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Author Topic: PC096: Love Among The Talus  (Read 10500 times)

Anarkey

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on: March 23, 2010, 07:51:11 PM
PC 96: Love Among The Talus

by Elizabeth Bear.
Read by Diane Severson.
Originally appeared in Strange Horizons.


You cannot really keep a princess in a tower. Not if she has no brothers and must learn statecraft and dancing and riding and poisons and potions and the passage of arms, so that she may eventually rule.

But you can do the next best thing.

In the land of the shining empire, in a small province north of the city of Messaline and beyond the great salt desert, a princess with a tip-tilted nose lived with her mother, Hoelun Khatun, the Dowager Queen. The princess‚ whose name, it happens, was Nilufer‚ stood tall and straight as an ivory pole, and if her shoulders were broad out of fashion from the pull of her long oak-white bow, her dowry would no doubt compensate for any perceived lack of beauty. Her hair was straight and black, as smooth and cool as water, and even when she did not ride with her men-at-arms, she wore split, padded skirts and quilted, paneled robes of silk satin, all emerald and jade and black and crimson embroidered with gold and white chrysanthemums.

She needed no tower, for she was like unto a tower in her person, a fastness as sure as the mountains she bloomed beside, her cool reserve and mocking half-lidded glances the battlements of a glacial virginity.


Rated R for fierce princesses, bloody warlords, and living rocks who will grind you down.

This episode was brought to you by audible, your destination for the widest selection of digital audiobooks available for download.
« Last Edit: April 06, 2010, 03:11:12 PM by Heradel »

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Listener

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Reply #1 on: March 24, 2010, 12:57:39 PM
I might have been in the wrong mental space to enjoy this story, because I didn't really enjoy it. That's not to say the writing wasn't good, because it was, but I felt the story was too heavy on exposition, took too long to develop, had confusing names (I'm guilty of that myself too, though), took a couple of shortcuts (the ease of writing a spell), and in the end I didn't feel like anything had been accomplished. I mean, yes, the MC got what she wanted, but I didn't feel a sense of satisfaction, perhaps because I didn't empathize or relate to the MC in any way.

So, not the PC for me.

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Unblinking

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Reply #2 on: March 24, 2010, 02:06:38 PM
Didn't grab me.  I gave it a try, but the exposition at the beginning was just so loooong.  The Talus are an interesting creation, but not interesting enough to keep me listening at this point.  I'm almost finished with it, and it just really doesn't matter to me what happens to any of the characters.  Whether the princess lives or dies, becomes queen or not, makes little difference to me.  I'm not exactly sure why, maybe the over-lengthy exposition lost my attention span, or maybe I just don't find much in her that I can relate to.  I'm not sure.



mbrennan

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Reply #3 on: March 24, 2010, 11:22:39 PM
All right, I'll be the first to step up and say I did enjoy this. :-)  It's no secret that I'm a sucker for good worldbuilding, and Central Asian material is woefully underrepresented in fantasy.  I do wish, given their position in the title, that the talus has been more central to the story; while they were definitely relevant, they didn't really have the kind of narrative primacy I'd expect in a story named after them.  But I liked Nilufer (or at least found her to be an interesting character), and I liked the revelation of political complexity behind what sounded like a rather fairy-tale-ish opening.  I know Bear is working on a novel in this setting, and I'm looking forward to it, because I'd love to see more of the world.



lisavilisa

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Reply #4 on: March 25, 2010, 01:28:32 AM
So I liked this story.  I love a practical princess.

I did get a little confused with the names and family ties, can someone tell me who was related to who in the story?




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Reply #5 on: March 25, 2010, 02:07:21 AM
This one didn't work for me either.  Last night at bedtime was first listen; drifted off in the middle and came back right at the end.  Listened to the back half again today (from where the emissary brings the proposal of marriage to the Khan's son), and feel I've thrown good time after bad. 

[edit]
On an unrelated note, a few minutes in the middle had terrible sound quality.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2010, 03:36:57 AM by stePH »

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Boggled Coriander

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Reply #6 on: March 25, 2010, 07:02:52 AM
I second everyone who's said the multitude of names and titles and familial relations got a bit confusing.  I think I'd have been able to keep everything straight if I'd read the printed story, but I couldn't quite absorb everything properly while listening. 

Okay, that said, allowing for the fact I often wasn't entirely sure who was what and had which goals, I found the story very compelling, particularly the main character.  I wouldn't mind reading/hearing more set in this universe.

