Fantasy & Beyond

A Book Forum for Speculative Fiction

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#1133
@DaveBates If you post in the Chapter 1-9 thread and think something is a spoiler (or you are unsure), please use the [spoiler][/spoiler] tags. Assume others will read this who haven't gotten further in the book! Thanks. I've edited your post so it's sorted for now.

I have still only listened to chapters 1-10, so bear that in mind. (Yeah, I read it before but that was ages ago, and I realised that actually didn't finish it... more on that later.)

DaveBates wrote: Where I did have a slight issue is buying into how strong their relationship could get simply through being penpal frenemies. That they come to care for one another through shared trauma/objectives I can believe. That they fall in love? Eeeehh, I think that pushes the suspension a little too hard for me, especially in light of the fact they both seem to have been genetically modified to be agent killing machines for their factions.
No issue for me with this at all. People fall in love all the time under the strangest of circumstances. When I was young and the internet was still a new thing, I fell in love with someone whom I had never seen a picture of or heard talk. I knew them only through written words on a screen. I think there's a false belief that love requires certain components, some kind of physical/bodily aspect being one. It doesn't. Setting aside the random chemistry of madly falling in love with strangers (having a 'crush'), I think 'real' love has a strong foundation in knowing someone and therefore understanding them. Red and Blue recognise in each other someone who they know, because despite being so different in appearance, background, and ideology, they are the same.

As I see it, they are the only ones in their factions who have been able to take a step back and see the whole conflict and their roles in it from a different perspective. They know they are players on a board and have accepted their role as such. I don't think either of them actually care about who wins. They care about the game. In each other, they recognise someone who also loves the game—and who is just as good at it as they are.

So I feel quite the opposite: their attraction to each other feels inevitable.

DaveBates wrote:I still think it's a bit of an issue for a story to be based on a time war having the relevant sides seemingly never engage with one another.
This is explained in Chapter 10.

It is prohibited to directly engage with agents because it causes issues down the timeline. It's a cold war; their job is to surreptitiously alter history. Direct engagements between agents are too risky because of the knock-on effects they have 'down-thread', as they call it. As always with time travel, thinking about it too much makes your head hurt. So I tend to just accept whatever explanations are given. It does make some sense to me that having immediate confrontations causes more instability.

DaveBates wrote: and then the scene with Blue and the spider, of which I was never fully certain whether that spider was on Blue's side and she killed it to save Red, or if Red appeared to witness Blue killing the spider that was set by the Agency to kill Blue
Is this about the attack by the creature that is called a 'lion' in Chapter 10? I understood that one well enough. Blue's side, Garden, has planted a seed that will grow into a creature that will kill Red. It has taken millenia to grow, which is why it can 'slip by unnoticed', as opposed to just travelling back and killing her. It's not logic you can look too closely at (and to be fair, this is always the case with time travel), but I can accept the idea that actions that take a long time to set up and guide are less likely to cause upheaval 'down-thread' than more immediate and direct ones.

Anyway, Blue kills the creature spawned by her own side since by now, she is clearly in love. Meanwhile, Red had figured out the plan somehow and had also travelled there to defend her younger self. So she is watching, but is glad she doesn't need to intervene. Because time isn't an issue for them, she has also already left a letter for Blue, thanking her for saving her life. When I write it out, it's more confusing than it felt when I listened to it! :zany:
DaveBates wrote:Of any of the scenes you've gone through, are there any concrete ones where you can say for certain that what happened was a win for one side and a defeat for the other?
Yes. Every single scene has a clear winner or loser. One side's plans is thwarted or succeeds. We don't know what the exact results are down the line, but we are told—quite clearly, to my mind—who succeed and fails.

DaveBates wrote:Never take my critical points to heart, by the way, as all I'm doing is trying to be honest with how the works come across to me, not dog on things others like. If anything, having real debate is a lot more fun than everybody dropping one liners of "I like it so far!" I'm quite enjoying this, and it certainly doesn't detract from carrying, assuming others want me to.
I will take your points to heart, but I understand that it's not personal! This kind of discussion is exactly why I wanted to do this. I am aware that people read books very differently based on their knowledge and experiences, and I think we picked a book that is more true for than most.

Never feel bad for my sake for respectfully speaking your mind with honesty. Trust me: I always prefer that to people trying to avoid treading on my toes or saying what they think I want to hear. (Yes, I know, people say this all the time and it turns out they don't mean it. I'm autistic; I mean it.)
ScarletBea, DaveBates liked this
#1144
Ah, thanks for the clarification! It's quite possible I missed much of that, as my reading sessions are during the 30minute break on night work, so I don't always take a lot of the stuff in, and most of the time I was being dazzled thinking on the chain of metaphors to describe the time stream, but those explanations do make sense, even though I clearly failed to pick them up.

The love point is also fair. I've also developed feelings for people purely from conversations over text apps through computers. That said, neither of us were agents developed and bred to hate and kill one another, and I never reached the stage of gushing my love, but in that same vein, we were also never in a position to die at any given time, so that counters my own point to some degree :p.

Thanks also for the spoiler tags, and apologies if I spoiled anything. I was ahead of the story when the threads came up so I didn't fully take in which chapter was which.

I won't clog up this threat anymore, but I do have some thoughts on the ending which I'm looking forward to reading your view on, as I also really enjoy these discussions :).
#1173
I am joining in a little late, but here I come! This is also a re-read for me, so I'm bringing a slightly different perspective to things. But I first read it quite a while ago.

