A Wizard of Mars – Chapter Five

A Wizard of Mars chapter index.

Okay, we’re back to Kit again. Kit misses Ponch. This was mentioned before, but we’ve got several more references in this chapter about how much Ponch being gone is hitting Kit, and so I thought I’d mention it here. From the ending to “Wizards at War,” I kind of got the impression that though the old Ponch was gone, Ponch would be able to spend time with Kit in his new sheepdog avatar – especially since it had been foreshadowed that nobody knew if the sheepdog had an owner in the neighborhood, back as early as “Wizard’s Holiday.” But that’s a minor point, and I can appreciate the angst of Kit being lonely because his dog’s gone, not to mention that having him actually take part in the plot might make certain things too easy or familiar.

We get an indirect answer to my question about Nita going back to Mars after everybody’s gone, too, via a text message in Kit’s manual, which made Kit think that Nita was scowling. And she doesn’t want to be bothered until after lunch, by which time I suspect Kit will be in the middle of other business, and thus our main characters will be separated for a good portion of the book.

So Kit’s up in the middle of the night, and antsy about his little discovery on Mars, so he decides to go back. He chats with the Edsel on his way out of the house, (who was mentioned as the source of the antenna back in ‘So you want to be a wizard’, but never shown as far as I recall,) transits over to Mars, and talks with a rock about the weather. And only an American wizard could possibly talk with a rock in the language of the Making, and translate those words into degrees Fahrenheit. Celsius or Kelvin would make much more sense to anybody else from planet Earth. The martian rock, presumably, hasn’t heard of any of them, and would use some kind of absolute scale that’s built into the Speech.

Kit finds the superegg again, and it starts shaking in his hands, then splits into three parts and transforms into a robotic scorpion. (I guess it was a robot in disguise!) Kit tries to talk to the scorpion, and it sends out three bolts of energy into the distance, then reverts back to superegg shape – but when Kit picks it up, he can tell that the spell inside it has been discharged. He starts freaking out, thinking that Mamvish and Irina will be pissed at him.

But he traces the pulses, which went to three different Martian craters – no reply yet, as far as the manual can tell. Messages Mamvish, who’s busy on something else, and lets her know what’s going on. Then he transits back home to Earth, and gathers his backup crew – Darryl and Ronan. While he’s waiting for them to finish preparing and come over, Carmela makes an appearance, dropping the news that big sister Helena is going to be showing up even sooner than Kit thought.

Then the guys arrive, (Darryl having gone over to Ireland to fetch Ronan because he can transit there more easily than the Irish can, on account of the buildup of old wizardries,) and Carmela puts on a show for Ronan, trying to either tease him or really impress him, I’m not quite clear on which. Once Carmela is done having her fun, the three guys head off for Stokes crater, with Darryl driving the transit this time as well, because it doesn’t cost him as much, and because they don’t want Carmela to be able to find out where they’re going and get there via the worldgate in her closet.

So, all in all, we’ve had some fun stuff, and the plot’s moving well, especially the guys team coming together. A few other favorite bits from this chapter:

  • Kit has some weird kind of daydreams of a powerful wizard, specifically Mamvish or Irina, blowing up a planet, and wonders if he’s catching the Oracle from Nita.
  • On Mars, he watches Deimos cross the night sky and compares it in brightness and speed to the International Space Station as seen from Earth, which is an interesting contrast, a small natural satellite to a relatively large artificial one. (That’s no moon!)
  • When he asks his manual about any response to the signals, it displays a Speech-symbol for zero or null, and Kit thinks that his manual isn’t usually that brief.
  • Kit thinks about calling Nita after the egg has gone dead, but starts to worry that people would think that he couldn’t handle the situation by himself, or go anywhere without dragging her along – which is an interesting mirror of how Nita felt about Kit during part of “The Wizard’s Dilemma.” I suppose it’s natural with teenage characters for them to be scared of being dependent on each other, or seen as such, despite their usually close friendship.
  • Ronan rags on Darryl about his fashion sense for an exploratory trip, which is somehow very fun and friendly.
  • After Carmela hits on Ronan, something makes Kit think of a girl named Janie Lowell in his chemistry class, and a particular very short skirt the other day. (I suspect Kit’s a leg man – he did have a stray thought about Nita and short skirts in “Wizard’s Dilemma,” though he didn’t really think it was Nita wearing one. Revv, revv revv.) More foreshadowing about our young wizards growing up a little.
  • There’s some more mention of the little conspiracy of silence around Darryl, that he’s the only one who’s not allowed to realize just how special he is. Carl told him that he shreds local space-time when he does his transit trick, which somehow fits. I can see Darryl as a Wizardly shredder.

Quickly now, two passages in a bit more detail. The first is the start of the manual conversation between Kit and Darryl, which I just think is fun:

“How soon can you be ready to go out?”

There was a pause. “Am I allowed to eat first?” Darryl’s voice came from the page.

Kit grinned. “No.”

“You’re cruel, man,” Darryl said. “Gonna stunt my growth. Don’t you think I have enough developmental issues without you messing with my metabolism, too?”

Kit snickered. The only thing wrong with Darryl’s metabolism was that it seemed bent on getting ahead of everyone else’s. The way he ate and drank, Kit routinely expected to see Darryl turn up at a meeting three feet taller than the last one.

“I am going to sit right here for the next fifteen minutes and finish eating my chocolate-frosted sugar bombs,” Darryl said. “Part of my nutritious breakfast, and no, I’m not gonna go hyper on you… And then I’m going to put some clothes on, if that’s okay with you. Not gonna go running around Mars in my bathrobe!”

“Okay, okay,” Kit said. “As soon as you can.”

“Fine. Thank you.” There was a pause filled with noisy crunching.

I suspect there’s some sort of irony in the description of the chocolate-frosted sugar bombs as part of his nutritious breakfast.

The second part I really liked was the description of Carmela’s big entrance. (She does love to steal the entire chapter.)

All heads turned as Carmela walked in. She was wearing a short blue dress with a peach-colored tank top underneath it, leggings, and little high heels of the kind Kit had heard her call ‘kitten heels.’ The clothes were the same kind of thing you might see a lot of girls her age wearing somewhere casually, say to the mall. But there was nothing casual about the way Carmela wore any of her clothes anymore — not since last year, when she suddenly discovered she had a figure. The pigtails of ten minutes ago were gone. She had pulled her long hair off to one side, so that it flowed down in a raven sweep over one shoulder, and she carried herself with the gracious, queenly condescension of a supermodel who had descended for a time from her usual starry height to walk among the lowly paparazzi. What Kit found strange was that this lofty carriage didn’t look preposterous on her.

It’s a trick of using just the right number of details to paint a picture – Diane is bending the rule of three here, but not breaking it by much, so the passage still manages to work overall.

That’s it for this week. Next chapter, Nita apparently goes to spend some time with the friendliest whale she knows.

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