Escape Artists

News:

  • Congratulations to the winners of the Podcastle flash fiction contest!

News

Congratulations to the winners of the Podcastle flash fiction contest!

Author Topic: PC138: Balfour And Meriwether In The Adventure Of The Emperor’s Vengeance  (Read 22226 times)

BlueLu

  • Palmer
  • **
  • Posts: 47
    • www.lenacoakley.com
Fantastic!  This is probably my favorite PodCastle story so far.  I loved the rapport between the two characters and the way the complexities of their long, symbiotic relationship were got across with just a few strokes.  I would read any number of stories with these characters and was delighted to read on the author’s website that he had sold another Balfour and Meriwether story and was working on a novella.  I hope we hear them soon on Podcastle!  (And no, I am not Daniel Abraham’s mom.)

Lena


tinygaia

  • Peltast
  • ***
  • Posts: 81
First time posting.

The thing that really made this story for me was the characters. I thought the author did a great job of hinting at Balfour and Meriweather’s long history of clandestine adventures. The way their personalities worked so well together left me wanting more stories about them, and I was pleased to see the author’s blog post stating that some were in the works. Overall, great story.



Talia

  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 2682
  • Muahahahaha
Welcome Tinygaia. Glad you enjoyed the story. :)



Unblinking

  • Sir Postsalot
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 8729
    • Diabolical Plots
First time posting.

The thing that really made this story for me was the characters. I thought the author did a great job of hinting at Balfour and Meriweather’s long history of clandestine adventures. The way their personalities worked so well together left me wanting more stories about them, and I was pleased to see the author’s blog post stating that some were in the works. Overall, great story.

Welcome!  Does your avatar image happen to be from the game Secret of Mana?  It looks familiar.   :)



Listener

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 3187
  • I place things in locations which later elude me.
    • Various and Sundry Items of Interest
I think the narrator is very talented, but I don't always enjoy his readings. I think they're often TOO dry.

I enjoyed the story, although I agree with some other commenters that it was slow in places. Also, B&M were too conventional of MCs, and their unconventionalness wasn't adequately explained to keep it from drawing my attention away from the story. Why does Balfour use braces of knives? Why is he so quiet? How does Meriwether know Hebrew (I think that was mentioned; can't recall now)? And Lord Whatsisname was a very hackneyed character as well.

The story overcame the characterization issues I had with it, and by the end I was quite into it.

"Farts are a hug you can smell." -Wil Wheaton

Blog || Quote Blog ||  Written and Audio Work || Twitter: @listener42


stePH

  • Actually has enough cowbell.
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 3906
  • Cool story, bro!
    • Thetatr0n on SoundCloud
The title of this one threw me; I was expecting another adventure of Sir Hereward and Mr. Fitz  :P But I liked this better.

"Nerdcore is like playing Halo while getting a blow-job from Hello Kitty."
-- some guy interviewed in Nerdcore Rising


eytanz

  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 6109
Ooh, I really loved this one. A great steampunk adventure story.  Not really that much to say about it beyond that.

The beginning sounded a lot like a Sherlock Holmes story, and I kept trying to compare Balfour and Meriwether to Sherlock and Dr. Watson (respectively). But I eventually realized the error in this, since one of them is not a bumbling idiot. More a sort of Sean Connery as James Bond duo.

Watson was far from an idiot in the original Holmes stories, that's something that was added in the Basil Rathbone movies.

Pretty cool but was I the only one bugged by the 12 plagues?

Haven't you ever been to a seder? Just count yourself lucky she didn't say "fifty plagues," and then start listing each one and the logic by which there were that many.

Rabbi Akiva calls your fifty plagues at land, and raises you two hundred and fifty plagues at sea. ;)



tinygaia

  • Peltast
  • ***
  • Posts: 81
Welcome!  Does your avatar image happen to be from the game Secret of Mana?  It looks familiar.   :)

You're right. That's my favorite game of all time.



Max e^{i pi}

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1038
  • Have towel, will travel.
Ooh, I really loved this one. A great steampunk adventure story.  Not really that much to say about it beyond that.

The beginning sounded a lot like a Sherlock Holmes story, and I kept trying to compare Balfour and Meriwether to Sherlock and Dr. Watson (respectively). But I eventually realized the error in this, since one of them is not a bumbling idiot. More a sort of Sean Connery as James Bond duo.

Watson was far from an idiot in the original Holmes stories, that's something that was added in the Basil Rathbone movies.

