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Author Topic: The Folding Knife Week 3: Chapters 9 - 13  (Read 4989 times)

Offline Arry

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The Folding Knife Week 3: Chapters 9 - 13
« on: September 16, 2013, 07:11:01 PM »
A LOT happened in this section! I have to confess that I did feel like something with the pace slowed down a bit or got a little dry, but not for long. I have also decided that Basso is the MacGyver of politics. He always finds a solution or motivates others to find a solution for him. It is like there is always answer there just waiting to be found.

The Robbery. First major event was the robbery of the mint. It is surprising that Basso hadn’t been able to think that possible. Really, that much gold just sitting there virtually unprotected. But even Basso admitted he should have seen it coming, and nitially summed up the fiasco as:
Quote
“We’re so totally and comprehensively screwed, I can’t think of anything that could possibly make things worse. Really I can’t,” he added, “and I’m a pessimist. It’s so perfect it’s practically beautiful. So,” he said, still smiling, “what do we do now?”
Well, you print paper money and then manage to successfully raid the small town and take the money back. Every crisis he encounters leaves him better off than he was prior.

The plan. We get a clearer view of Basso’s plan for Bassano and how he plans to form his Empire, which also clearly displays just how much thought and planning he puts into not just reacting to current conditions, but events years and years down the road. He’s not just looking at the immediate crisis here, he is formulating a plan for restructuring the world (well, maybe not the entire world, not yet anyway. Perhaps that is in the cards for Bassano’s children). And as a side note, I am waiting Bassano’s newly won share in the race track, courtesty of Basso’s day out, to have some significant impact later down the road. This is Basso. Everything seems to be significant in the grander scheme of things.


The war. So now they have maps and a plan to take Mavortine. And a known spy from the other side to use as a tool for their own devices. Curious how Bassano handles his role there and how it may change his outlook/policies later.

The assassination attempt. Basso’s sister. I’m sorry, but can she just get over it already? It’s almost tiring reading her contempt, hatred and paranoia. I agree with Basso, she clearly hates Basso more than she loves her own son.

I also have to comment that when Tragazes brought financial concerns to him about the ratio of dept vs. assets as well as expected predicted crop failures (in relation to the value of collateral), that Basso seemed very blasé about about. And I also felt like this is precisely the type of forward thinking that Basso has shown in the past, taught under Antigonus. Is Basso potentially losing his touch? Is this going to come back and be an issue? Is he relying too much on Tragazes? Is he becoming more like his father?
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Offline eclipse

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Re: The Folding Knife Week 3: Chapters 9 - 13
« Reply #1 on: September 17, 2013, 08:09:38 PM »
up to chapter 12

I'm now getting fed up reading about how much the sister hates Basso it's starting to annoy me

Really liked the Scene with the doctor telling Basso how the plaque was spread was done and how he dealt with the Doctor

also the comical bit with "The art of War" book was excellent
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Offline Victoria Hooper

Re: The Folding Knife Week 3: Chapters 9 - 13
« Reply #2 on: September 19, 2013, 02:07:10 PM »
A lot did happen in this section didn't it? It's quite episodic, but it does all feel connected, and it does feel like the story is escalating all the time too, with the stakes getting higher. And because we've seen a glimpse of Basso's future already, we know where it's ultimately going, so every episode does feel like it has a purpose. Interestingly, knowing where Basso will end up, and that he will be brought down by his own mistake, also gives it a fatalistic feel, which connects really well with the idea of Basso's luck.

Still really enjoying this one. I think K. J. Parker is fantastic at characterisation and themes. Chapter 12 is particularly clever:

Mapping Mavortis and the Mine Ponies - Basso and Aelius are actually quite alike - they are both resourceful and will find a way to fix a problem even when others say it can't be done.

The Art of War part was funny, but in light of the above, I do wonder if Basso and Bassano are underestimating Aelius a bit here. Maybe the book is so valuable because it's so simple. Maybe it contains advice that only a seasoned soldier could really appreciate, which is why the scholars dismiss it? And with this in mind...

The Faculty of War from Scleria - It's funny that they know so little about war... or are they misleading Basso? Basso seems to be getting a bit cocky here. Is he underestimating Aelius, then Scleria, and... does that mean he's also underestimating the empire in chapter 13? Basso is very clever and always seems to be one step ahead of everyone, but this makes me nervous. After all, he didn't expect the Mavortines to come steal all the city's gold either. Does he have a blind spot when it comes to foreign countries?

The Hus - Basso is happy to solve his problem by letting the Hus loose on Voroe, even though he knows they will kill everyone on the island, including women and children. This is passed over so briefly, you get a sense of how unimportant it is to Basso. This is then followed by...

