July 24th, 2016

Macbeth the Usurper

The Beginning Place (1979)

The Beginning Place (1979) by Urusula LeGuin was one of those books that I used to see in the library. Something about the title grabbed me, but I never quite got around to picking it up. I thought it was a young adult book, but in that, I was wrong. Now we would call it a new adult book.

This book challenges my ability to summarize it, or even understand it. Although pegged as part romance, it doesn't progress as you would expect a romance to progress. The man isn't strong. The woman isn't beautiful. Their destinies are not perfect together, if only they'd see it. Quite honestly, what we have is two normally hurt people trying to turn themselves into competent adults, and having a too few role models to fall back on.

Meanwhile, we have the fantasy world which is vaguely gothic in feel, always evening, yet usually pleasant and welcoming. The world itself seems to have rules rather than overt magic steamrolling the narrative. This is not a story of overt magic. This world feels substantially more whole, feeds our protagonists in a more satisfying way. And while they are they, time almost stops, but never completely enough to forget yourself. The responsibilities of the real world always pull them out.

Although I'd like to rate this highly, I found that the story left me, as a person, a bit emptier. The romance felt rushed and perfunctory. The ending felt out of character. The symbolism left me hanging. Whatever this book was supposed to be, or aimed to be, I feel that it went too far in too many directions to leave it much of anything. Like a hollow chocolate bunny, an outside layer of delicious can't hide the empty middle.
Macbeth the Usurper

The Starlost, Episode 2, "Lazarus from the Mist" (1973)

The Starlost, Episode 2, "Lazarus from the Mist" (1973)

In the second episode of The Starlost, Lazarus from the Mist, our protagoinsts revive a cryogenically frozen man and learn pitifully little with their opportunity.

The episode picks up where 101 left off. The trio walks from the bridge to the main medical section. There, a group of people descended from guards protect the area, killing pretty much anyone who shows up. What lies in the medical area is sacred. Somehow our protagonists make it through, and there discover a hold full of people in suspended animation. Working things out, they succeed in reviving on such man, but as luck would have it, they revived a man with radiation sickness. He's dying even as they try to win his help. For some unfathomable reason, the ark builders thought it okay to send a dying man even in an emergency merely because his wife asked for this to happen. The man answers some of their questions, they beat off the guards again, and then they put the man back into stasis. As for the degenerate guards, they find a nearby dome and give it to them as their home, presumably locking them in.

Some things amaze me. The protagonists were unbelievably unlucky in finding the one person in the whole frozen section who was dying. Next, with the lives of everyone on board at stake, didn't try to revive anyone else. Given the literal life or death stakes, they should have revived everyone. Instead, they walk off after the episode is over and never consider the frozen people again.

Just as confusing, the security people didn't know about the other domes or didn't have access to them, so they became degenerates in the halls. If anyone would know about all the areas, and have access to them, it would have been the security people.

The episode concludes with the protagonists learning a few more tantalizing clues, then essentially hitting the reset button. This pattern will continue, frustrating so, as the series progresses. One is given the illusion of progress rather than actual progress.