Claw of the Conciliator, chapters 1 to 3

1

We're back!

There's a gap in the narrative after the ruckus passing through the wall, and Severian is separated from Dorcas and his other chance companions, but is still accompanied by Jonas. He is in the nearby town of Saltus, and employed by the town elders to practice his profession- he is ready to execute two people, one accused of being a servant of the bandit Vodalus. The bandit was sealed in his house, and is dragged from it by a mob after it was battered in for access. Severian catches a glimpse of Agia.

Severian searches for Agia at the town fair. He doesn't find her, but comes across a tent containing a green man- who Severian pays to speak to. The green man is from the future, and chained up. Severian talks to him, and believes he learns that the sun will become brighter in the future. Severian gives the green man the means to free himself.

Some thoughts:

() The Cathedral of the Pelerines. It was made of silk, and with the bottom lit soared into the sky, like a paper cone. And it sounds like this is by design.
(
) Severian seems remarkably unconcerned about losing Dorcas.
(*) The photosynthetic Green Man is nifty. I wonder why he travelled back in time. Anyway, that was the point where I started fully engaging with the book- the gap in the narrative, though I knew it was there, threw me.

Comments

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    A couple of things I noticed.

    One is Severian's change in status since leaving Nessus. In the city, he was just another faceless member of the crowd; in Saltus, he's a man of significance.

    The other is the magnitude and duration of the war against Vodalus. It seems that it's been going on for many years, and military units heading out are a common sight. It's even remarked how few of those soldiers ever come back.

    And it's not clear from the narrative that Severian's actually separated from Dorcas, Talos, and the rest. They don't get mentioned, but I assumed that was just because they're doing their own things.

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    I agree with @dr_mitch that the gap was hard to process, and it disoriented me as well. And with @NeilNjae that I just didn't know whether Dorcas et al were absent or just not talked about.
    When I reconnected with the story, I thought these chapters were tremendous! So much that is actually happening (though we don't always know why) and huge amounts foreshadowed for later chapters and/or books. For example;
    The war against the other Autarch (I think this is the first we have been told of multiple Autarchs?)... which maybe is just state fabrication and not a real war at all, but only a hunt for Vodalus. And a war that still uses slingers, albeit with hi-tech slingshot.
    A wonderful precis of what I take to be Wolfe's theological position "that we are capable only of being what we are remains our unforgivable sin".
    The mysterious things that happen to these people imprisoned in their own house in the dark. And triggered by that, the conflict of interest Severian feels on hearing that Barnoch is a follower of Vodalus.
    The frantic search for Agia (why? No doubt we'll be told) narrated largely through the voices of others.
    The whole conversation/confrontation with the green man. Is he really from the future? Are either of them true men?

    Loved it :smile:
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    "that we are capable only of being what we are remains our unforgivable sin" is not Catholic thought. Tolkien would have put it differently - perhaps that we are capable only of being what we are remains our GREATEST sin? Nothing is unforgivable by God.

    Anyway, thrown by the unstated time between and by the unexplained non-presence of Dorcas. He should be wondering where she was, what she is doing. Instead he does not even think of her. Out of sight, out of mind. I begin to wonder if he is human at all, and whether I give a damn.

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    > @clash_bowley said:
    > ... the unexplained non-presence of Dorcas. He should be wondering where she was, what she is doing. Instead he does not even think of her. Out of sight, out of mind. I begin to wonder if he is human at all, and whether I give a damn.

    I get the impression that this is basically how (at least at present) he handles all of his relationships, especially with women. While with them, they are idolised, but when not there they are forgotten
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    @RichardAbbott said:
    I get the impression that this is basically how (at least at present) he handles all of his relationships, especially with women. While with them, they are idolised, but when not there they are forgotten

    That matches my understanding so far.

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    Fascinating. The jump in narration also threw me for a loop, and I could not recall for the life of me who Jonas was (he was introduced only on the second to last page of the previous book as a 'stranger', but was given his name once on that page.) Jonas, it seems, is here to stay and looks like he will be a very interesting character.

    Dorcas - it's not clear she's missing, nor would I say that Severian has forgotten about her - she's mentioned twice on the first page as Severian describes a dream sequence which itself hints at a separation. Clearly, Severian isn't over Agia, however. His interest in her seems more romantic than vengeful, but could be either at this point.

    At the end of Chapter 1, Severian speculates that the past might exist only in memory, and yet in chapter 3 we meet a Green Man who claims to have travelled into the past. Did he travel only into Severian's memory (which as we know, is perfect - and is also this book?)

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    > @clash_bowley said:
    > @RichardAbbott said:
    > I get the impression that this is basically how (at least at present) he handles all of his relationships, especially with women. While with them, they are idolised, but when not there they are forgotten
    >
    > That matches my understanding so far.

    To be fair, he's hardly the only man for which this is true :smile:
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    @Apocryphal - I too did not remember Jonas. I thought he was a new character with this chapter.

    @RichardAbbott - Severian is making himself very difficult for me to sympathize with.

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    At the moment, though I'm interested in Severian's story, I don't like the man himself very much.

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    Don't we have three more chapters, @dr_mitch?

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    Up there now!
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