Friday, 10 February 2012

The Great Hunt - Chapters 35-39

Misery is not reading or blogging for more than 1 day in a row.
In this section, the Heroes discover the scope of the menace is far greater than they guessed.
After getting a taste of two cultures entrenched in subterfuge and suspicion, Stedding Tsofu offers the opposite:  harmony, trust, openness, truthfulness. The Ogier hide nothing from their visitors, and allow them to take extreme personal risks, and do not try to stop them with force or persuasion. Once the heroes have the facts, the Ogier accept the decision they have made. Ogier society is similar to that of the tuatha’an, and the way it is introduced with a point-point-counterpoint is reminiscent of how we saw two societies rife with suspicion (Children of the Light and Shadar Logoth) before discovering the Traveling People and their trusting ways. When an Ogier spends too long away from the stedding, away from the qualities it offers, they begin to Long for it. Are any of us any different? The Ogier are an idealized society, a remnant of the Age of Legends when discord and conflict were all but unknown. There are some strong implications about what a society in the Light should be like, and what a society touched by the Shadow would be like. Yes, even as relates to their chivalric customs of marriage. I’ll remember to contrast with other marriage customs in later books.
Rand and Perrin both consider the virtues of staying in a stedding. They could be free of their new abilities; they could live out their lives in peace. Yet they quickly acknowledge that they are willing to pay a personal price and face great danger to do what they feel is right for their friend. Their sense of duty to their fellow man is forging chains that will shackle them to the destiny they are trying to avoid. Rand’s promise to safeguard Loial only adds to his duties.
The Black Wind blocking the Waygate, Machin Shin, forces Rand to instead attempt use of a Portal Stone to reach Toman Head before Mat dies, even if he has to use the One Power again. Rand can already channel enough to use the Portal Stone, but Verin, at full power, would be destroyed by that much saidar. Verin explains enough about the Mirror Worlds as alternate realities, the Worlds That Might Be, to allow the reader to understand the next few pages.  This explanation is what was missing from the House of Flies scene earlier in the book. As with the scene in the House of Flies, repetition with slight variations are used to illustrate that events are out of Rand’s control.
Three alternate realities are shown in full where past events occurred differently. Then more follow, only a sentence long, since the reader has grasped the concept. Rand is shown dying young, growing old, going mad, knowing he was born to fight the Shadow, battling Seanchan invaders, or Trollocs, marrying, living a hundred lives and more, variation on variation, each one different. A lot of thrills are packed into these few pages. Each scene also has a similarity. One phrase, powerful and meaningful, that reveals the epic scope of the story. In each world, when Rand finally dies, he hears a voice whisper: I have won again, Lews Therin.
In every other world that might have been had events unfolded differently, the Shadow is triumphant. The Mirror World Rand visited with Selene introduced this idea. The surprising revelation isn’t that it was a strange and unique world, nor was it a typical world, no, it was a stereotypical world where the Shadow won.  The implication is that no matter the circumstances, the Shadow always wins. After the Shadow wins, life is extinguished, as seen in Selene’s Mirror World. The concept will later get expanded upon, but for now, it elevates the stakes of the broader series-long quest to a multiverse-spanning battle against evil, while maintaining an intensely personal aspect since each of the Shadow’s victory is achieved by the Dragon’s demise.
I have won again, Lews Therin.
The ability to play with the flow of time using Mirror Worlds allows for several plot elements to join up in ways that might have seemed forced otherwise. With time travel, anything is possible. Tracking Fain from the future before he reached a spot would be a bit too convenient without Lanfear’s guidance. Egwene and Nynaeve needed time to begin their training and gain useful abilities and strong friendships, time that would have killed Mat. Time travel provides the answer, introducing a world of story possibilities. Assuming we’re following the three examples pattern: the first time travel was subtle and solved a small problem, the second brings the elements together for this book’s conclusion, and the third should come into play in A Memory of Light. What role could the best theoretical quantum physicist of the Age of Legends play?  How could Portal Stones be used to make a day dawn twice?
Egwene finally writes Rand off as a love interest, all while rushing to his rescue. The girls’ matchmaking deliberations are entertaining. Between Min’s viewings, Elayne’s interest, Rand’s Mirror World marriages, and the fact that Rand seems poised to see these girls again in Toman Head, enough hints have been placed to expect that love is in the air.
Writing Lessons:
Keeping the stakes personal keeps your readers emotionally involved in the story.

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