Y is for…
Well, I thought that today I’d talk more about ‘Young Wizards’, one of my favorite fantasy book series, and return to my chapter-by-chapter review of Diane Duane’s book ‘A Wizard of Mars.’ In the last week of March, I got up to chapter twelve, so now we have a new chapter, ‘Oceanidum Mons.’
It opens with Nita alone out on Mars with her invisible friend, Bobo the essence of Wizardry – and Bobo tells her that he’s found Kit, but his status is flagged as occupied. Nita sends him a text message via her Wizard’s manual, which gets held for delivery later, and Nita has Bobo transit her back home to Earth for lunch. While preparing a chicken sandwich, Nita obsesses a little over the image she saw of the Martian girl, Aurirelde, in her Victoria’s Secret-esque outfit, and also how Kit had been paying attention to Janie Lowell at school in ‘that alleged skirt.’ But she shies away from dwelling on jealous topics for too long, and moves on to all of the Martian encounters that had taken place the day before, especially how different the ones Kit and his team were involved in versus Nita and her friends.
Looking for a reason for those differences, she starts to do some simple analyses based on power levels, ages, origins, and specialties, before hitting on the most obvious difference – the gender gap. Nita isn’t sure what that means, but it doesn’t give her a good feeling. Wondering if somebody from Mars might be trying to take advantage of Kit, she considers asking Bobo to plant a spy routine in his manual, the same way he did with Dairine’s manual computer, but isn’t sure what to make of the morals of violating his privacy, even if she’s motivated by concern for him. It seems too much like something the Evil Lone power would want her to do, and she holds off for the time being. Then Nita has a precognitive flash of Mars turning blue, and people on Earth panicking, and talks to Carmela again, finding out more about the strange Martian poem that Carmela had recorded in the library cave, the Red Rede, which seems to have some similarities with her visions, and possibly be a prophecy in itself.
Meanwhile, Kit finds himself on Mars with a sense of some time being missing, and heads back to Earth in a hurry for family dinner. Before they can get to the restaurant, though, Tom comes by with some bad news for Kit – the Seniors of Earth are upset with the way he dealt with things the day before after accidentally activating the super-egg, and Kit’s been grounded to Earth pending a more in-depth review of the mission. Kit doesn’t take that well, angry with himself but also feeling like there’s important stuff he has to do on Mars that he just can’t explain to Tom, and hatches a plan to slip back there in the middle of the night using the only route that Tom can’t block off – the worldgate in Carmela’s closet.
Nita finds out about Kit being grounded that evening, from Darryl, who also got the riot act from Tom. She has a mental conversation with Kit, which doesn’t go well because he’s prickly about the entire subject of Mars by now, and starts to wonder again about bugging his manual. Bobo comes back saying that he finally finished the analysis of Aurirelde’s name and personality from the vision that Nita asked him for a few chapters back, and to Nita’s surprise, the name shares about forty percent of the key elements with her own. She jumps to the conclusion that somebody on Mars created the facade of Aurirelde using things that they’d found out about her, because Kit trusted her, and they wanted him to trust Aurirelde. So she finally pulls the trigger on the bugging wizardry, which will record everything that goes through Kit’s mind and give her the details of it.
However, when Kit wakes up at night and creeps into Carmela’s room to slip through her closet, he finds out that he can’t bring his manual through the worldgate – it can’t stop him from going through, but it knows that he’s banned from Mars and won’t go through itself. So he leaves it behind and goes anyway. The next morning, Mamvish comes to see Nita to ask about what Kit’s doing on Mars, and Nita says that she doesn’t know for sure, but that they’d better go find out.
On Mars, they run into some strange wizardry that changes them so that they look the part for Shamask-Eilith, outfitting Nita in a skimpy costume, and turning Mamvish from a herbivore dinosaur type into a thoat. There’s some funny banter at this point, where thoat Mamvish lectures Nita about not letting her body image issues get in the way of the job – and only finding out that she’s been transmogrified afterwards; and then Nita flings back the same trite phrases at her.
But they proceed, and meet with the rulers of a restored Shamask city – Khretef, who’s taken over Kit’s body, Aurirelde’s father Iskard, his advisor Rorsik – and Aurirelde herself, who’s internalized Mars’ kernel into her own body to access its power over Mars and the vicinity of the planet.
Mamvish tries to talk them out of restoring the Shamask and Eilith peoples on Mars, for the sake of what that would do to humanity, and even threatens an intervention from outside. However, Aurirelde gets tired of listening to them, and uses the kernel to send Mamvish away from the planet, however, she has something different in mind for Nita, who’s left out on the Martian surface.
And, just as her dream had foretold two mornings before, the waters of Mars are sweeping towards where she stands.
Tonight, I’d like to share in detail a bit of a more lighthearted moment in the chapter, from when Nita is first considering spying on Kit’s manual:
Right now, at least, Nita was sure that what she was considering was wrong. If it sounds like something the Lone Power would suggest… if it walks like the Lone Power, and quacks like the Lone Power…
And she was suddenly caught completely off guard by the image of the Lone One as a evil duck – a black duck in a shiny black helmet, and maybe even a cape, waddling along to ominous movie music. Nita burst out laughing at the image. She could just hear the noise Its breathing would make, a dreadful asthmatic snerking–
She burst out laughing. “Bobo being funny in there?” her dad said.
Nita couldn’t stop laughing to answer him.
“Stress,” Dairine said, sounding dry. “She’s got that hysterical sound.”
This was possibly true, but Nita was still laughing so hard she could barely breathe. Finally she choked herself back into some kind of control, wiping her eyes. Yeah, she thought. I’ll have to watch out… keep an eye on how I’m thinking. This is a really big deal we’re involved in here, and It’ll move in the first second it catches someone getting careless. Nonetheless, the thought of ultimate Evil coming after her in the shape of a duck was strangely reassuring. Lone One or not, a duck I could handle.
Nita caught the laughter trying to start again, and stopped it. But what a way to get up the Lone One’s nose, she thought… Or beak. She allowed herself a last giggle. It’s so hung up on being taken dead seriously. Pull that line on It, and who knows, It might do that cartoon thing: get so mad, It’ll make a mistake…
I loved this concept, and I have to wonder if it was a passage that Diane wrote from momentary inspiration rather than being inserted in a revision; that she had the same thought after writing the bit about ‘quacks like the Lone Power’, laughed, and decided to explore her own reaction from Nita’s point of view. It serves as a nice little bit of comic relief in an otherwise fairly tense and serious chapter, and might be a red herring, or foreshadowing for later, because Nita unfortunately doesn’t get a good opportunity to try the ‘Duck ploy’ this time around.
There’s one thing that bothers me about this passage, and this is the repetition of Nita bursting out laughing twice in two successive paragraphs, particularly when she never particularly stopped. I think that the first one works very well, and that to lead into dad’s reaction, she could have used something like ‘She started to laugh even harder.’ Though then, that seems to possibly overdo the point by the time we get to ‘couldn’t stop laughing to answer him.’
I’m glad I’m not Diane’s editor in moments like these. Hmm… what do you think? Is the description of laughter here good enough as is, or do you have an idea for how to revise it?