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Author Topic: EP442: Eater of Bone  (Read 1941 times)
eytanz
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« on: April 05, 2014, 02:40:33 AM »

EP442: Eater of Bone

by Robert Reed

read by Mat Weller

This story has been previously published as a self titled novel.

--
1

With cured gut and twitch-cord, the Nots had constructed their trap—a marriage of old cleverness and deep rage designed to catch dreaded, unworldly monsters such as her. But the device had lain undisturbed since summer, and the winter rains had washed away some of the leaf litter and clay that served as its camouflage. Knowing what to expect, the young woman easily spotted the taut lines and anchor points, and experience told her where a single soft footfall would trigger the mechanism, causing the ground to fall away. An extraordinarily deep hole had been dug into the hillside. One misstep, and she would plunge into blackness, every kick and helpless flail bringing down the loose dirt that would suffocate and then temporarily kill. She had seen this design before. The Nots were masters when it came to doing the same ancient tricks again and again. Only once in her experience had this type of mechanism worked as designed, but the vivid memory of that exceptionally miserable night was enough to make the woman step backwards—a reflexive, foolish reaction, since traps occasionally came in pairs, and one careless motion could be more dangerous than twenty smart, studied footfalls.

But her bare foot fortunately hit only damp dirt, and she felt nothing worse than a jikk-incisor gouging her exposed Achilles.

She knelt slowly and pulled the thorn free, placing a thumb across the wound to force the first drop of blood to remain inside her body. Her skin grew warm beneath her touch, and then there was no wound. Sucking on her thumb, she tasted iron and salt and a dozen flavors of grime, and after some consideration, she carefully, carefully traced out a wide ellipse that eventually placed the trap upwind from her.

Riding the breeze was the aroma of a mature piss fungus. Saliva instantly filled her mouth. Her present hunger had been building for days. She couldn’t resist taking a quick step forward while sucking down the scent, wild eyes searching the forest floor until she saw the trap’s bait tucked behind a stand of spent silver yddybddy.

Her bare foot struck nothing but dirt; another youthful impulse went unpunished.


Listen to part 1
Listen to part 2
« Last Edit: April 14, 2014, 05:56:00 PM by eytanz » Logged
eytanz
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« Reply #1 on: April 05, 2014, 11:32:47 AM »

In case anyone is wondering, I plan on using the same thread for both parts of the story.
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Dem
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« Reply #2 on: April 07, 2014, 01:28:17 PM »

So, are we all waiting for the first review to decide whether to invest in the whole 2 hours?
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Kaa
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« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2014, 01:55:33 PM »

The episode I downloaded is called "EP442a: Eater of Bone" and it's 2:02:34 in length. Does this mean there is a part b that is forthcoming? Or is this the entire thing? I'm just curious. I will listen to both parts together if there is a part 2.
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I invent imaginary people and make them have conversations in my head. I also write.

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matweller
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« Reply #4 on: April 07, 2014, 02:21:32 PM »

There will be a second part released this week. In total, it's a novella that weighs in at just under 4 hours.
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albionmoonlight
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« Reply #5 on: April 07, 2014, 02:30:16 PM »

So, are we all waiting for the first review to decide whether to invest in the whole 2 hours?

I'm ~1 hour in and it is quite engaging.  I certainly plan to listen to the whole thing.  If you are wondering whether it is worth starting, I say definitely yes.
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Dem
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« Reply #6 on: April 07, 2014, 05:33:20 PM »

So, are we all waiting for the first review to decide whether to invest in the whole 2 hours?

I'm ~1 hour in and it is quite engaging.  I certainly plan to listen to the whole thing.  If you are wondering whether it is worth starting, I say definitely yes.

That helps, thanks. It's a biggish chunk of time to find a space for Smiley
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Science is what you do when the funding panel thinks you know what you're doing. Fiction is the same only without the funding.
bounceswoosh
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« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2014, 08:35:04 PM »

I have listened to the two hour "a" episode. Definitely worth listening to. I'm not sure where it's going to go, though.
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TrishEM
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« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2014, 02:15:49 AM »

I thought the first half-hour or so was quite interesting, but rapidly started losing interest after that, especially when Mercer started ponderously pondering exposition/backstory that I'd already assumed to my satisfaction. I sure hope Part 2 justifies the investment of all this time. So far I can't see why this is better than having two different, smaller short stories.
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bounceswoosh
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« Reply #9 on: April 10, 2014, 09:24:15 AM »

