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Author Topic: PC221: A Hunter in Arin-Qin  (Read 9959 times)
Talia
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« on: August 14, 2012, 10:02:58 AM »

PodCastle 221: A Hunter in Arin-Qin

by Daniel Abraham.

Read by Amal El-Mohtar.

Originally appeared in Leviathan Wept, and Other Stories.

At first, when the lights of my home still glimmered in the darkness behind me, the cold only chilled. Then, pressing through the snow with the effort of the chase keeping me warm, the cold bit.
At the end, it comforted.
It meant the worst kind of danger, but with fear itself a distant thing, even danger failed to seem dangerous. Snow cracked under my feet and caked the wool of my leggings. I wrapped my father’s hunting cloak tight about me. I walked because I could no longer run. Before me, the beast’s tracks softened under new-fallen snow, and with every moment, new flakes conspired to hide them further. The sword strapped to my back grew heavy, and I doubted my strength, even if the opportunity came. My daughter’s doom whispered with every pine branch that brushed against me. Gone. Gone. Gone.
Slowly, the hunter within me–hard as stone and untouched by years of a different woman’s life–woke. Her eyes saw the fading edges of the beast’s track as time: two hours ahead of me, then three hours, then four. Her mind evaluated my shuffling stride and leaden hands. She tried to smile with my numbed lips; I felt her grim amusement. She knew a dead woman when she saw one.
I fell without knowing that I fell. My foot touched the snow. My knee touched it. My hip. My shoulders. The soft white filled my mouth and nose and eyes. It tasted like rain. I pressed my hands down, trying to rise, and the earth passed through my fingers like fog.


Rated R for violence.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: September 04, 2012, 10:48:04 AM by Talia » Logged
Swamp
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« Reply #1 on: August 14, 2012, 04:07:03 PM »

Really, I am the first one to post on this one?  Wow, I never do that.

Well, I guess it's a good thing that I happened to really enjoy this story.  Daniel Abraham continues to impress.  The storywas was rich in culture, and by that I mean, the hunting culture in which the main character (and her daughter) were raised, apart from society at large, by choice as well as by funtction.  The reveal was magnificent,, as well as the backstory and the relationship between the two hunting companions.  I actually also felt an empathy toward The Beast and its motivations.  It was a tale well told.
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Frungi
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« Reply #2 on: August 15, 2012, 10:05:28 PM »

I don’t know if it was just me or where my head was at the time, but I had trouble paying attention to this one until chapter 5. That recollection of the abduction, in my opinion, should have begun the story as told, or at least should have been described earlier than it was. After hearing that, I rewound 20-odd minutes and was able to follow it from the beginning.

That aside, I enjoyed it, and I echo everything that Swamp said. The nonlinear structure was a little irritating in a story that didn’t call for it, but still, I liked everything else about it.
« Last Edit: August 19, 2012, 04:29:52 PM by Frungi » Logged
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« Reply #3 on: August 16, 2012, 06:28:07 AM »

I actually also felt an empathy toward The Beast and its motivations.

Indeed.  We have seen the monster, and it is us.

My sympathy was completely for the hunter following her lost daughter...until we find out how despite the monster's pleas to spare her children, she kills and eats them.  Years later, the hunter's daughter is responsible for the monster's death.  Talk about not being able to catch a break.

We don't know what the monster will do with the children ultimately, but I like to think she kidnapped the children not to harm them, but prove a point instead.  Perhaps the intent was to slay the kids before their parent's eyes, but we'll never know that now will we?  We never find out what sin the hunter's companion committed either.  I can't say the kidnappings were justified, but if the companion committed an act anything akin to the hunter, it's at least understandable.


You promised an epic story, Dave, and you spoke true.
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Kaa
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« Reply #4 on: August 16, 2012, 07:06:26 AM »

I did enjoy this one, but I found myself unable to figure out when we were in "the present" and when we were in "flashback." One minute, the woman and her companion were hunting the Beast, and found their children's clothing, and the next, the woman is killing the beast's eggs. I kept saying to myself, "Wait, what happened to the children? Where is the dude? TELL US WHAT HAPPENED!"

Then the 'flashback' was done and I belatedly figured out that I had managed to miss the transition. I think this is yet another story that "suffers" from the audio format in that there is really no good way to let the listener know the scene has shifted and that the time frame has changed.

Still, I enjoyed it even if it took two and a half commutes. (Which probably didn't help the whole "scene shift" part.)
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« Reply #5 on: August 16, 2012, 11:04:07 AM »

If anyone's interested, Daniel Abraham goes into what was behind the inspiration/challenge of writing this story on his blog Lizard Brain.


