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#1104
So I'll kick off this section since the first is now in swing.

The chapters continue very much like the previous, though we do get a better picture of what the two sides are based on the direct explanations delivered in the letters. For old school gamers, I do get a sense of the "Total Annihilation" franchise playing out. It's not quite the same level, but the concept of a biological entity vs a technological one is definitely at play here.

To continue from my previous posts, Red's side "appear" to me to be some sort of technological force. They are headed by "The Agency" and their leader is "Commandant". I'm sure there was mention that Red was basically abducted as ... I want to say 13 year old girl, though it might have been younger. I'm sure there was one chapter mentioning her having cybernetic implants that allow her to change shape/appearance, but overall, this side is rather lacking in terms of how their technology really plays into their war effort. All I can grasp is that Red is basically an assassin, and most of her missions involve killing somebody, though to what ends this achieves for Agency's war effort is never explained.

Blue's side, in contrast, seems to be some parasitic organism governed by "Garden". While Blue was also a young girl at the stage of becoming one with Garden, I get the impression that, unlike Red, who is still the same girl having been groomed to be part of Agency, Blue's consciousness is that of the organism that infected her and any essence of the original girl is long gone. Whereas Red seems to be jumping around time killing people, Blue seems to have been cast out by Garden like a seed whereby she's directly manipulating some physics in the timestream in order to "grow" and presumably spread out further at a later stage. Again though, details of any of this or what the ultimate goal of Garden is are sketchy if non-existent, and it seems the writers are content to just leave it up to the reader's imagination.

The developing relationship between Blue and Red through their letters is, as I suspected, turning romantic. However, where it was kind of subtle in the earlier chapters, there seems to be a sudden shift where Red has gone totally and utterly mad with love. I found this to be more than a little abrupt, and is making it even harder to buy into what was already going to a hard sell when both of these characters are portrayed as rather drone-like and bred to destroy one another. I think the intention is that they've found a common element within one another in how they are alone in the infinity of time forced into their endless mission, but this falls flat when A) Red has been shown to be working with other Agency operatives, and B) Blue seems pretty much content to just consume and grow as is her nature to do so. I'm curious to how this aspect concludes, but I'm ashamed to admit it's more out of how big of a train wreck it'll be than rooting for the characters who it's difficult to be sympathetic towards because we never get enough information to suggest the two sides are even fighting one another, let alone internally conflicted over that war.

While the prose sections continue to vividly describe the scenes, there's still a lack of stakes as to what these scenes entail. This is made worse by the fact that many of the well known events the authors are borrowing from play out exactly as you'd expect. When in Atlantis, Atlantis is sinking beneath the waves. When at the massacre of Cesar's court, the massacre still occurs. Red murders earls and other powerful people, but there's no suggestion that these victims are in any way linked to Garden, while Blue is found in idyllic towns messing around and presumably corrupting the fabric of nature without any challenge from anybody who might be from Agency. All told, it's a story that's certainly grand in scope, but rather shallow when it comes to substance.

In any case, it does seem to be heating up with the threat of their forbidden communications being exposed to their relevant leaders, so we'll see where that leads. But considering it's already 70% of the way through, this feels like it's going to be a rather abrupt ending or will be left on a cliffhanger for a sequel that I'm not sure is deserved when so little has been given in the conflict so far.
xiagan liked this
#1111
Finally something happened! A bit of a plot!
Mind you, it was in the last chapter of 11, but still...

I feel unmoored, this is the prevalent feeling on reading this. I don't know who, how, when and where things are happening, and there's no interaction that makes logical sense, except the letters.

I hope the last section will bring some clarity.
DragonFlame, xiagan liked this
#1196
In contrast, I find this middle section fascinating. :beaming:

An awful lot of their missions so far have been, at most, tangential conflict. Red is trying to manipulate history to achieve results more like x, Blue makes manipulations that nullify or block that. But now, in this section, there's direct conflict - and Blue saves Red. Acts directly. Lies. Thwarts her own side.

As a result, she's implanted deeply in a long-term scenario. Is it convalescence? Is it punishment? Is it getting her out of the way while they debate her actions? Is it actually some sort of bait? As soon as Blue mentions in the letter the difficulty of getting at someone in her position - and lays out how it is to be achieved (by getting so close, by basically living their life) - then I start wondering.

Is the Seeker actually a future iteration of one of them (both of them?) stalking Blue's life in order to find her in deep emplacement?
But also, is this all a plan (by one side or another) to see if all that's been missing in the attempt to penetrate the other side's security is sufficient motivation, now provided by love?
And I'm still wondering if this is all being allowed to run on to explore the notion of some sort of reconciliation option.
There's also a passing mention of the idea that Red and her fellow agents, being all deviations from the norm in some regard, would cause war if there wasn't one already. It raises an interesting question of whether the time-war only exists to channel these deviant energies in ways that are less damaging to their societies. And therefore there is no interest in winning, but perhaps there might be interest in alternatives.

