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July 13, 2016

The NECESSITY of a Spoiler Thread
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 05:10 PM * 18 comments

He says, Ἀνάγκη ἥψατο τοῦ ποδὸς ἐμοῦ.

I say, Necessity only grabbed your foot? You got lucky, then; I’d already lost my head by that point. Twice.

—Νίκη


You know the drill. This is a thread for discussing Jo Walton’s recently published book, Necessity. It’s full of spoilers.

Comments on The NECESSITY of a Spoiler Thread:
#1 ::: Idumea Arbacoochee, ἀνεπίθετη ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2016, 05:23 PM:

(Allow me to get in first to apologize for my Greek, which is almost certainly wrong in several aspects. In my defense, I haven't tried to write anything in the language since 1992.)

#2 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: July 13, 2016, 07:37 PM:

By the Dog of Egypt! Athene is such a nasty b----: "Someone will come, a descendant of you and _____, and..." indeed! Was that why the poor SOB was so confident at the play-off?

#3 ::: neotoma ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2016, 06:16 AM:

Athene could greatly benefit for a human life, but she's very unlikely to choose to do it.

Matthias managed to creep me out with his last lines -- he was skinning people when he had his little trip through time! Ick!

#4 ::: Brad DeLong ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2016, 04:13 PM:

"Athene could greatly benefit for a human life, but she's very unlikely to choose to do it."

Yep...

"Matthias managed to creep me out with his last lines -- he was skinning people when he had his little trip through time! Idk!"

Double yep...

#5 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: July 14, 2016, 04:19 PM:

I like Athene. She is genuinely alien. And I think that her choosing a mortal life would not enhance her in the way that it does Apollo. Apollo is the god of music, and of poetry. His sphere is very emotional and subjective. Athene is the goddess of wisdom and knowledge, which is more abstract and distanced. I think that she would see mortality as a distraction, and introducing the subjective where it was not wanted. She might even be correct. She is, after all, a goddess. Note, too, that Athene understands equal significance at the very beginning of The Just City, and Apollo does not. But she understands it in its abstract. Apollo can only learn it subjectively, concretely. Athene does not particular seek that type of knowledge.

#6 ::: abi ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2016, 08:08 AM:

One thing I really enjoyed was how, among all of the other things the book is, it's also a romance novel. That's very clever indeed.

#7 ::: Kelly Jennings ::: (view all by) ::: July 15, 2016, 01:31 PM:

I love the very ending -- the last page and a half -- so much.

#8 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2016, 03:39 PM:

Best impromptu wedding since Byerly witnessed the instant groats incident.

#9 ::: S. Evelyn ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2016, 09:54 PM:

So delighted by the City of Workers! I do wish we'd got to see some human-Worker marriages on-page, but I loved hearing about them. (I wonder if there are any Saeli pods with Workers in?)

#10 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2016, 12:03 AM:

Last sentence of Chapter 21, Socrates on the prospect of marriage. It's been two days, and I'm still cracking up occasionally about that...

#11 ::: Kevin Marks ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2016, 02:46 PM:

The rules of time travel for Gods were well done, and made me really want a Jo Walton written Dr Who episode. This goes with my pet theory that Among Others takes place in the Whoniverse.

#12 ::: Jo Walton ::: (view all by) ::: July 23, 2016, 04:15 PM:

Kevin -- I loathe Doctor Who. It's one of those things like sweetcorn, where I recognise that other people find something to appreciate but... yuck. I don't like TV generally, but don't like Doctor Who even more than I don't like normal TV.

So I am never going to write for it unless saving the world requires it, and the thought that you think any book of mine could be at all connected with it makes me sad.

(I hated it even before they connected it with Wales and so meant I had to have inane conversations with people whose only referent for my place of origin it is, such that when I say I have been there to see my family they ask if I have seen a dalek and cackle.)

#13 ::: Janet ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2016, 04:04 AM:

I'm not sure how well Athena understands equal significance in the abstract, since she doesn't seem to understand it at all in practice.

About Kebes and the business of flaying: it was obvious to me that flaying was something that he took up during and as a result of his time travel; when he reappeared with Jathery, he seemed very upset and disoriented, and he immediately mentioned flaying, as though it were something new and disturbing to him. His reaction at the other meeting (earlier for Marsilia and Jathery; later for Kebes) indicates that whatever he experienced, it's not something that he wants to repeat. Something very bad happened to Kebes on Mars.

It seemed to me very obvious what had happened between Ikaros and Jathery: "Hey, I threw up, did you all see that? Funny how I threw up, just like Marsilia did. Aren't you curious about why I happened to throw up, just like Marsilia? You're not even going to ask me about it? Because I did point out quite pointedly that it's a natural reaction to throw up when you find out your lover is an alien god. And did you see how I flinched that time when we were talking about Hilfa's parentage? Aren't you even a little curious?" I almost felt sorry for him, because it seemed to me that he so wanted to talk about what had happened, but nobody was interested. Then I asked my husband, and he didn't figure it out until Apollo, so maybe I am wrong about this.

#14 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2016, 11:00 AM:

Jo: right there with you. Loathe Dr, Who. Sympathies on the Wales thing. How frustrating.

#15 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 29, 2016, 09:13 PM:

Am I misrecollecting the other books, or was this one more disjunct? Entirely aside from the business of personal timelines going in opposite directions, it seemed to me that frequently one narrative would pick up hours before the previous one. I suppose that's a result of fitting the central action into <2 days (not counting the many time execursions). (It doesn't help that I have no background for this; my father, who minored in classics and was more of an in-betweener (where I'm very far toward structure on the structure/abstract axis), might have found it fascinating if he'd ever accepted non-mimetic literature.)

Was anyone else struck by Jo's conception of Zeus? I grew up with Bulfinch et al and can see Apollo and Athene as they were traditionally portrayed, but I can't imagine this Zeus philandering, or even dealing with rival/parallel pantheons -- he seems almost as remote as the Hebrew god. (That could be an interesting meeting, if they aren't in fact one personality behind different masks.) There are enough layers of deceit/manipulation exposed by this book to make me wonder whether there are more layers we don't know about. (cf Good Omens, which I dipped into at one point, asking "How do you know something else wasn't written somewhere else in larger type?")

And I'm sorry that this irritates Jo, but my first analogy on finding just how tangled the timelines were was River Song's intertwining with the previous two Doctors. There are many prior tangled timelines, at least as far back as 1941 ("By His Bootstraps"), but the whole ~"I can't tell you any more because I see our timelines are running in opposite directions" set up an interesting and novel (at least to me) tension.

#16 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: July 30, 2016, 04:39 PM:

The business about Ikaros and Marsilia throwing up put me off more than a little. Too much like The Crying Game.

#17 ::: Janet ::: (view all by) ::: August 03, 2016, 03:01 PM:

CHip @#15

The first two books were also told with backtracking, each narrator on a slightly different schedule. It's one of the things I like best about the series. It's probably more noticeable here than in the other two because of the compressed time frame.

#18 ::: praisegod barebones ::: (view all by) ::: November 08, 2016, 02:26 PM:

It's not in any way a spoiler, but I just want to report that I found Necessity a delightful distraction from anxieties about political upheavals in Turkey this weekend. My only regret about finishing it on Monday morning is that I can't read it to distract me from the U.S. election today.

I found that Jathery/Ikaros leapt out as obvious. But I can't see the analogy with The Crying Game. Why would it be a shock? Renaissance Italy isn't 1980's Ulster after all.

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