Tad Williams' Message Board

Hello, babies. Welcome to Earth. It's hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It's round and wet and crowded. At the outside, babies, you've got about a hundred years here. There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- 'God damn it, you've got to be kind.'
-    Kurt Vonnegut, 1922-2007

Welcome to the message board for tadwilliams.com. All comments are welcome, whether kudos or brickbats. However, please bear in mind that Tad would like this to be a friendly, civil message board, at least in the relations between users. We reserve the right to remove postings, or even ban postings, from anyone who crosses the boundary of reasonable taste. Basically, you can argue vigorously with someone, but watch your language, okay? We have a lot of young readers as well as grown-ups, so please show them some respect.

But the main requirement here is: have fun.


You are not logged in.

  • Index
  •  » Otherland
  •  » Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

#1 2010-11-06 10:03:04

cyan
Mantis
From: Magic Loft of Design & Wonder
Registered: 2005-02-16
Posts: 26870

Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

Welcome to the inaugural discussion thread for the re-read of the Otherland series… let’s go!

I'll post my comments in a little while, just have to clean them up a bit.  We can continue using the other thread for general stuff about the re-read.


"Never underestimate the power and accuracy of a chicken-chucking trebuchet." ~ Tad

Scrollbearer
Proud Member of the Log Brigade

 

#2 2010-11-06 10:29:22

cyan
Mantis
From: Magic Loft of Design & Wonder
Registered: 2005-02-16
Posts: 26870

Re: Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

I’ve only read this series once, when the books were first published, so it’s been 14 years since I read City of Golden Shadow.  As with the MS&T re-read, my comments starting out will be an amalgamation of memories and impressions from my first read and this revisit of the text.

Forgive me, but I must comment on the cover first: O!M!G!  I very clearly remember seeing CoGS in the bookstore, and being totally mesmerized by the amazing art of Michael Whelan (once again).  I honestly don’t recall which feature caused me to purchase the book more ~ that Tad wrote it or the incredible cover ~ but the acquisition of it was without a doubt!  It was this artwork that was foremost in my mind that time when I got all fangirlgushy over Whelan’s work while talking to Todd Lockwood, of all people *facepalm*.

I cannot help but see similarities between MS&T and Otherland.  For example: “Paul looked up and saw the tree, the small, skeletal thing that had drawn him across no-man’s land.  The tree where the dying man had hung.” To me, this harkened back to MS&T ~ Usires upon the Tree. And also: “It was an idea of a castle, Paul realized, a sort of Platonic ideal unrelated to the grubby realities of motte-and-bailey architecture or feudal warfare.”  This made me giggle, coming from the man who created Asu’a, the ‘castle’ that seems to defy the laws of both time and space.  And !Xabbu so reminds me of Binabik, they both exhibit a similar sort of jovial disposition and practical wisdom. 

Sorry, I’m jumping around a bit…

There are some things that really stick out for me:

- Tad fits a lot in the forward and first two chapters.  We are introduced to most of the characters who are essential to the final resolution (iirc). 

- I recall being entirely mystified by Paul Jonas and what he experiences in the forward section.  I recall thinking that Tad ‘borrowed’ a few ideas ~ the ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ fairy tale; ‘dream-world’ having a physical representation in reality (the un-muddied feather) (and it makes me think of Freddie Krueger); the (seemingly) innate desire to rescue the damsel in distress…  In these first pages, Tad manages to mix the familiar with a bunch of mystery very effectively, imho.

- The slang:  Chizz?  I recall being distracted by the slang and wondering how informal language would evolve to where such a term would be used.  Now, it’s easier to imagine, particularly with the way that the internet and online communities have developed.  And later in the series, when we meet Wiked Tribe, iirc, a term they use causes me to re-think my initial impression.  I’ll post about it when we get to those chapters.

- The tech: iirc, Tad mentioned that this story was meant to take place around 50 years in the future; published in 1996 would put the story at around 2046…  The problem with ‘near future’ science fiction is that readers can look back at the time of writingness and, having the advantage of time passage, be able to critique the accuracy or inaccuracy of the writer’s speculations.  (I’m thinking of a number of Heinlein’s works here.)  14 years after publication, I think the tech holds up quite nicely (says the very non-tech-person).  If you consider that Tad was writing this in 1994/1995, right around when the internets as we know it was being born, this is pretty impressive.

- The NETFEED items: I loved/love these ~ The first time I read these books, I thought it was a very effective device to keep the reader within the time-setting of the story while also underlining the fact that, in the near future, some things don’t change.  But then I thought that maybe the NETFEED item being featured had some correlation to the events of the chapter it prefaced…  but that didn’t seem to pan out.  Maybe during this re-read, I’ll manage to make some connections.

That’s all I have for now.


"Never underestimate the power and accuracy of a chicken-chucking trebuchet." ~ Tad

Scrollbearer
Proud Member of the Log Brigade

 

#3 2010-11-06 11:16:44

Neemo
Pilgrim
From: Hamilton, ON, CA
Registered: 2005-03-28
Posts: 921
Website

Re: Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

couple comments myself...like cyan this is only my 2nd time through the series, i remember i was in college when this book came out, by the time i had enough $$$ to spare it was no longer easy to find, a year later i was at a book sale in college with my new GF (who happened to eventually become my wife) when i finally got it

Paul Jonas... very cool stuff, i look forward to reading about all these worlds again...but its interesting that Paul really kinda misses mullet & finch since i remember him running from them for a good portion of the story, i guess it means that he has just arrived in the WWII sim and that they are his freinds at the beginning...i seem to recall that his memory reboots in every new world he enters. the dying guy paints a nice gruesome picture...and is the fellow that he meets in the trenches a sort of rebel? or jstu a AI type of character? was the giant actually Felix Jongleur (is that his name?)