Different strokes. I like the reveal of how it happened better than the unexplained "now."
« Last Edit: April 10, 2014, 02:11:51 PM by eytanz » Logged
Iamthelaw1979
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« Reply #10 on: April 11, 2014, 08:59:45 AM »

So far, so good. I'm enjoying the flow of this story; it is at a completely different place here in the middle than where it began, but the narrative has been constant. We have been led to Mercer through Dream's misadventure, and the narrative seamlessly changes focus without leaving us in a lurch. It's especially impressive when you notice that there are no chapter breaks. That could be cumbersome, but here it feels organic. I can't wait to see what happens next!
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Father Beast
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« Reply #11 on: April 13, 2014, 08:04:27 AM »

After listening to part 1, I was just amazed with wonder, and then I said, "There's More?!!".

I see that part 2 is posted now, and I will be listening when I have time, but I have to say this:

I love infodumps.

When I read or listen to a story, I want to get into the story, to be there. Infodumps help me do that. Orson Scott Card, in his book on writing fantasy and science fiction, says to never have a prologue. Since some of my favorite books are the Belgariad and Malloreon series by David (and Leigh) Eddings, which have a prologue for each book, I have to disagree. A prologue helps me get into the feeling of the world, especially in those books where they tell a legend. which figures into the backstory of all of those people who know the story, but don't talk about it much. For another example: Years ago, when my wife and I first read The Eye Of The World by Robert Jordan, I was excited and looking forward to the sequel, while my wife was never that into it. The difference was that I read the glossary first, so I had an idea of how the world worked. If I had read the book while having to guess how the world works by inferences, I wouldn't have enjoyed it either. (Incidentally, my wife did eventually get into that series.)

I know the popular thing to do is to plop the reader in the middle of the sea with no map and no lifeboat, and make them figure it out, but I don't enjoy that. If this story had ended with Dream being thrown onto the beach, it would have resembled many such stories that I just don't get into, and have no desire to try to relisten to. If I can't get into the story during the story, then it has failed to entertain me. This story became enjoyable about the time the man found her and I began to understand some stuff.

Anyway, I'm definitely looking forward to part 2.
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Kaa
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« Reply #12 on: April 13, 2014, 09:30:40 AM »

I ended up getting impatient at the pace of the reading and just read the text on the site instead of listening, because I read faster than Mat Weller can narrate, and I didn't have four hours to kill. Smiley Not to say Mat's narration isn't top-notch, as usual, of course. I just . . . 4+ hours is a big commitment when I could read the entire thing in half that time.

I enjoyed it after a rough start where I couldn't figure out what species the main character was, what a Not was, and why other humans were after "Dream." After that, though, it sucked me in and didn't let me go until the bitter end.

I was struck by the thought that, for all intents and purposes, Mercer really WAS a god: he directed the development of the Nots and affected the entire future of their species.

One frustrating thing: I was going to buy the book on Kindle so I'd have it . . . only to find out that it's not available on Kindle? What? I urge Mr. Reed to get right on that. Smiley
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Just Jeff
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« Reply #13 on: April 13, 2014, 10:14:35 PM »

Ah, an Escape Pod special I liked! I have fond memories of Reed from my time subscribed to F&SF. "Five Thrillers" is probably my favorite from that time, in part due to its epic scope. Little did I know how epic Reed could get.

Delightful setting and worldbuilding aside, I thought this story a mixed bag. The massive chunks of backstory could start to drone despite my interest in the overall picture being painted. I had to rewind a few times to due to my mind starting to wander. The style of narrative also required constant attention or things could be missed. There was at least one spot with odd shifting tenses that I had to listen to three times to make sure I'd heard it correctly.

After three-plus hours, I was a little disappointed with how it ended for the viewpoint characters, but I really liked what came after--let's make the scope even more epic. All in all, an enjoyable listen and a perfect fit for my morning work, even if it did back up the rest of my carefully scheduled podcasts a bit.
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danthelawyer
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« Reply #14 on: April 14, 2014, 01:42:15 AM »

Wow. I really, really liked this one. I wasn't at all put off by the length -- maybe because I had a ton of yard work to do, and this helped pass the time -- or maybe because I like longer stories? I don't know. The Drabblecast's Boojum stories (by Elizabeth Bear and Sarah Monette) are some of my favorite pieces on that show. Or maybe I like Reed? I remembered hearing the story that Norm mentioned and quite liking it.

