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Joined: 02 Dec 2019
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 02, 2019 1:01 am    Post subject: Appreciating Reply with quote

Been reading "True Magic" way back when, then stopped following it after the re-write started.
Recently found it again and discovered:
1) it's going strong, and
2) it's amazing.

Been staying up reading 5-ish hours past my bedtime for a couple days now. (When I get into something, there's no stopping me.)

Love the characterization. 3 characters are absolute favorites, but I can't help but care for most of the cast, episodic characters included.

Re:Jim's performance review: I have a love-hate relationship with stories featuring "against all odds, find a way to save everyone... woops, didn't think of the long-term effects and large-scale consequences. Looks like I've brought about a whole new level of disaster!" All these people you thought you helped? - Guess what, you didn't!
Love the drama, complexity and moral dilemmas.
But oh, the heartbreak and frustration and guilt.

Also had the thought that Alera's words:
"...(I) warned you that there was no (way to beat the rules)...
...seeing how we're at the mercy of jaded, fire-throwing sociopaths..."
apply to Homeville's whole situation, really. "We'll get nobles to stop the other nobles from setting people on fire!" [i]Why[/i] do I have the feeling that neither following the rules, nor breaking the rules, nor creatively re-interpreting the rules would result in winning?

Love the background consistency and extra details that get discovered incidentally and/or stay in the background until they are noticed. For instance, the length of Marty's hair in flashbacks indicating how much time has passed.

And speaking of Marty... but that could take a while, and I'm already at the end of my new "5 hours past bedtime" bedtime.

(P.S. Currently on pg. 434, so please no spoilers from the last couple dozen pages, if you'd be so kind.)
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2019 11:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(All caught up on the story now.)

So yes, Marty. Oh where do I begin.
First the reveal of "that was not 'scared kid', that was 'excited psycho' all along"...
...then we get the flashbacks which show that he [i]was[/i] the 'scared kid', implying that time in the Pit made him what he is now...
...then we see his moment on the sand heap, where he seems to show genuine horror at the lives he's taken (before snapping back into psycho mode)...
...then Henson saves him and it looks like things may be looking up for the poor guy...
...and then we find out it's been too late for him for the last few pages.
My favourite characters tend to have the worst luck.

I had fun spotting the transitions between Marty's regular-font and crazy-font speech bubbles.
And now I'm noticing Spike has their own unusual font. I first thought it's a Sand Beetle thing, like the sparkles around the speech bubbles. But no, when it's Patches speaking, there doesn't seem to be that wavering quality to the letters. Wonder if it's the result of Spike being cracked/injured, or just how Spike rolls...

Also, gotta love the glowy-eyes red "low battery" light.

Speaking of the puppeteering. My guess is that the Sand Beetles don't control the exact movements of their victims, but the higher-level processes, leaving the body's original automatic responses in place. (Could speculate about the significance of the needle being jabbed into the brainstem area, but trying to mix "biology" and "magic" usually only goes so far, so not sure if it's worth going down that path.)
So, the commands are not on the level of "move left leg, move right leg", it's "walk that way". And there's no direct command of "smile" or "stand in a threatening posture" (unless the Sand Beetle is consciously intending it), it's the body's automatic response to what the Sand Beetle is feeling/thinking.
Patches may be a less experienced "pilot", but Marty's movement under their control is still quite precise. If anything, it seems [i]more[/i] expressive and spontaneous, which might actually be in part [i]because of[/i] Patches' relative lack of experience.
I'm pretty amused at how Marty's autopilot responds to Patches' feelings of excitement/affection/relief (pg. 446). Especially since we know one of Marty's go-to reactions is hugs. (And the chorus of "eeee!" killed me.)

There's a bunch of other things I want to comment on (like that vivomancy class, the forensics'/guards' oops-no-gloves thing, or Richard and his story with the Sand Beetles), but don't want to write a novel all in one go.
Might write more later if I feel like it, or if anyone wants to discuss the plot/characters.
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 03, 2019 1:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Er, um... Rolling Eyes

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PostPosted: Wed Dec 04, 2019 12:48 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Welcome to the forum, Dart! Wow, your posts just completely made my day. :D Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts, speculations, and kind words! That is super-encouraging.

(It's especially nice to hear from someone who's just reading this version of the story for the first time. After putting it together a page at a time over the course of several years, I'm glad that it's still pretty cohesive when read all at once!)

P.S. I think you're on the right track Re: the crystal needles being aimed specifically at the brainstem, and the beetles making use of their subjects' existing brain functions. Wink

Dart wrote:
Er, um... Rolling Eyes


Cheese! Cheese! Cheese!
"The one concession a sane man will never yield the universe is that of considering it seriously."
~ James Branch Cabell
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 04, 2019 3:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for the reply, Aja! Be careful with the encouragement, you'll get tired of seeing me yet!

I'm sure you're just being modest about the level of cohesiveness. Reading it all in one go, it looks incredibly solid, with plenty of dots to connect.
(I hardly remember anything from the first version of TM, beyond a handful of quotes. ("I'm an albino, sir, and deeply offended!") So I don't think my trying to connect the aforementioned dots would count as cheating.)

