December Book Club: The City in the Middle of the Night

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by flatearthpandas, Dec 5, 2019.

  1. flatearthpandas

    flatearthpandas Round Moon Bears

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    Hey folks. We're changing up the format to encourage discussion. Please feel free to post thoughts as you're reading either here or in discord, whichever is more comfortable. Of course, mark spoilers! Please alert people what chapter or general area you're on outside of the spoiler tag. At the end of the month, we'll have a chat on discord about it at general mafia day start/end times (sorry me and other Australasia folk). Please participate as you can and try to enjoy.


    p.s. I don't know if this needs saying or not, but negative impressions are completely okay! We didn't write these books, just some of us will probably like each one. Describing why the book was good or not is the heart of this. Ultimately we're here to read more and expand our way of thinking. If the books don't do that, let's find out why they should or why they fail.
     
    #1 flatearthpandas, Dec 5, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2019
  2. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

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    Reposting some thoughts I have posted on the Discord server:

    I am usually a fan of avoiding pure exposition and dropping details about how the world works organically as the plot moves along, but I think in this case I would've appreciated a more detailed breakdown of how society is structured and specifically how the calendar/time stuff works in Xiosphant towards the beginning of the book because honestly it sounds pretty fascinating and I'm not sure I've understood everything correctly.
     
  3. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

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    Something I'm also really liking so far is the pace, it feels like Part 2 was its own mini-arc and now the plot is moving on to something else entirely while using character relationships as the thing that bridges them, though I'm sure it will return to the Part 2 plot eventually.
     
  4. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

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    Right now I'm starting part 6.

    I still have no idea how it's going to end, it feels like I'm halfway through the story so it's either going to end awkwardly/abruptly, or I will be left wanting a sequel. So far I'm super enjoying it and continue to really like the pace, it never lingers for long in a single place or event (for better and for worse in some cases).
     
    #4 Fireblend, Dec 19, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2019
  5. flatearthpandas

    flatearthpandas Round Moon Bears

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    For my part, I found mouth to be very engaging. Sophie from the beginning struck me as fine but the obsession with Olivia was always grating. Like no matter how much Sophie cares about her i always thought she sucked and even the first person narrative never gave me sympathy for Olivia or made me care about Sophie
     
  6. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

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    You mean Bianca right? Or did you read it in another language where they made a weird choice with names? :P
     
  7. flatearthpandas

    flatearthpandas Round Moon Bears

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    Yeah , meant bianca. Olivia felt right for some reason haha
     
  8. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

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    Part 6 has been a rollercoaster, some of my favorite content in the book for sure.

    I know I keep talking about the pace but I really have to applaud how deliberate it feels in the way it chooses what scenes to linger on. Like, they're shown that the Gelet have part of the mothership in their city, and there's a working computer capable of showing tons of info about the humans, but that's really not what this part of the book is about so they describe the interaction with it very briefly, and instead the whole description and examples about how the Gelet deal with trauma and try to help Sophie deal with hers through their memory-sharing is given a lot more attention and described more carefully. I enjoy the descriptions of the city though I wish it felt a bit more alien. For example I think at one point Sophie talks about a shop, and I know it's not exactly a shop since the Gelet use no currency but the best analogy Sophie could come up with to describe it, but just using the word I feel removes some of the "alien-ness". Love the sudden body horror aspects too (I'm happy the operation wasn't a scene the author chose to linger in), and the posthuman/transhumanistic themes that are coming to the surface along with the deal with memories. BTW FEP, Olivia was the first human that visited the Gelet city and didn't want the operation, so maybe that's why it felt like the right name :P

    I haven't read through Mouth's big chapter in this part yet but the reveal of how and why the Citizens died is heartbreaking. Poor Mouth she's been through so much :(
     
  9. flatearthpandas

    flatearthpandas Round Moon Bears

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    Maybe that's it lol.

    To comment a bit generically on one point, giving things banal names seemed to be the point always. They mentioned in the intro how the were translating and chose whatever words were most understandable when there wasn't a direct analogue. And I assume use regular ones when there was.

    As to the effectiveness of that... I dunno. Taking the crocodiles for example and i forget what they call the other dangerous lifeforms, I felt it was a bit confusing actually. With description so sparse, I did find that the words themselves set expectations that maybe gave an appropriate feeling, but make parsing the actual image more difficult. It was a good idea in theory, but I mentioned in discord when I first started that a clockwork orange style might have been more enjoyable, just tossing us in the deepend with unfamiliar terms and letting us parse it gradually. Although, i guess ironically, my actual complaint at that time was with too much explaining certain things. Gonna need to review the overall a bit more but the feeling is dissatisfaction with that aspect to this point
     
  10. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

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    Finished part 6, easily my favorite part of the book so far. Hoping it continues like this until the end but I suspect
    it's gonna either try to do a lot of things very fast to resolve everything, or it will end in a way that makes me want a sequel really badly.
     
  11. heymonkey

    heymonkey yesssss my guinea pigs

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    I just started yesterday, because I was wrapping up a series, but the writing is beautiful. I came in totally blind and I'm very anxious (I'm not even a fourth in yet, I think) but oh my goodness, the prose is just lovely.
     
  12. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

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    Enjoy! It indeed is really well written. And it should be a short read if you want to be done before the month is over, but I really appreciated having taking it slow so I could really savour it :D
     
  13. Natiko

    Natiko Town's Friendly Neighborhood Serial Killer

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    Just started this today. Currently only 12% in - just jumped back to Sophie after a bit of time has passed. So far I’m not really digging it. Feels like it’s dangling several threads without making any of them interesting enough for me to care about yet. I’m going to keep at it for now though.