I've read many (perhaps most, but certainly not all) of the original stories, and I've always found Watson to be a sort of weak character. Maybe my choice of words ("bumbling idiot") was incorrect, but he is not even close to being the equal of Holmes. I've always felt that his part in the story was for Holmes to bounce ideas off of and thus explain things to the reader who hasn't figured it out yet. He rarely contributes something clever and original to the story. He is clearly the sidekick and clearly far inferior to Holmes in every way (disguise, powers of observation, intrigue, fighting skills, deduction...), but better than the cop (I forget his name).
I got the feeling that Balfour and Meriwether were more or less equals in most things relevant to finding and capturing criminals or other things that may disturb the peace.
And that was what I meant.

Cogito ergo surf - I think therefore I network

Registered Linux user #481826 Get Counted!



eytanz

  • Moderator
  • *****
  • Posts: 6109
Then we have no disagreement - Watson clearly isn't the equal of Holmes. But in the original stories it was made clear that Watson is actually a pretty intelligent and resourceful person, and the fact that as such he's still miles behind Holmes is supposed to indicate how much of a genius Holmes actually is.

I agree that Balfour and Meriwether seem to be far more equally balanced.



Scattercat

  • Caution:
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 4904
  • Amateur wordsmith
    • Mirrorshards
Yeah, the point of Watson was that he was a doctor and a smart cookie, but he just couldn't keep up with Holmes when he was on an intuition high; nobody could.  Watson was a foil, someone who was smart but pedestrian and methodical to contrast with Holmes' erratic and unpredictable bursts of insight.



kibitzer

  • Purveyor of Unsolicited Opinions
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 2228
  • Kibitzer: A meddler who offers unwanted advice
Watson was far from an idiot in the original Holmes stories, that's something that was added in the Basil Rathbone movies.

You are SO right and that "bumbling idiot" persona annoys me immensely!! Thankfully it's not universal as the excellent Granada series and even the most recent "Sherlock" series showed. Other things that annoy me: the perpetual deerstalker; the stupid meerschaum pipe; the magnifying glass; "Elementary my dear Watson."


kibitzer

  • Purveyor of Unsolicited Opinions
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 2228
  • Kibitzer: A meddler who offers unwanted advice
...to contrast with Holmes' erratic and unpredictable bursts of insight.

I'd argue that Homes was neither erratic nor unpredictable. It is true that when his brain was unengaged he dropped into extreme lassitude. However when engaged, his mental processes were logical, progressive and brilliant.


Scattercat

  • Caution:
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 4904
  • Amateur wordsmith
    • Mirrorshards
...to contrast with Holmes' erratic and unpredictable bursts of insight.

I'd argue that Homes was neither erratic nor unpredictable. It is true that when his brain was unengaged he dropped into extreme lassitude. However when engaged, his mental processes were logical, progressive and brilliant.

Logical, perhaps, but not progressive.  He tended to make the final leap - often one that defied explanation - all in one go.  He was strongly intuitive, in other words, rather than building gradually on previous work.  That is what I mean by erratic; it was always a bit of a crapshoot as to which bit of information would tip Holmes over into revelation, and he tended in general to solve things by retreating to mull things over for a time rather than methodically testing and discarding hypotheses.



stePH

  • Actually has enough cowbell.
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 3906
  • Cool story, bro!
    • Thetatr0n on SoundCloud
Other things that annoy me: the perpetual deerstalker; the stupid meerschaum pipe; the magnifying glass; "Elementary my dear Watson."

Carl Sagan never said "billions and billions", Humphrey Bogart never said "Play it again, Sam", and Sherlock Holmes never said "Elementary, my dear Watson."

"Nerdcore is like playing Halo while getting a blow-job from Hello Kitty."
-- some guy interviewed in Nerdcore Rising


yicheng

  • Matross
  • ****
  • Posts: 221
The story was entertaining enough.  More of a fun romp than anything memorable, and it makes me wish for a Steampunk spin-off of Stargate.

I wanted to chime in on Ms Leckie's prologue piece about primitive cultures and "ancient aliens": I couldn't agree more.  I've always thought that much of that belief was based largely on colonial ethno-centrism, i.e. equating primitive people lacking in tools/technology as stupid or simple.



Unblinking

  • Sir Postsalot
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 8729
    • Diabolical Plots
I've always thought that much of that belief was based largely on colonial ethno-centrism, i.e. equating primitive people lacking in tools/technology as stupid or simple.