Renee refers to her Pad.... intersting turn of events now with the iPad jsut released in the past year or  so...i remember back when i first read it i thought of a laptop...now not so much. also we are now in a world where VR seems more of a realistic thing, with video games with motion controls Wii, the PS3 Move, XBox Kinect (which is more along the lines of otherland cuz it aparently doesnt even require a controller to be used) anyway i digress...wall screens and VR helmets and Internet addiction...teh person she talks to before entering the inner distict...kinda cool, like an internet tough guy :haha: for some reason i thought that Stephen was captured right away (like chapter 1), Long Joseph...i had forgotten ab out him...hes pretty rough around the edges even in the littel we see of him

Mr Seller's is creepier than i remember

like cyan the netfeed stuff is interesting, showing a breakdown of civilization

Xabbu reminds me of Tiamak more than binabik, never thought about tree / A'Sua connection

universe next door...i looked into the poem for the fun of it...

 

#4 2010-11-06 11:20:38

Neemo
Pilgrim
From: Hamilton, ON, CA
Registered: 2005-03-28
Posts: 921
Website

Re: Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

i'll give this its own post....jsut some random highschool students thoughts on the poem (sorry its long):

The poem begins by first stating the main subject that is being analyzed, which is all of humanity. The first line states, “Pity this busy monster, manunkind.” In this sentence, the “busy monster” is actually all of humanity. The term itself would be humankind; however, the poet has created a new word to describe what man is and what are its intentions. Manunkind is a fabricated word, however it is written in such context that it becomes a word which describes how man is unkind. It is describing a humanity has come to be so fully exhausted and hectic, that it has turned into a collection of pathetic monstrosities. By this line alone I am able to understand the poets meaning of what human kind has turned into. It is evident that the poet has a negative outlook toward what humanity has come to be. He is inferring that over a period of time man is progressed so far in every aspect of life, including technology, medicine, and thought that it has turned into a monster without stop. At the end of the first line he talks of pitying humanity for what it has become, however he ends this statement in the next line where he says,” Not.” Here he is taking back what he said of pitying mankind and he is beginning to change his tone on what he thinks of humanity. This poem is an important look at humanity because of its central theme; man sets himself above all others, no matter the cost. When man does this, he is opening the path of indifference to ignoring the "little people" who then become disposable, thus a monster is born.

In the next line he states, “Progress is a comfortable disease…” In this line he is stating how humanity has only one will on this planet and it is survival and progression. Cummings puts these words into such context that it makes humanity seem as if the only thing that it is concerned with is it s own advancement on this planet, such as an obsessed beast. Here he is stating the reason why mankind should not be pities for it is bringing these circumstances upon itself, therefore it does not deserve any sympathy. When Cummings states progression to be a comfortable disease, he is implying that humanity is trapped in an endless cycle of rapid development, which has turned into a fixation with disease-like qualities. The word progress is symbolic, because it symbolizes all of what humanity has achieved in its short term on this planet. Progress represents the countless technologies that man has created and the countless other inventions which have made life so easy. Technology is defined as something which makes life easier. This progress has caused humanity to lose sight of what living life is actually like. This progression, in words, has softened humanity causing it to rest in a comfort, yet spellbound in its own succession. This is because when they rely on the development then they have lost a sense to survive without it like a machine has reduced inherited human skill and labor.
In the next line Cummings states, “… your victim (death and life safely beyond)” This line is meant to be described as a barrier which man has faced countless times which both helps and yet restrains it from progression. This line implies that death is the one enemy which mankind has not completely ended. It is what causes us from progressing at an even faster rate. However without death there would be no life, so its is symbolic that something which slows down progression, at the same time it is the fuel behind it occurring at all. Cummings also implies through these lines that death and life, including everything which keeps humanity intact, might be coming dangerously close to being ended by progress. Death and life are kept at a certain balance, for they are the beginning and end of everything living. Progression might cause the line between the two to completely vanish, turning humanity into a truly horrific creature with no stop to what its single purpose on the Earth is.
In the next line Cummings states, “…plays with the bigness of his littleness.” Here Cummings is implying that humanity sees itself to be far more than it really is. This line describes how humanity has come to see itself as all powerful and superior in the entire universe. It sees itself to be the only means of existence for the entire universe. However, it is ignorant to the fact that it is only a tiny speck in the middle of endlessness. Humanity sees itself as a cut above, however it does not fully grasp the concept of there being “more.” Humanity does more than it is capable of, thus creating a dangerous situation where humanity is oblivious to what its true place is in the universe. Humanity celebrates its unsurpassed existence on this planet and it has drugged itself to the point of unending nonexistent euphoria. When Cummings states, “electrons deify one razorblade into a mountainrange…,” he is stating how humanity defies anything that may means the end of its existence. It is defying what is natural and physically possible to extend so far, that its little meaning such as an electron, has caused itself to unnaturally be as significant as a mountainrange. This line is a metaphor of humanities struggle to surpass everything.
When Cummings states, “lenses extend unwish through curving where when till unwish returns on its unself.” Here Cummings uses the lenses of telescopes or cameras where the lenses create a distorted view of what is actually being seen. Cummings is using lenses in metaphorical terms to describe humanity as a single giant organism which has distorted itself, such as what lenses do, causing it to look at itself in a vague way, unaware of its actual appearance. The lenses has disillusioned mankind into perceiving who they are and where they live to be something that does not exist. This statement makes the existence of humanity seem nonexistent, through the sue of the prefix “un” Cummings is creating a sense of everything that humanity desires or strives to gain or achieve was and is not actually there. Humanity perceives through a lenses thus creating a disillusioned means of existence.
When Cummings states, “ A world of made is not a world of born-pity poor flesh and trees, poor stars and stones…” Here the poet is implying that the things which man has created are unnatural. Through the means of the natural resources of the planet, man has molded these natural resources into poor and pitiful inventions and technologies. At this point the tone of the poem begins to change, into a depressed and slightly angered voice. Cummings is implying that everything man has made is unnatural and therefore it is not “good.” He is stating how that ever since humanity has inhabited the planet, every thing has become poorer and has declined in its condition. Humanity is a poison which is distorting and destroying everything that is natural and therefore good. Thus implying that humanity is evil and it is what should be blamed and everything that has fallen under its “reign” should not be held responsible but pitied for its condition

anyway almost summarizes the wholes story early on .. sneaky old Dog :)