I rather do prefer to be dropped into a story with no explanation, and I was glad the infodump didn't happen until later in the piece. I kind of spaced out (he) while the dump was going on anyway, so all I really got was wandering colonizers, metal-poor planetoid/moon, Lord of the Flies.

The number of times Dream is referred to as "tiny" or "small" or "girl" struck me, especially since Mercer was also repeatedly called "huge" or "giant" or the like; I wonder if the author was suggesting that the lack of essential minerals had led to a kind of island dwarfism (eat your vitamins, kids!)

The only thing I didn't really take to was the male/female, teacher/student dynamic. Wouldn't it have been interesting to have a young man sit at the feet of the wise old woman! Course then you couldn't have the youngster get pregnant, but still.

Anyway, from my perspective, this was a refreshing change for the better for Escape Pod. Keep up the good work!

(Oh, my comment can't end without a huge round of applause for Mat Weller, one of my absolute favorite narrators.)
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bounceswoosh
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« Reply #15 on: April 14, 2014, 08:40:36 AM »

They did explain the size thing. Their bodies cannibalize themselves for building blocks if they, say, lose an arm and need to regrow it. Aside from general lack of nutrition and limited food supply, their bodies can actually shrink to repair themselves.
« Last Edit: April 14, 2014, 10:05:11 AM by eytanz » Logged
danthelawyer
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« Reply #16 on: April 14, 2014, 08:59:30 PM »

They did explain the size thing. Their bodies cannibalize themselves for building blocks if they, say, lose an arm and need to regrow it. Aside from general lack of nutrition and limited food supply, their bodies can actually shrink to repair themselves.

Yes, excellent point. With his evaporative salt processing lagoon and more plentiful food, Mercer certainly enjoyed better nutrition, thus saving the need to regrow using internal resources.

Speaking of which, by the way, do the nanobots reproduce in the womb?
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ancawonka
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« Reply #17 on: April 15, 2014, 01:26:47 AM »

This one was good - I listened over three sessions and so I may have missed some exposition.

While listening, I thought they were called "Knots". The story started with the ingenuity of the Nots, and ended with their dominance over the fickle "gods". I enjoyed contemplating the parallels between the mothers and the Nots, who had very few resources and opportunities.  Mercer getting his comeuppance after his condescending attitude when it came to the Nots was bittersweet - but his extra resources enabled him to have more compassion.

I missed some of the dynamics of the human vs. human stuff.  Were they hunting each other for resources, or sport? The fact that Mercer had such a stockpile of goods (which he stole away in the dark of night from his friends) made me want to learn more about that story.  How many of the people who came back to the island were his children? 

Perhaps I should go back and read the text here.
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albionmoonlight
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« Reply #18 on: April 15, 2014, 12:52:19 PM »

First, props to Matt.  I can't imagine reading a story that long and keeping up the energy and pace he did.  How long does something like that take?  My voice gets tired if my kids wants two long bedtime stories. 

Speaking of parenting, among the many metaphors and images in the story, I was struck by the idea of Mercer as parent.  And "his" Nots as kids.  He was protecting them; he was teaching them to obey; he loved them.  But he could not let them go.  In the end, however, they needed to be free.  He could not protect them from the world forever.  And it turns out that they didn't need his protection after all.

I also really liked the idea that the Nots had billions of years of patience on their side.  The humans had nanotechnology that would allow them to survive for tens of thousands of years.  But, in the face of the lifetime of a planet, that's still not enough.  Eventually, even a "god" like Mercer will die.*  Eventually, all the humans will die.  And, in Not lore, the reign of the monsters will end up being a 200,000 year blip in their history.

*Or have your indestructible brain put on a shelf in a dark basement until the heat death of the universe.  Which seems enough like death to count as such.
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DerangedMind
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« Reply #19 on: April 15, 2014, 01:56:18 PM »

I have very mixed feelings about this story.  First, technically, it was very well done.  But, the genre - where mankind has lost technology and has fallen - isn't my favourite.  I struggled through the first half of the story.  The second half was better, but still wasn't one of my favourites.  Still, it was a solid piece, and while I wasn't thrilled by it, it was still good enough that I wasn't tempted to skip it.

I did enjoy the ending.  I was expecting it to be a more typical 'everything works out', and that Dream would manage to save Mercer, or that she would get his brain and it would end with her starting to regrow him -- essentially becoming his mother as well as bearing his child.  The fact that he fell, and that she ran off, and that he inadvertently started a renaissance for the Nott culture a surprising twist.
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