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Author Topic: PC085, Giant Episode: The Narcomancer  (Read 5435 times)
Heradel
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« on: January 05, 2010, 11:04:43 PM »

PodCastle 85, Giant Episode: The Narcomancer


By N.K. Jemisin.
Read by Rajan Khanna.
Originally published in Helix.

“Death is not a Gatherer’s business,” Cet said. Did the woman realize
how greatly she had insulted him and all his brethren? For the first time
in a very long while, he felt anger stir in his heart. “_Peace_ is our
business. Sharers do that by healing the flesh. Gatherers deal with the
soul, judging those which are too corrupt or damaged to be salvaged and
granting them the Goddess’ blessing — “

“If you had learned your catechisms better you would understand that,”
the Superior interjected smoothly. He threw Cet a mild look, doubtless to
remind Cet that they could not expect better of ignorant country folk. “And
you would have known there was no need for payment. In a situation like
this, when the peace of many is under threat, it is the Temple’s duty to
offer aid.”

The men looked abashed; Mehepi’s jaw tightened at the scolding. With a
sigh, the Superior glanced down at some notes he’d taken on a reedleaf
sheet. “So, Cet; these brigands she mentioned are the problem. For the
past three turns of the greater moon, their village and others along the
Empty Thousand have suffered a curious series of attacks. Everyone in the
village falls asleep — even the men on guard duty. When they wake, their
valuables are gone. Food stores, livestock, the few stones of worth they
gather from their mine; their children have been taken too, no doubt sold to
those desert tribes who traffic in slaves. Some of the women and youths
have been abused, as you heard. And a few, such as the village headman and
the guards, were slain outright, perhaps to soften the village’s defenses
for later. No one wakes during these assaults.”

Cet inhaled, all his anger forgotten. “A sleep spell? But only the
Temple uses narcomancy.”

Rated R for nightmares, broken oaths and mended persons.

This episode of PodCastle is illustrated! The illustration has been provided by Shaun Lindow.
« Last Edit: January 26, 2010, 11:05:48 AM by Heradel » Logged

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cdugger
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« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2010, 07:32:32 PM »

I enjoyed this one. A good story for the Castle.

Funny thing, though, I kept getting a picture in my mind whenever the male Sister was in the scene. For some reason I kept picturing Plava Laguna. Maybe it was the characterization of the voice and manners.
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« Reply #2 on: January 07, 2010, 09:28:08 AM »

I really loved this one. I can't put my finger on any particular reason because there were so many.

I am, however, glad I didn't see that image up there before I listened. I prefer my mental image of what they looked like. Smiley
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« Reply #3 on: January 07, 2010, 11:04:03 AM »

I liked this one, and it was worth the extra time.  The confrontation with the Narcomancer was a bit light, but that's okay as it was more of a driving force to bring the characters together.

I was glad that I liked this one, to balance my opinion of the author, since I had a less-than-positive opinion about the other one.  I knew she was a good writer and the other one bothered me more because of the subject material, but glad to see that guess was correct.
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« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2010, 10:18:17 PM »

I really loved this one. I can't put my finger on any particular reason because there were so many.

I am, however, glad I didn't see that image up there before I listened. I prefer my mental image of what they looked like. Smiley

I couldn't agree more.   I would love to know more about the daughter!  I imagine she'd grow up to be an extraordinary woman...
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Rain
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« Reply #5 on: January 08, 2010, 01:58:12 PM »

The world where the story took place was interesting and i would like to see more from that setting, but i didnt really care for the story itself, i am not sure what the ultimate message of the pregnancy plot was, i just know it didnt interest me.
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« Reply #6 on: January 08, 2010, 02:08:25 PM »

Oh, and I did find it a little hard to believe his apparent complete incomprehension of sex.  He's a grown man, right?  So how has he avoided any sexual feelings of any sort?  Masturbation may be prohibited for one of the order, but that's very different from being unaware of things.
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madmatt
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« Reply #7 on: January 12, 2010, 04:20:35 PM »

I found this story very moving.  Fantastic setting, complex interesting characters, and a tragic yet uplifting ending.
Thank you.
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« Reply #8 on: January 12, 2010, 05:46:31 PM »

Enjoyable, if a bit slow. 