 

#5 2010-11-06 13:09:32

Magpie
Mantis
From: miraculously thistle-free town
Registered: 2006-03-27
Posts: 32660
Website

Re: Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

I'm not sure I'm able to write a coherent post today, since I don't feel too great (and feel kinda bad about not having worked on my NaNo novel at all today, but oh well. I'm ahead in my wordcount anyway, and it's not that late yet.)

Like cyan, I want to start by looking back on when I first read it. When I took the book down from the shelf, I was quite surprised by how battered it looks, especially considering it's not really one of my favourites. But City of Golden Shadow was my first Tadbook. Not the first I read, but the first I owned.
That was in... 2003, probably, when I was 16 (maybe a year earlier). I'd just gobbled up the library copies of MST, and put it in my mind that I wanted to read them in English. My mother tried to find them, but the only English Tadbook she could find in our town was CoGS, so that was what I got for Christmas that year.
I wasn't too happy. It was my first English book other than Harry Potter, and on top of being huge, and a lot more complex than HP both in language and plot, it was also an unfamiliar story. And it wasn't a story that appealed to me, either - I was such a completely technology-illiterate kid, I barely knew how to switch on a computer, let alone use it, and the internet? I only had the vaguest idea what that even was.
Yet, when I was 18 and had just finished school and had lots of time to read again, I took Otherland out from the library and read the whole series. My most vivid memory of that summer is sitting in a while plastic chair in the greenhouse at my summer job, reading for a quarter of an hour while I waited for my bosses, who always arrived after me.
Did I like it then? I'm not sure. More than when I'd first read CoGS, because with the full story, it made more sense, but there were still many books I liked more.

I don't remember when I finally bought the rest of Otherland for myself - I'd look it up, but my book list is on my own computer and I'm on my brother's, but it can't have been more than a few years ago, and then I read them all again last year, and I grow fonder of them every time I read them. Still not my favourites, but I like them a lot better now than I ever thought I would.


Basically, I'm Prince Josua in jeans and sneakers, or a different flavor of Renie Sulaweyo.
- Tad

Master of Gardening, Mistress of Kingdom Plantae, Defender of the Seedlings, Guardian of Root and Bough
Scrollbearer and offerer of some very useful opinions

Online

 

#6 2010-11-06 17:38:59

Libra-in-a-roundabout-way
Mantis
From: Yonder green hills
Registered: 2006-03-29
Posts: 13105

Re: Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

So, my first ever post for a re-read...

Well, as this is my umpthieth time to read the book, I can't completely remember what I thought when I first read it, so I'll just start....
I love the way the book starts, it throws you off-balance due to Paul's complete conviction that he's in the real world. Not until the bomb-shell and the tree do you get the feeling that everything might be slightly different than he thinks it is.... and then still it could have been a dream that he had during the raid if that feather had not been there.....
I really like it that it takes him a while before he climbs the tree.... "And the only other thing in the world was an immense, impossible vegetable." ..... as normal (I use this word lightly) people don't often just do things that seem strange and out of the ordinary.... I'm certain that it would take me several rounds around such a tree before I even thought about climbing it....even with my longing for strange and wonderful things....
I also like the feather coming back.... it's almost a haunting... a sign that the world in which he lives is not completely like the world he thinks he lives in... touching the feather and looking at it starts off his (and our) fantasy of what the future will be like....

I have to admit here, that I had not really ever taken much notice of the poem before the start of the first chapter .... Neemo, I can't say I've read your entire post about it, but it did make me look at the poem more carefully... It sort of sums up the story, it seems... summarizing that mankind is so busy with creating that they forget to really live and see their place in the universe as it is... Which is basically what the Grail Brotherhood is doing, trying to forestall death...

On the netfeed-bits... I like and don't like them at the same time... on the one hand they do draw you into the time/age in which the story is being told, but on the other hand they distract me from the story... (that's mostly my problem though, as I read with pictures forming in my head all the time... so the story keeps being broken up by the "visuals" of the netfeeds)

I find it interesting that immediately in the first couple of pages of chapter one, we (the readers) are already confronted with the spirit of the story's time; a bomb in the university and the almost thoughtlessly made remark of a train not running because someone had jumped or been pushed onto the tracks... This makes it directly clear that the world in this timeline is not necessarily a good place to live in... The elevator not working, which seems to be normal... and then our first encounter with Stephen... "faceless behind his net headset,..." drags us into a world that seems to have succumbed to technology and this is continued in the conversation between Renie and her brother during dinner, where he is not interested in actual RL conversation until she has the exciting news of the bomb in the university. !Xabbu then feels like the human factor in the first chapter... even Renie (although this changes later in the story) seems a bit faded, at first, with having these conversations with !Xabbu....

In the second chapter there is a nice parrallel with the start of Paul's story, where Mr Sellars has been telling Christabel the story of Jack and the beanstalk.... which I find interesting... was Sellars already aware of Paul? Did he have something to do with the stranger who told Paul to "get out"?
Oh and I love the bit where Christabel stops skipping "so she could better appreciate the crunchy feeling of walking down mister Sellars' long driveway"... so recognizable!

I'll stop now....