My first and strongest impression of this book is that it's about joy and play in cleverness, in the lines as well as the ideas, between the authors and between the characters. It works well as a novella because it's short, so you sort of can get away with going, "Watch this!" and dazzling. That said, I also feel the dazzle covers deeper exploration (and play, and cleverness) in ideas, both in terms of the sci-fi elements (the time war, the two sides, the manipulations) and the themes (self vs belonging, trustworthiness, what is the worth of functional immortality if there's no one to share it with?)

I really like these aspects of it - the varying facets of cleverness. It's right up my alley. There's some sci-fi techno-babble, but I feel (like Magnus) that it's not load-bearing, and can just wash over me like magic.

The connection between Blue and Red is very much the central point, to my mind. We get to know them as they get to know each other - indeed, I feel very much, on this reading, that they are only getting to know themselves as they are observed by the other. That each has not so much been thinking of herself as a person, hitherto. But now there is someone else who understands. They are no longer merely agents of a greater will.

There are other, fuzzier questions. What is the genesis of this war, how has it come to be like this? There's this suggestion of omnipotence to the two sides that makes me wonder to what extent this scenario - like every other scenario we witness - is the product of manipulations, experimentations, considerations of possible outcomes. If this is a ploy, for each side trying to gain over the other. Or, just possibly, an attempt to see if this has to be a zero-sum game. (Can the time war be, not won or lost, but... reconciled?)

Going back and looking at the thoughts already in here...
DaveBates wrote:Something I noticed in the kindle edition is that there are various paragraphs that are marked as having anywhere between 600-1200 highlights. I don't quite know how Kindle comes to these things, but I do wonder when I see it if its not the result of the book being used in schoolwork
That's a really fascinating consideration, but in this case, I think it's to do with the heavily read nature of the book, especially recently. (Last year, a Trigun fan account tweeted about the book, went massively viral and caused the book to hit Amazon #1, three years after it was released and won both the Hugo and Nebula. So many people were reading and discussing it all at once. It was an amazing thing to witness.)
DaveBates wrote:Of any of the scenes you've gone through, are there any concrete ones where you can say for certain that what happened was a win for one side and a defeat for the other?
Honestly, for me, this is the entire point. I feel that what we're being shown through this beautiful and wild opening sequences is that... The war is endless, the war is too enormous to encompass or even think about, the war is everything... and for all those reasons, the war is pointless. The war is their entire reason for being, and they can never win or lose, so they can never stop fighting. But it's everything, and questioning that is unthinkable.
ScarletBea, xiagan liked this
#1200
Replying without having read the other posts (yet).

I finally managed to read the first part. I'm not entirely sure what to make of it. I'm not even sure if I like it or not.

On the one hand it's interesting and the interaction between Red and Blue and their familiarizing is well written.

On the other hand it feels a bit too constructed. Too predictable. Red is somewhere (parallel universe, epoch xy) to achieve a goal, is thwarted and finds a letter from Blue. Blue is somewhere to achieve a goal, is thwarted and finds a letter by Red. Rinse. Repeat. At the end of each chapter a mysterious seeker consumes the destroyed parts of the letters. I noticed that the tea house scene and the Quechua scene weren't about destroying the others efforts, so maybe the book changes and the structure reflects the relationship between Red and Blue?

I think I would enjoy it more if the historic episodes were longer and not only sneak peaks into what Red and Blue are doing. More of a slow burn and more skin in the game for the reader - as it is, there is no victory or despair if a scheme fails because you haven't been involved enough.

Maybe this novella is more like an art project. Something to enjoy for the fascinating way it is done and not primary for the content?

So to summarize, I'm intrigued but it's not a page turner (yet?). Curious to read your impressions!

DaveBates wrote: April 2nd, 2024, 09:40 It's literally just non-stop in the prose sections, though again, whoever wrote Blue's side does a lot better in that regard than Red's.
In the physical copy, the authors' names on the title are coloured red and blue. Max Gladstone is Red and Amal El-Mohtar is Blue.

Magnus wrote: April 8th, 2024, 08:40 I think 'real' love has a strong foundation in knowing someone and therefore understanding them. Red and Blue recognise in each other someone who they know, because despite being so different in appearance, background, and ideology, they are the same.

As I see it, they are the only ones in their factions who have been able to take a step back and see the whole conflict and their roles in it from a different perspective. They know they are players on a board and have accepted their role as such. I don't think either of them actually care about who wins. They care about the game. In each other, they recognise someone who also loves the game—and who is just as good at it as they are.

So I feel quite the opposite: their attraction to each other feels inevitable.
Yes. Every single scene has a clear winner or loser. One side's plans is thwarted or succeeds. We don't know what the exact results are down the line, but we are told—quite clearly, to my mind—who succeed and fails.
Very well put!

Magnus wrote: April 8th, 2024, 08:40 This kind of discussion is exactly why I wanted to do this. I am aware that people read books very differently based on their knowledge and experiences, and I think we picked a book that is more true for than most.
Yes, I think this book may be a good choice for exactly that reason too. Psalms of the Wild Build is a lovely book but I can't imagine much controversy (besides people thinking it is too boring).
#1207
Just a quicky to say I am reading the responses, though I've nothing more to add! Though like Magnus, I find the incite to how each individual is taking in, getting out, and interpreting the material quite fascinating.
xiagan liked this
#1214
DaveBates wrote: April 13th, 2024, 21:45 Just a quicky to say I am reading the responses, though I've nothing more to add! Though like Magnus, I find the incite to how each individual is taking in, getting out, and interpreting the material quite fascinating.
Double this!!!