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Author Topic: PC199: A Suitable Present for a Sorcerous Puppet  (Read 6620 times)
Talia
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« on: March 06, 2012, 09:58:32 AM »

PodCastle 199: A Suitable Present for a Sorcerous Puppet

by Garth Nix

Read by Paul Tevis

Originally published in Swords and Dark Magic: The New Sword and Sorcery

Sir Hereward sighed as he turned another page. His enthusiasm for reading had diminished in the turning of several hundred pages, with its concomitant several hundred finger lickings, for he had found only two entries worth reading: one on how to cheat at a board game that had changed its name but was still widely played in the known world; and another on the multiplicity of uses of the root spice cabizend, some surprising number of which fell into Hereward’s professional area of expertise as an artillerist and maker of incendiaries.

In fact, Hereward was about to give up and bellow to the housekeeper who kept the tower to bring him some ale, when the title of the next commonplace caught his eye. It was called “On the Propitiation of Sorcerous Puppets.”

As Sir Hereward’s constant companion, comrade-in-arms, and one-time nanny was a sorcerous puppet known as Mister Fitz, this was very much of interest to the injured knight. He eagerly read on, and though the piece was short and referred solely to the more usual kind of sorcerous puppet—one made to sing, dance, and entertain—he did learn something new.


Rated PG: Contains some violence.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: March 27, 2012, 08:53:28 AM by Talia » Logged
Unblinking
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« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2012, 09:30:56 AM »

Well, this one didn't suffer from the main criticism that people have said about the previous two.  That is:  Mr. Fitz carries the whole story including the resolution and Sir Hereward plays almost no role (other than having a lover who dies).

But I didn't really care for it, for several reasons:
--Mr. Hereward asked for the God-possessed instrument, having never seen it, based on the historical accounts in the book, and only then did the God act as the woman.  Seems an improbable string of events for this God to unleash itself.
--Mr. Hereward beat the first God all by himself, but pretty much entirely by accident, hitting it with the one thing at hand, which coincidentally happened to be the way to kill it.
--Mr. Fitz then shows up and infodumps why this unlikely series of events makes any sense whatsoever (which was interesting, but a little late to really accomplish much in the way of tension)
--And then they kill the other God which is no obstacle to them at all (still no tension)

The more I think about it, the more I wonder if it's just the idea of the quest of Hereward and Fitz, but I don't really like the stories themselves that much.  I've always liked quests, and this is a particularly cool one, traveling the world and tracking Gods, performing whatever subterfuge or assault it takes to destroy them and then moving on.  But it seems like the stories themselves are lacking in tension, emotion, immersion, the things I most look for in a story.  I wonder if I liked the first one I heard so much because it was my first exposure to this quest, and that was enough to carry me through the rest of it.

So anyway, I'd still like to see more of them, and hopefully I'll get into a new one a little more.
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dirk.bruere
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« Reply #2 on: March 09, 2012, 02:55:15 PM »

One note that always jars in the way that the reader pronounces the name.
Hereward is an old English name and is not pronounced "here-ward" but "heh-reh-ward"
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« Reply #3 on: March 09, 2012, 03:03:10 PM »

I breaks my sorcerous heart to say this, but this was probably the weakest Hereward and Mr. Fitz story so far. I agree with Unblinking about this one - though I remain charmed by the rest of the series - that this story is too passive, too quick, and insufficiently consequential. It has neither the life-or-death drama of the other stories nor the subtler tragedy of Hereward's life.

I kind of wonder if it isn't time for a Hereward and Mr. Fitz novel. Maybe with these three stories the concept is played out and it's time to explore it in a little more depth.

Hint hint, Mr. Nix. Hint hint.

Ok, full disclosure time: I've thought it was time for a Hereward and Mr. Fitz novel from Day One.