Scrollbearer

Author of the 777,777th post

"Sorry about your crap day, wish you libra-level dreams. ;o)"
~ Kenan

Online

 

#7 2010-11-06 20:10:54

cyan
Mantis
From: Magic Loft of Design & Wonder
Registered: 2005-02-16
Posts: 26870

Re: Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

OPB Neemo wrote:

Renee refers to her Pad.... intersting turn of events now with the iPad jsut released in the past year or  so...i remember back when i first read it i thought of a laptop...now not so much. also we are now in a world where VR seems more of a realistic thing, with video games with motion controls Wii, the PS3 Move, XBox Kinect

Yup, that’s exactly the sort of stuff I was thinking of when I said that I thought the tech holds up nicely.  And I now I shall amuse myself with the thought that the developers of the iPad were originally influenced by Tad and CoGS, hee!

OPB Neemo wrote:

Mr Seller's is creepier than i remember

Yeah, I have mixed feelings about this introductory chapter of Mr. Sellars and Christabel.  It does come across as creepy on the surface.  But at the end of the chapter, as Libra notes, Jack and the Beanstalk is mentioned… which ties back to my impression of the Forward…

OPB Libra wrote:

was Sellars already aware of Paul? Did he have something to do with the stranger who told Paul to "get out"?

Yes, I think so, on both counts.  As far as I can remember, that is.

OPB Libra wrote:

Oh and I love the bit where Christabel stops skipping "so she could better appreciate the crunchy feeling of walking down mister Sellars' long driveway"... so recognizable!

Yes!  This is an excellent example of the poignantly realistic detail that I so love about Tad’s writing.  (I read that sentence 3 times because I enjoyed it so much.)


"Never underestimate the power and accuracy of a chicken-chucking trebuchet." ~ Tad

Scrollbearer
Proud Member of the Log Brigade

 

#8 2010-11-07 05:52:22

Olaf
Mantis
From: Germany
Registered: 2001-07-16
Posts: 4907
Website

Re: Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

First off,  It is good to be back reading OTHERLAND. Unlike MS & T I have read each OTHERLAND book only once, although I listened to the German radioplay multiple times.


My observations:

"It started in mud, as many things do." I think this is by far Tad's best opening line yet.

Foreword

time and place: WWI VR, French battelefields

In the forword we meet several of the most important characters of the OTHERLAND books:

Paul Jonas, altough we learn next to nothing about him except that he seems to be a soldier in WWI
Finch and Mullett (in one of their many, many incarnations)
Avialle Jongleur (in one of her many incarnations)
Mr. Sellars (yellow eyes)
Felix Jongleur (Old Man)

The forword (altough it explains very little) basically shows us what the rest of the OTHERLAND books will be about.

It is a story about stories and it follows story logic rather than rational logic (e.g. "No one ever died this early in the story"). Tad also strongly suggests that this is not a traditional genre narrative ("Beggar boys did not marry princessess."), so the reader is advised not to expect traditional tropes.

It also shows us that OTHERLAND will be a vast melting pot of stories by mixing elements from history (WWI), mythology (Arthurian) and fairy tales (Jack & the Beanstalk).

And in the cloud castle we get the first glimpse of one of the main themes of the books. The banner on the wall reads "ad aeternum" which means: to eternity. The hunt for immortality which is the ultimate goal of Jongleur and his brotherhood.

Note: Since I am using a UK editon, I have not given any page numbers for my quotations, since I assume that most will us the US editon which has a different pagination.

Chapter one: Mr. Jingo's Smile

time and place: near future RL, South Africa
characters: Renie Sulaweyo, !Xabbu, Stephen, Long Joseph

For me, the netfeed items at the beginning of each chapter are primarily a means of adding depth to the world of the late 21st century that Tad has created here. Through these glimpses he manages to show us the future rather than telling us about it. Tad is very good at this technique and never has to resort to clumsy "As you know, Bob" type expositions and info-dumps.

Expecially in the early parts of the books, he shows us a lot, but explains very little. But as we are now re-reading, it becomes very apparent that Tad is a careful planner and foreshadows many, many things that only become important much later. One example from chapter one: when Renie comes home from work and sees her brother Stephen having fun on the net, she muses that he looks almost like a catatonic to her. Soon afterwards Stephen becomes a victim of the net and becomes a true catatonic.

The first chapter shows us tantalizing hints of South Africa at the end of the 21st century, and although technology has much evolved some things have not changed that much. Elevators are out-of-order and trains don't ride. And the world seems to be a dangerous place where bombs can go off any time. It is obvious that the future is a very good place for rich people, but that middle-class people like Renie and her family have to struggle hard to make ends meet. The divide between rich and poor people seems to have become wider.

Although Renie is the POV character here, we also strongly emphatize with !Xabbu who sees the world of Renie much like we as readers see it. And together with !Xabbu we learn about the net and the virtual envirements. Again, by showing us stuff rather than telling us about it.

I also like it that Tad has not only used a background (South Africa) seldom used in contemporary sf, but that he also introduced a black heroine  whose blackness is taken completely for granted. Again, there are still not many convincingely written protagonists of color in modern sf&f, but here Tads pulls it off as if it were not a big deal at all.

Chapter Two: The Airman

time and place: near future RL, military base in North Carolina

With Christabel Sorensen and the enigmatic Mr. Sellars Tad introduces two more characters of great importance. In the case of Mr. Sellars, one could claim of greatest importance. Since Christabel is the POV character here we are shown lots of things, but we hardly understand any of them because Christabel cannot understand either. But we know they must be important. One thing we learn however: Mr. Sellars can use the net without it seems any equipment and he has yellow eyes!



