Mark Reads ‘Lifeboats’: Chapter 4, Part I

In the first part of the fourth chapter of Lifeboats, Nita and Kit arrive on Tevaral, and IT IS VERY UNSETTLING. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards

You know, I may love the power of speculative fiction to give us glimpses of things we want or desire. Like, I was so ready to learn more about the facility that the Tevaral people built for all the incoming wizards, and LOOK, IT MIGHT STILL HAPPEN. Science fiction addresses technology and possibility pretty often, and I DO LOVE IT A LOT. But it can also do something else:

Show us things we would never want to see.

That goes for speculative fiction as a whole, and this chapter is no exception. Duane drops us into a reality that is so frightening and weird that it is unfathomable. EVEN THE CHARACTERS ACKNOWLEDGE IT THEMSELVES.

He was glad she was so close, because (irrational though the sense was) Kit felt like he needed backup – like he’d never been so comprehensively loomed over by anything in his life.

I remember the first (and only!) time I ever got to see a supermoon, which is the point where a moon is closest to Earth in its orbit. It felt wrong. I’m so used to the moon being this small disc in the sky that when it was closer and much, much larger, it wasn’t terribly unsettling. Yet Duane takes this emotion, and she exploits it in such a horrifying way, and I SPENT THIS WHOLE SEGMENT OF THIS CHAPTER FEELING UNCOMFORTABLE. Thesba is huge. YOU CAN SEE IT MOVING. The evidence that it’s falling apart is so obvious that you can see it from Tevaral. Oh, and on top of that? IT IS SO MUCH CLOSER THAN OUR OWN MOON.

It’s a brilliant choice in constructing this world because it acts as a constant reminder that the threat to Tevaral is right there. You literally cannot look up without seeing it. There’s no mistaking the conflict ever, and it makes Lifeboats feel utterly unlike the other Young Wizards books. Granted, there is an unseen mystery: why do some of the Tevaralti feel hesitant to leave? Why is this feeling so powerful that it’s become a cause for concern?

I expect Lifeboats to deal with that mystery over the course of the whole book, but the main conflict isn’t a mystery at all. It’s sitting right there in the Tevaralti sky. The tragedy is unmistakable, too, especially once Kit and Nita head up to observe the planet from space. Tevaral is beautiful and strange, but no one will ever be able to see it as it was ever again. That will always be Kit and Nita’s view of that place! It’s so strange and upsetting, isn’t it?

It’s not surprising, then, that looking upon it makes Kit have FEELINGS. In the face of such inevitable destruction, he tells Nita that he is glad she is near him. (HELP ME, SO MUCH EMOTION.) He then expresses his own quiet panic over the fact that they’re going to be separated, and this spills into a whole lot of angst about what his role is in her life. I am so glad that Duane is dealing with such raw emotions amidst this nightmare of a plot because it’s so damn realistic. Who wouldn’t suddenly turn inwards at the sight of that horrible moon looming above a world? Plus, we’ve not seen much of Kit and Nita dealing with their relationship on the page, so this felt super necessary to me.

I’m excited, y’all.

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About Mark Oshiro

Perpetually unprepared since ’09.

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