What is this I don’t even.
The last time I felt this way was over a hundred pages ago, with a brief interlude about a businessman having lost a package from a professor and his secretary saying she’ll find it.
Now, apparently, we’re getting back to that plotline. Nothing makes any sense, mind, but we’re back to that. So yay?
Chapter 17 opens in a “faraway secluded valley”, in a “little cluster of unlabelled buildlings hidden by rocky crags”. There’s a huge office complex where 200+ people are running to and fro, packing up their entire operation onto trucks. Then we meet this woman:
She was tall and slender, with long, jet-black hair; she wore black, loose-fitting clothes, and she clutcher her shoulder bag close to her side with pale, trembling hands. [...] She reached into her bag and brought out a pair of dark sunglasses with which she covered her eyes. Then she stepped down from the porch and started across the plaza toward the office building.
The nervous goth is referred to by her coworkers (?) as “the Maidservant”. Article included.
“What does the Maidservant require?”
“No idea, but the Hulk is still waiting on that crate of new pants, if you don’t mind.”
The Maidservant asks to run some copies on their copier, with the office manager bowing and scraping before her in a way that honestly feels very “Look at me, I’m in a cult!” and not very “manager in a large business”, if that makes any sense to you. She makes some copies from a little book and scurries back to the large house she had initially came from. She then re-wraps the book into a package so it will look like it bears no evidence of her tampering.
This package has a return address from J. Langstrat.
Obviously this is the woman from the previous clip; the businessman’s name, or at least the alias Langstrat sends mail to, is Alexander M Kaseph. So why is the Maidservant secretly rebelling against Kaseph? I have no idea.
Kaseph is described as such:
a middle aged, roundly build man dressed in loose trousers and tunic sat Indian fashion on a large cushion.
Exotic, particularly Indian or Asian, stylistic elements means demons, by the way. And doesn’t it seem like loose fitting clothing is a clear sign of demonic influence? Real True Christians wear spandex, apparently.
The fine furnishings of a man of great prestige and power surrounded him: souvenirs from around the world, such as swords, war clubs, African artifacts, religious relics, and several grotesque idols of th East;a battleship of a desk
This is where I begin to lose track of the sentence; next to war clubs and swords, I’m picturing an actual battleship. Allow me to listify:
The fine furnishings of a man of great prestige and power surrounded him:
- souvenirs from around the world, such as:
- war clubs
- African artifacts
- religious relics
- several rather grotesque idols of the East
- A battleship of a desk with:
- built-in computer console
- multilined telephone
- an intercom
- A long, deep-cushioned couch with matching hand-carved oak chairs and coffee table
- hunting trophies of
Tell me that’s not way too full for one sentence.
Anyway, while the narration wants us to derive from the furnishings that he’s accomplished, I’m mostly getting that it’s a very large room. What I do see, however, is a clear trend toward violence (weapons and dead animals adorn the walls) and a bit of a power fantasy (hand-carved chairs means he made someone else toil for his own pleasure, albeit indirectly; having the latest and greatest of everything is another way of flaunting power). On that note, this book originally came out in 1983. That was the year Lotus 1-2-3 came out, the year the Apple Lisa (the first gui computer) was released as well as the more famous Apple IIe, the year PC world began, the year Microsoft Windows was announced. This was the era of DOS 2.0, BASIC, FORTRAN, COBOL, Tron, and the Commodore 64. So what the heck is he doing with a computer built into his desk?
The Maidservant’s name turns out to be Susan. She brings him his long-awaited package, and he takes a while to bother opening his eyes. He accuses her of being troubled, but she blames it on the moving and the upheaval. We find out she grew up in Ashton, couldn’t wait to leave, and now claims to be hesitant about returning.
See, these guys are obviously evil; they’re trying to get into Ashton, when decent people are all leaving.
“On the one hand, you have no desire at all for the town, and on the other hand, you sneak off to attend the carnival.”
[...] “I was searching for something from my past, something from which to envision my future.”
He held her hand and said, “There is no past. You should have stayed with me. I hold the answers for you now.”
“Yes, I can see that. I couldn’t before.”
In one sense, though, this reads as a bit hypocritical. Doesn’t conversion to Christianity wipe away all your previous sins, make you over into a “new person”? Isn’t that the whole premise behind being “born again”? So isn’t it accurate to say that within certain Christian circles, the hope is that the past will be wiped away and that the reformed sinner will stay by Jesus’ side for all eternity,blindly trusting Jesus to hold all the answers? So the only thing she did wrong here is sticking with the wrong messiah. I don’t know about anyone else, but one of the driving factors towards my becoming pagan was that I was sick of being told I had no control or say in my own life, that it was all up to Jesus. Sitting on my heels waiting for Jesus to provide had never gotten me results, and I was tired of blaming that condition on my own wavering faith when I had the power to choose my own path in life rather than follow the one laid out for me.
So anyway, go Susan.
It turns out the meeting at the carnival was about retrieving Susan.
“But why did you even have to come looking for me? Why did you have to drag them along?”
He sat at the desk and began handling a wicked-looking ceremonial knife with a golden handle and razor-sharp blade.
Looking over the edge of the blade at her, he said, “Because, dear Maidservant, I do not trust you. I love you, I am one in essence with you, but…” He held the knife up to the level of his eye and peered down the edge of the blade at her, his eyes as sharply cutting as the knife. “I do not trust you. You are a woman given to many conflicting passions.”
Once again, a nice passage, well written (except for that clumsiness about his eye). But my analogy from earlier keeps nagging at me. A lot of Christian sects hold that man is innately sinful to such a degree that following one’s own passions, trying to do what is right based on one’s own judgement, is innately evil; the only judgement that can be followed is the judgement of Christ, distorted and warped through the centuries. Furthermore, there’s a history of treating women’s emotions like some kind of dark sorcery, something to be feared and mistrusted, much like Alexander does here with Susan.
Am I far off the mark here?