A Wizard of Mars – Chapter three


A wizard of mars chapter index.

So, we’re finally on Mars, and apparently the ‘message bottle’ is exactly where Kit always thought that they’d find something, but couldn’t pinpoint it. (Is that foreshadowing also, perhaps?) Irina and Nita talk a bit about Mamvish, and Irina mentions a detail that I almost included in last week’s chapter review, because I’d been reading ahead a bit and thought that it had been introduced earlier.

Mamvish is an ‘abstainee’ – which means that when she had her Ordeal, her big showdown with the Lone Power to prove that she’s worthy of keeping her powers… the Lone Power defaulted, sent a message saying that he wasn’t going to mess with her. Apparently that has something to do with why she’s such a badass high-power wizard, but it’s unclear which way the cause and effect goes.

Incidentally, I do wonder how literally it’s true that every wizard confronts the Lone Power directly on their ordeal. From what we heard about Ronan’s time-sliding ordeal in Ireland, (in ‘A wizard abroad,’) the maker of entropy didn’t put in a personal appearance, and though he didn’t say that he told Nita the whole story, I’m not sure how Balor could fit in. Ronan had to face the darkness inside himself, though, so maybe that fits.

Moving onward – Kit has to use the ‘Mason’s word’ and reach through solid rock to get the bottle out, but Nita’s cell phone goes off just once he’s got it – Dad’s calling, and he’s pissed, probably something to do with Dairine that’ll send Nita off on a subplot for half the book. She makes sure that Carmela can get a ride back home to Earth, and then transits home, leaving the rest of the chapter POV to Kit. Incidentally, I can’t remember, did Nita have a cell phone during “Wizards at War?” She definitely didn’t during Wizard’s holiday, because I remember her calling her father’s cell phone using her manual, and Dad getting a call from Mars on his cell phone at the end of it, foreshadowing the arrival of this book.

My hardcover copy of ‘Wizards at War’ has apparently grown little legs like Spot the laptop and wandered away. This makes me sad.

So, once Nita leaves, Kit examines the bottle, which doesn’t look like much, a kind of squared-off rocky egg, (actually a ‘superegg’, which I remember from a Martin Gardner math column in Scientific American.) Apparently, it’ll take a long time to figure out how to open the wizardry and get at the message inside. When they move it, a Martian dust-storm forms, so Mamvish and Irina decide that it’s best to put it back for now. Irina heads back home, after warning Kit and the guys that this is a very delicate assignment, not the sort of thing that they can afford to half-ass through their luck the way that they usually do, because if it starts to go wrong, it’ll go wrong in a very small way to start with, and then doom Planet Earth later. And then everybody else heads off too, with plans to ‘conference’ later.

So, the plot is moving forward somewhat, nothing terribly fascinating, but we’re getting some good development on the ‘bottle’, and as I said, Nita’s getting a little B plot that she should be able to wrap up and get back in time for the climax – I’m guessing. We’ll see.

To look at in more detail, I’m going to share a bit of the scene with the phone call:

And, way down in the pocket of her jeans, Nita’s cell phone rang.

Kit looked over his shoulder, his expression surprised and annoyed. Nita said a [dirty] word… and pulled her phone out, checking the ID on its display. It was her home number. If it’s Dairine, I swear when I catch her I’m grab her and shove her head down the– But the phone, having had its caller ID tweaked with wizardry, helpfully added: DAD CALLING.

“Oh, no,” Nita moaned, for she suspected she knew what he was calling about. “Oh, no. I’m sorry, I have to take this…”

She flipped the phone open, acutely aware of everyone watching her, and flushed with embarassment. “Hello?”

“Nita,” her dad said, and that was an immediate sign of trouble – both in his tone of voice, which was annoyed, and the fact that he’d called her by her name rather than one of the usual nicknames or pet names he used. “Where are you?”

“I’m on Mars, Dad. Please, can this wait a little while? Because I-“

“No. I need you home right now.”

“Daddy, I-“

“Five minutes.”

She knew that tone of voice, and there was no arguing with it, not if you wanted life to continue in anything like a normal way. “Okay,” Nita said.

Her dad simply hung up.

So, we’ve got a lot of interesting little bits of character detail in here, thrown in where they won’t slow down the action or the dialog. Kit is frustrated at Nita, because he was just in the middle of his big moment when this interruption happened. Nita’s is incredibly sensitive about the disruption that her home life is bringing into wizard’s business. I really like the contrast between the reference to Nita’s dad usually calling her nicknames, some of which we’ve heard before, and his serious, take-no-guff demeanor at the moment. (I still remember Nita asking “When was the last time you called me babygirl?” back in Wizard’s Dilemma or A Wizard Alone, somewhere in the middle of the arc with her mother getting sick and so on.)

And the notion of a wizard’s phone that will tell you not only what number is calling, but who happens to be holding the phone in that house, is very cool. Speaking of phones, I just got an iPhone a few days ago – more details on that tomorrow – and it occured to me that if I ever power-down and power-up that phone, or my little ipod nano, and happened to see the apple logo without a bite out of it, I would just be power-freaking because of the way Diane has built that image up in the books going all the way back to ‘High Wizardry’, even if I knew it was most likely a joke that somebody had managed to play on me.

One more very little excerpt to wrap up this entry and send us off to chapter four, not much to say about it except that I love Kit and Carmela’s sibling rivalry.

[Kit] reached into his otherspace pocket and pulled out the ready-set transit spell he used to get back to his bedroom from Mars. Uncoiling the long sentence in the Speech, he ran the glowing line of light through his hands until he found the part he was looking for. “We need to put your personal info in this,” he said. “Now, how much do you weigh this week?”

His sister glared at him. “Could you start with a more tactless question?”

“Sure. Your IQ?”

Carmela glowered at him. Kit grinned as he dropped the spell to the ground…

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