    Oddly I’ve actually found the book a bit too verbose so far. Some sentences just go on and on, adding multiple qualifiers and descriptors along the way. It’s not poorly written or anything, but in a book that doesn’t seem to want to share much in the way of plot to interest me - it’s very interested in overly describing relatively mundane things.

    Yeah, okay, I got it. Please give me something to care about though.
     
  14. Natiko

    Natiko Town's Friendly Neighborhood Serial Killer

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    27% in. The book is finally starting to show signs of life and plot. If it continues like this there maybe be hope yet.
     
  15. heymonkey

    heymonkey yesssss my guinea pigs

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    I feel like this happens mostly in Sophie sections and it’s indicative of how she’s talking her way into her own thoughts. Like trying to convince herself that what she thinks is what she thinks. Developing permission to think it.
     
  16. Natiko

    Natiko Town's Friendly Neighborhood Serial Killer

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    A fair point, but it was pretty grating at a time when I was struggling to care. It’s finally picking up some, 34% in or so I think.
     
  17. flatearthpandas

    flatearthpandas Round Moon Bears

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    Interesting to see natiko"s opinion evolving because mine never really changed. think i need to reread just to prepare because the prose conversation is going to be most interesting for me i think
     
  18. Natiko

    Natiko Town's Friendly Neighborhood Serial Killer

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    Around the 58% mark I think, and it’s been fizzling out again.

    This book just does not seem to want to do much of anything plot wise. This current section with Bianca plotting out revenge again just feels like such a retread. Mouth’s slow disallusion with the Citizens is okay, I guess, but it’s not particularly engrossing. Sophie and the Gelet plotline needs to pick up steam, because it’s about the only narrative thread that I can see having any real worth. Running out of book though so I wonder if there’s even enough time to maneuver for that in a satisfying way.
     
  19. Natiko

    Natiko Town's Friendly Neighborhood Serial Killer

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    Finished Part Four. My summary in one word?

    Groan
     
  20. Natiko

    Natiko Town's Friendly Neighborhood Serial Killer

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    Annnnnnd done. If anyone comes away liking this ending that didn’t like the ending of All She Was Worth I swear I will fight them.

    This entire book feels like it should have been at most half of a full book. Probably only a third honestly. Not just a book three times as long either - this definitely could have used some condensing. I don’t think any of the characters were particularly likeable. Mouth is probably the only one I didn’t mind, and even she was a tad annoying at times. They wasted so much time building up to Sophie joining the Gelet just to do fuck all with that in the end. You could argue the earlier build up was more to setup Bianca being a garbage person, but I feel like that was easy to see coming from miles away - like way back when Sophie first sneaks back to see her from afar.

    There are things in this book I liked and concepts that interested me, but ultimately it felt like a huge waste of potential with too much meandering and nowhere near enough pay off. Easily my least favorite book so far. It’s not even a contest.

    Edit:

    Also
    The last section of the book managed to both be rushed AND not cover nearly enough ground to be a satisfying conclusion. So you’re saying Mouth easily found a way to break in to Alyssa without being caught AND this same route conveniently let her break into the impenetrable palace? The palace that actually was super easy to break into and overthrow? It retroactively makes the first part of the book seem absurd in how oppressive it painted them out to be. Also, the Gelet were kinda fucking stupid. Like they had the means to wipe out the Citizens, but waited to do so until after extreme damage had already been done? Damage they apparently can’t easily reverse? This extremely advanced alien species has all this technology and the ability to plan as a hive mind and all they come up with is send altered Sophie into town and hope she figures it out? Even after what they saw happens when some people are subjected to the visions? And the reason we’re given for why this needs to happen is basically “uh there’s some places and things only the humans can do - don’t worry about it this is important okay”?

    Okay I’m done venting for now.
     
    #20 Natiko, Dec 25, 2019
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2019
  21. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

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    Can't relate to those criticisms at all, I felt like all of those are just ways in which the book was being coherent with its themes.

    To me the pace was excellent as I've said; I liked how it was broken up into distinct arcs, with the failed complot at Xiosphant, the failed attempt at normalcy and then the plot to escape at Argello, the body horror at the midnight city and the finale back at Xiosphant. If anything, it felt to me like I'd read at least 3 books in a series, and seeing how this is in development as a TV show I have no doubt they have tons of material for like 2 seasons honestly.

    About the likability of the characters, I don't feel like any of them is specifically designed to be likable? Like, the book is about dealing with trauma so I feel like it might be too much to ask of the characters that they should never be misguided or take bad decisions. I could identify with both Mouth and Sophie (and maybe even Bianca) at different parts of the book, Mouth is extremely driven and ruthless at the beginning but we later learn she's motivated by the trauma of having lost her family and literally not feeling like a full person due to their upbringing having been stopped in its tracks. Later she sort-of gives up but is unable to find a purpose until she's made to confront the reality of what killed the others. Sophie is already very introverted and further traumatized by her experience at the beginning of the book, and struggles to relate to humanity as she becomes closer to the Gelet and is continually betrayed by Bianca, until she too is forced to confront that weakness by being sent to Xiosphant as an ambassador thingy for the Gelet. I'm not sure what you mean by "earlier" buildup either, other than the first part right before she's taken outside the city and meets the Gelet, I feel like the book drops you right where it should.

