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From: <akt@attglobal.net>
Subject: (whorl) Long, cranky post
Date: Wed, 14 Feb 2001 19:53:25 

From W. Ansley:

> In fact I got heartily sick of all of the "distinctive" ways Wolfe
> came up with for his characters to speak in this book: Pig's dialect,
> the village of the Yodas, Olivine's repeating, Olivine's repeating
> herself, Prolocutor Italics and Remora's mumblings.

Yeah, me too. Pulpy, sort of cheap and not in the least consistent--not
in the Italian or Hindu encounters. Also the moralizing got boring--but
to contradict myself, I did love IJG in spite of HornSilk yattering on
and on to Fava and Mora. I guess I just liked *them,* the girls, though,
damnit, I liked Jahlee even more (much more complex). I intermitently
did find Remora entertaining, though it went way too far.
> >  > The encounter with the godling struck me as very similar to one
> >Sev's
> >>  meetings with Juturna ('I would save you'), or with the
> >where
> >>  they kneel before him. In a sense, the godling is a debased
version of
> >a
> >>  hierodule, and recognises Silk as the 'holy one'.
> >
> >Well, yes. But I do think the operative word is "debased." I love
> >Juturna and the hierodules and think they are used *extremely* well
> >the author (especially in that last book that some on this list like
> >put down), but as I said in an earlier post, the godling, to me,
> >like a Hollywood special effect that serves no purpose other than
> >art.
> >
> I was also bothered by the impossibly large size of the (big)
> godling. Wolfe should make up his mind, is he writing science fiction
> or isn't he?
> At 20:16 2001-02-13 -0800, Michael Andre-Driussi wrote:
> >Putting aside the godling issue as the lesser, I'm still working on
> >alga is bugged by Jahlee's death.
From the Myopic Bear:

> Let me have a go.
> 1. Jahlee thinks of herself as a beautiful woman - a bit of a vamp,
> one might say. Compare her teasing Hide, and probably others, plus
> the guard on Urth, and her general attitude.
> 2. The Rajan is a) charismatic b) powerful c) the first man who has
> ever treated her with kindness, let alone respect. If alga or anyone
> else can make a case for her *not* falling in love with him, I'd like
> to see it.
> 3. She meets Nettle. Nettle is her great rival. Even if she was human,
> how safe would Nettle? But Jahlee isn't human, however kind Horn has
> been to her, however much she wants to be (and Nettle *is*, which
> inspire bitterness and envy in a better person than Jahlee).
> Without wishing to appear speciesist, she *is* a blood drinking
> And Horn loves Nettle. He really does, though he may not have been
> good at showing it, and Jahlee can see that.
> Given the above, if you were Jahlee, could *you* resist biting Nettle?


I would go right along with you--were we reading a different sort of
book. But we have been taken on a journey where great changes have
occured. And Jahlee is an important character, who has been taken up to
now much more seriously than Dorcas or Jolenta. For her to act in this
way seems pretty cheap to me, an author lining up his exits so as to get
out in a hurry (I truly object to the way all the still living
concubines (or such) are herded off at the end for a silly Star Trek
adventure, whether they have motivation or not).
> And if you were Horn, how would you feel when you saw it?
> The original Horn, dour, impulsive, and knowing the inhumi only
> as vampiric monsters, would be right in there. Horn who has come
> to know Jahlee might feel more charitably towards her, but the
> betrayal will surely make this *more* horrific for him. There's
> hardly an aspect of his character, Horn or Silk, that isn't going
> to be outraged. He loves Nettle. He brought Jahlee to Lizard, and
> she betrayed his trust - both her guilt and his own, projected,
> are going to add vehemence to his attack. It's significant that
> he doesn't calmly use the lethal weapon he carries. This is personal.
> I've spent a paragraph arguing for the plausibility of Horn attacking
> the inhuma who's biting his wife, but I don't really need to, I think.
> Finally, though he didn't intend murder (I'm fairly sure of that),
> she's hardly going to get better. There isn't much place in a happy
> ending for a jealous vampire, however much we want there to be.