Edited to add observations for ch. 1 & 2

Last edited by Olaf (2010-11-07 12:34:06)


Scrollbearer

Writing books, especially long books, is a careful balance between laziness and masochism.
Tad Williams

 

#9 2010-11-07 06:22:47

Olaf
Mantis
From: Germany
Registered: 2001-07-16
Posts: 4907
Website

Re: Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

cyan wrote:

Forgive me, but I must comment on the cover first: O!M!G!  I very clearly remember seeing CoGS in the bookstore, and being totally mesmerized by the amazing art of Michael Whelan (once again).  I honestly don’t recall which feature caused me to purchase the book more ~ that Tad wrote it or the incredible cover ~ but the acquisition of it was without a doubt!  It was this artwork that was foremost in my mind that time when I got all fangirlgushy over Whelan’s work while talking to Todd Lockwood, of all people *facepalm*.

Yes, that cover is still gorgeous, and I think next to GREEN ANGEL TOWER one of the best things Whelan has ever done.

My first encounter with OTHERLAND was way back when Tad sold the books to DAW. I read about the sale in a German SF yearbook and the working title at the time was NORTH ON THE DATA STREAM. I had already read MS &T and (maybe) TAILCHASER, and I desperately wanted Tad to continue writing fantasy, so when I read that Tad wanted to do a "cyberpunk" book - I think I had read and disliked NEUROMANCER already- I was very, very disappointed and I was quite determinded not to read it.

Next up came a trip to London I took with some friends in October 1996 and in the Forbidden Planet bookstore I stumbled over a display of the newly released CogS (the offical pub date was January 07, but the book was available some time earlier). AND I DID NOT BUY IT! I could still kick myself for that stupidity. But I thought that the cover looked interesting and that maybe after all the book might be worth a read. Then I read that the German publishing house Klett-Cotta had acquired the German rights for OTHERLAND and I was surprised that Tad's previous publisher had passed on the books despite the success they had with MS & T and TAILCHASER.  The German edition came out in 1998 and again I DID NOT BUY IT, although I noted that Klett-Cotta was doing a lot to promote the book and that it made the SPIEGEL bestseller list in no time. Sigh. I had even gotten a sneak preview broschure that contained !Xabbu's and Renie's first visit to the virtual night club. I had read that chapter and I even liked it, but apparently not enough. Even when a friend who knew I read fantasy and sf gave me a pb copy of CogS for my birthday (the same copy I am now using for this re-read), did I not start reading.

However, I did start some time in 2001 when the fourth and final book was out in the US, but not yet in Germany. My passion for Tad's fiction was rekindled when he started the SHADOWMARCH project online in the summer of 2001. I read all four books of OTHERLAND in the span of about 12 months switching back and forth between the original and the German translations. So, the re-read will be the first time that I read them straight through in English.


Scrollbearer

Writing books, especially long books, is a careful balance between laziness and masochism.
Tad Williams

 

#10 2010-11-07 16:00:46

cyan
Mantis
From: Magic Loft of Design & Wonder
Registered: 2005-02-16
Posts: 26870

Re: Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

Olaf wrote:

It is a story about stories and it follows story logic rather than rational logic (e.g. "No one ever died this early in the story").

Riiight!!!  I had half-formed ideas about this but was never able to pin it down as well.

Olaf wrote:

Tad also strongly suggests that this is not a traditional genre narrative ("Beggar boys did not marry princessess."), so the reader is advised not to expect traditional tropes.

This is the idea I was trying to get at in my comment about Tad mixing the familiar with a lot of mystery.

Olaf wrote:

I also like it that Tad has not only used a background (South Africa) seldom used in contemporary sf, but that he also introduced a black heroine  whose blackness is taken completely for granted. Again, there are still not many convincingely written protagonists of color in modern sf&f, but here Tads pulls it off as if it were not a big deal at all..

Me too.  I did/do think that this background (or something very similar) was necessary to have a character like !Xabbu, whose own cultural stories play a significant part in how this larger story plays out, iirc.  Neemo, I can see how !Xabbu the ‘bushman’ would remind you of Tiamak the Wrannaman…  I was thinking more on the similarities between personalities rather than cultural background.

In regards to the protagonists of color, I think that Tad approached it in the best way possible – as a fact rather than a feature.  It seems to me that Renie’s situation, having a father who escapes into alcoholism after his wife’s death and causing her to take up the responsibility of not only raise her much younger brother but taking care of him (Joseph) as well, is a reality that is not exclusive to a particular skin color, culture, country, race, religion, or even economic means in a lot of cases.  This sort of day-to-day experience, I think, informs Renie’s personality more than anything else.

Last edited by cyan (2010-11-07 16:09:01)


"Never underestimate the power and accuracy of a chicken-chucking trebuchet." ~ Tad

Scrollbearer
Proud Member of the Log Brigade

 

#11 2010-11-07 16:59:01

Neemo
Pilgrim
From: Hamilton, ON, CA
Registered: 2005-03-28
Posts: 921
Website

Re: Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

more than just cultural

Tiamak is a scholar who leaves a primitive culture to learn at a city...strives to learn more to save his people from fading to obscurity ... also Tiamak and !Xabbu are both students (or consider themselves such) while also contianing a good deal of wisdom which helps them teach others

Binabik was more of a mentor in the MST series imo...anyway i see where you are coming from too its an interseting take, but my first comparison was to Tiamak, part of what makes these re-reads so intriguing we get to see how others view the same story

regards to Mr Sellers being the instigator for the beginning of Paul's travel's, search for freedom makes sense, totally flew over my head...

as for the cover of CoGS, yeah its a neat peice of work for sure, Whelan is incredible

 

#12 2010-11-07 22:36:12

cyan
Mantis
From: Magic Loft of Design & Wonder
Registered: 2005-02-16
Posts: 26870

Re: Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

Neemo wrote:

more than just cultural

Tiamak is a scholar who leaves a primitive culture to learn at a city...strives to learn more to save his people from fading to obscurity ... also Tiamak and !Xabbu are both students (or consider themselves such) while also contianing a good deal of wisdom which helps them teach others

Oh, I certainly agree that there are similarities between Tiamak and !Xabbu.  But I didn't get the feeling that Tiamak's studies were motivated by anything more than the desire for knowledge, an intellectual pursuit.  Tiamak's village is destroyed, but there is nothing to suggest that his people were in danger of extinction.


