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 Six

February 16, 2011

A Wizard of Mars chapter index.

Okay, and we’re back to Nita. First, she dreams about the waters of Mars, (not quite like this,) and being drowned by a wave, before waking up. A possibly oracular dream? Then, she has breakfast with her father, chats about what Dairine’s up to, remembers to tell him about Nereid’s invitation to talk, and takes off for Jones inlet.

Out in the water, Nita meets her old friend, the whale wizard S’reee, and they chat about several things, including dissolving dangerous land mines away without setting them off, and wizards who are in tune with a particular element, such as water, or fire. Ronan is mentioned as having a water affinity, with his Ordeal referenced, and Nita wonders if her sister is getting a fire affinity, working so closely with stars, and remembering that she was a pyromaniac as a kid.

Carmela transits over to the pier just as Nita is coming in, and lays down her plan about going over to Mars to tease the guys before taking Nita shopping at the Crossings for something more stylish than sweaters and jeans. Nita is hesitant to bother Kit and his friends as they male-bond over Mars, but remembers to check his mission precis at this point, and finds out that Kit let the message out of the superegg bottle. She tries to find out more, and finds out that something is blocking all of the sites that the signal energy pulses landed on – the manual can’t find out any more details, and nobody can transit in from Earth. But there’s another Mars site that is showing an active wizardry, and that one isn’t blocked.

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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 Four

February 2, 2011

A Wizard of Mars chapter index.

Well, this chapter is Nita’s side plot, and it’s not as long a deviation as I thought it might be, though hopefully we get some payoff later on in the book. First, Nita goes home and talks with her Dad. Dad is upset that little sister Dairine is blowing off school, traipsing around the galaxy or whatever, and demands that Nita ‘do something’ about it. Nita complains that Dairine misbehaving isn’t her fault, but Dad makes it her problem, pointing out that he didn’t ask for this either, but he needs to know that his kids are safe, and that Nita has access to skills that he doesn’t have himself when it comes to keeping up with little sister.

So Nita agrees, grudgingly, and heads off to her room to make preparations. Step one is finally checking the manual listings for info on Roshaun, which she was too chicken to do back in chapter two, and she talked with Tom about that. The manual has a blank in Roshaun’s long-term status field, which is where you’d usually see information on if a wizard is alive or dead, (or in some cases in between,) and from this, Nita concludes that Dairine’s quest to find him might have some value to it – if even the sources of the manual don’t know his fate, then there’s a chance that he’s alive.

So Nita transits over to Roshaun’s homeworld, Wellakh, to talk to Dairine there, (with another side conversation with invisible Bobo the peridexis,) and finds her training in how to manage stars with Roshaun’s father, Neleid the ex-Sunlord of Wellakh, who Dairine met in ‘Wizards at War.’ Once Neleid understands that there’s a family crisis, he scrams so that Nita and Dairine can have it out, and Nita lays out her proposal – she’s going to put a tap into Dairine’s wizardly computer, Spot, so that whatever she does and wherever she is, Dad can get the details on his computer or the cell phone, and ask her for clarification when she comes home at night. Dairine is initially furious at the idea, but caves when Nita pointedly reminds her that Dad and Tom are very close, and that if Dad gets upset about her jaunts off planet and complains to Tom, Tom has the authority to ground Dairine. (Which he’s done, to a limited extent, in Wizard’s Holiday.)

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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 Two

January 19, 2011

A Wizard of Mars chapter index

This is a big one, fifty-six pages, so I might be going a little quick. We open with Nita POV – I think that around two thirds of the chapters in the book start with Nita POV, though the number that end on Kit POV may be close to half.

Nita is learning to be an Oracle, which makes some sense, as she’s shown a rough talent for premonition in the past few books. She’s over at Tom and Carl’s house – taking lessons from the koi who pronounce prophetic haiku. Nita predicts a cloud passing over the sun – but she calls ‘now’ nearly a minute early, which is apparently not good enough in the Oracle trade.

Nita chats with Tom for a while, talking about how Dairine is still out looking for Roshaun. Nita asks if Tom’s manual has any status info on Roshaun, and Tom just asks Nita if she’s checked her own manual and says that anything he reads in his might not be relevant information for her – but says that if she does look in hers, he’d like to know.  Read the rest of this entry »


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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