Thursday, 25 February 2016

Bitter Gold Hearts re-read

(Originally posted on Saturday, 4 March 2017)

My original rating: 9/10
My final rating: 10/10

The first time I have read Bitter Gold Hearts I read it shortly after the ground-breaking Sweet Silver Blues and I was a little “biased”. This time the break between re-reading these two novels was more than two years and I was able to judge Bitter Gold Hearts much more objectively. It's a different kind of story but on its own it's awesome.

There is a side of the novel that I appreciated much more now, when I am several years older and several years wiser. It's the relationship between average people and the “elites”.

Here are some spoiler-free quotes. Please notice that I use italic type the way it is used in the book – to distinguish telepathic communication of the Dead Man. This is the reason I can't quote everything using italic type, like I usually do.

    We marched off like a parody of a military outfit. Amiranda's companions were clad in uniforms. That seemed to be the limit of their familiarity with the military concept. At a guess I would have said their only use was to keep their livery from collapsing into the dust.

    The Hill is a good deal more than a piece of high ground looking down its nose at the sprawl of TunFair, the beast upon whose back it rides. It is a state of mind, and one I don't like. But their coin is as good as any down below, and they have a lot more of it. I register my disapproval by refusing jobs that might help the Hill tribe close their grip even tighter on the rest of us.
    Usually when they try to hire me it's because they want dirty work done. I turn them down. They find somebody less morally fastidious. So it goes.

    Amiranda said, “Mr. Garratt, Domina.”
    The woman looked at me like I was either a potentially contagious disease or an especially curious specimen in the zoo. One of the uglier ones, like a thunder lizard.
    There are times when I feel like I belong to one of the dying breeds.
    “Thank you Amiranda. Have a seat, Mr. Garrett.” The “mister” left her jaws aching. She wasn't used to being nice to people like me.

    “How much did Amiranda tell you?”
    “Enough to get me to listen.” She tried to stare me down. I stared back. “I don't usually have much grief to spare for uptown folks. When the fates want to stick them I say more power to them. But to kidnapping I take exception.”
    She scowled. I give the woman this – her scowl was first rate. Any gorgon would have been proud to own it. (…)

    Morley's place was jumping – as much as it ever does. Which means it was packed with dwarfs, elves, trolls, goblins, pixies, brownies, and whatnot, along with the curious specimens you get when you crossbreed the races. The boys looked at Amiranda with obvious approval and at me with equally obvious distaste. But I forgave them. I would be sullen and sour too if I was in a place where the drinks were nonalcoholic and the meals left out everything but the rabbit food.

    “Watch yourself, Garrett. You're playing with rough people.”
    “I know. But so are they.”
    “They probably know who you are and might know you're poking around. You don't know who they are.”
    “I've had plenty of practice being paranoid.” (…)

    The Dead Man was trying to sleep when I stepped into his room. He was long overdue for one of his three-week naps, but now wasn't the time. “Wake it up, Old Bones. You're supposed to have some suggestions for me this morning.”
    He had several, but none of the first few was fit to record. (…)

    A guy came charging through the doorway just as Saucerhead got there. His nose and Saucerhead's fist collided. No contest. (…)

    “You figured there might be a connection, eh?”
    Of course.
    But you didn't bother to mention it.”
    You have become too dependant upon me. You need to exercise your brain yourself.
    “The reason you're here at all is so I don't have to strain my brain. We humans are born bone lazy. Remember? With innate ambition and energy levels only slightly above those of a dead Loghyr.”

    Dean scowled and grumbled, not at all inclined to let me take matters into my own hands. He prepared the tea with such care and deliberation I was ready to do without before he finished. Tea is tea. Making a religious ceremony of fixing it doesn't improve it a bit.

    I started to express my incredulity, but it struck me that I might learn a little more a lot faster with my mouth shut. I admit that I don't often have these epiphanies.

    I went around the front of the horse and looked him in the eye. He looked back. I saw none of the tribe's usual malice. He obviously hadn't heard of me.

    It was coming together beautifully. I just hoped I wouldn't be in the middle when it crushed.

    I made the mistake, for a short time, of thinking I saw a chance for the big hit. You don't want to fall into that trap. It can shatter your perspective. It can narrow your focus until the rest of the world slides out of touch.

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