Once again, my apparently rather dark instincts made me presume that there was some darker secret to the inexplicable barrenness of Namsut.  I was waiting for the revelation that, like, the first wife was killing the second wife's infants with some sort of magic, or that Namsut had been terminating the pregnancies herself out of loathing for the father.  "The Goddess must have willed it" feels like kind of a thin explanation; the Goddess didn't seem to be too into overt miraculous actions prior to that point.  (And also, seriously, "Hey, here's my divine plan: let's have this chick get raped a whole bunch of times, over and over as she fails repeatedly to conceive, all so she can have one happy bout of sex."  You'd think that if the Goddess really were taking an active role in shaping someone's destiny for the better, She could do better than one good lay after a lifetime of misery.  This is why I'm not a Calvinist, I guess.)

At least there was an inevitable slide into madness and death at the end.  Can't get too comfortable, ne?
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« Reply #9 on: January 12, 2010, 10:05:48 PM »

What I loved most about this story was Cet's own inner conflict. His job is to bring peace to the soul, and yet, his own soul is struggling with the things that have recently come into his life. Conflicted heroes always make for good story. The world itself wasn't as rich as I would have liked it to be, but the tension between the characters more than filled that void.
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« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2010, 10:05:33 AM »

Enjoyable, if a bit slow. 

Once again, my apparently rather dark instincts made me presume that there was some darker secret to the inexplicable barrenness of Namsut.  I was waiting for the revelation that, like, the first wife was killing the second wife's infants with some sort of magic, or that Namsut had been terminating the pregnancies herself out of loathing for the father.  "The Goddess must have willed it" feels like kind of a thin explanation; the Goddess didn't seem to be too into overt miraculous actions prior to that point.  (And also, seriously, "Hey, here's my divine plan: let's have this chick get raped a whole bunch of times, over and over as she fails repeatedly to conceive, all so she can have one happy bout of sex."  You'd think that if the Goddess really were taking an active role in shaping someone's destiny for the better, She could do better than one good lay after a lifetime of misery.  This is why I'm not a Calvinist, I guess.)

At least there was an inevitable slide into madness and death at the end.  Can't get too comfortable, ne?

Very good points, the explanation of the miscarriages makes the goddess seem quite cruel.  Especially since her apparent barrenness perpetuates her as a target for rape by outcasting her, doesn't it?  So the goddess is actually causing her to get raped more often.
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Scattercat
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« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2010, 01:46:12 PM »

And just to be clear, I'm okay with the characters attributing it to the Goddess, and even with the characters then accepting the Goddess' plan, however cruel it may be.  What I don't like is the fact that the miscarriages aren't explained any other way (or if they were, I didn't catch it.  Was it something about Namsut being outside to see the meteorite hit after having sex with her husband?  It was way subtle if it was there.)  Basically, the characters remark on this odd coincidence, but that coincidence never gets resolved.  Why point it out if you're not going to do anything with it?
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« Reply #12 on: January 13, 2010, 01:54:07 PM »

the miscarriages aren't explained any other way

Since the miscarriages weren't directly the point of the story, I didn't see it is needing explanation. "The will of the Goddess" is fine with me.
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« Reply #13 on: January 21, 2010, 02:53:13 PM »

I liked the world but the story therein failed to grab me. It seemed to take an age of the Earth to get started which could have been severely trimmed back and made the story fit into the regular format rather than the giant.
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« Reply #14 on: January 28, 2010, 07:21:17 AM »

Very much enjoyed the dream magic.  If found the religious order and their magic (particularly the resonating stones they use) well constructed and interesting.
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yicheng
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« Reply #15 on: February 02, 2010, 12:32:20 PM »

Epic story!  I loved the rich environment.  I kept on thinking of Ancient India for some reason instead of an Egyptian/Mesopotamian setting as the names suggest.  Maybe it was the cross-dressing sister character.  The religious orders were very well-thought out.  I also liked the subtle and original use of dream magic and divinity.  The dialog was also superb.  I really liked how each exchange was nuanced and it's implication explained in a way that was illuminating without sounding pedantic or heavy-handed.

What I don't like is the fact that the miscarriages aren't explained any other way...

