Thursday, January 04, 2007

Against the Blog: 3-1

This section is called "Bilocations," which probably means we can expect to see more of this Iceland spar/people being duplicated/parallel worlds business.

At Lindsay's annual medical exam, the doctors detect signs of "Incipient Gamomania, 'that is, the abnormal desire to be married'" (432). What's abnormal about wanting to be married, Lindsay wonders, but this just increases their concern. For reasons that may or may not be associated with this, he temporarily leaves the Inconvenience, for a battery of tests, after which he is to head to the Inner Asian oasis where the rest of the Chums are waiting with the Saksaul. While heading there on camelback, sirenlike voices try to tempt him to leave the trail with promises of matrimony, and indeed polygamy, but he remains stalwart, and rendezvous with his companions.

So, they board the ship and get moving. It's sort of like being under the ocean, except it's a desert. Only they can see and stuff thanks to, you know, magic technology. There are swarms of beetles like fish.

The ship has a paramorphoscope--"one of the few remaining in the world" (436). You may recall that this is the thing you use to find things that have been hidden...dimensionally. Somehow. In charge of this device is one Stilton Gaspereaux. He places the Sfinciuno Itinerary beneath a sheet of Iceland spar, adjusts various lenses and whatnot, et voila--the way is revealed.

But the problem, Stilton explains, is that the closer they get to the alleged location of Shambhala, the more hazy and out-of-focus things get. "Almost as if there were some...additional level of encryption" (437).

Anyway, long story short, they end up at a port called Nuovo Rialto, where, in addition to people, there are giant (as in, camel-sized) sand-fleas, which allegedly evolved to such a size on a diet of human blood. They can communicate with the people in ancient Uyghur, and they're protected, so you can't go around killing them...but they still drink people's blood. Apparently.

The Chums run into a couple of prospectors named Leonard and Lyle, who intimate that there's meant to be oil out here, and that the search for Shambhala may, for some, simply be a pretext for searching for it. HMMM. No modern-day implications here, I can tell.

After the weekend leave, the shit resets sail. They sail around to various ports, doing...well, it's really not at all clear what they're doing. In any case, eventually they finish doing it, and the Chums are deposited back at the Inconvenience. Sailing above the desert, Miles predicts apocalyptic battles in the area which, as Chick remarks, sound very much like what he and Darby previously experienced in the time machine

And now, things get muddled. "Somewhere out past Oasi Benedetto Querini, H.M.S.F. Saksaul came to grief. Survivors were few, accounts sketchy and inconsistent" (444). Their attackers are unknown and invisible--"German or Austrian, would be most likely," Captain Toadflax speculates, "though one mustn't rule out the Standard Oil, or the Nobel brothers" (444). He orders Gaston to get back to England at any cost to alert the authorities. The guy he is meant to convey this information to is "the legendary Captain, now Inspector, Sands" (444).

Meanwhile, the "Taklamakan War" is raging; all sorts of sandships shooting at one another, oil fires, et cetera.

Back in England, Stilton eventually makes contact with Sands, who seems to be something of an incompetent buffoon. He gives Sands the 5-0, and Sands goes off to make plans, which, it seems likely, will involve further military action. End of section.



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