Then the 'flashback' was done and I belatedly figured out that I had managed to miss the transition. I think this is yet another story that "suffers" from the audio format in that there is really no good way to let the listener know the scene has shifted and that the time frame has changed.


FWIW, I believe the chapter breaks are indicators that the timeline is shifting/flashback. I know sometimes people are frustrated by chapters in short stories particularly), but I'd argue this is a pretty excellent way to use them (again, particularly in audio).
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danooli
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« Reply #6 on: August 16, 2012, 11:46:23 AM »

Another great story. I was really surprised by the twist of the daughter slaying the beast. I may have missed it, was her age ever mentioned? I guess I assumed she was younger than a teen, or at least not old enough to save herself. However, that added to the twist.
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Frungi
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« Reply #7 on: August 16, 2012, 02:16:18 PM »

I may have missed it, was her age ever mentioned?
I don’t believe so.
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InfiniteMonkey
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« Reply #8 on: August 16, 2012, 06:24:44 PM »

This was one of the rare times when a story was too long for me. It was a nice dark tale of endless cycling vengeance, but it was a little *too* endless in places.

I was also glad that Dave explained this was a "challenge" story at the end, because for me it was the other shoe dropping. I'd been thinking what a highly mannered (perhaps stylized is a better term) story this was, unlike a lot of Abraham's other stories. Now I see why. Sometimes these challenges can bring good results.. sometimes, not so much.
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« Reply #9 on: August 17, 2012, 09:24:05 AM »

Wow this story was long.  And the nonlinear structure, where a nonlinear structure was not at all needed, made it a hard trudge.

Like Frungi I was having trouble paying attention until Chapter 5, when the actual kidnapping took place.  At the beginning when she's saved from freezing to death, I had not learned enough to care what happened to her.  When she's hunting the monster I didn't really care about that until I found out why this monster was her focus right now.

I'm really sick of stories that jump forward and backward and forward and backward like this.  Except for stories that are particularly well-suited to it, I find the technique clumsy and ineffective.  Stephen King's "It" does well with it, because the child and adult stories are essentially parallels, and so are told in parallel.  In this case, and in most cases, it was just irritating because:
1.  The past scenes have no tension, because we know the outcome of what's going to happen.
2.  The past scenes kill the momentum of the present story.  Which in this case actually HAD a lot of momentum.
3.  This format tends to make the story much much longer than it ought to be, rather than just telling us what we need to know in the present.
4.  At least to me, I tend to view the prose as a filter to see the character's thoughts.  If it's a single POV like this that constantly shifts in time backwards, it gives me the distinct impression that the character is not living in the present, but instead is staring blankly into the distance while they think back in nostalgia.  Which doesn't really work when the present time has such time-critical tension to it.

I started really paying attention about the time that the flashback showed the taking of the daughter.  The twist where the daughter killing the monster was a good turning point that came much too late in a much too long story.

And in the end I really felt for the monster much more than I felt for the protagonist.  I would rather the monster have killed the protagonist and let the daughter go to show that she has the compassion to spare the children.  Even if the child would then come back and hunt the monster when she was grown, I would find that more fitting.
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« Reply #10 on: August 19, 2012, 01:09:53 PM »

Long time listener, first time poster.

I can't say that this was a good one. The twist was just a clumsy Deus Ex Machina. I don't mind a long story, but with the amount of time investment that this one required, I'd have liked something more then, "And then an unarmed girl single-handedly defeats the monster that slaughtered hundreds of soldiers. Somehow."

And why would the Beast not have detected the protagonist's approach and moved to defend her eggs rather than begging them to be spared from a minor distance?

I liked the world building and the concepts it was trying to explore but both conflict points with the Beast needed better plot design.
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woodchuck
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« Reply #11 on: August 20, 2012, 09:44:50 AM »

I really liked this story.  I loved the twist at the end.  I loved how the story made me wonder what I might have done in the past that could make me appear as a "beast" to others. While I understand where other people didn't like how the story jumped around, I felt that by using chapters, it helped me keep track of where the story was at.  I've heard other stories on Podcastle|Pseudopod|Escape Pod that have flashbacks and have been terrible to follow.

The talk of the hunter observing the protagonist? in the beginning kind of had me confused until I realize that the hunter was a part of herself now returning to her (for reasons made obvious later in the story).  I really liked that and felt it added to the story.

