Saturday, February 7, 2009

Notes for A Thousand Words for Stranger by Julie E. Czerneda

Czerneda, Julie E. - A Thousand Words for Stranger

Review here.

(Page numbers are for Mobipocket on my PDA and therefore will be useless to most people, possibly including me. My apologies for that, but this is how I read the book.)

p.45: The richly dressed pair could have passed for Human, if ‘Whix hadn’t known they were Clan.

p.48: True telepaths were rare among Humans, scarce at best among the three other Trade Pack species who claimed that power, and completely absent in most. The Clan, rumour had it, were all telepaths of extraordinary ability.

p.111: Some Clan scholars argued that the M’hir was a construct formed by Clan thoughts over generations of use. Others, with equal passion, described the M’hir as another dimension, in which disciplined Clan thoughts slipped like needles through thread, bypassing normal space. […] M’hir belonged only to the Clan. The M’hir gave Clan thoughts the ability to transcend distance, to transport matter, to touch layers of thought in others minds – such as those of Humans – believe unreachable.

p.113: No other species even suspected the existence of the M’hir;

p.199: I can’t detect Sira because she travels under a special form of protection – one tat hides her from Clan adepts.

p.252: “I’m on my way home from school.”

How odd. That last bit sounded like the truth.

p.259: another ground tug rumbled by, hooks emptied of whichever ship it had just placed in dock.

Tugs carry ships out to a launching pad. Where they are docked is not where they land or take off.

p.309: The M’hir, in which Clan power dipped and mingled, through which image and form could be sent at the speed of thought […] As a di Sarc, Rael’s power was several magnitudes greater than his. And suds learned early to protect themselves.

p.311: Those Chosen were often cruel to those still ruled by need. Barac hoped to be amused and cruel himself one day.

p.317: Clan children knew today’s girl would be tomorrow’s Chooser, driven when adult to test any unChosen male’s mastery of the M’hir, to challenge that mastery with her unique power, to kill the weak with a thought.

p.318: Win or even hold your own, and a Chooser’s Power-of-Choice would turn from weapon to a promise of paradise. Win or tie, and become one in the Joining, the forming of a permanent bond through the M’hir, connected across distance, mated for life, guaranteed a future.

Lose, and die.

p.320: Chooser waited like buds for the stroke of spring, unchanging, unable to flower within the warmth of Joining, as if frozen in time.

p.325: “Sira knows I sometimes forget her pain and think only of my pride.” [Rael]

p.355: “I offer you Choice, Captain Morgan,” I heard myself say. “I offer myself.”

p.480: “It’s pre-Stratification, isn’t it?” […] “He cared about our glorious history. He would talk for hours about the day the M’hiray were uplifted from the common clay of the Clan – the day our ancestors became Gods.”

p.481: Barac frowned at the disrespect in Rael’s voice. Her mother might be Mirim sud Teerac, and no longer the first Chosen of her household, but she was still a formidable presence. Her link to her first offspring, Sira, had remained strong and fruitful for close to two decades, generating power channels through the M’hir that helped bridge the gap for many other M’hiray between Sira’s foster home on Camos and Mirim’s home on the rich inner planet, Stonerim III.

p.482: searching for the lost Homeworld and its so-called M’hir free life – the location of which all knew the Clan Council had refused to share -

p.483: “But there is a Clan Homeworld, Rael. A place where this metal was mined and crafted. […] And I can believe that if this place still exists, the Clan who could not touch the M’hir probably have folktales of their own about us, the M’hiray. The brave and powerful First Families – 730 of the new breed of Choosers and their Chosen – who gathered together during the stratification of our kind and simply left.”

p.484: “Doubtless the Council knows your answers and by the Prime Law the rest of us will be informed if the past ever matters again.”

p.488: whoever is Watching the M’hir will taste it

p.541: “I’m pure stock, too. I can recite twenty generations of ancestors, right back to First Ship.”

p.631: Huido’s cook had ignored me, busy with a masterpiece insistent on crawling out of the pot.

