Saturday, June 20, 2009

Commentary on The Blade Itself, End Notes.

June 20, 2009 Running Commentary on The Blade Itself, by Joe Abercrombie. End notes. I finished the novel a few days ago and now have to write from strictly memory. I lent the novel to one of my voracious, book rabid students. I couldn't very well make him wait. He's locked up for the first time and is turning to books to entertain himself and make the time pass faster. A wonderful side effect is discovering his own imagination. He's been with us for three weeks and has already read five books. On the outside he never picked up a novel.

In thinking about books I sometimes like to go back to the exercises I learned as an undergrad to provoke thoughts. Sometimes the exercise can be as mundane as what was the theme, or symbol hunting, or in this case list the characters that changed, and the characters that didn't, and why and how.

Logan, Jezal, Glotka, all change in the course of the book. Or strictly speaking, some of the them change, and then because of their circumstances, their history, and their surroundings have to revert to being the characters they were in the past. Logan wants to stop living such a pointlessly violent life. He's witnessed first hand the arbitrary nature of power. He's gone from fighting against Bethod to fighting for him to fighting against him. He's teamed up with enemies and made enemies of friends. He's witnessed the first rule of power politics, hold on to your own power base regardless of the consequences. He takes a good look at himself, his life, the death and destruction and sees it all as absurd. He wants to break the cycle of violence but doesn't quite see how he can.

Jezal changes from a pompous rich spoiled brat to at least being capable of empathizing with another human being. For the first time in his life he realizes he has to prove himself and to the people around him he is worth something other than just being the spoiled son of a noble. And once decided on his quest to change he pursues it nobly, without whining. He fights hard and wins but in a masterful stroke by Abercrombie he ends up winning not under his own power, but with supernatural aid. He still believes he won under his own power and this boosts his self esteem. What will happen in the second book in the series when and if he learns he really didn't do it on his own?

The aspect of Jezal's change that I liked was the way he finally understand the trials his friend West went through. His hard work and sacrifice, his struggle to get better. All of which made Jezal feel like the super shit he is. Or was.

And Glotka. Did Glotka change? Maybe not, maybe its too late. But there is a glimmer there that possibly he can change. When he realizes West came to see him after he returned home from being tortured, but that Glotka's mother sent him away two times because West was "low born," he understands though the world may be bad through and through, there may just be things like real friendship in it, and loyalty, and last but not least, empathy.

The questions to be addressed in the next book is: have they changed, are the changes permanent, or will they revert back to their old selves?

But first The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. For some reason, I seldom like reading trilogies straight through. I don’t know if its I don’t like being stuck in another author's style, or I get claustrophobic with the characters, but I find a book in beween keeps me fresher.

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