Thursday, October 3, 2013

Redemption of Althalus--endgame

Okay, I think it's safe to start telling stories about work again.

My new job is working with kids in a school-like setting.

EVERYTHING about this job is awesome. EVERYTHING. Last friday we hosted a pool party for the kids. My job for about four hours was to be in the mid-point of the pool (which was competition length) and wander back and forth to make sure no one drowned. Water is at neck height, it's ninty degrees outside of the pool, and the only thing I really had to do was shout "NO FLIPS OFF THE DIVING BOARD" whenever a kid did a flip off the diving board. I spend all day talking about being respectful to other people and not hitting and trying to explain how rounding numbers work to children who think 12 means you round the number to 11. (We got it eventually. It was fucking fantastic.) Today I spent all day sorting picture books. I found copies of one of my favorite books when I was a kid and totally flipped out. I love every single little thing about this job.

The latest excitement is one of the teachers brought a Praying Mantis to school today. Mostly because we have one kid (Beetle Boy) who is obsessed with bugs. He's not great on following rules, but he gets bugs. So the rule in his classroom is that if he wants to feed the Praying Mantis other bugs, he needs to follow the rules, listen to the teacher, do his homework (and not lie about not having any. I was not this deceptive when I was that age) and not screw with other kids.

ALL the students brought bugs to class. ALL OF THEM. One of them even managed to find a female praying mantis so the Great Debate in that class is, do they put them together and get many baby mantises? Or not, because the alternative to "fucking bugs" is that one kid's bug will eat the other kid's bug and that will kind of end in disaster.

...I also got to watch them decorate and then eat a cake. Blue food coloring is now a synonym for evil.

Right. Book time. And I'm gonna confess, I don't get any of this at all.

The first several pages of the next chapter are basically "Team Al won everything, and discovered social justice in the process."

And then one evening, while they're all resting up and getting ready for Ghend's next move, Althalus tells Gher the story about his old wolf eared tunic. You know, the one he lost when he tried to rob Albron's ancestor back before he met Dweia. Way back at the beginning of the book.

Gher then decides that it's a damned shame Althalus lost his wolf-eared tunic, and that they could shift time to get it back. If they brought Ghend into the scheme to rob Ghosti Big-Belly, then Al could blame the whole trip on Ghend and keep his fancy shirt.

Dweia thinks this is the best idea ever because it gives her a shot at stealing Ghend's book.

I actually kind of love this plot twist to death, because it makes the protagonists active. See, there's this thing with Western heroes. We want them to be reactive. We do not want the hero to make the first move in the game, so to speak. If you look at any good western story (including this one) the bad guy is the one who moves first. And this story is a really good example of this, because Ghend has done nothing whatsoever to deserve being the antagonist for the novel, other than not being Althalus and moving first. And Ghend has a lot of underdog characters on his side. Western audiences do not care if you are literally stealing food from babies as long as the baby makes the first move.

So in terms of "who moves first" Ghend is beaten at this point. The "heroic ledger", if you will, is pretty much in the black. Althalus is justified in waiting for Ghend to do whatever. Instead, he's being active and setting up a truely beautiful con on Ghend.

But we have to do this in terms of those prophetic dream...past...things. Which Dweia claims doesn't really change anything, except they really DO change things, as we are about to see.

Also, the book is providing us with really good arguements for why we should be rooting for Ghend.

“But if we keep tinkering with the past, nothing’s ever permanent.” 
“Where’s your sense of adventure, Bheid?” Leitha asked him. “Permanence is so boring sometimes, isn’t it? Wouldn’t it be funner to live in a world Gher can change any time he wants to?”
Ghend is threatening the supremacy of one god and one particular group of people. Team Althalus is threatening the space time continuum. Because breaking it might be fun.

Yes. This is still one of my favorite books. I have no soul.

So of course we have to kick things off with Eddings' attempt at lyricism:

Now it came to pass that upon a certain day in early autumn did Althalus the thief and his youthful companion ride boldly up into the tree-clad mountains of Arum with the gentle song of the Knife singing about them all the way. And the heart of Althalus was content, for once more garbed was he in a garment of splendor wrought of luxurious fur.
It's the purplest paragraph in the book so far.

So Altahlus and Gher go back in time to the tavern immediately before Al took off to rob Ghosti Big-Belly. Nevermind that AL didn't get that fucking shirt until after he visited this tavern, it's more important that this time, Ghend is inside the tavern, Ghosti really has for-real gold this time, and Ghend wants to rob him blind.

...Why is Ghend going along with this? Seriously. WHY DOES THIS PLAN WORK. IT MAKES NO SENSE. THIS ALREADY HAPPENED. Ghend has been pretty resourceful up until now, but it's like he's completely forgotten that 1. he is here to con Al into stealing the Book from the House and 2. HE HAS AN ENTIRE REALM OF GOLD WAITING FOR HIM BACK HOME.

But no. He'd rather go racing off with ALthalus to go rob Ghosti than he would stick to the original plan.