In the end, describing her daughter as a monster more fearsome than the beast they hunted was great.  In the middle of the story, I was wondering what would happen if she finally caught up with the monster only to find that her daughter had killed it.  I pushed that thought off because the story had not told of the child's age.  Imagine my surprise when that's what ended up happening.

Great Story!
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Father Beast
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« Reply #12 on: August 21, 2012, 06:03:53 AM »

I was not really that into this story, as it was just another one of those things that tries to make itself cool by jumping around in time, making it difficult for the listener to keep up, and being an artificial way to Keep information from the listener.
Then, for most of the story, I amused myself by wondering just how much of a single parent thing this was going to be. I mean, The Hunter talks about her relationship with her father, without even so much as mentioning that she had a mother, and her own daughter's father seemed to be there just to sire the daughter and then die. There's no talk of how she met her husband, or their relationship together, or of the husband with the daughter, or much of anything.
Then the end hit, and I did not see that coming. That was an excessively cool moment. Wow.
But in the end, it was an awesome moment in an OK story. Not enough to make the story great.
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« Reply #13 on: August 22, 2012, 07:27:52 AM »

Well, that story happened.

I had to shut it off after the first five minutes, unfortunately. While I generally enjoy this narrator, I felt the reading was too slow to keep my attention, with far too many pauses. And since I'm not a huge fan of epic fantasy, it would've been an uphill climb to get me to stick around with this particular reading and the fact that the entire episode was upwards of an hour. After I switched over to a Pseudopod episode from April (and that's not even my most backlogged podcast!), I tried to think if I had any epic fantasy on my bookshelf. Other than Lord of the Rings, nothing springs to mind. For me, epic fantasy has to be funny -- not all the time, but in general. My ideal epic fantasy series is the Moonworlds by Sean McMullen. Had this story been funny, or at least witty, in the beginning, I might have stuck with it longer.

Ah well. Perhaps next time.
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« Reply #14 on: August 22, 2012, 09:04:40 AM »

So...what was the word?

It's a point that stuck in my mind and I've been trying to puzzle out. The word that has no direct translation in the narrator's language, that means the world is permanently out-of-balance? I had it in my head that the man she met might have been European, as her world has a sort of Asian feel to it, so the word might have been "vendetta" or "omerta" or one of those Romance language words that says a lot in a few syllables.

Anyone else have a theory?
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Devoted135
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« Reply #15 on: August 22, 2012, 09:18:04 AM »

Well, this was certainly a bite to chew! The alternating present (odd chapters) and past (even chapters) did not work for me, especially since the author broke that rule for a "middling time" for chapter 5 (?- I think it was 5?). Also, perhaps I need a new definition for "epic fantasy?"

Overall, I think there was a lot to like, especially the atmosphere of the piece. That last funeral scene was particularly affecting for me. As the MC was describing it, I kept on saying to her "your little girl better be at that funeral!" And she was, so I was satisfied. Roll Eyes
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Frungi
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« Reply #16 on: August 22, 2012, 07:19:12 PM »

For me, epic fantasy has to be funny -- not all the time, but in general. … Had this story been funny, or at least witty, in the beginning, I might have stuck with it longer.
You didn’t miss much here, then. I enjoyed it, but I don’t recall any humor in it.
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Frungi
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« Reply #17 on: August 22, 2012, 07:39:00 PM »

I just went to re-listen to part of this episode, and found that the link in the forum post is broken. It’s missing the “-Qin”.

So...what was the word?

It's a point that stuck in my mind and I've been trying to puzzle out. The word that has no direct translation in the narrator's language, that means the world is permanently out-of-balance? I had it in my head that the man she met might have been European, as her world has a sort of Asian feel to it, so the word might have been "vendetta" or "omerta" or one of those Romance language words that says a lot in a few syllables.

Anyone else have a theory?
I didn’t get the impression that the author had any actual word in mind. The way the MC described its use, it seems to me it could be translated as something like an authoritative “We [don’t have time/don’t have the resources/don’t want] to sort out this conflict in a satisfactory way, so just shut up and move on.”
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Ocicat
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« Reply #18 on: August 22, 2012, 10:04:26 PM »

I just went to re-listen to part of this episode, and found that the link in the forum post is broken. It’s missing the “-Qin”.

Fixed!
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« Reply #19 on: August 25, 2012, 10:29:39 AM »

I also loved this one -- I'd call it one of my top five favorite Podcastle episodes. I would have enjoyed it with the ending I had anticipated, but it managed to completely surprise me, which always means more points in my book.
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