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Sunday, May 1, 2011

Scars of Mirrodin: The Quest for Karn - Chapter 6

Nice, we get views from the enemy perspective. Some of my favorite Magic books, of those that I've read, are Chainer's Torment (Score: 8/10), Nemesis (9/10), and The Thran (10/10). I hope we get many more of these chapters.

[Note: Scores based of how good I remember these books being, after reading them a long, long time ago. Read Throughs and official reviews to come... eventually.]

Scars of Mirrodin: The Quest for Karn - Chapter 6

Geth arrives at the core, at the throne room of Karn, Father of Machines . A meeting has been called. He arrives covered in filth, but Glissa, Sunseeker No More , is already there without a bit of filth on her. Geth was expecting to report a standard report of good progress, some issues with discipline, and some good progress. Though he regarded her as a meddler, he expected to be reporting to Glissa, while speaking loud enough for Karn to hear the words, but not understand the meaning. He expected Glissa to continue to demand results on assimilating red aligned Mirrans, despite his having no control as to how phyresis worked nor having their assimilation be his problem to solve anyway. He was the Lord of the Vault, and his job was to focus on corrupting Mirrodin itself.

Today was different.

Karn screamed and groaned, and broke free from his throne that had grown to attach itself to him and be a part of him. Then he moved and fell, and spouted words with little meaning, while his beads of Phyrexian oil beading all over his body. It was a sign his body was still rejecting the change, a sign that Geth and other leaders proved he was not the true Father of Machines, but a sign that Glissa chose to ignore. She believed he was necessary for Phyrexia.

The Karn speaks, asking where he is, and who this stranger is that is before him. Glissa responds that it is Tezzeret , who has been sent here by Nicol Bolas, to aid them in their work. But even that moment of lucidity leaves, and he rants about what it means to be a machine, how he desires flesh, and how flesh itself is cage.

And speaking of flesh, Glissa reports that a Mirran lacking any metal has been discovered, and is immune to phyresis. She orders Tezzeret to stop holding back, that his own master has ordered him to assist, and that he is to find this freak, and compleat her.

Before their conversation ends, Karn gets up from his knees and speaks. He asks who he is, and recognizes the name Father of Machines, but knows that title should not be his. He repeats the same questions and then declares:

"You are all three mad. I am leaving this place."

(Quoted not because it was a bad line, but because I don't want to only quote bad lines.)

He strides with all the confidence of a being that created this world, and taps on the wall knowing a portal out of the room should open. It does not. He tries again, and he crumples to the ground, crying out that they have taken his portals. Glissa, the Good Mother, tries to comfort him and encourages him to return to his throne, but our Karn cannot be budged if he does not want to move, and with a tantrum he can dent walls and floor with his fists.

Tezerret soon leaves with ten of Glissa's forces on loan so he can find this girl and the rebel settlement, and Karn, the Mad once more cries out and then being scraping at the floor with his fingertips.

* * *

The Bad

Let's take a look at the second paragraph of the chapter. The first talks about how Geth is moving down a passage further into Mirrodin's core, having to duck below "low-hanging veinlike tubes". Then we get:

Geth's skull, surrounded up to his ears with a body that glinted and grew, turned neither right nor left. He knew the way to the throne room.


First of all, the paragraph is trying to combine Geth's growing body with his confidence in the area in  a way that doesn't feel right. It feels like they should be two separate paragraphs.

Second of all, this paragraph is followed by him thinking that Glissa purposefully created this passage to drop filth on him so he would always arrive at these meetings in an unkept state while Glissa remained clean, which completely negates the confidence the paragraph was trying to convey.

And third, you know that term "Show Don't Tell"? I think this paragraph could certainly use it. If I were to re-write this paragraph it would go something like:

Geth strode toward the throne room.

Nice and simple, and conveys command. He is lord of the vault, and this is his domain. It would of course be integrated into another paragraph, with a whole paragraph dedicated to some description of our Praetor, but in reality, since he's supposed to be shown as the inferior, there would need to be a paragraph describing how as soon as he enters the room, the posture changes because he knows he's inferior to Glissa, or that his posture changes because he wants to bide his time and wants to just appear as if he is inferior to Glissa.