    Also:

    - I don't think how easy the palace was to enter/overthrow feels out of place or made the first part seem absurd (Mouth was already super confident about getting into the vault herself and retrieving The Invention as long as she had a distraction), specially considering the themes of people taking the systems around them for granted you could take the palace to be a reflection of that; the "time" system in place at Xiosphant was completely arbitrary but due to how it linked to human behavior in the city and was systematically enforced, it was just accepted. I also think it's useful to show Bianca's hubris; her motivations were dishonest obviously but beyond that she gave up as soon as she understood what changing the system actually meant; the book doesn't really seem interested in violence unless it serves to further or confront its characters' trauma, so an "invasion" scene would have felt out of place IMO.

    - About the Gelet plans being stupid, I guess it does partly require some suspension of disbelief as a way to thrust Sophie and Mouth back into Xiosphant, but I don't find it that incredibly hard to believe that a species with the ability to share thoughts without subjectivity and is shown to be very pacifist would believe that the answer to contacting humanity would be to send an ambassador in the form of a "universal translator" that can both communicate with humans and Gelet. I don't think they super understand violence; Sophie believes that they'll resent her for the encounters where they end up being attacked but they don't really hold it against her and just deal with their wounds, and I don't remember if they apologize or show regret of any form when showing the vision of the citizens' death to Mouth, but it felt more like they were trying to fill in the gaps of Mouth knowledge because that's what their view of "correctness" is rather than trying to trigger some transcendental realization in her or as a way of atoning for the citizens' deaths like they owe Mouth something.

    Overall I think this is my favorite book from the club so far, and I would say it's my favorite book this year except I also read A Closed and Common Orbit and that one was just as good.
     
  22. heymonkey

    heymonkey yesssss my guinea pigs

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    I’m still not done so I’m not reading spoilers (about 75% now), but one small thing I have really liked is how the weirdness of the world is revealed. Like two headed ostriches and that the foods with the same names are not the same. Crocodiles were the first big examples obviously but it’s just been a neat thing throughout.
     
  23. Natiko

    Natiko Town's Friendly Neighborhood Serial Killer

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    I get caught up in my ragging on the book that I will say stuff like this didn't get mentioned. I also thought the way these alien concepts got named were a nice touch.
     
  24. Fireblend

    Fireblend ABLF

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    Here's an attempt at archiving the live conversation we had on Discord. The formatting sucks unfortunately, since it's just a copy-paste from the discord window using the "compact" messages setting to avoid avatars getting copied too.

    Spoilers for the whole book:

    [2:56 PM]flatearthpandas:
    cool

    [3:03 PM]flatearthpandas:
    okay, i think this is the time set for december discussion to begin

    [3:03 PM]flatearthpandas:
    both in thread and on discord, open season on spoilers

    [3:04 PM]flatearthpandas:
    for the city in the middle of the night

    [3:04 PM]NewYearNuevo:
    Memory police is good I can't wait to discuss it (Just finished it)

    [3:05 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Yay

    [3:05 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    So the discussion is happening in this channel @flatearthpandas ?

    [3:05 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    I really enjoyed the book, might be my favorite out of añl book clubs so far

    [3:05 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Hopefully Natiko shows up to debate me, that coward

    [3:06 PM]flatearthpandas:
    unless we want to make a different channel, but I think here should be good


    NewYearNuevo pinned a message to this channel. See all the pins.Last Sunday at 3:06 PM

    [3:06 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Yeah this works

    [3:06 PM]NewYearNuevo:
    Pinning to make it easier to find later

    [3:06 PM]NewYearNuevo:
    Carry on

    [3:06 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Thanks cap

    [3:07 PM]flatearthpandas:
    so i was going to try and re-read the book yesterday but got a bit distracted. got through about 15-20% though

    [3:07 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Anyway yeah, great book, lived its approach to dealing with trauma and it's distaste for enacting violence and even representing that violence in a "cool" way

    [3:08 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    The pacing I also thought was quite good (I'm on mobile so only short thoughts from me sadly)

    [3:08 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Very deliberate

    [3:09 PM]flatearthpandas:
    i thought the pacing was a bit quick

    [3:09 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    I liked that

    [3:10 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    I felt like otherwise this would be a long winded 3 book series or something like that, it definitely abridges what it isn't interested in and as a result it can be a bit jarring that it doesn't linger for long in like action sequences and stuff like that

    [3:10 PM]flatearthpandas:
    like there was a lot of important things that were just skipped. it allows the story to move forward more quickly, but i also found that it seemed to just dwell on certain things as well

    [3:10 PM]flatearthpandas:
    sure, and that's fair

    [3:10 PM]flatearthpandas:
    and ultimately, i think it is better to have things shorter than longer

    [3:11 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    The dwelling often happens when it comes to its central themes, like when it describes previous experiences the Gelet have had when dealing with trauma inflicted upon their own

    [3:12 PM]flatearthpandas:
    can you refresh me on that?

    [3:13 PM]flatearthpandas:
    like the injured gelet?

    [3:13 PM]flatearthpandas:
    who can't rejoin society properly

    [3:13 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    When they're in the city in the middle of the night Sophie describes how a Gelet was depressed and their approach led to that Gelet commiting suicide

    [3:13 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    And then, yeah, that one

    [3:13 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    She provides several examples

    [3:14 PM]flatearthpandas:
    i remembered them being the same

    [3:15 PM]flatearthpandas:
    but am now remembering the injured one is set to show sophie around the city

    [3:15 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Yup

    [3:15 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    The one that committed suicide I think saw several getting killed by an avalanche or something like that

    [3:15 PM]flatearthpandas:
    lost their mate maybe?

