Jin (osprey_archer) wrote,

Whither Obernewtyn

For my March reading goal - "a book that's more than 600 pages" - I chose Isobelle Carmody's 1100-page doorstopper, the long-awaited finale to the Obernewtyn series, The Red Queen.

And I made it! I slogged my way all the way through to the end, finishing up the last fifty pages this afternoon.

Honestly I'm almost glad that the final book was so long in coming, because I was so devoted to these books in high school - I lent my copies to all my friends & then checked the books out of the library repeatedly because I couldn't bear to be parted from them for so long - that it would have broken my heart to read this then. At some point around book five I think Carmody lost the thread of the plot, or her previously pretty decent ability to write plots, and never really got it back.

However, her plotting was never the strongest part of the books; what's more painful is that in book seven she seems to have lost her grasp on characterization, too, so the characters will have long philosophical/expository discussions during which they are all basically interchangeable. I repeatedly had to slow down to sort out whether Dragon or Dameon was speaking, because the names are visually similar and there was no longer any clear difference in their dialogue to help me tell.

Stuff that happens in this book:

For the first three hundred pages - yes, more than a quarter of this behemoth - Elspeth and company are trapped in a settlement called Habitat which is controlled by a computer called God. It has been at least two hundred years since the catastrophe that destroyed most of the earth, and probably considerably more than that, but this computer - completely without maintenance - is still functioning perfectly.

As is the flying craft on which Elspeth and co. eventually escape the vicinity of Habitat. (This is after a couple hundred more pages of wandering around the abandoned city that surrounds Habitat.) The flight takes another hundred pages and nothing much happens.

Except! Except Dameon confesses his love to Elspeth. Apparently he's loved her ever since the first day they met! (I remember there used to be arguments about this on the Obernewtyn discussion board. I hope the Dameon/Elspeth shippers are happy to have been proven right.) He and Elspeth discuss this briefly and then it never comes up again.

Actually, it's kind of nice that it doesn't become a big love triangle thing, but at the same time I felt there needed to be more follow-up. Or something.

Anyway, the flying machine crash-lands. Elspeth et al take a mere fifty pages to cross the desert (we're at page seven hundred now! Over halfway through!) and FINALLY reach Redport, which is where the plot finally begins to kick in. Sort of.

You see, Elspeth's friend Dragon is the long-lost heir to the throne of Redport. For the past two hundred years, since she disappeared, her people have been faithfully awaiting her return, because only then can they rise up against the enemies who have enslaved them. (Also, Dragon spent the intervening two hundred years in a cryopod. Like you do.)

Elspeth spends quite a bit of time wandering around the settlement repeatedly just barely missing people she really needs to talk to: Dragon, her old friend Matthew who was kidnapped by slavers years past, various members of the planned uprising, etc. Two hundred pages in, the uprising commences!

Off-screen. We don't get to see any of it, because Elspeth has been kidnapped by Ariel, and spends an uncomfortable night chained in the hold of a ship. When she's freed the next morning, we are informed that Dragon rode into the city on a black horse and summoned the vision of a dragon and was generally magnificent. Things that would have made the book better: letting Elspeth witness that. Also, moving the incident at least five hundred pages earlier instead of faffing about in Habitat so damn long.

I feel a bit mean for complaining about Habitat for so much, because one of the Habitat characters is based on a friend of Carmody's who died while she was writing the Obernewtyn Chronicles, so no wonder it went on so long - but someone really needed to tell her to edit it down severely.

But where was I? There's just been a rebellion in Redport. But no time to linger! Elspeth needs to go complete her quest! The moment of high drama has arrived! Can Elspeth - SHUT DOWN A COMPUTER?

It has somehow survived hundreds of years and a nuclear holocaust without breaking down on its own. If the book were stronger I would probably go with it (although this is the third underground bunker supercomputer that has remained functional for hundreds of years introduced in this series), but as it is there is very little to distract me from the basic unlikeliness of this.

So she shuts down the computer. But wait! There's a backdoor hack into the weapons computer which Elspeth's nemesis, Ariel, intends to use! He kidnaps her and then kills one of her companions in front of her to make her talk - Swallow, in case you were wondering - but of course Elspeth is stalwart, even when it turns out that Ariel has kidnapped Elspeth's beloved Rushton YET AGAIN (we're up to three Rushton kidnappings in this series) and is controlling him so he is trapped, still conscious, inside his own body, where he will have to watch himself behead all these people to force Elspeth to talk.

But Ariel is thwarted and killed before Rushton can kill anyone, and despite the fact that he has been marooned and sold into slavery and just generally had a pretty terrible year, Rushton is more or less instantly ready to fling himself into Elspeth's arms, because we've only got a hundred pages left and there's no time to really dig into this traumatic experience, okay. You might think a hundred pages would offer enough space, but you would be wrong, we've got some more featureless wastes to cross first, because Elspeth needs to lead the animals to a land with no humans in it.

Do you remember the prophecy that Elspeth would never return to Obernewtyn? It comes true because there's an enormous earthquake as Elspeth is leading the animals to Eden (that is literally the name, Eden), which separates Eden from Redport and means that Elspeth can Never Return.

But! But! What is MOST AGGRAVATING is that, as Elspeth herself notes, there was no need for her to go to Eden at all. An androne showed up to show the animals to Eden, so Elspeth could have stayed in Redport with her friends, but, quoth Maruman, Elspeth's faithful cat companion, "Sentinel did not bring you to Eden because she needed you. She brought you because you had played your part faithfully. She brought you to Eden as a reward."

Elspeth will never see any of the people she loves ever again (save Rushton, who came with her) or go home to her beloved Obernewtyn. That's her reward for saving the world! WHAT KIND OF REWARD IS THAT.

I realize that there was a prophecy and everything, but honestly so much of Elspeth's life has been dictated by prophecies that I would have been 100% okay with her bucking this one and going the fuck home.

This entry was originally posted at http://osprey-archer.dreamwidth.org/579928.html. Please comment there using OpenID.
Tags: obernewtyn

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