I could go into more options into changing this paragraph, but there are actually good things to say, so let's get to that.

Can You See it?

Here is some of the mad wisdom from Karn:

Then Karn began bellowing. "Maybe what we think makes us free is nothing more than a symptom of our cage," he said.

All three stopped and turned. Karn was regarding his own steely hand very closely.

"I like that," Tezzeret said suddenly. "What he just said." He swept his arm toward the throne. "What if all this is holding us back?"

Glissa put her hand to her head and closed her eyes.

I've only taken one philosophy course in college. I'm sure questioning the nature of reality in the way that Karn is doing here, is something that many people have done before. But I still enjoyed reading Tezzeret's reaction to it. What I enjoyed better was Glissa's reaction to Tezzeret's reaction. Do you see it? She facepalmed! (LOL) Her mad figure of worship spouts out nonsense while her supposed ally takes it to heart, and all she can do is facepalm. (Oh poor Glissa.) Facepalmed described very well with the way it was written.

Glissa, Keeper of Karn

Why don't we talk about Glissa some more. First of all, I want to confirm that I has no idea that this chapter was coming. I do read each chapter then comment on them afterwards, with no peeking ahead. It is complete coincidence that I was musing about when Glissa and Melira would appear, and then I'm rewarded in the very next chapter.

I had my doubts because well... the Glissa described in the fantastic Planeswalker's Guide to New Phyrexia, Part 4 is depicted as the exact opposite of the Glissa in the book!

While Glissa keeps her contempt of the other praetors secret, she is vocal about her hatred of Geth and his "decrepit, slathering idiots." Glissa calls Geth "a decaying sack of flesh who sits idle on his mortal throne."

Glissa is aware of Karn, but during her compleation, much of her former identity and memories were lost, including the knowledge that Karn is the creator of her world. Now she denies that he is the Father of Machines, and views the silver golem with scorn and ridicule.

Although Glissa is the de facto leader of the Tangle, she refuses to identify herself as such. Glissa believes that a predator's natural instincts are far superior to any intellectual capabilities. She creates sentient beasts only to aid in her mission, and she extols the state of "instinctual ignorance." Eventually, she intends for the Phyrexianized elves and Sylvok to rid themselves of sentience, forget language, and remove independent thought.

Glissa's believes in "natural evolution" and less controlled development. She thinks that the vat priests and other "architects" are meddling too much with adaptation and survival, taking the innate strength and power out of their designs. There is too much "nurturing," and not enough reliance on power and instinct.

The only way you could get a more opposite Phyrexian Glissa is to get one that both admires and fancies Geth. The Glissa of the Planeswalker's Guide would not be mothering, protecting, and worshiping Karn.

Should I be upset at the misdirection? Which was written first? Which should I take as canon? How much direction is Wintermute given when writing the novel? Does he have access to the style guide? If so was it changed on him? Was he given an outline that he had to follow or was this his idea? Who gets final approval?

Those are questions I'll think more on later. I might not like the answers, and what I do know is that her presence has made the book more interesting.

Tezzeret, Stranger No More

It's a shame I have not yet read Test of Metal. From the very little I've read, that was appreciated pretty decently by fans of Magic fiction and Tezzeret's appearance should probably have made me cheer. Instead I had the curious, "Oh?"

I like his interactions and relationships with the others in the room though. In fact Karn, Glissa, Tezzeret, and Geth each are more interesting than our three heroes. They have personality, and true danger about them. (Unlike the forced animosity-that-really-isn't amongst the planeswalkers)

Best Chapter So Far

This was easily the best chapter of the book so far. It has some issues, but if the quality of the rest of the book remained at this level, I'm sure I could give the book as a whole a decent review. I hope our villains continue to make more appearances and/or the heroes step up and try to reclaim the spotlight that is drifting away from them.

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