A wizard of Mars, the last chapter. (16)

June 5, 2011

A Wizard of Mars chapter index.

The final chapter of ‘A wizard of Mars’, to me, reads mostly like an epilog. The body of the story is already told, the climax has come and gone, and the main characters are talking through the post-mortem at a barbecue, working out things like the interpretation of the Red Rede prophecy, and how they managed to set up a temporal causality loop that influenced key events, by sending the Martian cities back into the past.

Mamvish is as funny a character as ever, especially when Nita’s father gives her some more tomatoes, and there’s an interesting little philosophical discussion with Tom, inspired by the fact that this is the first Young Wizard book that didn’t directly feature a manifestation of the Lone Power, the oldest source of evil, although Nita says that she definitely felt his influence, trying to bring about war on Mars, and between Mars and Earth.

Tom’s point of view, (and yes, he does sound a little like a proxy for a lecture from Diane, but I’ll let that slide this time,) is that it’s a sign that Nita and Kit are growing up. When they were younger, between raw power and viewing the world in simple terms, they were able to force the Lone One to become physical to take them on. Now, their practice of the art is going to be getting more complicated because of these changes in their lives.

After the post-mortem barbecue is done, Nita has a dream of Mars, with Kit, and Khretef, and Aurirelde in it, which is mostly more wrap-up, but at the very end, Kit brings up something that’s been left unresolved:

“Meanwhile,” Kit said, “something I forgot to ask you.”

“What?”

“Just what was it you called me back there?”

She shook her head. “Back there where?”

“You remember. Back at Argyre Planitia, when you were telling Aurirelde you didn’t have to keep yours in a cage.”

Nita stared at him, bewildered – then realized what he was talking about, and took a very deep breath.

“My boyfriend?” she said. And then Nita felt like cursing at herself for the way her voice squeaked with stress on the second word, turning it into a question.

Kit just looked at her. “Took you long enough,” he said. He grinned at her and vanished.

Nita’s eyes went wide, then narrowed with annoyance – and relieved delight.

“I’m gonna get you for that!” she said, and went after him.

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Young Wizards

April 29, 2011

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.

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A Wizard of Mars – Chapter Twelve

March 27, 2011

A Wizard of Mars chapter index.

This is a long chapter, with a fair bit going on, as we move towards the climax of the book. First, a short flashback of a scene that was skipped over in the last chapter – Nita going back to Wellakh, making sure that the stream of consciousness was taken out of Dairine’s information feed to Dad’s phone, and talking to Neleid again. Neleid mentions that Dairine is really ‘on fire’, as it were, with her sun-wizardry studies, and they talk about the possibility of Dairine sleeping over to avoid the long transits every day, but agree that it doesn’t seem necessary until Neleid and Papa Callahan have their meeting, and before Dairine suggests it herself.

Nita mind-talks with Kit a little before he heads off to church, and asks him to let her know when he’s going to head back to Mars, because she wants to come too, but Kit doesn’t sound too enthusiastic about that. Sure enough, when Nita heads over to the Rodriguez house, Carmela tells her that Kit came home from church and headed straight off to Mars first thing. The girls chat about the work that Carmela is still doing on translating the messages from the archival site in Arsia Mons, and how the text seems to fall into two categories – very slanted, propagandist history, with plenty of loaded adjectives about the struggle between the two factions, and this one evocative poem that doesn’t make much sense yet.

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A Wizard of Mars – Chapter Eleven

March 20, 2011

A Wizard of Mars chapter index.

Okay, so last week, we left off with Kit transiting back home after his weird flashback experience of the not-really-native Martian people from hundreds of thousands of years ago. In this chapter, as it seems to me, the plot gets a lot more complicated, partly because Nita’s POV and Kit’s start to alternate faster.

Nita stays behind on Mars to cover up the site from Earth-orignating artificial satellites, after the boys leave. She gets a very brief vision of a Martian pop culture character from her own childhood – Marvin the Martian from the Bugs Bunny cartoons, though he isn’t named as such, but uses his catchphrase. Nita suggests to Bobo that he should prepare any available counterspell for an Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator.