On a sleepless night a few months ago, I watched a show about Rome's Coliseum.  For a long time of recent history, no one knew how they built it, raising the highest stones on top of the others with the tools of the time.  Then some time fairly recently they found one historical document that had a picture of equipment they might have used to do it.  So, as an experiment, the researchers built a machine based entirely on the diagram.  It was built entirely of wood and fashioned using only period-appropriate tools, and was powered by humans walking inside a 15-foot diameter wooden wheel that looked like a hamster wheel.  With 3-4 people on the wheel exerting only moderate effort they were able to lift a huge block (was it 1 ton?  I forget).

I found that really amazing.  I think part of the reason that some of that huge scale long-lasting old architecture is so mind-boggling is that it was the result of huge resource and labor cost for a whole civilization to a degree that's only feasible if there is unchecked exploitation of the masses (i.e. slave labor, overtaxation, etc..).  Also, these days people are always demanding something new even if the old is perfectly serviceable (professional sports teams a major example of this, clamoring for new stadium when their old stadium is just fine).



yicheng

  • Matross
  • ****
  • Posts: 221
I found that really amazing.  I think part of the reason that some of that huge scale long-lasting old architecture is so mind-boggling is that it was the result of huge resource and labor cost for a whole civilization to a degree that's only feasible if there is unchecked exploitation of the masses (i.e. slave labor, overtaxation, etc..).  Also, these days people are always demanding something new even if the old is perfectly serviceable (professional sports teams a major example of this, clamoring for new stadium when their old stadium is just fine).

Exploitation is a relative term, though.  I've heard a fairly convincing argument that the average Medieval European Peasants had better living standards and worked less hours/day and days/year than our modern-day minimum wage working class. 

I think part of that mindset is also the rather arrogant idea that History is a natural continuation of a series of ever-improving steps, with us at the pinnacle, and things graduating getting worse and worse the farther you go back.  As far as I can tell, this is a fairly modern (post-industrial) world-view, whereas most ancient societies (Romans included) believed that civilizations had life & death cycles.



Unblinking

  • Sir Postsalot
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 8729
    • Diabolical Plots
I found that really amazing.  I think part of the reason that some of that huge scale long-lasting old architecture is so mind-boggling is that it was the result of huge resource and labor cost for a whole civilization to a degree that's only feasible if there is unchecked exploitation of the masses (i.e. slave labor, overtaxation, etc..).  Also, these days people are always demanding something new even if the old is perfectly serviceable (professional sports teams a major example of this, clamoring for new stadium when their old stadium is just fine).

Exploitation is a relative term, though.  I've heard a fairly convincing argument that the average Medieval European Peasants had better living standards and worked less hours/day and days/year than our modern-day minimum wage working class.  

I think part of that mindset is also the rather arrogant idea that History is a natural continuation of a series of ever-improving steps, with us at the pinnacle, and things graduating getting worse and worse the farther you go back.  As far as I can tell, this is a fairly modern (post-industrial) world-view, whereas most ancient societies (Romans included) believed that civilizations had life & death cycles.

With that statement I wasn't referring to Medieval times, because I don't think anyone theorizes that Medieval architecture was built by aliens.  I was thinking more like the Egyptian pyramids, Pharoah watching over as the slaves move the bricks up there one by one, putting together a huge monument that took decades to build and served the purpose of a burial chamber for the kings where they would be buried with all their most valuable possessions.  It's still a marvel of architecture, but I'd still call that exploitative.  None of the workers get a chance to be buried in pyramids.



kibitzer

  • Purveyor of Unsolicited Opinions
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 2228
  • Kibitzer: A meddler who offers unwanted advice
Logical, perhaps, but not progressive.  He tended to make the final leap - often one that defied explanation - all in one go.  He was strongly intuitive, in other words, rather than building gradually on previous work.  That is what I mean by erratic; it was always a bit of a crapshoot as to which bit of information would tip Holmes over into revelation, and he tended in general to solve things by retreating to mull things over for a time rather than methodically testing and discarding hypotheses.

Well, no. The mulling things over was after he'd collected evidence, it was the mulling that was the methodically testing and discarding hypotheses. Detectives who work more by bursts of insight and intuition include Ruth Rendell's Inspector Wexford and Colin Dexter's Inspector Morse.

Anyway, I'm hijacking this thread so I'll leave it there.