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Anarkey

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Reply #7 on: March 25, 2010, 11:27:32 AM
For those coveting the print version: http://www.strangehorizons.com/2006/20061211/talus-f.shtml

Ahhh, the beauty of reprints. 

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Liminal

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Reply #8 on: March 25, 2010, 09:55:47 PM

On an unrelated note, a few minutes in the middle had terrible sound quality.

Yeah, sorry about that - I tried my best to get rid of the noise - but if I got the noise out, the narrator's voice was either extremely muddy and hard to understand or very processed and hollow sounding, so I did my best to minimize it while still keeping her understandable.

Apologies to the listeners and Ms.  Bear.

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Reply #9 on: March 26, 2010, 05:28:07 PM
Didn't work for me.  Mostly because there was too much pure exposition - before we had any reason to care - and because there was a lot of passive voice.  The reading was also a bit halting, which didn't really help the situation.

There were some good bits in both the storyline and worldbuilding, and some bits that could have been really good imagery, but the wordcraft has to improve to really make it come to life.



danooli

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Reply #10 on: March 27, 2010, 01:56:54 PM
wow, i feel i could have enjoyed this story a whole lot more if I could follow the names and relationships and titles easier...



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Reply #11 on: March 27, 2010, 09:59:16 PM
I could be reading far more into this story than is there, but I like the Talus as metaphor.  Some wild, some tame if they are let alone they can slowly create, but killing is how one gets great riches and power.  Much like the Talus the suitors are more valuable dead.

In all, an interesting world, but the number and therefore lack of depth of the characters has me giving this a so-so rating.  Glad I heard it, but will probably no go back to it.

Although I have to admit the Talus are a really great re-interpretations of earth elementals, I love a good biological rational for anthropomorphic rock... I know a gaming group that will be encountering some Talus in the near future.

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Reply #12 on: March 28, 2010, 03:13:15 AM
I could be reading far more into this story than is there, but I like the Talus as metaphor.  Some wild, some tame if they are let alone they can slowly create, but killing is how one gets great riches and power.  Much like the Talus the suitors are more valuable dead.

Trust me, you're not reading too much into it.

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Anarquistador

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Reply #13 on: March 30, 2010, 07:21:20 PM
I'm of two minds about this one. On the one hand, it was certainly well written, well-plotted. And giving it a Central Asian setting was a nice departure from traditional fantasy tropes. Life under the Mongolian Empire isn't something that's explored very often in fiction, and it was nice to see that.

On the other hand, I was hard pressed to find anything really overtly fantastical in it. Apart from the presence of the Taluses (Talii?) themselves - and they really didn't play a huge part in the story - there really wasn't much to distinguish it from your basic medieval palace intrigue story. I know, that's probably sounding like a broken record for me at this point, but it did stick out for me.

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Reply #14 on: March 30, 2010, 08:08:44 PM
...I know, that's probably sounding like a broken record for me at this point, but it did stick out for me.

Yeah, well, on the brightside it makes quoting you in the feedback segments much easier:

Anarquistard said:...This is a recording.


Anarquistador

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Reply #15 on: March 31, 2010, 04:34:39 AM
"Anarquistard?"
 ???

Was that a mispelling, or shall I prepare to meet you on the Field of Honor, sir?

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Talia

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Reply #16 on: March 31, 2010, 04:41:32 AM
FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT.



DKT

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Reply #17 on: March 31, 2010, 05:27:19 AM
"Anarquistard?"
 ???

Was that a mispelling, or shall I prepare to meet you on the Field of Honor, sir?


Ha! Total honest goof on my part. Really! Sorry about that.

I'll still meet you at the Field of Honor, but I play dirty!


Anarquistador

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Reply #18 on: March 31, 2010, 05:41:25 AM
Well gosh, it's no fun to fight someone to the death over a typo.

...unless you break into leetspeak. Then I will have to roll out my WMD - my Weaponized Massive Dictionary.

I think the International Community would be on my side.

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schmetterling

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Reply #19 on: April 02, 2010, 08:09:36 AM
I really liked this one.  I'd definitely like more from this world.

The Talus were so different from anything I'd ever imagined.  And Nilufer's methods for getting what she wanted, instead of what everyone else wanted, made her seem so cold and calculating, and then sad and lonely at the end.  It's a nice change from the typical fantasy ending.