    [3:15 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    The one that shows Sophie around is the one that she got injured without wanting

    [3:15 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Something like that yeay

    [3:16 PM]flatearthpandas:
    sure

    [3:16 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Something I also liked was the structure

    [3:16 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Liked the "mini arcs", I thought they were sectioned well and didn't overstay their welcome

    [3:17 PM]flatearthpandas:
    i liked the parts in the gelet city overall. wish we heard more from mouth in those parts

    [3:17 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Yup, I would've liked her last chapter in that arc to be longer

    [3:18 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    I don't know if I'm not remembering something, but it feels like she's the least "resolved" character

    [3:19 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    She just decided to go with Sophie and shuts out the Citizen's massacre

    [3:19 PM]flatearthpandas:
    i gotta talk about bianca at some point. i think she is absolutely terrible in just about every way. but i want to get back to that later

    [3:19 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Oh she is

    [3:19 PM]flatearthpandas:
    i don't just mean as a character

    [3:19 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    I do like Alyssa

    [3:19 PM]flatearthpandas:
    alyssa is good

    [3:20 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    She's the most "victim of circumstances" character

    [3:20 PM]flatearthpandas:
    going back to mouth and the citizens. that is probably the thing i liked the most about the whole book

    [3:20 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    What about them specifically

    [3:21 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    I think it was a bit hard to believe that Mouth had never heard of the professor that studied them, or had never thought of the ex-citizen cook as someone she could turn to

    [3:21 PM]flatearthpandas:
    the way mouth holds their memories changes drastically throughout

    [3:21 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    That's true

    [3:22 PM]flatearthpandas:
    she didn't know about the cook either, the professor has to tell her he's around

    [3:22 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Yeah but I think she did know about the cook beforehand? Like she used to visit the restaurant with the other citizens

    [3:23 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    I do like how Mouth's journey is just going from an idealized version of the citizens to basically learning they were the worst for the planet

    [3:23 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Harsh truth after harsh truth

    [3:23 PM]flatearthpandas:
    so i liked a lot it changes from "the invention" being this plot device in the first few parts that drives mouth to do things she otherwise wouldn't consider. to toward the end when bianca is crowing about having destroyed it and mouth has grown so much by that time that she doesn't really care

    [3:24 PM]flatearthpandas:
    i don't think she used to visit the restaurant with the citizens. the cook just dropped from the group not long before they were destroyed. he was their cook when he was with the citizens though

    [3:25 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    @Natiko fight me

    [3:25 PM]Natiko:
    Totally forgot about this

    [3:26 PM]Natiko:
    Let me read through real quick

    [3:26 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Hmm that might be it. I do agree that the way her conception of the invention evolves as a reflection of how much she idolizes citizens is neat

    [3:27 PM]flatearthpandas:
    a thought that struck me yesterday, the entire book is pretty much centered on mouth, but i don't think it was meant to be

    [3:27 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    And that is reflected in the inventions role as a literary resource

    [3:27 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    I mean the book is half hers I'd say

    [3:28 PM]flatearthpandas:
    but if sophie was taken to the gelek city in the very beginning, pretty nothing about her role would change. but she wouldn't have mouth

    [3:28 PM]Natiko:
    Hard disagree with pretty much everything as far as pacing goes

    [3:28 PM]flatearthpandas:
    so the whole book is pretty much just about why sophie has mouth

    [3:28 PM]Natiko:
    It’s one thing to go “look at all these arcs that happened”

    [3:28 PM]Natiko:
    But the actual book spends most of the time within each of those arcs doing fuck all

    [3:29 PM]flatearthpandas:
    the less said about bianca the better, because she is the worst. and it is insane that she drives anything about the plot forward. like i'm onboard with sophie idolizing her because she is in love with her, but it is ridiculous that anyone else buys her shit at all. especially alyssa

    [3:29 PM]Natiko:
    Mouth has actual character development and is probably the most realized character overall

    [3:29 PM]Natiko:
    But everyone else just sort of exists

    [3:30 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Disagree with that being what the book is about, it's about people dealing with trauma, like Sophie arriving in the midnight city without confronting what came before doesn't prepare her for the 2 "tests" she encounters in Xiosphant: the offer to join Bianca, and the offer to join a second "freedom fighters let's go" group

    [3:30 PM]flatearthpandas:
    yeah but she fails those tests anyway

    [3:30 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    She doesn't, she rejects both

    [3:30 PM]flatearthpandas:
    for like a sescond

    [3:31 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    She refuses to be a tool of empire and a tool of violence in general

    [3:31 PM]flatearthpandas:
    until bianca comes running for her

    [3:31 PM]flatearthpandas:
    ultimately bianca rejects sophie

    [3:31 PM]Natiko:
    But she’s also is dumb enough still to think Bianca is redeemable and worthy of rushing to

    [3:32 PM]Natiko:
    She undergoes this huge change and joins this hive mind

    [3:32 PM]Natiko:
    ...just to abandon all sense to rush to her side

    [3:32 PM]flatearthpandas:
    and she would have rejected her just the same if their first contact was already after post-change with all of that time being spent in gelek society preparing for things

    [3:33 PM]flatearthpandas:
    i'm not saying absolutely nothing would be different, but effectively very little. but the overall narrative really serves more to put mouth beside sophie than anything else

    [3:34 PM]flatearthpandas:
    and tbh the whole book would be better off with about 90% less bianca

    [3:35 PM]flatearthpandas:
    moving to... positive notes? sexuality was an interesting note that doesn't get a lot of time spent on it

    [3:36 PM]Natiko:
    But to what end?