Bear, it's not Horn. It's Silk. I'm worried about that: it really *is*
murder. After all they've been through? (H/S and J. I mean.)

> >Aside about RTTW's ending seeming to exhibit authorial fatigue. Oh,
> Yes, that's nonsense. Sorry, alga, my unicellular friend, but what I
> is that I don't agree with it at all. I found the resolution of the
> to be as satisfying as advertised, which is very interesting
> it only involved a change of point of view - "does Horn know he's
> is a nonsensical question when looked at closely. It's a
> and the resolution is that only Silk can be Silk. It is more than a
> of perspective as well, of course - Silk recovers.
> >If he were tired of the characters I'd expect a retirement of some
> >happily ever after or simply dead--I'd hardly expect him to launch
them on
> >a starship!
> I must admit, as an aside to the aside, that of all the possible
> that I could have guessed might happen, Nettle setting out on a
> was not one of them!

Authorial fatigue, my esteemed furry friend.
> From: Allan Lloyd <lloyd@nexus.kc3.co.uk>

> Although there are of course many good things in RTTW, overall I found
> it one of the most disappointing of Wolfe's books.  The initial
> impression of the cover right through to the awful proof reading make
> seem an unattractive and rushed book.
> As Alga said, Pig's accent is extremely annoying (it sounds more
> Newcastle Geordie than Scottish to me), but his whole character does
> convince. Compare Pig to Auk, both performing similar functions in
> respective books. When Auk suffers from concussion in the tunnels we
> feel real sympathy and concern for him, and although he is a violent
> criminal he has redeeming qualities which make him a well rounded
> character. Pig does nothing but fawn over Horn/Silk and whine about
> e'en. Like Alga, I feel that I am being manipulated into feeling sorry
> for him. Giving someone a quirky way of speaking is a very lazy way of
> showing character, and is an increasingly worrying feature of Wolfe's
> recent work.

As above, ditto.

> Other points in the book that did not work for me-
> 1.  Projecting astral versions of yourself to other planets is a
> convenient and unbelievable fantasy gimmick which may work in Edgar
> Burroughs, but does not sit well with the predominantly sf approach of
> the rest of the book. Even the time travel in BOTNS is given some
> justification, but I find instantaneous projection over a distance
> has taken the Whorl 300 years to travel completely unconvincing. And
> when the various groups are in their astral bodies, how can we read
> about Oreb without laughing. The image of Oreb as a child of four with
> feathers, or a feathered dwarf instantly stops your suspension of
> belief. The image is straight from Sesame Street or the Muppets.

Well, the point is made that he is "more human" than he seems, but yes,
it really is sort of Goofy (or Disneylandish), and I agree that it's

> 2.  We are asked to believe that faithful Oreb, the most honest
> character in the book, has been possessed by Scylla for most of the
> three books. This is the violent jealous Scylla who, when possessing
> Chenille, first ordered the sacrifice of a harmless fisherman, then
> changed her mind to request the sacrifice of 50 to 100 babies to
> her attention. So all the time Oreb has been possessed by a cruel
> vindictive Goddess. Often in Wolfe's books I don't understand what is
> happening, so I read again and again to try to work out the meaning.
> This is the first time that I have simply not been convinced. The idea
> reads like something that was tacked on just to produce a shock, with
> little preperation or purpose.

Absolutely agreed--I'm annoyed by this too, and feel that it is an
unwarrented and  even unethical tweaking of readers's sensibilities. I
realize that sounds pompous, but it seems to me a further proof that
Wolfe was getting bored with this endless series and just wanted to stir
things up a bit before skedadling.

> 3.  Seawrack. In the first book, Seawrack is a significant part of the
> action. We want to know more about her, why she is given to Horn, what
> is the motive of the Mother. So in the next two books she is just
> forgotten. Like Dorcas, she emerges from the water, supports the
> protagonist, and then is casually dumped. It is almost as if Wolfe
> thought "sea voyage, Odyssey, must have a Siren" and then lost
> This makes her offstage reunion with Silk at the end of the book seem
> casual and pointless, and I fail to see her motive in joining the
> to the Whorl.

