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From: CoxRathvon@aol.com
Subject: (whorl) the mystery of Q
Date: Sun, 12 Jan 1997 18:53:24 

[Posted from Whorl, the mailing list for Gene Wolfe's Book of the Long Sun]

Patrick wrote: "Anyone else get the feeling that there are fathoms of mystery
yet unplumbed in these books? Every time I reread I'm stunned by how Wolfe
can couch the most startling revelations in a throwaway bit of dialogue."

I concur heartily on both points.  One of the deepest mysteries in the whole
four-book series is the blood-drinking Quetzal.  I wince to admit it now, but
on my first reading of the books, I completely missed a number of what
Patrick calls "throwaway" revelations about this inhuman.   For example,
Mucor refers more than once to "the man who isn't there," and Wolfe casually
has Silk misunderstand her; Silk thinks she's referring to Pas (the god who
no longer exists).  But of course, Mucor must have tried to possess Quetzal
and evidently found that instead of a human consciousness for her to inhabit,
there was "nothing there"--nothing, at any rate, that she could penetrate.
 For another example, the wonderful bird Oreb (who eats eyeballs and who sees
more clearly than anyone, as Patrick coyly observes),  refers to Quetzal as
"Bad thing."  But again Wolfe has Silk misunderstand; Silk thinks Oreb is
referring to a walking stick, or a hole, or whatever else nearby might be a

As someone else in this communal letter has asked, how the hell did Quetzal
get aboard the Whorl?  How old is he really?  What are his deepest motives?
 Does he befriend Silk only because Silk will bring about the "plan of Pas"
and thereby deliver a supply of human food to Blue and Green?  Even my third
rereading of these books is not helping me answer all these questions.
 Speculations from other readers are warmly welcomed!

By the way, I love the name "Quetzal."  Not only does it evoke Quetzalcoatl,
a rather fearsome serpent god of the Aztecs, but the real-life quetzal of
Central America belongs to the "trogon" family--and I have discovered in my
handy dictionary that "trogon" comes from a Greek word meaning "gnaw."  Very
funny, Mr. Wolfe!  In addition to all that, there is the alphabetical appeal
of the letter Q, the chief letter of question, query, quest, Quixotic, and
quiz, among other queer things.  It's nice when a name in a story resonates
this way.

And finally, I agree with everyone who's cited the line "Then I walked in" as
a major shocker.  It exploded off the page at me!  I wanted to ask myself
whether it was a cheap shot, but my mind was too busy reeling, trying to see
everything in this new light--which itself answers any question about the
line's effectiveness.  In short, it just about killed me.

Boy, this is fun!

--Henry Rathvon  

Questions or problems to whorl-owner@lists.best.com

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