    [3:38 PM]Natiko:
    What does the book pay off by putting Mouth with Sophie? We get a conclusion to Mouth’s struggle with the past. That piece I’ll say is the one thing I enjoyed from the book (even if I thought it was contrived how it occurred)

    [3:39 PM]flatearthpandas:
    putting mouth and sophie together is mostly a payoff for mouth

    [3:39 PM]Natiko:
    But aside from that - what payoff is there exactly? I don’t think the book does anything of interest with the buildup to Sophie joining the Gelet. The entire last arc of the book just does nothing for me.

    [3:39 PM]flatearthpandas:
    it's kind of the final step in mouth accepting the past, when she is going to protect sophie and help kick off the mass transformation of humanity despite them being the ones who wiped out the citizens

    [3:40 PM]flatearthpandas:
    or maybe because of. becuase the inability to communicate was a key factor in what made their demise necessary

    [3:40 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Man, I do see a lot of evolution from Sophie. But it would make no sense for her to become some sort of Superman back in Xiosphant and reject her humanity and feelings for Bianca

    [3:41 PM]flatearthpandas:
    she wouldn't need to reject her humanity

    [3:41 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    And I don't think that last arc would go the same way if it wasn't for what she'd lived before

    [3:41 PM]Natiko:
    So much of the last bits of the book only work if you assume the Gelet are dumb as rocks

    [3:42 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    I mean, the same solutions don't occur to them that would occur to humans I think

    [3:42 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    They're naive at worst

    [3:42 PM]flatearthpandas:
    she completely fails to reject bianca anyway, so we could cut out most of the book. send sophie back to the city after her change. she finds bianca. bianca rejects her in exactly the same way as she does in the actual book.

    [3:42 PM]flatearthpandas:
    what do you mean, natiko

    [3:42 PM]Natiko:
    They’re a hive mind species that are supposedly able to come up with grand ideas due to their collective thought

    [3:43 PM]flatearthpandas:
    we don't really see much grand ideas from them. mostly just grand feats of engineering

    [3:43 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    They are a stagnant species, I don't know why you'd want them to come up with some brilliant deus ex machina that wrapped everything up neatly

    [3:44 PM]Natiko:
    But somehow they don’t piece together the ramifications of the Citizens taking the flowers that are vital to the planet’s stability until it is too late to be corrected? That’s not a hard thing to puzzle together. It doesn’t even imply they made other attempts prior to wiping them out. So if that was their one solution, why falter past the point of no return?

    [3:44 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    They're bound to the planet the same way as the humans, and they achieved some engineering feats but other than that I don't think they're portrayed as some super powerful civilization

    [3:44 PM]flatearthpandas:
    @hey_monkey got some thoughts on the book?

    [3:45 PM]Natiko:
    You don’t have to be super powerful to have an ounce of forethought

    [3:45 PM]Natiko:
    They clearly understand letting the flowers be removed will fuck the planet, so if that’s the case why delay so long?

    [3:45 PM]flatearthpandas:
    iirc, they have a pretty good idea that humans are going to fuck the planet from the minute they land

    [3:46 PM]Natiko:
    They have observed humans fighting and killing for however long, hundreds of years

    [3:46 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    What I'll say is, their behavior is much more about their interiority and their ideation then about manifesting then into action

    [3:47 PM]Natiko:
    But they think the move is send their one hope to assimilate humans (all to..get in small spaces?) to a city relatively alone

    [3:47 PM]Natiko:
    I’m not saying I needed everything to work out

    [3:48 PM]Natiko:
    I didn’t need everyone to be happy and all live forever the end

    [3:48 PM]Natiko:
    But it doesn’t feel like the characters (or in the case of Gelet an entire species) follow any sort of sensability

    [3:49 PM]Natiko:
    It felt like any number of other media when you see character A do extremely, obviously dumb B for the sake of conflict and plot

    [3:49 PM]flatearthpandas:
    i mean, i'm okay with them having bad ideas to a certain degree, although that certainly pushes it a lot, but the fact that it works is more boggling. the only thing crazier is that bianca managest to take xiosphant but again literally everything surrounding her is ridiculously bad anyway

    [3:50 PM]Natiko:
    Sophie is willing to abandon everything to go to the Gelet, she willingly assimilates, learns so much of their history and memories, only to risk all of that for fucking Bianca AGAIN who she had already willingly abandoned. It was a needless relapse in her character for the sake of drama

    [3:51 PM]flatearthpandas:
    fireblend, seems like you're approaching things more thematically. can you go into that more

    [3:51 PM]flatearthpandas:
    major themes: coming of age

    [3:51 PM]Natiko:
    And the entire time she’s narrating it like “yeah this is a bad idea” lol

    [3:53 PM]flatearthpandas:
    beyond coming of age, i don't know. the book has two major relationships between characters: sophie bianca and mouth alyssa. i don't know if there's really any growth there though

    [3:53 PM]flatearthpandas:
    sophie has to grow a bit

    [3:54 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Bianca to me is elitism and classism personified, seamlessly integrates into Argello, leading comes easy to her and is easily obtained, people buy into her plans too easily and she herself is naive and misguided

    [3:56 PM]flatearthpandas:
    sure. as a personification. as a character she is very jarring. because she so obviously sucks it just makes everyone in the book seem dumber

    [3:57 PM]flatearthpandas:
    if only sophie was into it, it would've been a-okay for me

    [3:57 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    I disagree, she is portrayed very optimistically from Sophie's pov at the beginning, and I think she did buy into those ideas for a good chunk of the book

    [3:57 PM]Natiko:
    I will say to double back, I thought the book did seem like it wanted to touch on sexuality, but I didn’t find that it ever dove into the topic enough to really be noteworthy

    [3:57 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    I don't think she"obviously sucks" from the beginning