For now. :-)


hautdesert

  • Editor
  • *****
  • Posts: 315
 I was thinking more like the Egyptian pyramids, Pharoah watching over as the slaves move the bricks up there one by one,

It's quite likely the Pyramids (and other similar monuments) weren't built by slave labor.  I mean, any more so than any other endeavor for that time and place.  Many of the workers involved were skilled, and we've got tallies and receipts for wages for various people who worked on big construction projects like that.

And if you think about it, would it make sense for Pharaoh to buy a gajillion slaves, feed and house them in some way--even deliberately substandard rations would be a whole big mess of barley and onions--and then find some way to sell them off when the project was done?  Or feed and house them until the next expensive architectural project?  It makes very little sense.

It makes much better sense to hire laborers when they're available--say, agricultural downtimes--and pay them only while they work for you.  Or, not uncommon for any number of ancient societies, require a certain amount of public labor from every family and use the corvee to do whatever's needed at that particular time.

And given what we know about Egyptian religion, I strongly suspect that it was a great deal more like the situation with European cathedrals, castles, etc.  The laborers were almost certainly paid (barring assistants or indentured servants or bondsmen or what have you, who certainly existed in Medieval Europe, just like yeah, there were slaves in ancient Egypt and they were pretty much everywhere) and almost certainly believed in the worth of what they were doing--for the (G)god(s), for the institutions and ideologies they believed in, for their clan or region or country or tribe or whatever.

I'm sure there were slaves involved in the pyramids' construction, there were slaves all over the ancient world.  But the popular image of thousands of hapless slaves building the pyramids is probably not terribly accurate.



ElectricPaladin

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1005
  • Holy Robot
    • Burning Zeppelin Experience
 I was thinking more like the Egyptian pyramids, Pharoah watching over as the slaves move the bricks up there one by one,

It's quite likely the Pyramids (and other similar monuments) weren't built by slave labor.  I mean, any more so than any other endeavor for that time and place.  Many of the workers involved were skilled, and we've got tallies and receipts for wages for various people who worked on big construction projects like that.

And if you think about it, would it make sense for Pharaoh to buy a gajillion slaves, feed and house them in some way--even deliberately substandard rations would be a whole big mess of barley and onions--and then find some way to sell them off when the project was done?  Or feed and house them until the next expensive architectural project?  It makes very little sense.

It makes much better sense to hire laborers when they're available--say, agricultural downtimes--and pay them only while they work for you.  Or, not uncommon for any number of ancient societies, require a certain amount of public labor from every family and use the corvee to do whatever's needed at that particular time.

And given what we know about Egyptian religion, I strongly suspect that it was a great deal more like the situation with European cathedrals, castles, etc.  The laborers were almost certainly paid (barring assistants or indentured servants or bondsmen or what have you, who certainly existed in Medieval Europe, just like yeah, there were slaves in ancient Egypt and they were pretty much everywhere) and almost certainly believed in the worth of what they were doing--for the (G)god(s), for the institutions and ideologies they believed in, for their clan or region or country or tribe or whatever.

I'm sure there were slaves involved in the pyramids' construction, there were slaves all over the ancient world.  But the popular image of thousands of hapless slaves building the pyramids is probably not terribly accurate.


Another thing to remember is that slavery in the ancient near east (probably) isn't what you're thinking of when you think of "slavery." Slaves weren't chattle, they were low-status members of the community who had certain rights. In a lot of cultures, there were limitations on how you could treat your slaves, when (and whether) you could sell them, how long they could be slaves, and how many generations a family could be enslaved. It wasn't great, of course... but it also wasn't anything like, say, American slavery. Again, there probably weren't thousands of hapless slaves toiling in the hot sun.

Captain of the Burning Zeppelin Experience.

Help my kids get the educational supplies they need at my Donor's Choose page.


Wilson Fowlie

  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 1474
    • The Maple Leaf Singers
It's quite likely the Pyramids (and other similar monuments) weren't built by slave labor.  ...

... there probably weren't thousands of hapless slaves toiling in the hot sun.

The 'haut desert' sun? :)

"People commonly use the word 'procrastination' to describe what they do on the Internet. It seems to me too mild to describe what's happening as merely not-doing-work. We don't call it procrastination when someone gets drunk instead of working." - Paul Graham



stePH

  • Actually has enough cowbell.
  • Hipparch
  • ******
  • Posts: 3906
  • Cool story, bro!
    • Thetatr0n on SoundCloud
The 'haut desert' sun? :)

Bad pun. Me no leckie.  :P

"Nerdcore is like playing Halo while getting a blow-job from Hello Kitty."
-- some guy interviewed in Nerdcore Rising