This isn’t significant in the main plot of the book, I just think it’s a great line.

p.811: “I should take you to Cenabar for total reconstruction. This obsession with Humans – it’s warped your mind, Barac. They are nothing!”

p.814: Think about it, Rael. Is it really impossible? Or have we seen no talent like ours among them because the Council keeps its fingers spread to detect any troubling of the M’hir – and is ready to “alter” any Human mind that approaches it. We’ve been taught that the Stratification took place because the Talent appeared in a few choosers, then spread to more each generation, until our ancestors no longer had a common goal with the unTalented. What if that development had been stopped? What would we be now?”

p.818: her power as a Chooser

p.1005: Something inside, something a part of me, was capable of acting on its own. Those actions, not mine, were the source of the Clan’s concern.

p.1008: I would not be controlled by some mindless force of instinct.

p.1014: The darkness buried deep within me had indeed made its Choice. […] Jason Morgan, though he was mercifully unaware of it, had been chosen by that obscenity within in.

p.1031: Again a node of knowledge quietly coalesced. This scrap, so carefully preserved, was all that remained of the personal effect of my great-grandmother, First Chosen of the House of S’udlaat, the leader of the M’hiray during the Stratification.

p.1061: “When are females are ready to mature, they are driven to search the M’hir for a mate – we call them Choosers.” A moment’s longing filled Barac’s voice. “Choosers assess the power of any unChosen male who comes near. But Joining, the life-pairing through the M’hir, is only possible with a mate of equal of superior strength. Lesser males – lose.” another brief hesitation as Barac searched for the right words. “in my great-great-grandfather’s time, losing meant, at worst, loneliness. In the last few generations, as our Chooses have grown more powerful, losing has meant death.”

p.1070: The unChosen feel the need for Choice, too.” Barac’s voice went softer for a moment, caught by his own feelings. “you’ve seen insects fly to a flame? The power of a Chooser within the M’hir is like tat to us. And the stronger the Chooser, the brighter the flame.”

p.1071: “Chose can only be offered, Human, from Chooser to unChosen. The risk is the male’s. We cannot force our females – as your species is known to do.”

p.1098: She’ll drag you into the void and leave you there to die. And it wouldn’t be Sira – your destroyer would be a mindlessness, an instinct, less under her control than the orbit of this planet.

p.1107: The blackness within me, the obscene mindless force, wasn’t bound by Yihtor’s drug.

p.1139: Sira has mastered the Power-of-Choice.

p.1215: No-one ever attempted to lock stasis release to joining before, to bind a mind past the moment of Choice.

I still don’t quite get this. I get the first part, but not the second.

p.1221: “A mind in stasis after Choice and Commencement must surely be unique.”

Meaning Sira still having her memory all bound and locked up for all that she’s Chosen Morgan and started to change physically has never happened before?

p.1229: Sira’s Power-of-Choice must finish its attempt to Join with the Human through the M’hir.

p.1231: “What Morgan feels isn’t based on some outlandish instinct. He loves me.”

p.1237: His daughter’s passion for numbers, for the obscure sciences of populations and growth was too unClanlike to be generally acceptable, but harmless. […] When her research had exhausted all of the information she could access about living members of the Clan, she had started her quest to see the records from the Stratification and before. […] The Stratification itself had been a deliberate attempt to separate those bearing the genetic code for entering the M’hir from those who did not. The Clan had always had Choosers and mental linkage between mated pairs before maturation. But the new breed of Chooser whose abilities were amplified through the M’hir were deadly to any but others of the same ability. It hadn’t taken long for all to realize that candidates for the new Choosers had to be preselected for their own safety. […] Stratification marked not social change among the Clan, but a major force in its evolution as a species. By dispersing the new Choosers and their mates, now calling themselves M’hiray, from the Homeworld, a new incompatible species had arisen.

p.1242: The power to manipulate the M’hir was becoming concentrated: pooling in fewer, though stronger individuals, with the remainder of the population excluded from bearing children. Council policies regarding Choice and reproduction had only accelerated the process. And this process had one inevitable ending.

p.1243: A Chooser who could not find a mate was the first step on a downward spiral of population decline. There was no escape. The crash was inevitable and the M’hiray were a doomed experiment, not a new species.

p.1243: A return to the old ways, of Choosers assessing every unChosen male, was more than unthinkable: at best it could only slow the decline, and at a cost to terrible to consider by a sapient species.

