret her as extremely large and musclebound. Is it my style? No.
But the number of Twitter and Tumblr lesbians (both trans and cis) who draw her that way far outweighs the number of people like me who see her closer to the cover art. It's not my place to tell them how to draw her, much like it's not my place to tell them how to draw Baru Cormorant and Tain Hu or Tain Shir.

On second thought and upon viewing your rap sheet, I'm not sure why I'm even bothering.

Riot Carol Danvers fucked around with this message at 19:39 on Feb 26, 2021

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019


Riot Carol Danvers posted:

I hope that you're aware that the artist of that particular piece is herself a lesbian and is one of many lesbians who draw Gideon, some of whom interpret her as extremely large and musclebound. Is it my style? No.
But the number of Twitter and Tumblr lesbians (both trans and cis) who draw her that way far outweighs the number of people like me who see her closer to the cover art. It's not my place to tell them how to draw her, much like it's not my place to tell them how to draw Baru Cormorant and Tain Hu or Tain Shir.

On second thought and upon viewing your rap sheet, I'm not sure why I'm even bothering.

I'm completely fine with people drawing characters they like however they wish to draw them. Like you said, that particular take isn't my cuppa. But our opinion is irrelevant to the artists doing the drawing, which is also fine.

I stated my own opinion once and if fan art like that occurs again in the thread, I'll just withhold comment and scroll past it in the future.

wizzardstaff
Apr 6, 2018




You can like what you like when it comes to fan art and no one will stop you, but maybe keep your hot takes on what's "recognizably female" out of it?

Entropic
Feb 21, 2007

patriarchy sucks


Let's just Not, shall we.

Everyone
Sep 6, 2019


Entropic posted:

Let's just Not, shall we.

That's going to be my attitude from this point forward. If I really like something, I'll talk about it. Otherwise I'll just ignore it and post nothing.

That all said, Dear God 2022 and Alecto the Ninth can't get here fast enough.

Everyone fucked around with this message at 15:11 on Feb 27, 2021

M_Gargantua
Oct 16, 2006

STOMPIN' ON INTO THE POWER LINES




Exciting Lemon

silvergoose posted:

Have people started making Hades Alecto crossovers yet?

A Hades styled roguelike of souls in the River would be pretty rad yeah

Senerio
Oct 19, 2009

Ooh! Are we messing with Adora?





Now I'm matching characters there.


Semi-mechanical Hades spoilers combined with major HtN spoilers.
Would Nonius or Cam be the Demeter, who shows up when you make it to Wake the first time?

Happy Landfill
Feb 26, 2011

But Nemo, I am Pagliacci

Saw some tweet on Twitter saying we were going to get a cover reveal for Alecto soon, but the account was nowhere near official. Didn't stop me from getting my hopes up ever so slightly

Collateral
Feb 17, 2010


50 billion light years is beyond the edge of the universe, relatively speaking. It is 93bn ly from edge to edge. This is probably relevant in some respect, either an unreliable narrator sense or a narrative clue to nature of their universe or the river.

I do wonder what Mercy(?) meant by John's crusade. Is he after whoever wrecked the star?

Happy Landfill
Feb 26, 2011

But Nemo, I am Pagliacci

Some more fanart that's Real Good

https://twitter.com/naomistares/status/1365755470867271681?s=19

Rand Brittain
Mar 24, 2013

"Go on until you're stopped."

Collateral posted:

I do wonder what Mercy(?) meant by John's crusade. Is he after whoever wrecked the star?

I don't know what's funnier, that Harrowhark simply never mentions what the Nine Houses' extensive armed forced are actually for because she doesn't give a poo poo, or if she just plain doesn't know (because she doesn't give a poo poo).

silvergoose
Mar 18, 2006

IT IS SAID THE TEARS OF THE BWEENIX CAN HEAL ALL WOUNDS



I'm assuming she doesn't know for that reason. Not even sure if anyone knows in the nine houses, other than pacify planets, fight insurgents, etc etc

sebmojo
Oct 23, 2010


Legit Cyberpunk


its always a little arresting to consider how insanely evil the 9 houses must seem to everyone outside them.

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Strategic Tea
Sep 1, 2012

It's not the red form anymore.
Incidental bones can file under the greens.


If nothing else, there's the little remarked upon fact that practicing necromancy on a planet starts a chain reaction that will, over generations purge it of all life and force the inhabitants to be relocated.

From anyone else's perspective I reckon the houses are a plague of death

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