    [3:58 PM]flatearthpandas:
    but as a reader, i'm okay with sophie being all for bianca. but it doesn't make sense that literally everyone is. the book opens up with sophies monologuing about bianca. i get that she loves her and that's fine

    [3:58 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    And if it's hinted at, it's through Sophie being enamoured with them

    [3:58 PM]flatearthpandas:
    but bianca never does absoltely anything to make me as a reader respect her at all

    [3:58 PM]Natiko:
    The relationship only works because Sophie is oblivious. It’s very obvious as a reader she’s bad news and is purely using Sophie a majority of the time

    [3:59 PM]Natiko:
    Any time Sophie has doubts you see Bianca turn on the charm, do just enough to keep her on the hook and then she’s instantly back to “me me me”

    [3:59 PM]flatearthpandas:
    doubling back as well, agreed about sexuality natiko. i don't think we ever really get anything too meaningful from it

    [4:00 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    You're asking how a charismatic, naive person spousing ideas of freedom and liberation would be appealing to others?

    [4:01 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    And already in a position of power and class

    [4:01 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    I do think the novel is very alegoric

    [4:01 PM]flatearthpandas:
    sorry if i exaggerate a bit

    [4:02 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Like, maybe if they had a super long speech that shows her convincing Alyssa and Dash about the invasion

    [4:02 PM]flatearthpandas:
    but bianca is a character in the book. i never found her to be charismatic at all. we are told she's charismatic

    [4:02 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Then it'd be more explicit how she exerts the power her position gives her to her benefit

    [4:02 PM]flatearthpandas:
    she isn't capable of making a big speech as far as i know

    [4:03 PM]flatearthpandas:
    she doesn't seem capable of absolutely anything

    [4:03 PM]flatearthpandas:
    she just does things and people agree with her

    [4:03 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Yeah, hard disagree there

    [4:04 PM]flatearthpandas:
    tbh, i think it is the author's failure. i don't think the author could actually write the character that she wants bianca to be. so we're supposed to believe that she is what sophie says she is

    [4:04 PM]flatearthpandas:
    but i as a reader was never even a little impressed with her

    [4:06 PM]flatearthpandas:
    when were you?

    [4:06 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Can't say I relate to that at all, I think the book portrays all characters really well, including Bianca, not sure I can say much more that I havent said about how consistently I think she's written

    [4:06 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    And portrays exactly what she's meant to portray

    [4:07 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Her interiority isn't explored much, but then again we really only go deep on Mouth and Sophie

    [4:07 PM]flatearthpandas:
    i'm not worried about her interior

    [4:07 PM]flatearthpandas:
    i found her exterior to be completely lacking

    [4:07 PM]flatearthpandas:
    when, as a reader, were you actually impressed by bianca in the way every character in the book seems to be?

    [4:07 PM]Natiko:
    I understand what FEP is saying. We know Sophie is enamored, but we are never given a glimpse into a person worth being enamored by

    [4:08 PM]Natiko:
    I get it with Sophie, because Sophie really only seems to care that she is seen

    [4:08 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    I really didn't think I needed to be

    [4:08 PM]Natiko:
    I think it’s a lot more strange what she pulls off with Dash

    [4:09 PM]Natiko:
    With the only real justification shown being that she’s foreign to them

    [4:09 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Dash and Bianca feed off each other, except I don't think Dash is naive or misguided at all, he's purely there for his own benefit

    [4:10 PM]Natiko:
    Ultimately though I think this is a good example of mine and Fire’s differing opinions

    [4:10 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    And sees Bianca as a means to an end and then his companion

    [4:10 PM]Natiko:
    I wanted to see the “whys” and “becauses”

    [4:10 PM]Natiko:
    And in many places the book sidesteps doing so

    [4:11 PM]Natiko:
    How that lands will differ from person to person

    [4:11 PM]flatearthpandas:
    i think a lot of my issues would be solved if the entire thing with dash never happened

    [4:12 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Sure, I'm the kind of reader that believes a narrator even if unreliable without much need for showing that sort of stuff because that's how I empathize with the character and get into a book

    [4:13 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Now I wonder if maybe I'd have the same complaint for the lack of justification if Sophie's parts weren't written in first person

    [4:13 PM]flatearthpandas:
    but bianca is also in mouth's sections

    [4:13 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Because I'm not looking for the book to explain Sophie to me, I want to become them in a way and inhabit their character(edited)

    [4:13 PM]flatearthpandas:
    fire, i think we're all in agreement about sophie and her perspective on bianca

    [4:14 PM]flatearthpandas:
    we all get why sophie looks at her that way

    [4:14 PM]flatearthpandas:
    and i think have no issues with it

    [4:15 PM]Natiko:
    I believe Mouth is impressed by Bianca due to the first journey across the sea. Something about her resolve. Could be misremembering

    [4:15 PM]flatearthpandas:
    when someone gets punked by a bison, she's the one who tells everyone to keep going

    [4:15 PM]flatearthpandas:
    this was in mouth's section so we see her in action

    [4:15 PM]flatearthpandas:
    i thnk

    [4:15 PM]Natiko:
    Right, that was it

    [4:16 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Yeah but to me reading from Sophie that she's charismatic makes her charismatic to everyone, at least to a degree. Not everyone becomes as enamoured with Bianca as Sophie, but she does convince Alyssa to join her invasion, she does show herself to be useful to Dash. Sophie is not enamoured for no reason.