But anyway, I can't say that I didn't like it, it just didn't really strike me the way the previous stories have. It was a fairly fun fantasy romp, but not a tale of drama and mystery, gradually explicating a larger setting, with characters coyly displaying hidden depths. This one was just a dude, in a tower, with a broken foot macking on a cute nun. There's nothing wrong with that, but I've read better, and it starred the same characters, even.
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« Reply #4 on: March 09, 2012, 03:15:09 PM »

I breaks my sorcerous heart to say this, but this was probably the weakest Hereward and Mr. Fitz story so far. I agree with Unblinking about this one - though I remain charmed by the rest of the series - that this story is too passive, too quick, and insufficiently consequential. It has neither the life-or-death drama of the other stories nor the subtler tragedy of Hereward's life.

Interesting, and fair enough.

One of the things I loved about this story was how different it was from the previous ones in tone. Like, if you're watching all these darker conspiracy-wrapped X-Files episodes, and then you get something like Humbug or Jose Chung.  I appreciated that this wasn't as dark in tone, and the little beats of Hereward wanting to get Fitz a present, and then finding out about his "vow," and losing interest in the endeavor. But to each their own  Wink
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« Reply #5 on: March 09, 2012, 03:45:54 PM »

I breaks my sorcerous heart to say this, but this was probably the weakest Hereward and Mr. Fitz story so far. I agree with Unblinking about this one - though I remain charmed by the rest of the series - that this story is too passive, too quick, and insufficiently consequential. It has neither the life-or-death drama of the other stories nor the subtler tragedy of Hereward's life.

Interesting, and fair enough.

One of the things I loved about this story was how different it was from the previous ones in tone. Like, if you're watching all these darker conspiracy-wrapped X-Files episodes, and then you get something like Humbug or Jose Chung.  I appreciated that this wasn't as dark in tone, and the little beats of Hereward wanting to get Fitz a present, and then finding out about his "vow," and losing interest in the endeavor. But to each their own  Wink

I see what you're saying, and I agree that this is what Nix was going for. I'll even go so far as to say that a change of pace is exactly what this franchise needed. However, the way it was done didn't really do it for me. It was kind of neither-here-nor-there, weak choices rather than strong choices.

1) The threat of divine infestation turns out to be inaccurate. Hereward and Mr. Fitz bounce off each other while looking for trouble - possibly indadvertedly creating some - and learn a heart-warming lesson about the importance of their odd relationship.

2) The story begins as a low-stakes interlude, but it turns out that there's something more serious going on.

Either version would have provided a break from the typical formula. However, what was got was kind of half-assed. It didn't have the humor of the former ("what a surprise, the proscribed entity is actually just an old magic bucket!") or the humor-becoming-drama of the latter ("I am fond of you as well, Sir Hereward, but perhaps we should attend to the five-headed serpentine monstrocity which intends to render both of us exanamite?").
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« Reply #6 on: March 11, 2012, 07:02:03 PM »

I think the Jose Chung's From Outer Space comparison is apt.  This was definitely the funniest of the series for me, and given the shorter length, I probably liked it just as much as the first one.  The scholar-pirates felt over-long and kind of boring to me, despite the were-jaguar sex.  This one moved along quickly and gives me the sense that these two have Jessica Fletcher Syndrome, every vacation they take comes with evil gods and dangerous artifacts.  I love a good comic interlude and this is a nice change of pace.  Any series of stories tends to get formulaic after a while, and when I saw the title, I was worried I was about to get sick of Sir Hereward and Mr. Fitz.  Glad to see this is not the case, although I hope the fourth story will again manage to be different from the previous three.

Not to agree with everyone, but this is one of the few short stories I would actually like to see a novel of, as long as it isn't just a doorstop quest novel.

Anyway, I liked it.
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« Reply #7 on: March 12, 2012, 09:00:25 AM »

I breaks my sorcerous heart to say this, but this was probably the weakest Hereward and Mr. Fitz story so far. I agree with Unblinking about this one - though I remain charmed by the rest of the series - that this story is too passive, too quick, and insufficiently consequential. It has neither the life-or-death drama of the other stories nor the subtler tragedy of Hereward's life.