The Rape - Basso is horrified that his sons committed rape and decides not to use his power and money to get them off. Bassano, however, who is supposed to be the good one, bribes the victim to save the twins. Hmm. I think at first it's easy to see Basso as the morally superior one here. But it's interesting to compare this with a previous incident. When the doctor revealed to Basso his methods for examining the plague (deliberately infecting prisoners), Basso was disgusted. He threw the doctor out. The doctor pointed out that sending a lot more men to die in a pointless war is much worse than killing a few prisoners to save thousands of lives. Now Basso can see that rape is terrible, but thinks nothing of sentencing an entire island's population, who have nothing to do with him or his war, to death, simply because it's convenient. So can Basso really get moral points for deciding that rape and murder are bad, when he doesn't take responsibility for the thousands of rapes and murders caused by his own war? Does it matter less to him because they're foreign?

Add to this the fact that his main reason for letting the twins be prosecuted is nothing to do with morality. It's a) because they did it at an inconvenient time for him, b) to give the appearance of being just (and because he likes the idea of being Basso the Just (not the same as actually being just), and c) because he really doesn't like the twins much and this is an opportunity to get rid of them(?).

Then we have Bassano, who Basso says is the good one. Basso sees himself as the necessary evil that needs to exist to set up Bassano, and in fact, the main reason for going to war seems to be to set up Bassano to take power. But Bassano is the one who uses dirty tactics to get two rapists out of trouble. It's very hard to like Bassano after this. But at the same time, Bassano knows he's doing something wrong, but he's doing it out of love and loyalty to his family. Basso is doing something right, but for the wrong reasons (as stated in the paragraph above). Which would make the better ruler, and which is the better man? Or are they both different kinds of bad man?

Also, Basso is trying to create an empire - is he also trying to create an emperor, setting up Bassano and his own family to rule, hoping to change the Republic into a kind of monarchy? So, is Basso a kind of Caesar figure, and does that mean Bassano will turn on him in the end?

And finally, Aelius' comment about Basso in this chapter - isn't this the perfect summary of Basso? - "I think that if someone tried to rob you in the street, you'd pick his pocket, sell him a better knife and probably offer him a job as a tax collector."  :)

Offline Victoria Hooper

Re: The Folding Knife Week 3: Chapters 9 - 13
« Reply #3 on: September 19, 2013, 02:07:58 PM »
Wow, that post turned out longer than I thought it was. Sorry! Was just a really interesting section.  ;D

Offline Arry

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Re: The Folding Knife Week 3: Chapters 9 - 13
« Reply #4 on: September 19, 2013, 04:24:03 PM »
Oh, yes. The Rape. I completely neglected that event in my comments. I was a bit baffled that he was fine with Bassano paying off the victim. I mean, he initially realized that was an option, but decided against it. But somehow, since his idolized nephew Bassano is able to pull it off, it is a good thing?

You are right about the inconsistencies in his humanitarian concerns. Does some of this boil down to his obsession of gaining power? Are the concerns only there if they do not impede him or as a way to make him more appealing to the masses he under his control? It often feels like the only people he cares about at all are his sister and his nephew. Are other people merely pawns or tools that are seen as a pieces in a game to gain him what he wants? Maybe he makes a few sacrifices of them here and there in light of the bigger picture. With the plague, there wasn't time for human testing to really help them, so he could conveniently act sickened by the act, but when he was in a real position prevent deaths/rapes/etc. then he can overlook it as a neccessary evil, just an unfortunate circumstance of war. A war that really was only needed for his personal gain.
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Offline DBASKLS

Re: The Folding Knife Week 3: Chapters 9 - 13
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2013, 06:20:02 PM »
Now I'm having a crazy busy week this week on top of having a stinking cold so my view may be slighlty warped.

So, I've found this section really dragged. The bit where they recovered the gold was dull. Suddenly the chapters have got r e a l l y long. I couldn't even read one chapter before bed, I was nodding off before the end! Not like me at all. Saying that I am still finding it intriguing as a story, but it's not fantasy! Having places that don't exist and slightly different tech isn't fantasy! That philospher bloke has a degree in civil engineering for goodness sake! Well so does my husband! One of his presents was a flushing toilet!

One of my favourite contemporary authors is David Lodge. Most of his books are set in a fictional city called Rummidge. That doesn't make it fantasy! Anyone who reads his books and has a passing knowledge of the geography of the UK will know it's really Birmingham!

