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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A wizard of Mars – Chapter Fourteen

May 18, 2011

A Wizard of Mars chapter index.

Okay, so, when we last left Nita Callahan, she was up against the Waters of Mars, as the Martian seer Aurirelde melted the icecaps, and blocked Nita’s shield or transit spells, figuring that that would leave her for dead. After talking over her options with her invisible friend Bobo, the essence of all wizardry, she decides that the only option is a big water wizardry that S’reee was telling her about way back in chapter six – the Gibraltar Passthrough. It’s a tough spell, with a high cost in energy that Nita has to pay and a complicated enough spell diagram that she could never draw it herself in time, but with Bobo’s help in that department, she just manages to pull it off and save herself.

Then she lets herself get mad, (which is when Nita usually gets seriously bad-ass,) and opens up a visual communication wizardry to the Shamaska headquarters, issuing Aurirelde a duel arcane challenge. If Aurirelde wants to prove that she can use the kernel to dominate her, then Nita will meet her face to face for the confrontation. And if not, Nita threatens to use her wizardry to take the Shamaska and Eilitt cities and leave the survivors to fend for themselves in the Martian badlands. Then she starts flying up through the Martian atmosphere, to get some distance from the surface, where Aurirelde’s influence over her wizardry will be greatest, because the kernel has the most power near the planet it controls. Nita’s under a time limit at this point – if she can’t settle with Aurirelde before the backlash of the energy she spent on the Passthrough hits, she’ll be helpless – and every big spell she uses in the meantime will bring that reckoning closer.

We cut away from Nita for just a few pages to get Kit’s point of view, trapped inside his old body by the re-emerged personality of his Martian doppleganger, Khretef. Kit can’t see and hear much of what Khretef’s been doing, but he caught a brief glimpse of Nita, when she came to the Shamaska throne room with Mamvish to confront the Shamaska leaders for the first time – and he comes to the belated realization that Nita is really hot when she’s pissed off. This gives him the motivation to fight for his freedom, and he starts a debate with Khretef, trying to argue him into giving up on Aurirelde’s crazy scheme and letting Kit help Nita. At the end, Khretef gives up, but tells Kit that he’s too late anyway.

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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 Eight

March 2, 2011

A wizard of Mars chapter index

Okay, a lot of interesting things are starting to happen now. Facing the scorpion constructs from her last cliffhanger, Nita gets an uncertain premonition, that kneeling down in front of the lead scorpion will either result in safety or a quick death. She impulsively gambles on it – and the scorpions pass all three of them by.

Moving on, Nita, Carmela, and S’reee find themselves in a sort of a Martian library archive, where Carmela quickly develops a partial knack for reading their writing and begins to decipher the story. S’reee suggests to Nita that Carmela may have ‘the steganographic gift’, an intuitive knack for learning languages without a teacher or textbook, and that this might explain how she learned the Speech. (The name of that gift also led me to the fascinating Wikipedia article on Steganography.)

There’s also apparently a wizardry in the archive, helping with the translation, and latching onto Carmela as the person easiest to communicate with.

The story that they learn, briefly, is one of a planet between Mars and Jupiter, one where civilization descended into horrible thousands-of-years-long wars, with wizards on both sides helping in the fighting rather than working towards peace with the enemy. Eventually, a rogue planet was discovered, on a close enough approach course to doom this planet, so both sides try to evacuate only their own people, and then fresh hostilities break out when they realize that each was trying to leave the other in the dark. Near the end of the story, Nita and Bobo feed power into the archive wizardry, and they get some visual effects, but the wizardry breaks down permanently just after they get to the point where a few cities are evacuated.

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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 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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