"Never underestimate the power and accuracy of a chicken-chucking trebuchet." ~ Tad

Scrollbearer
Proud Member of the Log Brigade

 

#13 2010-11-08 07:23:41

ylvs
Mantis
From: Art Central
Registered: 2001-06-19
Posts: 13270

Re: Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

Iwas was busy working during the weekend and had not even time to check the reread and now its monday and WOW - great start!

This is my fourth time reading Otherland. I read it when it came out waiting eagerly for each book to be published and have reread it twice since. I think that shows how much I love it. It was the first series I ever read that mixed  scifi and fantasy (prove me wrong but I think noone did that before Tad) and I adore all these sories within stories within stories.

My five cents on this weeks read:

I'm comepletely with Olaf regarding the first sentence - Tad's best. Loads of references popped into my head like the  creation of man in the bible, evolution, the "primordial soup", mankind inventing bricks to build houses etc. All this in such a simple phrase - brilliant! 

As a historian by education I stumbled over the term "Western front". Why does a soldier obviously fighting against Germany use the German term (Germany was fighting on two fronts and only from their pov it was the Western one). Or was/is this the general term? Enlighten mmy my fellow rereaders!

This is the first time I noticed that Sellar's was the one asking Paul to try to think "about really getting out" and Olaf beat me to mentioning it - darn!

The whole descrition of WW1 is almost as intense as Erich Maria Remarque's All quiet at the western front (I just had to find out the English title and voilà my question from above answered but I don't bother to remove it. Still it seems strange to me that the German naming became the general term).

Now to the netfeeds:

Iirc I read them all in one go before my second reread and there are actually some continued stories to be found among them some connected to the overall plot some not.
I like how they give the RL of 2050 colour and depth while at the same time leaving it cryptic and strange.

So much for now I'll comment on chapters 1 & 2 tonight when kids are in lullaby land.


To meet an old friend is like the finding of a welcoming campfire in the dark. Qanuc saying
Scrollbearer
Titan of fact-checking and priceless source of Osten-Ard-iana
Arsonist of the probably most spectacular Mint burning ever

 

#14 2010-11-08 09:33:54

Magpie
Mantis
From: miraculously thistle-free town
Registered: 2006-03-27
Posts: 32660
Website

Re: Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

cyan wrote:

OPB Neemo wrote:

Renee refers to her Pad.... intersting turn of events now with the iPad jsut released in the past year or  so...i remember back when i first read it i thought of a laptop...now not so much. also we are now in a world where VR seems more of a realistic thing, with video games with motion controls Wii, the PS3 Move, XBox Kinect

Yup, that’s exactly the sort of stuff I was thinking of when I said that I thought the tech holds up nicely.  And I now I shall amuse myself with the thought that the developers of the iPad were originally influenced by Tad and CoGS, hee!

Did anyone hear about this? It was in the newspaper here because it was said in Vienna, and I was like, “Did this guy read too much Otherland?!”

OK, foreword:

ylvs wrote:

The whole descrition of WW1 is almost as intense as Erich Maria Remarque's All quiet at the western front

Otherland has made me think maybe I should read that again – read it for school once, and never again, as it usually is with those required reading books – since I don’t really remember anything about WW1 at all. Yay for suppressing school knowledge! But I think I sold All Quiet on the Western Front earlier this year. So my whole “knowledge” of WW1 will continue to come from Otherland.

Olaf wrote:

In the forword we meet several of the most important characters of the OTHERLAND books:
(…)
Mr. Sellars (yellow eyes)

Whoa, good observation, Olaf – I’ve never made that connection, even though this time round I finally noticed that Mr “Got a light” must be somehow involved with trying to free Paul. Is he Sellars himself, though? It seems so out of place with how he appears later, as that white figure.
What I found interesting when I read it now is the contast between how Paul must understand the things he says and how we can understand them. Like, “think about getting out. About really getting out.” To Paul, that has to mean thinking about deserting – to us readers, at least if we’ve read the book before, it means getting out of the simulation. Or what he says about it being a mistake, and God not paying attention – to Paul, “it” has to be the war. But to me it’s now… what, actually? Otherland? Paul’s situation? I don’t exactly know, but it has to be more than this make-believe war.
What also struck me was the casual cruelty of “Why couldn’t Fritz drop one of him and give us all a little peace?”, but maybe that’s easier to say when you know it’s not a real person who’s screaming.
The other thing I noticed clearly for the first time now is that when Paul has “died”, he must be in a simulation created by the Other. Not just because of the fairytale motives. For me, it was a tiny thing that pointed it out – the tree trunk going smoothly down into the ground, without roots. That was the point where I thought, “oh yeah, because the Other has never actually seen a tree.”
Which made all the other odd things about the world he finds himself in much easier to understand – not just the tree, and walking on clouds: things directly out of fairy tales don’t count. Inside a fairy tale setting, these are perfectly normal. But even in fairy tales, rooms generally have normal sizes and proportions, and if you look out of a window, you’ll usually still see the same outside that was there before you entered the building.
And then we get the first glimpse of our mysterious winged woman, and the Old Man, who makes so much more sense now that I remember that Jongleur is being kept alive by a lot of technology.
And Paul wakes up, and everything could be back to “normal”, still leaving the first-time reader wondering what the heck a WW1 scene has to do with a story set in the future – if it weren’t for that feather.

