Blog Mascot

Monday, August 31, 2009

Childe Cycle: Other and Antagonist

Other (1994), a direct sequel to Young Bleys, is the story of Bleys's conquest of New Earth, Cassida, and Newton.  The three planets have tightly coupled economies: the pure scientists live on Newton, and Cassida has the engineers that turn Newton's discoveries into products, which New Earth manufactures and sells.  Other is essentially the story of Bleys finding the right pressure points to bring all three worlds under his control.  I don't see much value in describing how he does this in detail. 

Henry MacLean's elder son is grown and married, and his younger son has been sent off-world to fight and been killed.  His responsibility is now, he feels, to Bleys, whom he sees as having been seduced by Satan.  A former mercenary himself, Henry volunteers to lead Bleys's bodyguards, as a way of staying near Bleys and if possible turning him away from evil, even though this endangers Henry's own soul; he gave up fighting long ago because he enjoyed the violence too much.  Henry loves Bleys, and is completely unselfish in his desire to help him.  Along with Jamethon Black, Henry represents the Friendlies at their finest.  (Both are military men, for what that's worth.) 

Dahno, more and more, realizes that Bleys is leading the Others, and he's merely along for the ride.  He will object to a scheme of Bleys's if it seems unlikely to work, or won't produce immediate practical results, but Bleys  either reassures Dahno or simply overrides him.  Since Bleys's past schemes have all worked, Dahno gets no support in his objections.  We can sense that eventually there will be a showdown between the two, but it doesn't occur in this book. 

Towards the end of the book, after these three worlds fall to the Others, Bleys announces that his next conquest will be Ste. Marie.  When he was very young, still living with his mother, and very alone, he'd read about the assassination of Kensie Graeme, and felt that in his isolation he was like the bereaved Ian Graeme.  He wants to bring Ste. Marie under the rule of the Others, because with no rebels there will be no political violence; he imagines, conscious of his sentimentally, that this will help Ian rest more peacefully.  That Bleys could believe that a government powerful enough to suppress its enemies would please any Dorsai, especially Ian, makes it clear how little be really understands people; he sees himself as their benevolent parent, making sure they won't so anything silly and hurt themselves. 

At the very end of Other, Bleys learns that Hal Mayne has escaped from his prison cell on Harmony, which helps place this book with respect to The Final Encyclopedia, in which Hal is about to travel to the Exotic worlds for the first time.   Bleys says in so many words something that's been implied throughout: Hal is the only person in the universe Bleys considers an equal, and he wishes they could have been friends. 

Antagonist (2007) was completed by Dickson's long-time assistant, David W. Wixon.  (To the best of my knowledge, it's a coincidence that they rhyme.)  This is a "posthumous collaboration", as Gordon Dickson passed away in 2001.  David Wixon had been Dickson's assistant for many years.  In fact, my copy of Lost Dorsai, published in 1993, contains a section written by Wixon called "A Childe Cycle Concordance", full of information about the Cycle's setting and characters.  I've referred to it extensively in writing these reviews.  Unfortunately, Antagonist was published without a foreword, an afterward, or notes of any kind, so there's no way to tell how much of it is Dickson and how much Wixon.

Antagonist is the only book in the Cycle that's told out of order.  It  begins with Bleys and his usual entourage (Dahno, Antonia Lu, and Henry MacLean, as Drama, Shauna, and E respectively) on Ceta, which is not yet controlled by the Others, and which is in the midst of a civil war.   While traveling in an armed column between cities, Bleys is ambushed, his vehicle disabled, and his group forced to fight for their lives.  The next chapter goes back to Bleys's decision to visit Ceta.  Eventually the story gets back to the battle, which all the major characters survive.  Antagonist is a lot like Other.  It consists largely of political intrigue, in this case about the Other takeover of Ceta.   While on Ceta, Bleys concludes that there's an underground group that's been trying to sabotage the Dorsai and Exotics for many years, and have infiltrated the Others there.  Once uncovered, they explain that they're admirers of the long-dead William of Ceta, whom they think would have united the universe under Cetan rule had Donal and his Exotic supporters not defeated William, and they still resent that.  Given Bleys's plan for destroying both Exotic and Dorsai cultures, it's easy enough to make them his allies, and the Others' conquest of Ceta is assured. 

Dahno, resentful of the way Bleys has effectively taken over the Others, decides to strike out on his own.  He assures Bleys that they're not enemies; he simply wants to be in charge of his own enterprises.  For this purpose, Dahno moves to Earth, to set up the sort of consulting and lobbying organization the Others had been.  Bleys eventually discovers that Dahno has been plotting against him, and he kidnaps Dahno, stranding him on a remote, uninhabited island on the Dorsai with enough food and supplies to last the rest of his life.  To guard against the remote possibility that someone will run across Dahno and Dahno will be able to use his vast powers of persuasion to make him an ally, Bleys renders Dahno mute. 

Back on shipboard, in a scene reminiscent of the beginning of The Final Encyclopedia, Bleys's soldiers take some prisoners but fail to secure them properly.  In the ensuing melee, Henry is mortally wounded, ending once and for all the possibility of his finding a way to save Bleys's soul.  Bleys now travels to the Encyclopedia to speak to Hal Mayne, and the book ends as we see once again the conversation they had at the end of The Final Encyclopedia.

Dickson has set himself a difficult task with the three Bleys books.  They're the story of someone who's isolated, humorless, full of himself, self-pitying, and almost completely unsympathetic.  Moreover, he's static.  None of his accomplishments and none of the people who come to love and admire him really change him;  he remains his mother's emotional victim throughout.  This makes thematic sense: he projects his insecurity on the entire human race, and wants to return it back to the womb represented by the Earth.  But it would be hard enough to make the reader care enough about such a character to keep him interested through one book, let alone three.  I felt that I understood Bleys quite well enough after Young Bleys, and the next two books were simple a collection of incidents, as unnecessary as the rescue sequence in The Chantry Guild

There are some inconsistencies between the Hal Mayne sequence and the Bleys Ahrens sequence.  

Hal books(The Final Encyclopedia, The Chantry Guild) Bleys books(Young Bleys, Other, Antagonist)
At the time of the attack on Hal's home, the Others control almost all of the human worlds. The Others control only the Friendly worlds at that point.
Bleys's mother was a Friendly, and his father a Dorsai/Exotic crossbreed.Bleys's mother smelled of elderberries is an Exotic and we never learn anything about his father.
The Others try to keep hidden that their power to persuade comes from their Friendly background. Bleys first becomes a public figure as a member of the Friendly parliament, and it's well-known that he grew up on Association.

There is a revised version of The Final Encyclopedia that was published in 1997.  I've never seen it, and I don't know whether it addresses these issues.

No comments:

Post a Comment