I'm on your side, bro. What could possibly develop from the Star Trek
voyage of this feral--and psychically damaged-- creature? She seems to
be included only as a sex object, TV style.
> 4.  The Neighbors. Mysterious Aborigines are appearing with alarming
> regularity in Wolfe's books, and are becoming a bit of a cliche.
> All-powerful near-supernatural beings are very useful for getting your
> hero out of a jam, but in this case come across as just one more layer
> of plot manipulators. Horn is given a magic ring so that he can see
> them, loses it on Green, is presented with a replacement which changes
> size and colour at random (why?). This is the stuff of fantasy and
> not fit the atmosphere of the book.
>    And why give the neighbors (and the other fauna of Blue) a double
> quota of arms, legs and eyes? To see why it does not work, look at the
> Neighbor on the cover of IGJ. This is the worst sort of science
> shorthand, a gimmick that saves the trouble of original thought. Can
> imagine an ur-elephant with eight legs, two trunks and four eyes?

Agreed here too, not necessarily about the legs--Wolfe is entitled, and
maybe he is thinking of Odin, and Sleipnir's eight legs--but it's true
that the Neighbors are never resolved.  Not fair to readers.

> 5.  The Horn/Silk/Horn question has been discussed enough already. All
> want to add is that I found the final revelation contrived and
> unconvincing, a bit like the final twist to a horror movie, there
> because there always is a final twist.

Agreed here too, and much too Hollywood.
> 6.  Can anyone explain why Merryn should be Severian's sister. There
> no sign of recognition in their scene together in BOTNS, and there
> no reason that they should be related. Just because they are similar
> ages and both probable orphans, they have to be siblings.
> coincidence again?

I had hoped for much more here too. the meeting seems not only
perfunctory but mean-spirited wrt Merryn. Merryn counted for a lot more
in the encounter with the Cumae and we had legitimate hopes for more
from her.

Retort to those who object to: Right Bro, I agree, statements: Adam
Lloyd is a pretty new poster, this is a good post. I do agree with most
of it. And I can use some help in an adversarial position.

From vizcacha:

> I find Jahlee's death very straightforward, if disappointing. Jahlee
> Nettle because she has always loved Horn, and she will never have him
> because Horn loves Nettle. Horn kills Jahlee because she violated the
> agreement never to touch his family, not to mention his obvious rage
> his wife is being attacked (no Michael Dukakis, he). (Yes, this
> was made with Krait, but that's a legal quibble; as Rajan his
agreement with
> her was all-encompassing, too). Jahlee is clearly a loose cannon,
almost as
> much so as Jugurna. Doesn't the attack happen the morning after
> and Nettle spend the night together? Jahlee has no way of knowing
there was
> no "warm commerce" involved. She is a woman "trapped in the body of a
> blood-drinking reptile," and she will never be human, never experience
> kind of love Horn has for Nettle. The tragedy of the inhumi is that
they are
> humans who will never be human.
> I wonder if Wolfe's "failure" to provide a satisfying conclusion to
> problem of the inhumi is that there is none. The inhumi, like evil in
> abstract, are created by people. If people solve the problem of evil,
> will solve the problem of the inhumi.
> Not your usual SF resolution, where Silk would have found the Seekret
> Formula for Inhumi-bane hidden away in Mainframe (virtual reality
> sword-fight with Pas optional). I see Keanu Reeves as Silk.

Gee, I thought he was blond. I think your argument would work if Jahlee
really were still a "loose cannon." But should she be? Wolfe put a lot
of work into Krait and Jahlee (and Quetzal too). Should he have dismissd
them so quickly when they became incovenient. Q, yes, I'd agree. K,
maybe. But J's end just seems hasty and pulpy; with more of Nettle's
input it might have worked better. Or more emphasis on, as you say, the
"human who will never be human." It's kind of Bette Davis without the
superior qualities that made Bette soar sometimes. Face it, Wolfe is
*not* very good with women characters, see details of  above long boring


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