Chapter 1

I find it much, much harder to be objective during Renie chapters. It’s OK during the first few pages, while Renie is still at the Polytechnic, and we are shown something of what the world is like in terms of technology and society. But when Renie gets home… Renie’s father is just too much like my own, so reading those chapters brings out those feelings of helpless anger, of wanting to yell at him and knowing it’ll only make everything worse… Maybe that was another reason why it took me so long to get into Otherland – I wanted to escape situations like these, not read about them, too. Even now, when I haven’t lived with him for 2 and a half years, reading about Long Joseph still almost makes me physically sick.*
Compared to that one scene between Renie and Joseph, which feels so real to me, because it is 100% how the conversation would have gone if I’d had to live with my father and brother (and I have younger brothers, adding to the realism for me), it’s hard for any other scene to make much of an impression on me. Learning more about what life in those times is like, but no matter how many times I read it, it’s hard for me to concentrate on looking for connections to what happens later because my mind always circles back to frustrating fathers and annoying little brothers.

Chapter 2
Christabel’s POV is refreshing to read after that. I don’t actually remember what it’s like to be a little kid, even though it doesn’t seem so long ago that I was that young, but it feels pretty realistic to me.
The Mr Sellars thing is creepy, I agree. Little girl going into old guy’s house, where she’s not supposed to go, even changing out of her clothes? Of course that’s creepy. And yet, I don’t think I’ve ever not loved Mr Sellars’ house. Unsurprising to most of you, I guess – all those plants? Of course I love it.
Nice connection with Jack and the Beanstalk, too – I don’t know if I noticed it before.

And the netfeeds? They confused me endlessly the first two times I read Otherland, when I was still trying to find out how they connected to the plot. The third time, I finally realized they probably only were there as background information about the world, even if once in a while, a familiar name appears in them.

______________

* It’s not that my situation was ever really bad. I pretty much had a picture book childhood, I was never beaten or mistreated in any way, but the constant frustration of endless pointless arguments about the most meaningless things, the way he never did anything around the house or garden… all that suppressed anger is what’s making me sick.


Basically, I'm Prince Josua in jeans and sneakers, or a different flavor of Renie Sulaweyo.
- Tad

Master of Gardening, Mistress of Kingdom Plantae, Defender of the Seedlings, Guardian of Root and Bough
Scrollbearer and offerer of some very useful opinions

Online

 

#15 2010-11-08 11:35:39

Olaf
Mantis
From: Germany
Registered: 2001-07-16
Posts: 4907
Website

Re: Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

Magpie wrote:

The other thing I noticed clearly for the first time now is that when Paul has “died”, he must be in a simulation created by the Other. Not just because of the fairytale motives. For me, it was a tiny thing that pointed it out – the tree trunk going smoothly down into the ground, without roots. That was the point where I thought, “oh yeah, because the Other has never actually seen a tree.”

Is that so? I thought that Paul always moved through Jongleurs simulations and couldn't cross over just into any simulation. But I might misremember.

I agree the scences with Christabel and Mr. Sellars could have been very, very creepy, but the way tad described it from Christabels POV there is nothing whatsoever sexual in them.

Last edited by Olaf (2010-11-08 11:37:04)


Scrollbearer

Writing books, especially long books, is a careful balance between laziness and masochism.
Tad Williams

 

#16 2010-11-08 12:23:55

ylvs
Mantis
From: Art Central
Registered: 2001-06-19
Posts: 13270

Re: Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

First week and I alread get insights from you I never thought of myself. Thank you Magpie!

Like Olaf I always thought that Paul moved through Jongleur's simulations only but Magpie's suggestion makes so much more sense - that is the reason why the feather does not disappear after Paul is back in WWI. And I remember worlds that are far stranger than the "average" simulations all through the book. It's the Other being active right from the start.

Chapter 1:
The bomb in the poly blew up "the tower in the middle of the campus". So the story starts with a collapsing tower and finishes with one (although much bigger and more important). As I ponder: Tad seems to like collapsing towers. Compare Green Angel Tower, War of the Flowers ... I wonder which of Southmarch castle's towers will survive Shadowrise!

Chapter 2:
To me Sellars never was creepy. I always comletely followed Christabel's naive and trusting POV. Sellars is strange and different but he shows interest in a little girl's world in a way her parents don't. That makes him special in a way that goes far beyond his molten face and all the creepy stuff. I remember accepting weird things without discussion when I was a kid. When the world is full of riddles, strange rules and mysteries the differences between them are smaller than for adults with their grown up views. I notice the same with my kids. So I perfectly understand Christabels actions.
Some little thing I always lovedlovedloved about the Christabel story was Otterland (funny pun of course). Otters are my favorite animals of all time and the thought of otters starring a kids netgame is very apealing to me. If this game ever exists I'll be the first who buys it!


To meet an old friend is like the finding of a welcoming campfire in the dark. Qanuc saying
Scrollbearer
Titan of fact-checking and priceless source of Osten-Ard-iana
Arsonist of the probably most spectacular Mint burning ever

 

#17 2010-11-08 12:28:00

ylvs
Mantis
From: Art Central
Registered: 2001-06-19
Posts: 13270

Re: Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

Oh btw: Does anyone pay attention to the time passing? I tried to keep track of the time line while we did our MST reread but forgot while reading the first chapters.

Probably it won't be possible to keep track of time anyway after book 1. what do you think?


To meet an old friend is like the finding of a welcoming campfire in the dark. Qanuc saying
Scrollbearer
Titan of fact-checking and priceless source of Osten-Ard-iana
Arsonist of the probably most spectacular Mint burning ever

 

#18 2010-11-08 12:42:49

Olaf
Mantis
From: Germany
Registered: 2001-07-16
Posts: 4907
Website

Re: Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

Offhand, I think that it would be very, very difficult to keep track of the time passing. I think Tad never gives exact dates, or does he? I don't remember. And once we're inside the simulations, we can never be sure how much time really passes.

The WWI simulation is strange I agree and that might be because of the OTHER, but would it not be possible that it is a Jongleuer simulation after all (maybe even based on ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT)? [Weren't all his simulations based on books, and stories and mythologies?] Sellars hacked into the simulation and tried to get Paul out and Paul crossed over into another simworld by Jongleuer (the cloud castle), before WWI was rebooted with his memory erased?


