Author of the Craft Sequence books, Max Gladstone, joins us today to talk to us about prisons and paradise and his newest book Full Fathom Five.
My review coming later this week!
Shades of Prison and Paradise
One person’s paradise is another’s prison. And to make matters worse, it’s sometimes easy to mistake one for the other.
The main characters of my new book, FULL FATHOM FIVE, have very different attitudes toward the island of Kavekana on which they live. For Kai, her island is a beloved home at risk from a dangerous world. Kai became a priestess to help her people—Kavekana’s economy relies on priests hiring out their services as, basically, myth consultants. Kai’s fondness for her island also has a personal dimension: Kai is a trans woman who has been supported by Kavekana’s traditional culture. On the mainland, ruled by foreign gods to the east and necromantic capitalist lich-kings to the west, there aren’t many places someone with her gender identity can feel comfortable. Maybe her island isn’t perfect, but it’s better than any alternative she knows.
Meanwhile Izza, a young poor refugee from a foreign war, has carved a life for herself in Kavekana’s back alleys. For Izza and her friends, the island is a dangerous place, patrolled by fierce golems called Penitents who “rehabilitate” captured criminals—and everyone without funds is a hair’s breadth from being labeled criminal—by trapping them in stone shells and brainwashing them until they emerge as productive members of society. Not even Izza’s gods are safe: the alley deities she and her friends worship die every few months. Izza cares for her friends, but she’s almost old enough to be trapped inside a Penitent if she’s taken. She wants out. Her only problem is how to find an exit.
But if one place can be both paradise and prison depending on point of view, then new experiences can shift a person’s point of view, making safe spaces dangerous and adding an edge of familiarity and comfort to perilous surroundings.
As Kai investigates a thaumaturgical mystery, she confronts parts of her society she’d rather ignore, especially the Penitents’ brutal justice and the nasty position Kavekana alots people without Kai’s resources. The more she learns, the more she finds that the island she’s trying to defend has transformed itself out from under her.
Meanwhile, Izza’s search for a way out—by theft, and by helping a new refugee survive on the island—drives home just what her escape will cost. She has people on Kavekana, a community of kids and fellow-travelers who’ve come to depend on her. They can’t all run away together; by escaping, she’ll abandon them to the meat grinder of Kavekana’s underworld and justice system. And while Izza remains scared enough to leave, she starts wondering whether she might be strong enough to stay.
See, in a way, paradises and prisons are both easy. You fight to preserve the one and escape the other. There are no shades of gray. When places lose that one-dimensional sheen and become real, that’s when you have to worry. It’s easy to protect and to escape. It’s much harder to engage, and to fix.
Max Gladstone has sung in Carnegie Hall, been thrown from a horse in Mongolia and nominated for the John W Campbell Best New Writer Award. Tor Books published his most recent novel, FULL FATHOM FIVE, in July 2014. The first two books in the Craft sequence are THREE PARTS DEAD and TWO SERPENTS RISE.
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