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416 pages, Hardcover
First published October 29, 2019
This story is set on the archipelago of the Myriad - a large group of islands surrounded by the unfriendly ocean under which lies the Undersea - a surreal place from which multitudes of monstrous Gods used to rule the islands and terrorize the inhabitants.
“All human fear runs down into the Undersea, just as streams and rivers run into the sea. Human fear has a terrible power. It changes everything, distorts everything, maddens everything. Fear is the dark womb where monsters are born and thrive.”
“The Undersea was where all the fears of the Myriad ran, like rainwater into the sea. Every scintillating drop of it was aglow with human terror.”Until a few decades prior a Cataclysm wiped the Gods out, and now the remains of those grotesque and majestic creatures are being scavenged from the depth to provide the valuable ‘godware’ that is the backbone of the local economy.
“He had always lived in a godless world, and yet… everyone he knew had grown up with a lurking pride in their island’s ‘patron’ god. Their remembered might was yours, somehow. Even their horrific nature had a majesty that you could borrow. You got into drunken arguments with folks from other islands about whose god could have beaten the other in a straight fight.”After all, people tend to look for their identity, their pride, the entire meaning of life in the strangest places. The stories have tremendous power over us, shaping our desires and wants and directing our lives down paths that may be strange and dangerous.
“I had hoped that younger generations would grow up without our craven god-fever, but I still see traces of it everywhere – even in you. There is an eagerness, a poisonous nostalgia. No, throughout the Myriad, people would fall on to their faces and give in to their ancient superstitious terror.”But this is not only the story about the Gods. It is also a story of much more mundane evils. People can create monstrosities most evil with the everyday actions, evils so repulsive precisely because of their ordinariness.
“That is our fault – the fault of the priests. It is a fantasy we sold to the people of the Myriad so that everyone’s oppression would be more bearable. We let everyone tell themselves that they were watched over by gods rather than terrorized by monsters.”
“All his life, there had been a current dragging Hark back to Jelt, over and over. He had never been able to fight it. When Jelt needed him, Hark had always, always come running.”Hark is loyal, fiercely loyal. Always having played a role of faithful sidekick to his best friend Jelt - because of all the shared history, the life debt that was owed - he bends and bends under Jelt’s unrelenting pressure, justifying quite disturbing things and those cautious inner voice naggings for the sake of the power of friendship, loyalty and love. But even Hark cannot unsee the harsh reality.
“It wasn’t easy,’ said Hark sharply, ‘and I can’t do it again.’ Even as he said the words, Hark knew that he would be asked to do it again. And again. And again. He had said that he couldn’t get the time free, and he’d been wrong, hadn’t he? Jelt would point that out. Not for the first time, Hark had made the mistake of achieving the impossible on demand.”But sometimes even the strongest patience comes to an end and those thought of as spineless find the backbone they never thought they had.
“Eels always have spines,’ he answered. ‘They just bend a lot.”
“Jelt had saved Hark’s life, but that didn’t mean Hark owed Jelt his life. Maybe you couldn’t ever owe somebody your life, not really. You couldn’t let anyone else decide what you did with it. You had to live it yourself, as truly as you could.”
“No stories were complete anyway. They were all really just parts of a bigger tale that could only be told by many different voices, and seen through many different eyes. There was always more of the story to learn.”————-
“Hark could see the stories they yearned to tell, glimmering in their eyes. They could be coaxed out, with a little effort.
‘In a while,’ Hark answered. ‘I’m listening for now.”
"My own invention," explained Dr. Vyne with surprising warmth, turning a large wheel to lower the sub into the water. I call her the Screaming Butterfly. She's a prototype."
"What does that mean?" asked Hark.
"It means that every voyage is a safety test, and it'll be scientifically fascinating if we die in her," Vyne answered cheerfully.
Kly's patience and discretion had been eked out one more time, but Hark guessed that they were probably at their limits. "This is your last warning" was something people might say several times, but there was always a last last warning, and Hark thought he might have reached it. It had a different sound, something you could feel in your bones.
The governor probably wasn't a good man. It would probably be better to have a ruler who didn't sell people or bend his own laws. For the moment, however, this man was perhaps just the best of the wrong answers available.
"Stories were ruthless creatures, and sometimes fattened themselves on bloody happenings."
“Maybe sometimes there isn’t a right thing to do. Maybe there’s just lots of wrong answers, and you have to pick one you can bear – something that doesn’t break who you are.”
‘You will find out who you are when your choices test you. In the end, we are what we do and what we allow to be done.’
'The gods of the Myriad were as real as the coastlines and currents, and as merciless as the winds and whirlpools. Then one day they rose up and tore each other apart, killing many hundreds of islanders and changing the Myriad forever.'
'Hark and Jelt had been orphaned by the same bitter winter, and this had somehow grafted them together. Sometimes Hark felt they were more than friends – or less than friends – their destinies conjoined against their wills.'