the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘colonialism

The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson (The Masquerade #2)

published October 2018

where I got it:  purchased new

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I do love a character focused narrative, so The Traitor Baru Cormorant was right up my alley. That novel was narrowly focused on Baru – if she didn’t know about a city or a culture or specific laws, then the reader didn’t either. Luckily, that narrative was focused on things Baru knew – her childhood home, accounting, how to manipulate currency, and the local politics of Aurdwynn. At this point in Baru’s life, we didn’t need to know anything she didn’t know.

 

The sequel, The Monster Baru Cormorant, starts just as the first book in the series is ending. Baru’s mission to bring down Aurdwynn was more successful than anyone could have imagined.  Maybe too successful, in fact. She was supposed to keep her lover alive. Baru was supposed to allow the Empire to keep Tain Hu has a hostage against Baru’s “good behavior”. Baru may be a product of the Farrier process, but she’s also already seen how hostages are used to encourage “good behavior”.   The Empire will never have Tain Hu.

 

Baru is now the only hostage-less cryptarch.  The other cryptarchs don’t know what to make of this – does this make her more powerful than they? More unpredictable and therefore less powerful?  They have nothing they can hold of Baru, and everyone knows it. You’ll notice I’m not mentioning the other Cryptarchs by name, because spoilers.

 

In my mind, this series has become an asymmetrical crystal chandelier of sorts.  Each aspect (Baru’s lack of hostage, nature vs nurture, the culture of the Mbo, trim, the cancrioth, how you can never go home, etc) is another facet cut into the crystal that changes how the light from the center of the chandelier falls on the room.  And depending on where you are standing, maybe you’ll see direct light, or indirect light, or only a pattern of shifting shadows. The Empire of Masks means something very different, depending on where you are standing. It follows that if you don’t like the view from where you are, that a change in perspective is all you need to see in full spectrum.

 

Those who stand in Falcrest believe they are the center of the world, the center of civilization. Those who stand in Lonjaro Mbo and Segu Mbo probably feel bad for the Falcresti, with their lack of trim, isolating culture, and limited currency.  It’s also interesting to me, how few Cryptarchs are Falcresti by birth, people now forced to serve an Empire that they have zero cultural connection to.

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I recently reread China Mieville’s Iron Council, which came out in 2004 and was the third of his loosely related Bas-Lag books.  If you’re not familiar with this new-weird sci-fantasy series, you can read the three books – Perdido Street Station (2000),  The Scar (2002), and Iron Council (2004), in any order. These books take place in the same world, but follow different characters often in different parts of the world. Embassytown (2011) is most certainly not a Bas-Lag book, but in my mind it has the same feel.

 

Anyway, after finished Iron Council, of course I had to reread The Scar!  Mieville’s The Scar has long been one of my all time favorite science fiction (fantasy? other? i have no idea what this book is, except that I love it!) books, so it has been a joy to be reading this book over the last week or so.

 

With Iron Council so fresh in my mind, I can’t help but compare the two.  I’m also coming to these books with far more life experience and understanding of the  short term and long term consequences of governmental and societal decisions.  Upon reread they have completely different books. Better books with far more layers than I expected.    It’s been fun thinking about what Iron Council and The Scar have in common, but worrisome at the same time.  If they have this much in common, does that mean Mieville was telling the same story twice?

 

If you’ve not read much Mieville or any Bas-Lag books, this blog post will made no sense to you. #SorryNotSorry.

 

here’s what I mean:

Both books deal with the hubris of bending nature to our will in the name of progress – Iron Council had an unspoken thing about how easy it is to destroy nature and the homes of the people who already live there, all in the name of building a railroad. Even when the railroad is independent, there are descriptions of how the ground must be torn up and scarred for them to pass over it.  In The Scar, no spoilers, but the rulers of Armada have the hubris to assume all and any sea creatures can be exploited.

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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