Fantasy Round 48: The Obelisk Gate
Also, it looks like some of my speculation last time didn’t quite hit the mark, based on the reveals in book two.
Naturally — spoilers follow.
Planet Identity: Still Fuzzy
Based on the map in the front of the book, the planet has a distance of at least 10,000 miles from one pole to the other, and not too much more than that. That implies a radius somewhat greater than 3200 miles or so.
Earth has a mean radius of 3959 miles, and slightly less than that at the equator.
It also used to have one Moon. So, perhaps this is the Earth, in the long distant future, after somebody messed up the geology with magic and decided to throw the Moon on a high orbit… for fun? Or something?
Meanwhile, the big, ancient facility tied to the obelisks is in the middle of the ocean side of the planet, drilled down into an ancient shield volcano, which makes me wonder if that’s Hawaii in the far-distant-future. But that by itself implies that somebody has messed up the geology, as we have more than one continent on our present Earth, and in the natural course of events, it’s the Atlantic Ocean that’s growing larger (check out the Mid-Atlantic Ridge), not the Pacific.
Regardless, since this planet isn’t much bigger than Earth, in order to get all the fun earthquakes, we either have to have some major differences in internal composition, or…
Okay, fine. Orogeny is magic. It looks like my vague ideas about orogeny being a means of connecting with some ancient nano-super-tech handwavium have gone the way of Yumenes.
Even better, while orogeny conserves energy, pure magic apparently doesn’t, allowing such feats as shrinking down a massive floating obelisk into a tiny dagger and turning organic material into much-denser stone with the same volume.
Thus, I’m going to drop most of my attempts at reconciling orogeny with physics now.
Well… relative to my speculation on the preceding book, I pretty clearly got the question of “what happened to the Moon” wrong. Rather than crashing into Father Earth, it just went on an orogene-enforced holiday. And, naturally, it’s coming back.
I still want to know why. Stupid accident? Weird plan for controlling their planet? Something else?
Almost all of the main characters are individuals living in and damaged by a disturbing cycle of effective slavery and abuse. Certainly, this applies to Alabaster, Essun, and Nassun, the three powerful orogenes whose lives define most of the modern-day part of the story, as well as the Guardian Schaffa.
They hurt, and they hurt others immensely with their various powers.
I feel the most sympathy for Nassun at the moment, as she’s been mistreated by her mother, and then manipulated by Schaffa; but I’m having trouble empathizing with the others. At some point, a character’s frequent trauma-driven destruction starts making the story less fun. And when it’s most of the characters… that’s frustrating. I like having characters I can root for, but I’m left wondering if what Essun accomplished at the end of the second book should be considered genocide in self-defense, and hoping that Nassun fails to pull off an Earth-shattering-kaboom in the final book.
I realize that real people do have this kind of trauma, complexity, and conflict to deal with (less the magic, of course); but I think I’m going to need to read something more cheerful next.