    [4:16 PM]flatearthpandas:
    but, let me grab the book actually, this would maybe be a good chance

    [4:17 PM]flatearthpandas:
    i don't see that fire. what sophie thinks of her, if just that. sophie is a girl from a low class with a crush on the first person she believes really sees her for who she is

    [4:17 PM]flatearthpandas:
    i don't think that has anything to do with how anyone else should be looking at her, especially when i can look at her myself even through sophie's lens and not buy into it

    [4:17 PM]Natiko:
    I don’t mind having to accept unreliable narrators and flawed world views in a POV, but I’ll never be able to look past the abject dumb decisions that I don’t feel are earned

    [4:18 PM]flatearthpandas:
    didn't expect bianca to be a point of contention like this lol

    [4:18 PM]flatearthpandas:
    natiko, anything you liked about the book?

    [4:18 PM]Natiko:
    I don’t feel like the book justifies the decisions that are made at times, and it just really turned me off

    [4:18 PM]Natiko:
    I do like Mouth’s development

    [4:19 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Yeah, I disagree with all of that. Also pretty sure Bianca isn't a "low class girl"? She's from an elite background no?

    [4:19 PM]Natiko:
    Early on when we learn what the instrument is and everything I remember thinking “wow this seems incredibly overhyped for what it is - I have a hard time seeing how getting this back would really be fulfilling”

    [4:19 PM]flatearthpandas:
    sophie is the low class girl

    [4:19 PM]flatearthpandas:
    not bianca

    [4:19 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Oh, ok

    [4:19 PM]Natiko:
    And as the book progresses you see Mouth slowly come to terms with that same thing

    [4:20 PM]Natiko:
    That it wouldn’t fulfill her in the way she hoped, that her memory of it is probably better than the reality

    [4:21 PM]Natiko:
    That she had turned the Citizens into a larger than life, idealistic group when ultimately they were just people too.

    [4:21 PM]flatearthpandas:
    this is where coming of age came into it a lot as well

    [4:22 PM]flatearthpandas:
    even though mouth is fairly old, she never went through the ceremony and so she was constantly looking at them as a child looks to the adults

    [4:22 PM]Natiko:
    I think this book would’ve been better served if you cut the Gelet out entirely

    [4:23 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    the coming of age aspects are much heavier with Mouth, I don't think Sophie went through much of that

    [4:23 PM]Natiko:
    Because ultimately they mainly serve to make Sophie feel more comfortable and to serve as the explanation behind why the Citizens died

    [4:24 PM]Natiko:
    Neither of those two things really feel significant enough for all of the larger issues I have with how the Gelet are handled as well as Sophie’s actions in the last section

    [4:25 PM]flatearthpandas:
    sophie joining the gelet society and finally finding a place where she does belong to the point of going through body modification and having to be confident enough to go out and recruit is kind of a coming of age

    [4:25 PM]flatearthpandas:
    not in a ritualistic type of way, but remember this is the girl who barely speaks more than a few words to anyone for most of the book

    [4:26 PM]Natiko:
    Sort of I guess

    [4:26 PM]Natiko:
    But then she’s forced back out, so it doesn’t really land the same way

    [4:26 PM]flatearthpandas:
    sure

    [4:27 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    I mean, the gelet are there for humans to come to the planet, not understand the inhabitants with their hubris and destroy their habitat and themselves. They also serve to explore the ideas about memories the book is looking to explore - like Mouth's idealization of the citizens through the gaps in her knowledge vs the perfect recall of the Gelet, and Sophie's inability to communicate her feelings to Bianca at different points in the novel and the pretty much limitless thought sharing that they are capable of.

    [4:28 PM]Natiko:
    But the examples you provided don’t really occur

    [4:29 PM]Natiko:
    Mouth’s disillusion with the Citizens doesn’t come about due to the perfect recall of the Gelet

    [4:29 PM]Natiko:
    Sophie becoming a hybrid does not allow her to communicate her feelings to Bianca correctly

    [4:30 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Sophie communicating with Bianca correctly would be silly, she's a lost cause

    [4:30 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    She's able to communicate with what's her name at the end of the book

    [4:31 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    And Mouth is made to confront her memories throughout the entire book culminating with the harsh truth that is shown to her

    [4:32 PM]flatearthpandas:
    I guess I disagree that mouth's memories are really the issue, so much as her hang-up of arrested development from never having properly grown up

    [4:32 PM]flatearthpandas:
    as for sophie, sure, absolutely the gelet are a foil to her communication problems

    [4:33 PM]flatearthpandas:
    Who does she communicate with at the end? I remember a rebel leader or something being super keen. Is it the kid from the beginning? Jeremy

    [4:34 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    It's someone from the parlour

    [4:34 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    But I don't think it's jeremy

    [4:34 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Maybe it is?

    [4:34 PM]flatearthpandas:
    Hernan was dead, I thought Jeremy was the only other character from the parlour

    [4:34 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    There was someone else, no?

    [4:34 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Maybe it is Jeremy and I'm misremembering

    [4:35 PM]Natiko:
    Jeremy is the one that wants to use her power to build a resistance group

    [4:35 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Oh right, thanks

    [4:35 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Who does she meet at the end?

    [4:35 PM]Natiko:
    There is yet another person she uses it on effectively right at the end

    [4:36 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Checking...

    [4:36 PM]Natiko:
    I don’t think it’s a previously known person, but I could be wrong

    [4:36 PM]flatearthpandas:
    alyssa at the end

    [4:36 PM]Natiko:
    Is it Alyssa at the end?