I guess it's that the time-war feels very cold-war in its rendition. The two sides working indirectly against each other through third-party results - leaning on history, rather than coming into direct conflict. It puts me in mind of things like the Cuban Missile Crisis, where good will on both sides allows rules to be bent and scenarios explored to avoid outcomes that neither side wants. It becomes a thing that is defining, and that the two parties are in together. (I am an easy audience for this sort of thing; my degree major and honours thesis were all about international relations and strategy in the latter half of the twentieth century.)

I laughed out loud at Red failing to appreciate the chance to get her murder-stabby on with her buddies at the assassination of Julius Caesar. The joys that she is supposed to share with her fellows are so hollow now!

And I am very curious about Blue's childhood illness, and how that fits into things. What was she seeded with? Who by? Herself? Red? Another party?
#1208
Damn cupiscent! Reading your responses makes me feel like I missed so much, though you did say this is your second reading so I wonder if having a greater understanding of where the story went allows for deeper insight into the scenes as it becomes a case of pulling out the deeper details than trying to work out what's going on.

I think it's that cold war dynamic that's what ultimately lost me and is why I became confused as to whether they were actually fighting one another. Something that didn't help was that the cold war events they engaged in were basically reconstructions of actual events, real or storywise, in history. In some regards that gives a looming dread that those events may have happened due to this war that's actually ongoing right now in our lifetime, but at the same time it had the opposite effect on me where the question was if they are just recreating actual events as they happened, what are they achieving from it?

I'm beginning to think that part of my problem is I gave way more focus on the setting and factions than maybe the authors intended. It is a heavy character piece, and I generally like character pieces more than event-fests, but the interesting dynamic of a war waged over time must have piqued my interest to want to know more in that area.
DragonFlame liked this
#1211
DaveBates wrote:the question was if they are just recreating actual events as they happened, what are they achieving from it?
I think, honestly, this is a big part of the point. That what they're doing isn't really achieving anything. The entire prosecution of the war is sort of futile, a furious churn not really yielding anything. (This echoes the Cold War for me too; perhaps the overall struggle has a point, but this precise action where some agent in some third-world country is desperately trying to shift the needle a tiny fraction in their favour... is that really The Good Fight?)
#1263
I finally managed to listen through the next set of chapters well enough to remember them. I listened to them once but I was too distracted, and this is not a book to be taken lightly. I've been busy lately, and mostly in a good way!

So, I realised that I never actually finished this book last time, but only read to around chapter 11 or so. The reason was that it was picked for a book club in another community I was a part of. We had already done Solaris and it was very interesting! However, due to drama outside of the book club, the community basically crashed and burned, and many of us chose to leave. So I guess I lost motivation due to that.

Anyhoo! I'll read through what everyone has written and make some comments, that seems to work well for me.

DaveBates wrote: All I can grasp is that Red is basically an assassin, and most of her missions involve killing somebody, though to what ends this achieves for Agency's war effort is never explained.
They are both so much more than assassins! Their job is to manipulate the timelines in the various 'threads' or 'strands', which is to say alternate realities similar to the many worlds theory. They do so subtly because changes that are too blatant destabilise the timelines. In my opinion, we don't need to know the exact effects of their manipulations. They are both trying to build a 'final' version of the multiple realities where their faction is the only one that exists, and they are doing so by trying to alter the timelines of thousands of different realities so that they move in the direction that causes their faction to become strong, not just in that world but in all of them; since at some point, travel in time and across alternate universes becomes possible, anything that happens anywhere can affect all of the realities.

DaveBates wrote:Whereas Red seems to be jumping around time killing people, Blue seems to have been cast out by Garden like a seed whereby she's directly manipulating some physics in the timestream in order to "grow" and presumably spread out further at a later stage. Again though, details of any of this or what the ultimate goal of Garden is are sketchy if non-existent, and it seems the writers are content to just leave it up to the reader's imagination.
Yes, Red is more direct in her methods and Blue plays a longer game. But they both use similar methods, whispering in ears, planting ideas, saving people or killing them, all so they can subtly alter the events that follow.

DaveBates wrote:I found this to be more than a little abrupt,
Agreed. While I accept their romance more readily than you do, having seen seeds of it from the very beginning, I still think the shift is a bit overwhelming. But perhaps it reflects the overwhelming sensation of their feelings. They both express a certain amount of surprise and lack of understanding of what has happened, even as they also accept it wholeheartedly.
DaveBates wrote:This is made worse by the fact that many of the well known events the authors are borrowing from play out exactly as you'd expect. ...
Again, I feel nothing of this disappointment. All of these things are the backdrop to the main story, so the results are irrelevant, other than the fact that we know they are both working to further the cause of their faction. It is also suggested that many of the major historical events are not only repeated throughout the various timelines, but unchangeable. The destruction of Atlantis is inevitable in every strand. The scene that plays out in Atlantis is not about saving it from destruction; it's about saving a vital piece of information from the destruction. This is mentioned outright.