Ancient infant mortality rates in the Roman times could be as high as 25%.  Now think about what that figure would be for less sophisticated times, and in a rural village.  If an average of one in four births ended with the child dying, maybe people wouldn't given too much thought about stillbirths. 
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Scattercat
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« Reply #16 on: February 02, 2010, 05:25:16 PM »

Ancient infant mortality rates in the Roman times could be as high as 25%.  Now think about what that figure would be for less sophisticated times, and in a rural village.  If an average of one in four births ended with the child dying, maybe people wouldn't given too much thought about stillbirths. 

They explicitly remark on it to the degree that the character is labeled "cursed."  However, the reader is never given a reason why this woman had so many stillbirths as to astound even her equally-prone-to-infant-mortality compatriots. 
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yicheng
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« Reply #17 on: February 02, 2010, 06:37:49 PM »

They explicitly remark on it to the degree that the character is labeled "cursed."  However, the reader is never given a reason why this woman had so many stillbirths as to astound even her equally-prone-to-infant-mortality compatriots. 

If I remember correctly, it wasn't so much as she was labeled "cursed" but that the other rival wife (and faction) tried to spread rumors about her in order to discredit.  I believe that when they got to the village, there were villagers that were favorable to her.  Maybe I'm not understanding why you find this unbelievable.  For ancient people where everyday things were explained away with the will of gods, being "cursed by a god/goddess" wouldn't have been so outlandish.  Maybe one of her ancestors offended some god.  Maybe she didn't make the proper offerings to the proper deity.  Maybe she was just born under inauspicious stars.
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« Reply #18 on: February 02, 2010, 11:50:31 PM »

You misunderstand, Yicheng.  I do not find repeated miscarriages unbelievable per se.  However, the plot of the story hinges on her fertility, so much so that a character goes out of his way to confirm that she is, in fact, fertile and capable of bearing a child.  Everyone in the story (other than some really minor side characters) remarks on how odd it is that she never conceived.  However, no explanation for this oddity is given other than "It was the Goddess' will."  To which my response is, given that the world of the story contains an active and present Goddess, "Holy moly, the Goddess is a heartless biznitch."

It's the old "problem of evil."  If God truly is in control of all aspects of life, why is there evil?  If God is actively causing disasters and misery to people, then that God is a pretty despicable being.  Here, we're supposed to feel warm and fuzzy because she had One Night of True Passion, after which her man is sent to the Suicide Room for Crazy Mages and she has to raise their child alone and in charge of a village she doesn't particularly want, AND she also got raped over and over and over *explicitly* as a result of her previous inability to conceive, an inability apparently specifically inflicted on her by the loving Goddess?  Man oh man, what a dark and dismal world this story takes place in.

Personally, and I mean no disrespect to my wife, whom I love dearly, but if I had the choice between never meeting her at all or meeting her for about a week and having sex once before never seeing her again, with the cost of that meeting being a lifetime of rape and abuse and unwanted responsibility, well, call me Mister Bachelor.  You don't miss what you never had, y'know? 
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yicheng
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« Reply #19 on: February 03, 2010, 10:14:17 AM »

@Scattercat, then I think it's fair to say that your objection isn't with this story but with the theological idea of evil in the presence an all-power being.  My understanding of the story is that religions in this story are polytheistic and that the Goddess of sleep isn't so much omnipotent as just on a higher plane of existence.  Myself, I subscribe to the laws of karma, and I think good and evil are just human interpretations of the continual change in all things.  To me, trying to justify our limited perceptions of good or evil against an infinite cosmos is a futile exercise in frustration.

As for the story itself, I think one of the characters explicitly said that she could have left the village as an exile without much molestation, and that by choosing to stay and attempting to bear a child, she was voluntarily subjecting herself to the full wrath of the rival wife.  I think it was something to the effect of "make no mistake, this is a power struggle between the two women".  In the end, I think she made out pretty well.  Yes, her lover died (that whole madness after sex thing was sort of a deux machina, I'll grant that), but let's be realistic and admit it was just a one-night stand: a good one at that.  He's been a celibate monk spending most of his time meditating in a religious monastic order, probably used to nice clothes, regular hot meals, pooping indoors, etc.  She's a village widower, probably used to hard manual labor, probably illiterate, and now she's just taken over an entire village and has to go about the task of keeping things running and consolidating her power.  It's doubtful those two would have had much of a future together.
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