And apparently I am now making a "Life Advice from the Happy People of Hometropolis" series...
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 04, 2019 10:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Aja wrote:
the crystal needles being aimed specifically at the brainstem, and the beetles making use of their subjects' existing brain functions

OK, wild speculation time.
If some biology is applicable, and the brain is needed intact for- whatever the Sand Beetles' master is planning. ((I suppose there could be more beetles off-screen, but even if so, I doubt there's enough to pilot ALL the bodies simultaneously. So I assume that can't be the actual plan when the time comes.))

Preserving the brain would involve some combination of keeping it cold, keeping the blood oxygenation/circulation going, and/or magic (of course).
Henson did remark on Marty's body being cold - but only after Spike was knocked off.
Previously, he touched the Spike-controlled puppet (entirely too much for his own liking), and didn't seem to find the temperature unusual.
So, while it's possible he just missed it (I mean, he did have a lot on his mind), it's also possible that the body's basic functions are launched when it's piloted, and it's shut off (and magically cooled?) when not in use.
(Also, it doesn't seem like enough time between Marty being swallowed up by the sand and Henson checking for life signs for the body to cool enough by natural means. But then, who knows how much time actually passed.)

And there's more circumstantial evidence that the puppets are "technically alive", since we see one coughing (and thus, being ABLE to breathe - though that could be just for speaking and/or a reflex).

So with a bit of motivated reasoning, we can conclude that those who have been collected are "only mostly dead" and could get better with, say, a good zap from a defibrillator.

But then, of course, there's the crystal needles. Before they are used, they seem perfectly smooth. But after the forensics team pulled one out, it had little spikes/hairs/extensions/? on one end. So they gradually grow into the brain / connect more with it? Which can't be a good thing, no matter how much motivated reasoning is applied.

So for the moment I'll stop with the wishful thinking, go with "dead is dead", and try to get back to the bigger picture.
(Missing the forest for the leaves, branches, and ooh a caterpillar, is a special talent of mine.)

Back to the forensics lab incident.
When the Corporal touched the needle, it sucked out magic from him, like the lampposts apparently do, which briefly powered the body.
(I mean, humans are powered by oxidation, i.e. intricate incomplete slow-motion combustion, i.e. "a kind of fire"; and controlled by electrical impulses in the neurons, i.e. "a kind of lightning").
((Which is contradicted by the fact that there was life but no light before Lucideus showed up. But that's a legend and can be taken with a grain of salt.))

So let's assume life runs on Lucideus's energy. (Which seems to go with vivomancy apparently being taught at the college.)
The dead body+needle combination steals that energy, which might be transferred through a power differential (from a noble who has a lot, to a dead body which has none).
And I wonder if the guards' zap-sticks also work through some kind of power differential. Stick (high-energy) does not zap a noble (high-energy), but does zap a commoner (low-energy)...

OK, there goes my morning off. Enough leaves and branches for one day.
Oh how I've missed loving something enough to analyze it to death.
Obsessions: a blessing and a curse.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 04, 2019 1:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote


Re: magic/energy differentials.
Realized that, according to my theory, lampposts must be low-energy to suck energy out of nobles, but zap-sticks must be high-energy. Not impossible, but inelegant.
And then there's disconfirming evidence - Joe got zapped when he first picked up the stick; but then he was able to hold it just fine, right up until he tried to attack Jim.

BUT there's a simpler explanation!
The zap-stick does not store Lucideus energy (will abbreviate to "L-energy" in future), it's only a conductor! When Joe first picked it up from the guard, he wasn't zapped by the stick, but by the L-energy of the unconscious guard!
(Went back and checked - yup, still in Andir's hand when Joe picks it up and gets zapped!)

Wonder what the implications are in terms of Lucideus being weakened and (captured?) by the priests. At the time he'd be the highest-concentration source of L-energy. Was being summoned draining in and of itself? Did the priests discover a way to drain energy from him into themselves (or to some kind of reservoir, or to, say, a pile of dead bodies (now there's a morbid picture))?
That whole scene, as shown in the prologue, seemed fishy, but again, legends are likely to be inaccurate. (Especially if they involve a top-secret technological break-through.)

"Top-secret technology" would also explain why zap-sticks are so illegal that the Dusk's patrons treat it as a big deal, and that's despite the fact that "down a shot every time you spot something illegal" is probably a popular drinking game at the Dusk.

(...wonder if Bob's mother's research, and the shiny die under his pillow, have to do with L-energy and/or the story of Lucideus's capture...)
(...and wonder if the shiny die is, somehow, Bob's mother's life essence that she (or he) somehow crystallized, thus suddenly making her vanish...)
(But that takes me out of "huh, that actually seems plausible" and into groundless speculation territory, so no sense pursuing it without more information.)


Re:brains, biology and beetles.

Wonder if the needle's threads/barbs/extensions mean it is gradually tapping into the victim's higher brain regions?