I love time travel stories, okay? There are very few stories that can rival a time-based plot for mind-fuck potential. My favorite thing about Dr Who is the ball of timy wimy stuff that gets tied into really fun knots every season. My idea of heaven is a movie marathon that starts with Memento, ends with Frequency, and has Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure as an intermission. So please understand the depth of my confusion when I state that THIS. MAKES. NO. SENSE.

Also, Eddings still does not understand how alcohol works:

“I haven’t finished my mead yet,” the boy protested.
Yeah. Let me avoid another alcoholic rant and just state that drinking when you are underage is a very bad idea and that twenty one is the legal age for a reason, and leave it at that.

(Seriously, underage blog-readers. You have every right to fuck up your lives however you want to, but PLEASE do not drink until your country-of-residence says it is okay and/or you turn twenty. Drinking earlier than that can and will do lasting damage.)

And now I am going to sum up four fucking chapters of text and say that Ghend, Khnom, Althalus and Gher spend the entire winter hanging around Ghosti's castle. They do thrilling things like:


  • “I know that, Althalus,” Ghend said, “but I was starting to wonder if you’d changed your mind.” “And leave all of Gosti’s gold for you? Don’t be silly. Have you located the strong room yet?” Ghend nodded. “It’s on the main floor—past the dining hall and up a very short flight of stairs. I haven’t had a chance to look inside yet, but I’d guess that it’s got a wooden floor—probably split logs. Nobody in his right mind stores gold in a room with a dirt floor.”
The weather closed in about a week after Althalus and Gher had reached Gosti’s fort, and a series of savage snowstorms with howling winds and driving snow clawed at the buildings. It was warm and dry inside, however, and Althalus entertained Gosti and his men in the dining hall with jokes and stories. He also went out of his way to become better acquainted with the towering Galbak. The big man with agate-hard eyes seemed to be habitually melancholy, and it wasn’t hard to see why. Arums are intensely loyal to begin with, and Galbak’s close kinship to Gosti greatly increased his attachment to his Chief. It was obvious to anyone with eyes that Gosti’s health was deteriorating. The fat man wheezed a great deal whenever he spoke, and he needed help to rise from his chair.

The next morning, Gher went out to the hay barn and discovered that he had all kinds of help moving the haystack out from in front of that long-forgotten door. Then the jumping started, and the hay barn quickly became the most popular place in the compound. Gher was just a bit sullen about that. “I can’t even get up into the hayloft,” he muttered. “The Arums are lined up on the ladder all day long, so I never get a chance to jump.”
Finally, though, Althalus manages to steal from Gosti and head back to Hule, resplendant in his comfortable fur. Sometime during the talking, watching, and hay-bale jumping, he absconded with Ghend's Book so that Dweia could make a copy. Dweia gave it back. Eventually Ghend shows up at Nabjor's camp and we get to read the beginning of the book all over again. Althalus steals the book for real this time, switching it out with Dweia's phony. Then he hikes to the House at the End of the World, exactly like the last time.

Except that the Crazy Old Man he met the first time around turns out to be God. Literally. He gives AL the "if you hurt my sister I'll kill you" speech. Only it's more of a "She's cute when she's angry" deal:

“Very noisy, but that’s part of the fun. She’s absolutely adorable when she flares up like that, so I nudge her in that direction every so often. It’s a game we’ve been playing for a long, long time, but that’s a family matter that doesn’t really involve you.” Then the old man’s face grew deadly serious. “You haven’t seen the last of Ghend, Althalus. You’ll meet him one more time, so you’d better be ready for him.”
They get Ghend's book back to the house. It turns out that Dweia also has a book, which she turned into the Knife, which she then turns back into her Book. It turns out the only way to destroy a Book is to stack one book on top of another, so they do that. Ghend's book starts to smoke.

Ghend uses his doors to appear in the House at the End of the World, and he grabs his book and tries to run off with it.

Eliar and Gher suck him into a black hole. Not even remotely kidding. Somehow this manages to suck Daeva and his entire realm into total nothingness:

Ghend, armored in fire and still clutching his burning Book, flailed about with his free arm, desperately seeking something he could cling to as the emptiness beyond the doorway drew him across the smooth marble floor of the tower room. Shrieking and cursing, he clawed at the marble, but still he slid inexorably toward his fate. And at the last moment, he looked with pleading eyes at the face of his enemy and reached out a supplicating hand. “Althalus!” he cried. “Help me!” And then he vanished through that awful doorway with his Book still clutched to his breast, and his scream faded behind him as he fell forever into the nothing that had finally claimed him. “Close the door, Eliar,” Althalus said with profound sadness. “We’re finished with it now.”
Thus perished the bad guys, who did nothing on screen to nobody, and who died for the ultimate crime of not being the protagonists in a David Eddings novel.

And there is an epilogue. There is an epilogue in which all the characters in the book who are male get married to all the characters in the book who are female, and Dweia gets preggers with Althalus's spawn,

End of book.

Yeah, we're doing Anita Blake next. Be braced, my friends.


  1. That sounds like an awesome day at work!

  2. " Thus perished the bad guys, who did nothing on screen to nobody, and who died for the ultimate crime of not being the protagonists in a David Eddings novel."

    The woman in the bunch was also not conventionally attractive. Don't forget that. Very important moral point there.

    1. Yep. And she didn't give a fuck about it.