In the first half of the fifth chapter of Lifeboats, Kit works his first shift watching a gate, and I AM VERY NERVOUS. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Young Wizards.
This is absolutely the calm before the storm, and it’s hard for me to think of it any other way. Let’s say, for the sake of discussion, that the first chapter wasn’t terrifying and a glimpse of where this book was headed. Even if you somehow ignore that, this is still unsettling. It’s an age-old trick, and by gods, it’s a good one. You have your character enter a creepy and unnerving situation, or you have your character take part in something known to be dangerous and risky.
And then? Everything is fine. It’s almost worse than if Kit had been thrown into chaos, much like Nita has been on her assignment. I braced myself for the gate Kit was watching to become chaotic. I expected there to be tension between these new characters and Kit. I expected there to be some sort of exception or complication, and then NOTHING. The worst that happens is that Kit gets some practice dealing with a slight anomaly, and he mostly spends his morning learning how to set-up proper alerts on his manual. In terms of this story and literally everything else that Kit has done, this is a relative vacation for him! And I can’t even say that because REMEMBER THE LAST TIME HE WENT ON A VACATION. THAT ENDED WELL.
So Diane Duane builds tension but distracting from the expected. We get some more worldbuilding about gates. Kit has an emotional response to the terrible unknown of the future as he watches the Tevaralti flee the imminent demise of their homeworld. And it’s one of the most richly-written sections of the book thus far, a chance for Duane to invoke real-life issues and crises. Because it’s not like she’s imagining a world where forced migration exists; that’s our reality, and it has been for a long time. The details are different, sure, and Tevaralti’s disaster feels fantastical in nature. But natural disasters fuel migration on Earth. So do political upheavals, oppression, genocide, and any number of horrific things that compel people to leave their home behind in order to seek out another place to live, another chance at life. For the most part, Kit is kept separate from that. He hasn’t interacted with many Tevaralti, first of all, and at this point, he’s just observing them as they’re fleeing. But how long will it be until he does talk to them?
Of everything hinted at in this story, it’s the one thing I want to read the most. What is this experience like from the perspective of the Tevaralti? Why do some of these people want to stay behind and die with their planet? It’s impossible for me to ask these questions without thinking about that opening scene either!!! We know that Kit is going to watch one of the most upsetting things in his life, that he’s going to fail to convince others to leave this planet. Why? Why does he fail? What is awaiting all of us?
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