It’s up! It’s out! The last two episodes were up so quickly I didn’t realise Episode 6 was up until I checked today and they were both out. It sounds as though Hub have been having server problems and all sorts going on, though, so this should not be taken as a complaint! I will be taking the opportunity to review the two episodes together, though, as I listened to them together, and I’m off to parts with significantly less internet tomorrow.
I loved these – both of them. Although episodes 4 and 5 were interesting, they were more about reveals about the world, and less about action. The pace picked up again in the last two episodes, though, delivering the pay-off that had been built up earlier. What happens is this:
Having been caught drunk, Marco is not in the good books of the Li-Jun. He turns to the Red Granny to help, and she gives him a necklace as a ‘symbol’ of his devotion to House Blue. The necklace works, in that it has a powerful suppressant to make him docile and cooperative. Whilst under its influence, the Red Granny shows Marco more of the Li-Jun’s work, and it becomes clear that their plans for planet Earth are far more sinister than they might have first appeared. They’re not interested in only monopolising the art world.
Shortly after this, Marco is abducted by the Alcoholics’ Guild, who relieve him of the necklace, and take its effect on him as confirmation of their worst fears. When Marco returns to the Li-Jun, however, they know that he’s been in contact with the Alcoholics’ Guild again, and he’s had his last strike. Marco is shipped off to The Most Dangerous Game to fight to the death. By this point, Marco has pretty much concluded that the Red Granny is on the side of the Li-Jun, but before he’s sent out to ‘play’ she gives him certain gifts that lead him to question this. Perhaps she has told him just what he needs to know, and given him just the tools he needs to take the Li-Jun down…
It works. This ending brings together the threads that have been carefully woven throughout the story. The character of the Red Granny is also given a lot more depth and interest in these last episodes. Not that she didn’t have depth before – I think she’s pretty much been my favourite character throughout – but she’s dealt with in an interesting manner. We’re sold her conversion to Li-Jun thinking quite skilfully. We’d been told that she was a survivor of a massacre that occurred in her childhood quite early on, but until now it’d just been a bit of interesting and colourful background. Now we see how this could provide a motivation for someone to think that allowing humans to be enslaved in a way that robbed them of their barbarous tendencies might actually be a viable solution, when we are capable of such brutality.
It’s not a new idea, of course. There’s a lot in the last few episodes (including Marco’s final way of bringing the Li-Jun down) that’s strongly reminiscent of the plot of Serenity. But then, it’s not like Serenity is original in this regard either. I’m sure without much thought one could pull out at least a dozen Star Trek episodes whose moral centres around the fact that humans need the freedom to screw up and be passionate, even at the expense of sacrificing paradise. And that itself it one of the oldest stories we have – whether we’re meant to come away with it as a good thing or not, the story of the garden of Eden strongly suggests that human beings are in some foundational sense attracted to freedom and knowledge of both good and evil over sheepish obedience in paradise – for better or worse.
So, no, it’s not new at all, but then, on a certain level, no stories are. What matters is how they’re told, and how they bring us to re-cognise parts of our own lives and current world in different ways. One of the things I like about the presentation of the Red Granny in this is that she makes both sides seem plausible. She makes a good case for the sheep, even though, at the same time, one can’t help but feel that anyone who has seen their whole family butchered in the name of oppression – anyone who clearly has as much fight in them as the Red Granny – is unlikely to welcome suppression of freewill into their own home with open arms. I like stories that try to make both sides real, and, given that the Li-Jun play their hands so closed, I like that Mur used the Red Granny to present this point of view.
This is a fun and action-packed end to an interesting novella. Listening to it reminded me that I don’t read a lot of sci-fi these days – I watch it, but I don’t read it. This is partially because my current favourite authors write (mostly) fantasy, and I don’t have a lot of time or money to go straying too far from my comfort zone. I’ve therefore doubly enjoyed getting the opportunity to sample a longer work by a new author (new to me) in a way that not only didn’t cost me anything, but was also something that I could listen to to fill the empty space between home and work. You can’t get much more easy to digest than that, and I really approve of it.
Speaking of the cash side: Hub has had some problems with their tip jar, but it’s back up and running now. This stuff is free to download, and I’ve enjoyed it for free, thus far. I’m going to try and find a little something to donate, now I’ve got to the end, but it won’t be much – I’m just strapped, at the moment, when it comes to cash. So, if you do go and read this, and if you do enjoy it, and if you can afford it, I wan to add my voice to say: go support it. A lot of people put time, care, and love into bringing this about, and I believe in rewarding hard work that I benefit from, when I can afford to. If you can’t afford it, well, go enjoy it anyway. Art should be experienced and enjoyed, and if you can’t afford to pay for it, at least you can pass the message on if you like it.
Thanks Mur and thanks Hub – I’ve enjoyed this one.