Because the males would die?

p.1244: hybridize with a compatible telepathic humanoid species, Human themselves perhaps or any species without the Power-of-Choice. The most favourable outcome could be a new race, retaining M’hiray ability to use the M’hir, but freed at last from the deadly consequences of Choice.

At worst, a means might have been found to bring Choosers to Commencement without costing more M’hiray lives. […] Commenced by contact with aliens, breeder who would hold off the end of their species until a better, more lasting solution could be found. At the very least, the mothers and their offspring could continue to enhance the M’hir for the remaining M’hiray.

p.1246: I’d never been this woman who almost casually predicted the species of her kind, and as easily, suggested the p;potential deaths of others as a solution.

So idea is that Choice with an alien would lead to Commencement (and therefore reproduction) even if the alien in question died in the process?

p.1246: She was believed by, or at least made uneasy, enough of those on the Council to set in motion a test of her proposed solution. […] But never to interbreed with another species – that heresy was too much for any of them. The Choice offered would be in the ancient manner. Knowing I would kill them, Council still suggested I be exposed to any and all unChosen males, one after another if necessary, in hopes of inducing Commencement. Once Commenced, Sira di Sarc would at least be physically capable of bearing young. Her incredible must not be lost from the M’hiray.

And the drive of the Power-of-Choice for a Joining through the M’hir? The Council proposal rushed from Jarad’s emotionless and clear memory to the horror-filled turmoil of my own. An erased mind can’t heed the dictates of Choice.

Okay this is the bit that still confuses me, this “dictates of Choice”. Is it that by erasing the mind, the female in question is no longer trying to Choose? That without a Joining, the Power-of-Choice is going to keep trying to best any unChosen male it/she comes across?

Does this mean that the Council’s idea was pretty much to do what Yithor planned – to set Commencement going through contact with an alien telepath (because who cares if he dies?), the wipe the mind of the Chooser (ie Sira) so she is no longer dangerous and breed from her?

p.1250: “But you must understand, Sira, that unless your mission turns out to be totally successful, they will order you erased and mated to their selection. You need Morgan. You must finish what you’ve begun.”

ie. Go through to a Joining?

p.1259: “They hoped a Choice made with a Human – “ her lips twisted around the word, “that such a Choice would induce a Commencement without the linkage of a true Joining.

Again we come back to how much everything – Choice, Commencement, Joining – is required to be linked together.

p.1323: You aren’t responsible for your actions, dear daughter. Just like your mother.


p.1344: Following the somgelt came the Testing. In Clan, Cenebar had told me, the Power-of-Choice within the Chooser tried to master the power of the unChosen candidate. The battleground was the nothingness of the M’hir; the aim of the unChosen, to survive the assault of the Chooser long enough to forge a permanent path – a Joining – through the M’hir.

p.1346: Having made a successful Joining, a Clanswoman entered the trancelike state during which her body would Commence, altering into its adult, reproductive form.

p.1355: A point came when I felt strangely light, utterfly free of the dark undercurrent and the strain of harnessing it. Morgan glowed and crackled with power before my amazed eyes. It was done. And not by contest, but as a gift.

Is this a new way? Not to assault the unChosen, but to freely give. But this does require a Chosen who can master the Power-of-Choice and Sira might be the only one who can.

What isn’t addressed in this book – hopefully it will be in the next one – is what gaining Sira’s Power-of-Choice will do to Morgan and what form that power will take in him.

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