Nita also uses Bobo to get a replay of Kit’s experiences with Aurirelde, or at least the beginning of them. She’s able to figure out that though the appearance of Aurirelde was based on Kit’s fantasies of the Barsoom books, she’s based on a Shamask-Eilith person, and penetrates the illusion to perceive Aurirelde’s true appearance, which has gray skin and isn’t as exotically pretty by human standards, but still humanoid and relatable. She has Bobo try to run the name-analysis ‘wizard’ on Aurirelde to learn more about her – and the replay wizardry, which was running off the stored wizardry at the site, crashes partway through. Bobo tells Nita that he’ll keep working on analyzing the incomplete data.

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A Wizard of Mars – Chapter Ten

March 13, 2011

Okay, so, the points of view are starting to deviate a bit from the straight ‘Nita’s chapter, Kit’s chapter’ routine that we’ve had uninterrupted for the past six chapters. Nita has a short passage in her POV for the first few pages, but then it goes back to Kit for the rest, and his section is more critical to the plot, so I’ll start with his part.

In the third Martian ‘test site’, Kit finds himself in a sort of re-enactment of a very old scene with Martian personalities, and has to figure out the scenario and improvise as he goes, though the wizardry starts to dump information into his head as it goes. He’s playing the role of Khretef, a questor on behalf of the Martian city, though he comes from among their enemies. He speaks first with Aurilelde, the cute Martian girl who he met at the end of the last chapter, who’s Kretef’s girlfriend, and the daughter of the Master of the City. Her father, Iskard, sent Khretef out to find something very important, and he’s come back without it, though apparently (according to the dump information,) he knows were to find it. One of Iskard’s councillors, Rorsik, a rival of Khretef and Airilelde, tries to use this failure against the two Mars-crossed lovers. (And yes, I know that all of these Martian names are particularly hard to spell or pronounce.)

Rorsik starts to throw around threats about how Khretef and Aurilelde are in league with the enemy, and Aurilelde, who appears to be some kind of prophet, makes several remarkable pronouncements that appear to involve her seeing through the fourth wall of the re-enactment, about how wizards from another world have come to their planet, about how they’ve found the think that Khretef was looking for, ‘the Nascence’, and begun the tests… and that one of them is already here!

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A Wizard of Mars – Chapter Nine

March 9, 2011

A Wizard of Mars chapter index.

Note: If you haven’t read Young Wizards #1, “So you want to be a wizard”, and you care about the ending being spoiled, note that there are spoilers further down near the end of the blog entry.

There’s more really cool stuff that happened in this chapter of the book, which is back to focusing on Kit and the guys, though it looks like that alternating structure might be breaking down soon. From Stokes they move on to another wizardly ‘test site’ on Mars, and the first thing that they find out is that there’s going to be a witness, who they’ll have to both protect and hide the action from – the Spirit Rover.

Now, considering how well the Young Wizard books do at personifying inanimate objects, when I heard that Kit was going to meet Spirit, I immediately thought of this xkcd comic, and the response. Unfortunately, we don’t get any actual dialog, with the explanation that Spirit is so sophisticated and has so many security protocols built in that it makes her paranoid when somebody who’s not explicitly authorized talks to her, which makes a bit of sense. Of course, considering the dire situation, they were thinking in terms of making her forget signs of alien life on Mars, not casual chit-chat about how she really feels regarding her mission and never getting to go home.

For what it’s worth, I think my interpretation is between the two versions of the comic above, but closer to the latter – if I had to guess how Spirit might ‘feel’ about her mission, I think it’s unlikely she’d have ever gotten the impression that she was going to ‘go home’ after her mission, that she was pleased with all of the extra time that she got to spend travelling on Mars and all of the places she got to go, but still somewhat melancholy about being stuck and low on juice when there’s so much more out there to see. But this is a big side-track from the book, so I’d better get back to the plot.