Scrollbearer

Writing books, especially long books, is a careful balance between laziness and masochism.
Tad Williams

 

#19 2010-11-08 13:15:54

ylvs
Mantis
From: Art Central
Registered: 2001-06-19
Posts: 13270

Re: Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

Olaf, I think there is a misunderstanding here.
WWI is a Jongleur simulation. Only after his "death" Paul is in a simulation of the Other until he awakes again in WWI with Avialle's feather.

At least that is hoe I understood Magpie and what does make sense to me.


To meet an old friend is like the finding of a welcoming campfire in the dark. Qanuc saying
Scrollbearer
Titan of fact-checking and priceless source of Osten-Ard-iana
Arsonist of the probably most spectacular Mint burning ever

 

#20 2010-11-08 13:20:31

Neemo
Pilgrim
From: Hamilton, ON, CA
Registered: 2005-03-28
Posts: 921
Website

Re: Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

there may be enough info outside of sim's to figure out a rough passage of time, i mean we do see side arcs with Long Joseph and Dread, then the netfeeds

if you are up for it ylvs that would be cool :)

 

#21 2010-11-08 13:30:53

Neemo
Pilgrim
From: Hamilton, ON, CA
Registered: 2005-03-28
Posts: 921
Website

Re: Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

oops dbl post

Last edited by Neemo (2010-11-08 13:31:12)

 

#22 2010-11-08 19:25:18

cyan
Mantis
From: Magic Loft of Design & Wonder
Registered: 2005-02-16
Posts: 26870

Re: Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

Olaf wrote:

I agree the scences with Christabel and Mr. Sellars could have been very, very creepy, but the way tad described it from Christabels POV there is nothing whatsoever sexual in them.

ylvs wrote:

I perfectly understand Christabels actions

Of course there wouldn't be anything sexual from the POV of someone Christabel's age (what, 5 or 6?), that would be all kinds of wrong.  It's not her motivation that I question, but Mr. Sellars' - why would he cultivate a relationship with such a young child?  The first time I read this, I felt pretty certain that Tad wouldn't go down that 'dark alley', but it did raise a lot of questions for me.

Last edited by cyan (2010-11-08 19:27:54)


"Never underestimate the power and accuracy of a chicken-chucking trebuchet." ~ Tad

Scrollbearer
Proud Member of the Log Brigade

 

#23 2010-11-08 20:17:39

cyan
Mantis
From: Magic Loft of Design & Wonder
Registered: 2005-02-16
Posts: 26870

Re: Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

Magpie, you just blew my mind...  it never occurred to me that the tree and cloud castle simulation was the Other's, that makes so much sense!  *reels*  So, with that in mind, I'm thinking that when Paul 'dies', the Other uses that to pull Paul into his simulation, and when Paul dies there ("Shrieking, Paul fell down into oily, gear-grinding darkness."), the Other returns him to Jongleuer's WWI.  And I do think Sellars was the yellow-eyed man who talks to Paul "About really getting out." So now I'm thinking that Sellar's yellow-eyed sim 'died' during the battle, and the Other took it over.  It was the Other in the sim hanging upside down in the tree talking to Paul.  Because that dialog would make no sense coming from Sellars.  And now I also think that it was Sellars who caused the feather to appear to Paul as a sort of proof that his 'reality' is not what it seems.

Last edited by cyan (2010-11-08 20:30:13)


"Never underestimate the power and accuracy of a chicken-chucking trebuchet." ~ Tad

Scrollbearer
Proud Member of the Log Brigade

 

#24 2010-11-08 23:16:27

Olaf
Mantis
From: Germany
Registered: 2001-07-16
Posts: 4907
Website

Re: Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

cyan wrote:

It's not her motivation that I question, but Mr. Sellars' - why would he cultivate a relationship with such a young child?  The first time I read this, I felt pretty certain that Tad wouldn't go down that 'dark alley', but it did raise a lot of questions for me.

Isn't that because her father is chief of security on the base? Christabel's friendship is useful for Sellars. I would not question Sellars' motivation either.


Scrollbearer

Writing books, especially long books, is a careful balance between laziness and masochism.
Tad Williams

 

#25 2010-11-08 23:19:24

Olaf
Mantis
From: Germany
Registered: 2001-07-16
Posts: 4907
Website

Re: Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

cyan wrote:

Magpie, you just blew my mind...  it never occurred to me that the tree and cloud castle simulation was the Other's, that makes so much sense!  *reels*  So, with that in mind, I'm thinking that when Paul 'dies', the Other uses that to pull Paul into his simulation, and when Paul dies there ("Shrieking, Paul fell down into oily, gear-grinding darkness."), the Other returns him to Jongleuer's WWI.  And I do think Sellars was the yellow-eyed man who talks to Paul "About really getting out." So now I'm thinking that Sellar's yellow-eyed sim 'died' during the battle, and the Other took it over.  It was the Other in the sim hanging upside down in the tree talking to Paul.  Because that dialog would make no sense coming from Sellars.  And now I also think that it was Sellars who caused the feather to appear to Paul as a sort of proof that his 'reality' is not what it seems.

I am still not 100% convinced that the cloud castle is an OTHER simworld, because it has so many elements of Jongleur in it (Avialle Shadow, Jongleur Shadow and the Shadows of the Twins as well), BUT it is also a very twisted version of a child's fairy tale. So it might belong to the OTHER just as well.


Scrollbearer

Writing books, especially long books, is a careful balance between laziness and masochism.
Tad Williams

 
  • Index
  •  » Otherland
  •  » Otherland Re-read Week 1: CoGS - Forward & Ch. 1 & 2 (SPOILERS)

Board footer

Powered by PunBB