Let's say the needle is a conductor, kind of like the zap-stick (but much more complex, of course). Then the Sand Beetles must have L-energy (or some other, comparable kind of energy), with which they power the body via the needle.
(It seems quite energy-draining, based on the Corporal's reaction. If so, the Sand Beetles would need to have VAST energy reserves, and/or use it VERY efficiently. But they are made of glowing stones, so it doesn't seem completely implausible they contain some kind of high-power battery. Wonder if that's the reason the Sand Beetles connect to the needle with their thin, long tails - keep the cross-section of the conductor small, keep it a safe distance from their actual body/battery, and keep the energy flow controlled.)

(...if that's true, touching a Sand Beetle's actual body to the needle would probably be quite spectacular and also a terrible idea.)

Coming back to the needle-extensions: if they're growing into the brain over time, I wonder what that would mean:...
...in terms of puppeteering - would the bodies be harder to control / have more and more of a "mind of their own"? or would their higher-level skills become accessible to the puppeteer, e.g. knowledge and memories? or would they destroy/change/over-write the brain?
...in terms of what the puppets are later capable of and/or useful for. E.g. acting on their own, without a puppeteer (provided they have an energy source)? Connecting to some kind of network? Seeking out and tapping into energy sources?
Um....Connect them all to the lamppost system, where they can drain the whole city's energy (and possibly come back to life in the process)??
But that's shaky ground and unsubstantiated reasoning again.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 04, 2019 9:22 pm    Post subject: Trying to piece things together Reply with quote

...the zap-stick is the stupidest, most ridiculous and useless weapon. Why would guards carry a weapon if they can't even control whether or not it goes off? (Jim sure wasn't trying to zap Joe, neither was Andir.) Why use it if you can throw a fireball? And why would something so useless be illegal?

Because it's not a weapon at all! Of course! >__< Can't believe I didn't spot it sooner >__<
We even see the guards use it for a complex, non-combat purpose (capturing an image of the heroes).

Joe found a zappy-thing, immediately assumed "weapon!" (a very Joe thing to do), and used it as such. It's like finding a computer, deciding "weapon!", and dumping it into someone's swimming pool in hopes of electrocuting them - could technically work, but not at all its intended purpose.

The zap-stick might be a tool for directing/using magic in a more complex or precise way, and/or over longer distances. And allowing only guards to carry one may be about safety regulations (being properly trained to use one), or its exact purpose and capabilities.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 06, 2019 4:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

...so there are at least 2 pairs of Sand Beetles.
The dress-up-as-the-Sargent Sand Beetle is not Spike. (Went back to check whether their speech bubbles are sparkly and/or wavy, and realized that 1) no they aren't, and 2) I previously interpreted that whole scene wrong.)
(Will call the unnamed pair Needles and Hairy for now.)
((Why Hairy has hairs, what they are, and whether that's significant, is a whole different question, but insufficient data, moving on.))

With Hat Person's blessing, Needles and Hairy are off to check "the arena drop point", which sounds like it should be the same as the Sand Pit. (Though there may be more than one arena that's worth checking for bodies.)

If "arena drop point" IS the Sand Pit, it makes no sense for Needles+Hairy to go there if Spike+Patches are already covering it.
That is, unless they are not working together, and/or don't know about each other.

So Spike and Patches might not be working for Hat Person. And if they are part of a different force, that could have something to do with why they have sparkly speech bubbles and Needles doesn't.

...Something about this chain of reasoning feels off, though.
For one thing, "arena drop point is NOT the sand pit" might be a simpler assumption than "2 suspiciously similar pairs of Sand Beetles are engaged in a suspiciously similar activity, but are not working for the same entity".
For all we know, Hat Person may have deals and "quotas" with every fighting ring in town.
...For another thing... Can't quite put my finger on it. It just doesn't make a satisfying "click" when I try to put it together.
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PostPosted: Fri Dec 06, 2019 4:43 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ah, here's another argument against.
2 teams of Sand Beetles not working together, checking the same spot, but not finding signs of (or running into) each other, seems odd.
Needles offers to check "the arena drop point" like it's business as usual. Most likely:
1) they picked up bodies there before
2) usually, when they went there, they haven't found anything out of the ordinary. Such as no bodies being stolen by a rival Sand Beetle team.

Could construct an argument around that (e.g. this is the first time Spike+Patches took a body from there; or they only take someone when it's over the quota so that Hat Person doesn't suspect anything; or they and Needles+Hairy do know each other, but Hat Person doesn't know about them...)
But all of that seems pretty shaky. No use building an elaborate justification, without sufficient evidence, in support of an idea that doesn't feel quite right in the first place.

Upd Dec 8: or there's an even simpler way. Spike+Patches may not be "covering" the arena drop point; both pairs of Sand Beetles might check it every once in a while, among other things they do.
Seems like the most straightforward possibility.

Last edited by Dart on Sun Dec 08, 2019 8:47 pm; edited 1 time in total
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