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A Wizard of Mars – Chapter Seven

February 23, 2011

A Wizard of Mars chapter index.

This is a fairly short chapter, with an even shorter summary. I’m going to be trying to get the plot summaries to be more concise, instead of relating all the little stuff that happens, but this chapter makes it easy for me.

The guys – Kit, Ronan, and Darryl, go to a new Martian crater, one of the ones that the signal from the first egg went to. While investigating there, they see and interact with a bunch of wizardly ‘constructs’ in crazy forms, including fantastic Martian monsters and a ship of astronauts that claim to be from back on Earth. All of those guises, though, are being taken from their own minds, particularly a Mars movie that Darryl saw a long time ago, and they start to speculate on what this might mean. They decide that it’s the wizardries that the original Martians left behind testing them as a kind of self-defence system – if whoever discovers the message freaks out at these manifestations, and either run away or react aggressively, then they fail the test and don’t get to find out more. So they agree to move on to the next site in the message relay, investigating calmly but refusing to back off.

That’s about it for the important plot stuff that’s going on, as far as I can tell. So what else really impressed me with chapter seven, in terms of the writing?

A few things. One is simply that there seems to be a lot of energy and enthusiasm in the bits with the old Mars movie stuff come to life. I can almost picture Diane having the time of her life as she’s writing it, and that’s certainly endearing to a reader, as long as you can relate at least minimally to that enthusiasm. It reminds me, actually, of an anecdote that the author related in an interview that’s included in the audible.com version of ‘High Wizardry’, when she talks about going to the drive-in as a young girl or something like that, and she got to see “First Spaceship to Venus.” When she was older, she had a friend tape it for her, and was a little shocked that it had managed to capture her imagination so much, since the special effects were so bad. But I guess that she still has a soft spot for old sci-fi movies.

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A Wizard of Mars – Chapter Five

February 9, 2011

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.

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A Wizard of Mars – Chapter three

January 26, 2011

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.

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A Wizard of Mars – Chapter One

January 12, 2011

A wizard of Mars chapter index

Okay, I’m going to be blogging my way through Diane Duane’s A Wizard of Mars, with a new installment every Wednesday. Spoilers will not be spared, so if you’re waiting for the paperback and want to experience the book fresh, steer clear!

The first paragraph goes as follows:

The problem, Kit thought, scowling at the paper, isn’t the basic shape so much. It’s what to do with the legs.

Now, as you might recall, I did an exercise on the opening of the first Young Wizards novel, So You Want to be a Wizard. That also started with a main character’s thoughts, which got me curious enough to take a quick look at some of the other books in the series. #2, Deep Wizardry, starts with a bit of action and dialog at the end of the paragraph. #3, High Wizardry, begins with dialog and then action. #4, A Wizard Abroad, actually starts by telling us what Diane’s about to show us in more detail. #5, The Wizard’s Dilemma, opens with dialog. #6, A Wizard Alone, opens with a mix of description and then dialog. #7, Wizard’s Holiday, and #8, Wizards at War, both open with description.

So, no signature opening for Ms Duane. Probably that’s good, she changes this up and keeps things fresh, though her voice is consistent in a lot of other ways. I do like that she kind of comes full circle to the beginning of the series, in this little way. But I’ve wasted enough space dissecting the first paragraph now, and should move onward.

Kit is in history class. Kit’s doodling pictures based on the old Edgar Rice Burroughs Mars books, and also using wizardry to fiddle with the busted air conditioner, because it’s a hot day, less than a week before the start of summer vacation. One his doodles is also ‘busted’ in a different way, feminine attributes-wise, and Kit gets ‘busted’ with it by the history teacher, Mister Machiavelli, who had a small but memorable appearance early on in A Wizard Alone. Mack likes the Martian chick, (in Victoria’s Secret, which he points out isn’t as skimpy as the original descriptions in Burroughs,) but tortures Kit for a while about the Korean border before letting him go.

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