Despite the slight glitch in the middle, which has already been mentioned, the audio was overall very good, and the narration was wonderful.  Diane did a great job reading this one, and at least to me, she gave it an Asian feel with her voice.



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Reply #20 on: April 07, 2010, 03:28:47 PM
Came late to this one - built up a bit of a podcastle backlog over the past few weeks - but I did rather enjoy this one. It's not one of Podcastle's stronger offerings (or, for that matter, one of Elizabeth Bear's stronger offerings) - it felt to me that the story's style and the story's plot, while each on their own something I would really enjoy, just didn't really gel together all that well. This was most felt 2/3s into the story when the princess returns from her nighttime tryst with the bandit, suddenly sure of facts she had no way of knowing. It's not that moment in itself - it's rather that when I heard that moment, it felt like it had taken the story that long to decide what sort of story it wanted to be.




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Reply #21 on: April 12, 2010, 09:23:35 PM
Full disclosure: I usually listen to audio stories while doing something else, like commuting or doing yard work.  That generally has not been a problem.

I started listening to this story three times.  Each time, at some point I realized that the words were still coming into my ears but I had no idea what I had just been listening to.  My attention had been wandering. I could have backed up and listened again, but didn't feel the motivation.  I have a bit of a backlog that I'm catching up on, why spend my time pushing myself once more on this one?

I can't really say whether it was the writing, or the narration, or that I'm just not so into stories of plucky princesses.  But, as some others have said, it just didn't grab me.



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Reply #22 on: April 19, 2010, 04:35:43 AM
The part I enjoyed most in this story were the central Asian/Turkish setting. Yes that was the reason some of you found the names confusing. I've actually never read/heard a science fiction story that the main character had a Turkish name and some of the structure of the world and titles were pulled from ancient Turkish traditions. Keep it up!



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Reply #23 on: April 21, 2010, 04:44:52 PM
I'm going to have to read this one, I'm afraid. Listening to it didn't really catch my attention, and like Farseeker said, my attention wandered. I also felt like the Talus were completely arbitrary, though in reading some of the comments, I may have missed more than I thought.

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Reply #24 on: April 27, 2010, 02:16:29 AM
The Talus are excellent and reminded me of Terry Pratchett's trolls. :)

However, the story confused me - like others in this thread, I got lost in the names and filial associations. This was a world I could really warm to otherwise, and I wanted to more about how they used magic. One of the best scenes in recent memory: when she stood naked in front of the bandit and refused to shake; elegant, bold and titillating. :)

Am really looking forward to checking out Shadow Unit too..

Rob
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Reply #25 on: April 27, 2010, 11:10:06 PM
Getting ready to do the feedback for this one and noticed several people saying they'd enjoy reading more stories set in this world. To which Bear says: it's set in the same place as her forthcoming novellas Bone and Jewel Creatures and The Steles of the Sky, forthcoming from Subterranean Press in 2010 and 2011. So, keep an eye out.  :)


yicheng

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Reply #26 on: May 18, 2010, 09:00:40 PM
The story wasn't all that engaging, but I did enjoy the world-building.  The Taluses were interesting creatures, although (as others have said) their relevancy with the storyline was vague at best.  I can only guess that they are symbolic of the princess's life, as she decides to either be lead by others and (like the domesticated Talus) be the wife and trophy of someone else's political climb, or decide her own fate (as the wild Talus).  I'd definitely interested in hearing/reading more about this world. 

I'm a little surprised, though, that the royal incest didn't raise any eyebrows in the forums.  It sounded like she knew that Tamil was her brother and did it anyway.  Whoa!




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Reply #27 on: May 09, 2012, 06:38:54 PM
For anyone who enjoyed this, or perhaps even for some of you who didn't, Elizabeth Bear has just released a full novel set in this universe: Range of Ghosts. Mostly it's a different set of characters, but Nilafur has a small role. I'm finding it quite excellent! I didn't experience any difficulty keeping track of familial connections, which was one of the primary complaints with this one, so it may be worth checking out even if you had issues with this story.

I didn't make the connection until I was about 80% done with the books and the Taluses made an appearance. I was like "wait.. giant, ground-eating living rocks.. that sounds awfully familiar."

I'm pretty sure it's going to be the first in a series (not quite done yet, but there's way too much still hanging for it to be wrapped up in the few pages I have left).

Anyway, its good. Check it out.