    [4:36 PM]flatearthpandas:
    yet

    [4:36 PM]flatearthpandas:
    yeah

    [4:36 PM]flatearthpandas:
    forgot about that

    [4:37 PM]Natiko:
    That’s right. She’s basically supposed to serve, I assume, as a sign that maybe there’s hope yet for this (bad) plan

    [4:38 PM]Natiko:
    I just wish it went further with that plot line or ditched it entirely

    [4:39 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    I'm ok with it ending there but I'd also like a sequel

    [4:39 PM]Natiko:
    Fire - do you feel satisfied with how the book wrapped up? Mouth is reunited with Alyssa, Bianca is still in control with Dash, and maybe Sophie is going to sway people (maybe)

    [4:39 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    But it probably does defeat the purpose

    [4:39 PM]Natiko:
    Whoops you answered as I typed

    [4:39 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    Yeah, I feel like I can respect it ending there but I would have liked more for sure

    [4:40 PM]Natiko:
    I feel like a sequel would make sense but this is coming from the person that feels the book left too much unfinished or unexplained

    [4:40 PM]Natiko:
    If I knew there would be a sequel I probably would have less complaints, but when I did a quick search the author seemed to indicate here wouldn’t be

    [4:41 PM]flatearthpandas:
    i don't think i'd read a sequel

    [4:42 PM]flatearthpandas:
    there are a few nice turns-of-phrase in sophie's sections particularly, but while i enjoyed the theme of mouth's story overall, getting down and dirty and actually engaging with the prose was not enjoyable for me, which is probably my biggest issue with the book

    [4:43 PM]Natiko:
    If this was part 1 of 2-3 then at least I would be able to justify some of the choices - like yeah there isn’t a strict plan laid out as to why assimilating humans is going to be useful, nor does there seem to be much sense to what Sophie is doing - but if there were planned sequels I could at least assume those topics would be expanded on

    [4:43 PM]Natiko:
    It’s the idea that what is here is meant to be a satisfying conclusion that just left me extra bitter

    [4:44 PM]Natiko:
    I’d read them, but I have a need to complete things I start usually

    [4:44 PM]Natiko:
    I’ll watch bad shows or read bad book series just to say I finished

    [4:44 PM]flatearthpandas:
    we might be onto something there though. if it finishes without that, it should mean that that is just dressing for a theme that should feel finished, and should feel finished in alyssa accepting sophie

    [4:44 PM]Natiko:
    Looking at you The Giver quartet

    [4:45 PM]flatearthpandas:
    this is kind of a reverse of last month's book, which also ended in a way that people didn't like, and i found myself in reverse positions with fire on that one. but i thought thematically, last month's book finished exactly where it needed to thematically

    [4:46 PM]flatearthpandas:
    i'm sorry, that sounds rough. i drop things readily if i don't enjoy them and will look up spoilers if anything about the story seemed interesting

    [4:47 PM]Natiko:
    I thought last month’s ending was fine

    [4:47 PM]Natiko:
    People wanted to hear a little extra about the killer, I get it, but it didn’t leave huge threads dangling

    [4:48 PM]flatearthpandas:
    what it seemed is there is a difference in expectation in readers between the narrative itself vs the themes

    [4:48 PM]Natiko:
    This book is like if someone was writing a book about WWII and ended it as boats were approaching Omaha Beach on D-Day

    [4:48 PM]flatearthpandas:
    which seems to be something possibly at play here as well

    [4:49 PM]Natiko:
    No explanation as to why. It just cuts off

    [4:49 PM]Natiko:
    Figure it out yourself

    [4:49 PM]Dynamax Fireblend:
    sorry, I have to head out

    [4:49 PM]Natiko:
    No worries Fire - it was nice chatting. I’m glad you enjoyed the book even if I didn’t

    [4:49 PM]flatearthpandas:
    alright, glad we could chat, fire

    [4:50 PM]flatearthpandas:
    where this book actually ends is that the planet is borked. sophie is able to directly spread the good news about our lords and saviors the gelet to one person

    [4:51 PM]flatearthpandas:
    alyssa is looking for a reason to believe and sophie is able to give it to her

    [4:51 PM]Natiko:
    Except we have literally no idea exactly how humans receiving this message is going to do much of anything

    [4:52 PM]flatearthpandas:
    well we know from the very beginning that sophie wins

    [4:52 PM]flatearthpandas:
    so humanity mass evolves on the planet

    [4:52 PM]flatearthpandas:
    so theme should be the main thing at play here. but i can't settle on a satisfying one

    [4:53 PM]flatearthpandas:
    i think my overall satisfaction with mouth just might be happy coincidence. but hopefully we hear from some other people later who might have some insight there

    [4:53 PM]Natiko:
    The theme is people suck

    [4:53 PM]Natiko:
    Can’t trust em

    [4:53 PM]Natiko:
    So fuck crocodiles instead

    [4:53 PM]Natiko:
    Fin

    [4:53 PM]flatearthpandas:
    [​IMG] \

    [4:54 PM]Natiko:
    It is interesting to see that despite all three of us having differing thoughts and perspectives we all enjoyed Mouth’s progression

    [4:55 PM]Natiko:
    At least it wasn’t a complete waste

    [4:56 PM]flatearthpandas:
    Monkey said in the thread she was enjoying it quite a bit. Hopefully we hear from her and everyone else about it later

    [4:56 PM]flatearthpandas:
    I have a feeling mouth will be pretty universal
     
    Natiko likes this.
  25. Natiko

    Natiko Town's Friendly Neighborhood Serial Killer

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    Thanks for doing that Febe!
     
  26. flatearthpandas

    flatearthpandas Round Moon Bears

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    thanks febe

    @heymonkey
    those are mentioned in the prologue, i think. for me it made the actual shapes of the book's creatures harder to imagine I thought since there's a predisposed image which doesn't match. whether that's important or not, i dunno