Having had a few more days to think about it, I think I was perhaps too harsh about the rest of the series.  Thinking back on them, I still like the other ones quite a lot.  I was hoping for more from this one, and I think it made me crabby and prone to displacement.  Tongue
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« Reply #8 on: March 12, 2012, 09:57:01 AM »

I read this one already 'cause I bought the e-book back when it was mentioned in the Pirates episode.  :-)

I liked it, but I gotta agree with the folks who feel like it was a bit of a clothesline in terms of tone and structure, which is both good and bad.  I did like to see Sir Hereward get a LITTLE more spotlight time.  :-)
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« Reply #9 on: March 12, 2012, 10:31:48 AM »

At first, I wasn't going to listen because I was lukewarm on the last two stories of Hereward and Mr. Fitz. To my surprise, I liked it. Maybe it's because Mr. Fitz is off doing weird stuff, putting most of the story's focus on Hereward. I liked his interactions with the novice, and the subsequent monster. And I liked the light and humorous banishment of both monsters, as well Mr. Fitz last comment, which promises more mayhem may be coming any minute now. Just what was Mr. Fitz up to?  I do believe this story has finally got me intrigued enough to care.
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« Reply #10 on: March 12, 2012, 12:47:04 PM »

Yeah I definitely think Kirk Hereward is the more interesting of the pair, that probably contributed to why I liked it as well, him getting to be more of a partner than the authority beard.  I mean, he is supposedly qualified more than the average person for this, right?
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« Reply #11 on: March 12, 2012, 01:08:36 PM »

Yeah I definitely think Kirk Hereward...

Now, that's not fair. Kirk and Hereward don't have that much in common. A certain tendency towards philandering, but other than that... I mean, come on, Kirk is able to handle some degree of responsibility.
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« Reply #12 on: March 12, 2012, 06:16:16 PM »

Myself I quite enjoyed the story despite its precipitous cliff-hanger ending, oh cruel cruel fate. It is my second story I've heard in this series and felt that it was a fine change from the seafaring adventure I heard before it. Reading some of the fair complaints I find that the use of godlets intoned a different expectation in me than it might have others.

Both the creatures of this story and the star-fish being of the previous adventure manifested power but hardly that approaching a full god, of this setting comparing them to somebeing like Nar-Nar(for lack of looking up the spelling in the ebook and still getting it wrong during transfer) seems to have wide-spread power and influence. Related to this, I think is the ease of killing some beings compared to others. A being trapped in a chest for however long it might have been and without its matching partner it seems like killing a newborn will be easier, even a newborn god essentially.

And relating to the related thoughts I don't think there was any indication that the instrument was housing a godlet-thing until it makes itself known through missteps. I felt that things fit together quite sensibly, but maybe my sensibilities aren't quite so sensible, then the whole matter would be quite senseless...
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« Reply #13 on: March 13, 2012, 05:34:49 AM »

Now, that's not fair. Kirk and Hereward don't have that much in common. A certain tendency towards philandering, but other than that... I mean, come on, Kirk is able to handle some degree of responsibility.

I think we've had this argument before, but I feel your statement is highly debatable since Kirk only became Captain through cheating.
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« Reply #14 on: March 13, 2012, 05:38:18 AM »

The story itself -- lovely. I've enjoyed all the Hereward/Fitz stories and this one, whilst a definite change of pace, was no exception. My only criticism is I thought it a little overlong; I felt it could have ended soon after the vanquishing of the first godlet.

But I love the world Mr Nix has created here. There is definitely room for more exploration. Smiley
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« Reply #15 on: March 13, 2012, 08:30:47 AM »

Now, that's not fair. Kirk and Hereward don't have that much in common. A certain tendency towards philandering, but other than that... I mean, come on, Kirk is able to handle some degree of responsibility.

I think we've had this argument before, but I feel your statement is highly debatable since Kirk only became Captain through cheating.

True enough.

In any case, there are some marked similarities between the characters, but I don't feel that they are by any means the same person. Hereward is much more a lone wandering warrior - a ronin? A black knight? - then a rakish and charismatic leader of men. But you're right - we've ridden this donkey before.
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« Reply #16 on: March 13, 2012, 12:46:07 PM »

I don't mean to contribute to a nerd pedantry fest, but I'd like to point out Hereward had a military background and advanced through the ranks to become an artillerist.  He must have at least some ability with command, and that was on display a bit during the pirate episode.

