Mark Reads ‘A Wizard of Mars’: Chapter 8, Part I

In the first half of the eighth chapter of A Wizard of Mars, Nita, S’reee, and Carmela make a huge discovery. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.

OKAY, I HAVE A LOT MORE TO YELL AT Y’ALL ABOUT, HERE WE GO.

Visions

All right, so Nita’s glimpses of possible futures are now becoming more vibrant and… helpful? I don’t know what the end result of all of this is going to be, so it’s hard to say that what Nita did was a “good” thing. I’d like to believe Carmela’s interpretation, that kneeling before these weird scorpion things was a way to show them that they had friendly intent, but what if they’ve got it all wrong? Regardless, Nita does see herself greeting the lead scorpion in two different versions of the future, and in one, the scorpion lashes out at her. So, was her oracular skill trying to help her out? How could she tell the difference between these two moments? How did she know which option was the right choice?

I’m fascinated by this, y’all. I get why this is such a complicated skill to develop and grow because it’s so nebulous and strange. It’s not like Nita can just turn it on whenever she wants, you know?

The Chamber

If these wizards are correct, then the dudes didn’t realize that the “guards” they encountered were trying to protect something. Was there something at that first site that they missed? Is there a hidden chamber? More words? More of the story? I DON’T GET IT.

But holy shit, Duane has tapped into THE COOLEST SHIT EVER with what she’s done in this chapter. This reminded me of growing up on the Indiana Jones films or reading adventure novels about lost civilizations and the mysteries contained within them. I mean, Duane found a way to do all that stuff without the nasty stain of colonialism, so BRAVO ON HER. Here, the trio of wizards finds an immense and confusing record of… something? Is it a history or a list? Is it the story of the original Martians or the tale of how they disappeared? Duane toys with the reader by consistently pacing this chapter, dropping one reveal just after we feel like the characters have hit a dead end. It’s incredible to experience, y’all.

For example: the walls contain that unreadable script, right? It feels hopeless, especially since the Manual cannot translate it without the context the original culture could provide. But right after this happens, Duane transitions into this rewarding character moment for Carmela. Carmela’s knack for languages – which includes her recognizing that this language is written in a boustrophedon – isn’t just a random skill. It might be a sign of a “steganographic gift.” A GIFT. So it’s like… Wizardry-lite? Maybe? Either way: OH MY GOD I AM SO EXCITED TO LEARN MORE ABOUT CARMELA.

Orbits

That whole planet business is confusing and exciting. Did I need another mystery tacked on to the greater mystery of A Wizard of Mars? Apparently YES, because this is so intriguing. What did the solar system look like half a million years ago? Is the theory of a destroyed planet between Mars and Jupiter really true, or does the writing on the wall mean something else? WHERE ARE ALL THE EXTRA, MISSING PLANETS???

I am a pro-Pluto person, for the record. PROTECT MY PRECIOUS DWARF PLANET AT ALL COSTS.

The Story

I don’t understand the logistics of how these “pieces” are unlocking, but I don’t know that I’m supposed to. I’m guessing the wizardry will be explained later in the book, but for now? I’m so entertained by the way this all unfolds. It’s almost like the room responded to Carmela’s request. She needed an index, and then that green-metallic thing rose out of the floor. Does it trust Carmela, even though she’s not a wizard? Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself, but the idea came to me as I started this review. What if this story wants to be told again? I say that based not only on the way that inlaid metal design appears, but this:

As Carmela spoke, Nita felt herself coming up in goosebumps. A twitch, a tingle that wouldn’t go away along the skin and the nerves: the feeling of little feet scurrying, scurrying over her brain. And out at the edge of things, a sense of darkness leaning in from those walls, the world going quiet to listen…

The wizardry unravels from that point, and as Carmela gets deeper in the “story” of Mars, images appear to give a view of the original inhabitants over time. IT’S SO GODDAMN COOL. (I also realized that Kit is going to be jealous as hell once he finds out they discovered this first.) And what a great way to “store” this information! Visual and written components combined into one wizardry… brilliant.

Ours

And then Duane drops it. We learn of information of the “pod” community that sprung up in the mountains, of the entire world that developed on Mars, of how multiple group of Martians were whittled down to two, called Shamask and Eilith. Which… oh god.

“What do the words mean?” S’reee said.

Carmela looked up then, and her expression was grim. “‘Ours.’”

OH. GREAT. GREAT. They destroyed one another, didn’t they???

I am thrilled to confirm that I will be a Guest at CrossingsCon 2017! Badges are now available, so COME HANG OUT WITH ME THIS SUMMER.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since '09.
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