Saturday, May 9, 2020

Reread: Chill

I still wish they'd used the other cover.
Like Dust before it, I remember only two things about Chill: the ending (albeit only vaguely), and how I felt about the book (specifically, in Chill's case, that I disliked it).  I wasn't looking forward to rereading it because of that dislike, but I was also willing to give the second book another chance.  Maybe it won't be so bad when I read it directly after the first book?

I already gave the synopsis of the book last time:
Chill picks up pretty much where Dust left off. Perceval is now captain of the ship, which she has managed to save from the dying nova star. The Jacob's Ladder is now accelerating, but it has been damaged in the process and is now in dire need of repair. So enters Caitlin, the Chief Engineer, who must find a way to repair the damage with the limited resources available onboard.

At the same time, Arianrhod, a woman who should have died, has escaped. And so Tristen, Perceval's First Mate and head of the house of Conn, and Benedick, Perceval's father and Tristen's younger brother, are trying to track her down. With a colourful cast of characters, many of whom appeared in Dust (like the necromancer Mallory and the basilisk/torch Gavin), the two brothers journey across the ship in pursuit. Engaged in a pincer movement in an attempt to cut her off, the two brothers encounter vastly different things, from carnivourous plant people to ancient enemies of Tristen's. 
In the beginning, I kept thinking that Chill wasn't as bad as I remembered it.  This time around, I was prepared for Perceval to basically be sidelined, so that realization wasn't a problem like the last time I read the book.  I also liked Benedick and Tristen.  While neither of them were as well developed as Perceval or Rien in Dust, I was willing to give them a shot.  But they never really end up well developed, despite some of their trials (this was particularly weird with Tristen; he's made to remember and atone for his past; while he endures, I never really got a sense of his anguish over the past, other than being told over and over again that he was hurting).  Benedick is joined by his younger sister, Chelsea, who I likewise never get a feel for; she's just someone kind of shoved along for the ride.
And as the narrative continued, more and more characters got added as point of view characters (compared to just the three of Perceval, Rien, and Dust in Dust).  And more and more of those point of views seemed unnecessary.  For example, the book would flash periodically to Arianrhod, who might tell the angel fragment of Asrafil (who was with her) that she had laid a trap for either Benedick or Tristen.  Then the book would cut to one of the brothers dealing with said trap.  Couldn't we have cut out the middle bit, and just gone straight to the brothers dealing with the traps?

Other than the aforementioned repetition of characters saying plans then other characters stumbling into said plans, the book is super repetitive in other ways.  I know that Perceval, Caitlin, Tristen, and Benedick are all still mourning over Rien's sacrifice.  But t felt a bit much that by halfway through the book everyone was still upset when dealing with the new angel, Nova (now don't get me wrong, it made sense for Perceval to still be struggling). 
And then, there was the plot itself.  Benedick and Tristen are trying to catch Arianrhod, but rather than meet up, they try to catch her in a pincer move.  They go through all kinds of holds and see all kinds of fantastical things.  And by about two thirds of the way through the book, it gets very, very boring.  They go from hold to hold, but nothing they encounter feels like it actually matters.  Will the plant people have any part in the story within Grail?  What about the Edenites (despite Tristen's parting words to their priestess that he'll be in touch after the crisis is over)?  They feel like these are just random diversions thrown at the characters that they have to deal with, rather than actual alliances that have more consequence.  The stakes don't even seem high, despite the fact that there's a giant alien asteroid thing attacking the ship that their dead sister captured.  I had to push myself to finish reading the last thirty pages or so, because I just didn't care about what was happening.  :(

But I did it: I reread Chill. And my quest to Grail is complete: I can now finally read the final book of the Jacob's Ladder series.

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