The weather’s a bit chilly. May stay in.
Posting for Travel with Intent’s Silent Sunday.
Sathiel lifted his beaker. “Caffenado,” he breathed, as though the the drink was rare and precious. “Serendipitous child of humans trying to adapt coffee to the soil of an alien world. Now one of the most widely partaken of beverages known. A major import into the Colonies, as doubtless you’re aware. And war-caste and breeder-caste Castigar can’t get enough of it — which is an unlooked-for benefit. Goes to show what can arise, when humanity travels to the stars and welcomes the alien with open hands.”— Shards of Earth, p. 142
Shards of Earth has a bit of an Expanse vibe. Let’s be clear: The main character, Idris, is nothing like James Holden: For one thing, he’s skinny and has jug ears. But he does possess a diffidence and vulnerability which makes self feel very protective towards him (just like she felt towards Holden). Go figure!
And Solace! What an interesting backstory she has! Solace is part of an Amazonian group of genetically-engineered women whose sole purpose is to fight (Men are genetically engineered to do something else. Of course women get the hardest jobs, even in the future!) Idris and Solace hooked up 40 years earlier, before she got put into a very, very long cryogenic sleep. She’s awakened to complete a mission, which is — to get Idris! She figures Idris to be about 70 years old (given the amount of time she’s been “on ice”), but when they do meet up, he looks the same age as he was when they last saw each other. Apparently, he’s immortal. Or, he’s passed so often through unspace that it keeps erasing the years. Also, he never sleeps. Never. And he’s the pilot of a nothing freighter called the Vulture God and has acquired a beautiful female side-kick who is a lawyer. Idris has all kinds of people hunting for him, which is why the lawyer is indispensable (Who knew lawyers would still exist, a thousand years into the future!). Solace isn’t jealous, because she’s also attracted to the lawyer. She can go either way.
Shards of Earth also has a Star Wars vibe. The Vulture God crew includes a colorful cast of aliens. The aliens resemble insects (multiple arms, no neck, shell carapace etc). But they have no difficulty interacting with humans. Excellent! So long as they’re not the lead characters like in Children of Time, which was about super-intelligent spiders. She just can’t get into rooting for insects. Something in self’s genetic programming allows her to empathize only with main characters who are human (unless she’s reading Becky Chambers — only Chambers can get self to identify with aliens, like she did in The Galaxy, and the Ground Within)
Self learned that Book 2 of The Final Architecture, Eyes of the Void, is already out. Taking a look at some of the reviews, she reads that the Vulture God crew is still the main focus, and that Solace is still with them. Will definitely read.
Well, hellooooo, old friend. There’s another coffeeshop just around the corner from Mendocino Hotel, but as she was headed there, a car pulled up and a woman stuck her head out and said, “Do you know any place that you can get breakfast in, around here?” Self told her, “Lansing Street” and she said, “We’ve just been, and all they have is outdoor seating, and it’s too cold!” So self said, “Fort Bragg,” and then self decided that she would head to Fort Bragg, herself.
Whoa, the drive there. This is what she remembers: IMPATIENT TRUCKS. And it was spitting rain. She passed the Mendocino Coast Botanical Garden, and Nit’s Café, and the Depot, but everything seemed closed. Then she made a right on Laurel and saw: YAY! People going in and out of Headlands Coffeehouse! She found a parking spot and went in and ordered a cappucino.
Not 10 minutes later, she heard someone saying, “Oh, hi!” and she looked up. It was the same woman who had spoken to her in Mendocino! And she said, “We just followed you here!” The woman and her husband had driven up from Santa Rosa and were staying at Little River Inn. For some reason, the woman thought self was a local, but self told her she was just visiting. “I used to teach at Mendocino Art Center,” though, self said. The woman asked if self was an artist, and rather than get into it, self said yes.
Anyhoo, that is not the real point of this post. The real point is: as she sat in Headlands, sipping her cappucino, she got to a part of The Birthday Boys (p. 138) that made her say: Holy Cow, I am so glad I persevered through all the earlier chapters. Because it’s Lt. Bowers’s chapter (Birdie) and here’s where the real suffering unfolds.
It’s all very well for Robert Falcon Scott to lament his sad fate (being beaten to the South Pole by Amundsen), but he is not the one hauling ass. He is not the one getting frostbite. It is Birdie and Dr. Wilson and the young whippersnapper Cherry-Garard who have to trek the frozen, sunless wasteland, to perform an experiment on DIET that Robert Falcon Scott ordered them to execute. This Robert Falcon Scott was definitely crazes, while the three men have spent six nights in a howling desert of ice.
Finally, the three debate whether or not to continue.
Birdie (p. 139):
“I happen to believe we can stick it.” I was speaking no more than the truth, having always found that willpower overcomes all adversities. One just has to believe that it’s within one’s spiritual domain to conquer difficulties. That is not to say that I don’t recognise there has to be a time to submit, possibly a time to die, merely that I’ve never yet been taken to the brink.
Bill (Wilson) cheered up after this and waxed on about the penguins. I must say they lead terrible lives, in that their undoubted maternal instinct leads more to infanticide than nurturing.
Self ordered squash soup for take-out, so she could enjoy it in the privacy of her room. Holy Smokes, the car was filled with such a delicious smell, she literally floored it from Fort Bragg to Mendocino, she just couldn’t wait to have this soup!
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.
Part I is done. Part II begins at 7:30 a.m, October 25, 1944. There’s quote from Samuel Eliot Morison: “In no engagement in its entire history has the United States Navy shown more gallantry, gut, and gumption than in those two morning hours between 0730 and 0930 off Samar.” (Self wishes she could show dear blog readers a map of Samar but, uh. She doesn’t want to stop reading. Maybe later. On the map of the Philippines that hangs in son’s room, Samar is one of the bigger islands in the middle of the archipelago. She wishes she could do a red arrow pointing, but she doesn’t know how)
We’re now with crew of the Johnston, just lining up for breakfast.
“Ellsworth Welch, the Johnston’s junior officer of the deck, was leaning over the rail on the port side of the bridge taking in the warm aromas of breakfast when he first saw the columns of water towering over the decks of an escort carrier.”
Down in the Johnston’s combat information center, Lt. Fred Green has picked up a transmission. He tells Lt. John C. W. Dix, who’s just walked in with a cup of coffee, “Listen, the pilot’s coming in again.” A burst of static washed through the speakers, bringing a distant voice (the voice of Ensign Bill Brooks): I’m drawing fire.
Oh, my bacon. Speechless.