Wednesday, December 30, 2015

"The Rising"

Ian Tregillis is the son of a bearded mountebank and a discredited tarot card reader. He was born and raised in Minnesota, where his parents had landed after fleeing the wrath of a Flemish prince. (The full story, he's told, involves a Dutch tramp steamer and a stolen horse.) Nowadays he lives in New Mexico, where he consorts with writers, scientists and other unsavory types.

Tregillis applied the Page 69 Test to The Rising, the second book in the Alchemy Wars trilogy, and reported the following:
Page 69 of The Rising happens to land at a chapter break. And chapter breaks are frequently ­­in this book, at least ­­ a place where characters' fortunes change, or where they experience revelations... whether welcome or not.

Thus, upon opening the book to that particular page, we land in the immediate aftermath of a brief but decisive few moments of frantic, and deadly, activity. This sequence of events could have unfolded considerably better, but also considerably worse, for the point­of­view character. And that distinction can be a very fine line in a world populated with superhuman clockwork servitors.

That's why, while catching her breath and assessing the aftermath, she thinks to herself:
That was less than ideal. Little point in trying to arrange the scene to suggest a simple robbery gone wrong, when it was so obvious that one of the vehicles had been destroyed by metal fists.
Nothing is ever easy for these characters; coincidence is never to their benefit. The master storytellers at Pixar have some excellent thoughts on how stories do and don't work. This list is chockablock with wisdom from beginning to end, but apropos of the scene in question, I take point #19 to heart. Coincidences should only occur on the page if they make the characters' journeys more difficult, or at the very least, more interesting!

But times of flux can also be times of opportunity. And this character is never one to pass up an opportunity, no matter how slight or dangerous. Which is why, as Chapter 4 fades to black, she says, in part:
"I want you to forget everything that happened tonight... And then I believe you'll begin your new assignment by showing me the contents of the chest you were guarding."
That stolen chest becomes instrumental to her continuing adventures. It shines with the promise of long­ and hard­sought information. It's also extremely dangerous, as she quickly learns.
Learn more about the book and author at Ian Tregillis's website.

--Marshal Zeringue