But I was more referring to the philandering and Hereward's way of thinking as compared to Fitz in their little Freudian Duo.
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« Reply #17 on: March 13, 2012, 03:37:03 PM »

It's pretty amazing to me how different each of these stories is, even though they feature the same two characters with the same overall mission. I do hope that Mr. Nix keeps writing them and makes a novel from the stories. This series strikes me as the modern fantasy equivalent of Jeeves and Wooster, perfect for lots of vignettes. Smiley
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« Reply #18 on: March 14, 2012, 06:25:36 AM »

I think I like this one more than the other two, and that says a lot.
Mostly it was because Sir Hereward finally emerged from Mr. Fitz's rather short shadow and seriously contributed to their quest. The fact that he did so entirely by accident while trying to accomplish something else is the best part (IMO).
See, I've always pictured Sir Hereward as a sort of dim-witted soldier guy. Very good in a fight, brash, prone to chase after his baser instincts and generally uninterested in the whys and wherefores (but certainly interested in the whos). The fact that this story opened with him reading a book, albeit under duress but (somewhat) enjoying it, added a new dimension to his character. Then, by bumbling his way through the encounter with the godlet with something less than his usual aplomb and reinforcing the original character portrait I had in my mind, he only added to the humor of the story.
And this story was definitely a humorous interlude.
I'm glad to see Sir Hereward actually contributing to the quest but a little disappointed that we didn't get to hear more about what was hinted at in the last story, Mr. Fitz's progeny. Maybe in the novel...? *wink wink*  Wink

As for Unblinking's chief complaint: the lack of tension.
I don't think there was very much tension in any of the Sir Hereward and Mr. Fitz stories. (We need to acronym that. SHAMF stories?) To me the stories are all about the journey. They are, in a sense, on a never ending quest, so there can't really be any tension, because to resolve the tension would be to end their quest. The picture of two highly mismatched companions endlessly and randomly bouncing around the world wreaking unintentional havoc in the name of "good" tickles my funnybone. And the fact that they nearly always encounter trouble by accident or through Sir Hereward's misplaced actions only adds to it.
Look, you can't have tension when you're dealing with a sorcerous puppet who is thousands of years old. He has elevated cynicism and irony to an art form. Nothing fazes him. Oh sure, Sir Hereward gets nervous, but he's the amusing sidekick, he's allowed to.
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« Reply #19 on: March 14, 2012, 11:42:21 AM »

As for Unblinking's chief complaint: the lack of tension.
I don't think there was very much tension in any of the Sir Hereward and Mr. Fitz stories. (We need to acronym that. SHAMF stories?) To me the stories are all about the journey. They are, in a sense, on a never ending quest, so there can't really be any tension, because to resolve the tension would be to end their quest. The picture of two highly mismatched companions endlessly and randomly bouncing around the world wreaking unintentional havoc in the name of "good" tickles my funnybone. And the fact that they nearly always encounter trouble by accident or through Sir Hereward's misplaced actions only adds to it.
Look, you can't have tension when you're dealing with a sorcerous puppet who is thousands of years old. He has elevated cynicism and irony to an art form. Nothing fazes him. Oh sure, Sir Hereward gets nervous, but he's the amusing sidekick, he's allowed to.

Fitz doesn't have to feel tension, but if I don't then I'm generally going to find it boring.  I guess the only exception to that is if I find something hilarious then I am interested even if there is no tension.  Fitz doesn't have to doubt himself, and I can even be relatively certain that the mission will end in success (probably a good guess for recurring characters in a series like this).  But there are other kinds of tension, such as trying to figure out a puzzle (ala a murder mystery), trying to figure out how the hero will get through a seemingly impossible situation even if the hero is certain he will do so, etc...  If it lacks any kind of tension, then I'll be waiting for it to end.
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