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From: "Dave Lebling" <dlebling@shore.net>
Subject: (whorl) IGJ, impressions, riddles, many spoilers! (of course)
Date: Sat, 29 Jul 2000 12:04:45 

I finally got the book and the time to read it (had to put aside the new
Harry Potter, which has its own attractions as my children have now both
read it first and want to talk about it).

Some of the things I noticed have already been covered (what an astute and
careful-reading bunch!).  Some, like Horn's arrival at the Citadel on the
day _Shadow of the Torturer_ starts, I thought no one would get, and was
itching to report first, but no...

We get a surprising amount of throw-away detail in this book.  One item that
struck me particularly was Horn's tale of his and Nettle's early years on
Blue.  In OBW we got the "story of our life I tell around the dinner table
to the family." It's told in the slightly whitewashed family-legend style,
and we heard it so often I just accepted it.  In IGJ we get the harder-edged
details, the hardship, the failures, the fights with the relatives (and all
this is very understated as well -- it must have been hell to live through
it), but included is the throwaway about how the colonists produced their
first generation of livestock, the twisted flower of a seed planted in
Mucor's life history in the Long Sun books.

The funny thing about IGJ is that as I read it the book as whole didn't come
into focus, partly because it didn't seem to be progressing what I thought
of as the plot (fool!).  I expected, having been given the _Odyssey_ in book
one, to get (sneaky Wolfe) the _Iliad_ in book two, or maybe the _Anabasis_.
That is to say, the war against the inhumi. Instead, we get a different and
apparently irrelevant war (but one won by a clever trick, so there's the
_Iliad_ poking up).  In any event, just sitting here reflecting on it after
reading the first batch of posts, it's a much much more wonderful book than
it seemed as I was reading it, and it hangs together incredibly well
considering the latticework narrative structure.  It's full of little
set-pieces and scenes that are wonderful, as is typical of Wolfe.  (An
aside: everyone has noticed the parallel with the eucharist in the scene at
the Neighbor's altar.  What about the parallel with Abraham and Isaac?  Horn
has been muttering about how Oreb would make a great sacrifice, or maybe a
horse, mutter, mutter... Then he takes Hide up the mountain to the altar...
and serves communion. There's your whole bible-study course in a nutshell.)

The big questions:

1) What have we learned about the secret of the inhumi?

First, the inhumi derive their intelligence and personality from the
creatures they feed on, and almost certainly can pass them on to their
offspring. We know the former from any number of examples, and we may infer
the latter from Krait's mother's drinking Sinew's blood. As inhumi are
apparently oviparous (Fava's story), we may discount the possibility of _in
utero_ influence.

Second, and more importantly (and here we are getting close to the true
secret), there are actually no inhumi.  There is only, poignantly, "a girl
trapped in the body of a blood-drinking reptile."  The inhumi only have
"spirits" because their victims have spirits, only have intelligence because
their victims have intelligence, and so on. Crucially, they also have the
goodness or evil of their victims, their moral sense.  Jahlee describes the
pursuit of Horn at the end of OBW, and how the inhumi all felt they should
kill him, but each hoped that another would do it first.  They feel this way
out of gratitude and also, I think, because the people whose blood they have
absorbed would not be quick to kill either. Few are eager to cast the first
stone, sinful or not.  Result, Horn escapes.

Perhaps the secret is that if the inhumi are treated justly, treated as we
would like to treat other human beings, they will gradually become less of a
threat.  This has been hinted at on several occasions. Krait asks, "why do
you hate me?" and when Horn responds with responses about inhumi in general,
asks "did I do those things?"  I think there is a similar scene with Jahlee
in IGJ.  I don't mean this idea to be a reprise of the "Golden Rule" theory,
but rather a "Rule of Law" theory.  If humans treated inhumi as though they
were human, as individuals who can be reformed or punished or rewarded based
on their own actions, they would act in a more moral manner.  Horn describes
the Neighbor's history briefly, and the implication is that the inhumi were
enslaved by the Neighbors, but it didn't help, it only made things worse.
They were unleashed on the Neighbor inhabitants of Blue, but that only made
things worse. Horn sees that as a possible future for humanity as well, and
on Green it is coming true; the villages capture other humans to sell to the
inhumi as slaves.

Does anyone other than me see a strong parallel to racism and African
slavery here?  (Though at times the inhumi are the stand-ins for Africans
and at other times it's the humans).  One could write an entire essay on
this one aspect of the book.  It's understated but everywhere.

2) Where is Silk and what's up with Horn/Silk?

This one is clear.  Silk is Horn (half a spirit) and Horn is Silk (half a
spirit plus a body).  However, Silk is also "an aspect of Pas."  But Horn is
also only half of Silk (in some unit of measurement appropriate for the
task), so he doesn't claim to be Silk, though sometimes he is, and is
becoming more like him, just as the inhumi are human and for similar reasons
(if using a less messy mechanism).  Horn/Silk was kidnapped by the Gaonese
(on the _Whorl_) because they thought he was Silk (I think this is
explicitly stated in OBW). Also, the Gaonese had a working lander which made
multiple trips to the _Whorl_ (Inclito's telling of Eco's story).  (What
happened to it?)  Many people on the _Whorl_ knew and could identify Silk,
so the Gaonese got the right man.

Some of Horn's powers are given by the Neighbors: he can find or create a
path in OBW, he draws the sword to himself during his sewer-cleaning
expedition, so this is not either a function of his merger with Silk or of
being in a dream in the later segments.  Reshaping the sword may be a
dream-only function. Besides, it's not dreaming, it's astral projection.  It
happens in current time, affects those involved whether fellow-projectors or
not, etc.  The Neighbors can do it, the inhumi can do it if Horn is around
(and Horn is a friend of the Neighbors). Could it be purely a Neighbor
ability?  Obviously Fava and Jahlee are frightened by it, it's not a normal
inhumi thing, like flying.

I think Horn is slow to reveal himself to Hide because he no longer looks
like himself, and wants Hide to come to the conclusion on his own.  It's
difficult enough at first for Hide to go along with the "pretend I'm your
father" thing.  If Horn had said, "I _am_ your father," Hide would have
freaked out.  Horn pushes all the clues out, and lets Hide do it himself.
(There's a lot of this in the book.  It happens with Mora, too.  I wonder if
Wolfe does this a lot in his real life?  Must have been very frustrating for
his children.)

Horn reverences Pas partly out of inertia, partly because Pas is now
Passilk, with a helping of the enlightened Silk, and hence worthy of some

More to come, when I get time.

    -- Dave Lebling
        (aka vizcacha)

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