The killing of Caesar is even more of a backdrop, just at the Commandant's 'field office' is later; the operatives do not meet in an office or at their base for fear of breaking their cover, much like a Russian spy embedded in the US Department of Justice wouldn't go to the Kremlin to receive their orders or spend their downtime socialising with other Russians. Two strangers sitting back to back at a café exchanging coded phrases is switched for senators at Caesar's murder in a strand where their faction is strong. I think it's a great scene!

ScarletBea wrote:I feel unmoored, this is the prevalent feeling on reading this. I don't know who, how, when and where things are happening, and there's no interaction that makes logical sense, except the letters.
I too feel unmoored when reading this, but I think I simply embrace that feeling as a part of the story. The two main characters are unmoored. They know more about what's going on than nearly anyone, but that knowledge puts them apart from not just one world but all of them. They are so far beyond the everyday concerns of the inhabitants of these various worlds that they don't understand what it's like to be one of them, caring about what happens within a single lifetime or with a single life. More than anything, this is what makes them drawn to each other; their romance is the first taste of something real, something close to the experiences of the people whose lives they alter or end as a part of their 'everyday' work. Their relationship matters to them because for the first time, there is something personal they can lose. They touch the everyday worries of a normal human for the first time, and it leads the to painful realisations and a deep connection.

It will be interesting to see how this carries into the final part.

I'll make another post later, I think. This one is long enough for now! :D
DragonFlame, xiagan liked this
#1270
DaveBates wrote: April 3rd, 2024, 14:03
To continue from my previous posts, Red's side "appear" to me to be some sort of technological force. They are headed by "The Agency" and their leader is "Commandant". I'm sure there was mention that Red was basically abducted as ... I want to say 13 year old girl, though it might have been younger. I'm sure there was one chapter mentioning her having cybernetic implants that allow her to change shape/appearance, but overall, this side is rather lacking in terms of how their technology really plays into their war effort. All I can grasp is that Red is basically an assassin, and most of her missions involve killing somebody, though to what ends this achieves for Agency's war effort is never explained.

Blue's side, in contrast, seems to be some parasitic organism governed by "Garden". While Blue was also a young girl at the stage of becoming one with Garden, I get the impression that, unlike Red, who is still the same girl having been groomed to be part of Agency, Blue's consciousness is that of the organism that infected her and any essence of the original girl is long gone. Whereas Red seems to be jumping around time killing people, Blue seems to have been cast out by Garden like a seed whereby she's directly manipulating some physics in the timestream in order to "grow" and presumably spread out further at a later stage. Again though, details of any of this or what the ultimate goal of Garden is are sketchy if non-existent, and it seems the writers are content to just leave it up to the reader's imagination.
This is just a random thought, but you've got me thinking about the gardener/architect dichotomy of writing. I wonder if the two authors fall on either side of that particular divide, and inserted it into the story in some fashion.
ScarletBea, xiagan liked this
#1276
cupiscent wrote:Is the Seeker actually a future iteration of one of them (both of them?) stalking Blue's life in order to find her in deep emplacement?
This was something my mind jumped to, as well. And I haven't dismissed the idea that the whole thing is some kind of long con, though in that case I don't think it's run by Red or Blue, but by a third party, perhaps someone neutral to the factions (and the Seeker has something to do with that).

I'm quite excited to listen on now, and I agree that this second part made things a lot more interesting after a slow build-up (though for my part, I enjoyed that).
#1279
It certainly feels like there is a clear divide based on what individual readers are getting out of this. I have to say, I do find Magnus and cupiscent's takes fascinating, though it could be that they come across as far more sci-fi literate than I am.

That I only read it once does feel like part of the problem, however, even with Magnus's detailed explanations, some of this stuff is hard to accept. So for example:
The destruction of Atlantis is inevitable in every strand. The scene that plays out in Atlantis is not about saving it from destruction; it's about saving a vital piece of information from the destruction. This is mentioned outright.
So my immediate question to this is what exactly is this information they're "saving", and why do they have to do it over and over again? Does this knowledge just vanish when they skip to another timeline? If they're trying to manipulate infinite timelines so that they're the only thing in existence, how does that work, and where exactly do they exist at the end of this campaign? And this idea falls apart further when you then start suggesting the timeline cannot actually be changed and Atlantis will always be destroyed, so what the hell are they even trying to achieve if all they're doing is bouncing around to play live reenactments of events they have no control over?

This is made all the more difficult to imagine when the Garden doesn't even seem to be from earth, as we witness monsters being grown and used as traps, and Blue transforming into alien beasts. When I get tastes of grander scales like this, it becomes hard to imagine how Cesar's massacre is anything more than a speck of dust in the grand scheme of all time and space, let alone something they critically need to participate in so that it turns out exactly the way it did if they'd never even been there.

I was working on a theory that the Agency is basically an advanced future form of humanity which is fighting to save their existence from whatever the encroaching Garden is, but this is a lot of me filling in large holes that the text left open.
DragonFlame liked this