jmtorres: Morrolan from the Taltos books. Dark Star.  (morrolan)
[personal profile] jmtorres posting in [community profile] valabars
This is a question that's been on my mind, as I just finished reading Iorich, found its plot only so-so and its character moments generally happy-making, then jumped back to Taltos, a long-time favorite of mine, and started doing some compare and contrast. I also discovered that I cannot remember some of the later books well at all--while I can remember weird minutia from up to Teckla or so, I didn't think I'd read Jhegaala until the first twenty pages were unrelentingly familiar once I actually cracked the book, and I'm currently rereading Dzur because I can tell from my reaction post that I enjoyed it at the time, but that post is not specific enough to remind me why I was cackling hysterically. Actually, I think the last novel I have detail recall on is Orca, and the last one I have broad strokes recall on is Issola. So this may be relevant to mocking my opinions of Vlad in various eras of his life, and I am trying to correct it by going on a rereading spree.

The problems Vlad solves have gotten bigger. (Issola aside) we're mostly talking societally bigger, having to do with the populist movements of the "little people" and institutional oppressions perpetrated upon them. This should be very interesting to me, because in real life that kind of thing is interesting to me, but the problem for me is--Vlad's apolitical. He solves these problems like puzzles, and he solves for personal motivations like the "get my friend out of jail free" card, with no greater interest societal change. It's not out of character, but it's a dissonance that makes the later stuff harder for me to read, because I want to care and my narrator's emotionally uninvolved.

(Oooh. You know what I want? Fanfic-wise? The Cawti-and-maybe-Norathar POV of some of this stuff.)

Vlad was more emotionally invested in his assassin days, because everything he was working on was more personal. That's one reason why I like the earlier books better. And those books weren't devoid of world-built social problems; Vlad is a product of a racially prejudiced society, which was something that was interesting to read about. He was an extreme case of how someone functioning under the weight of institutional and casually violent prejudice might handle it, but just because it was extreme didn't mean parts of it weren't recognizable to me. But when he's introduced to the idea that he could do more than look out for himself and his loved ones in this harsh environment, that he could work to change the environment, he doesn't want to, doesn't think it has any chance of working because he's cynical and pessimistic about human--or human--nature, and doesn't have any investment in making things better for anyone else because for him the value of human life is the effort he didn't have to expend killing someone. That's part of his character. There's a scene in the flashbacks in Taltos, in between trying to remember at what age he first committed manslaughter, when he asks Noish-pa about Dragaeran worship of Verra and blood sacrifice, and Noish-pa says no, we don't do that, someday you will understand, and Vlad remarks that no, he never did understand. And there's a moment at the end of Iorich when Zerika asks him if he cares about the dead Teckla in Tirma and he answers honestly that no, he doesn't. Vlad grew up in a really nasty environment and he's broken and he'll probably never be at a place where he can look further than the handful of people he considers his own, but the fact that he's been asked to and refused makes the later books rough for me--I am a "bring down the broken system" kind of person, so Vlad's reaction stops being something I recognize.

All societies form protections around privilege, those with power being invested in keeping their power. The Dragaeran Empire's mechanism for getting people to buy into the system is the cycle: everyone can look forward to the day that their people will be on top, so they can just bear what they have to go through right now on the strength of that promise. It makes me wonder how much power really does shift as the cycle turns--we've only seen what Dragaeran society is like in Phoenix/reborn Phoenix reigns, so I wonder, when it's flipped all the way around and say, Jhereg is on the throne--do Dragonlords lose class, do they seem less noble? I can't picture Jhereg or Teckla seeming more noble, actually getting respect from other groups. Is that how it's supposed to work? Someone should write fic from Sethra's POV on the matter, as I think she's the only person around with the perspective to say.

*ponder*

Date: 2010-09-10 08:54 am (UTC)
matt_doyle: (Default)
From: [personal profile] matt_doyle
I have found that since Issola I have understood the plots less and less, while still greatly enjoying the character moments. I have, after re-reading, pieced together what the complex schemes in Dzur, Jhegaala, and Iorich were about... only to forget them again, entirely, days later.

Date: 2010-09-10 12:51 pm (UTC)
sharpest_asp: Nate Ford sitting on a bench, Sophie Devereaux resting against his lap (Default)
From: [personal profile] sharpest_asp
I joined the comm hoping it would remind me to go check the books out. I'd only read the first five books, back when the first five were the only ones out...

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