Anyway, I digress. Book still good but this bit dragged!
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Re: The Folding Knife Week 3: Chapters 9 - 13
« Reply #6 on: September 21, 2013, 09:49:23 PM »
Thank you for all the detailed and fascinating posts on this book so far.  Been one of the best Book Clubs for informed and intelligent discussions I can remember.  Well done all!

The Robbery chapters are really interesting - I remember finding it really jarring at the time when I read it at the change in authorial voice and how much information was crammed into just two chapters.  (And yes, just how long they were.)  It also marks a change in the book's plot.  From now on Basso won't be reactive, but will actually become proactive.  (Is this his ONE mistake?)  He actually sit downs and plots the entire future of his dynasty, including his war (and hey, analogies with the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq!)

The scene with the doctor is interesting and especially interesting to see Basso's reaction.  At the time you are cheering along with him, and then you take a step back and think about it as Victoria so intelligently did in her post, and it simply doesn't add up.  Basso is doing things which could be argued to be far more evil, such as unleashing his mercenaries on an island of innocents, and fighting this Imperialist war.  His hypocrisy is galling in much the same way as a modern day politician like Tony Blair or George 'Dubya' Bush.

I LOVE any scene with Aelius.  Just so funny but also so warm.  Basso seems at his most human in his interactions with Aelius, winding each other up and teasing each other but also being genuinely warm to each other like a pair of genuine friends. 

Some really good points by VH about Basso's arrogance regarding how advanced other nations are in the art of warfare.  Is this a way of grading one nation's craft at warship?  Surely the best grading is by how successful they were in the last war they fought.  And such a good point about how daft it is that Basso and Bassano are so dismissive of Aelius' favourite book.  The guy is a much better general than either of them. If he thinks the book is worth reading, then it probably is. 

The rape is very disturbing for so many reasons.  The fact that Basso has allowed his boys to become that out of control, the reaction of Basso himself, and the reaction of Golden Boy Bassano.  I agree with all the points VH outlined, and find it hard to really see Bassano in such a good light now, but on the other hand did admire his family loyalty, and found Basso's willingness to cut of his sons' rather disturbing.  You did get the impression he was yet again punishing his boys for being the sons of their mother, rather than punishing them for perpetrating such an unforgivable crime.   
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Offline pornokitsch

Re: The Folding Knife Week 3: Chapters 9 - 13
« Reply #7 on: September 24, 2013, 05:41:48 PM »
I LOVE any scene with Aelius.  Just so funny but also so warm.  Basso seems at his most human in his interactions with Aelius, winding each other up and teasing each other but also being genuinely warm to each other like a pair of genuine friends.  ... 

The rape is very disturbing for so many reasons.  The fact that Basso has allowed his boys to become that out of control, the reaction of Basso himself, and the reaction of Golden Boy Bassano.  I agree with all the points VH outlined, and find it hard to really see Bassano in such a good light now, but on the other hand did admire his family loyalty, and found Basso's willingness to cut of his sons' rather disturbing.  You did get the impression he was yet again punishing his boys for being the sons of their mother, rather than punishing them for perpetrating such an unforgivable crime.

Just seconding both these points. I love the interactions with Aelius - they're such a good team, and Aelius is so much better with Basso than anyone else.

I also think the scene with Bassano deliberately subverting justice is incredibly powerful. First, that Basso (who sees himself as the corrupt one) didn't even think about this option (was he blinded by his un-love for the twins, or is he not quite as corrupt as he thinks?). Second, that Bassano, who Basso believes is good n' pure n' always right, is actively doing the wrong thing. It is really intriguing, and kind of slapped me about as a reader: not everyone in the book is the way that Basso thinks they are.

Offline AnneLyle

Re: The Folding Knife Week 3: Chapters 9 - 13
« Reply #8 on: September 26, 2013, 09:59:29 AM »
And finally, Aelius' comment about Basso in this chapter - isn't this the perfect summary of Basso? - "I think that if someone tried to rob you in the street, you'd pick his pocket, sell him a better knife and probably offer him a job as a tax collector."  :)

That bit made me laugh out loud, literally :)

I really enjoyed this section. There was loads happening, even if a lot of it was - OMG HERESY - told, not shown. And I agree that the moral ambiguities are becoming pleasingly twisty. Though I'm not sure I ever liked Bassano. I may have felt sorry for him at first, being a pawn in the fight between his mother and uncle, but if he takes after his godfather I'm sure he's milking the situation for all it's worth.

Also, I second the complaints about the sister. She is clearly completely off her rocker viz. her vengeance obsession. Her late husband was multiply unfaithful, including with her brother's wife, so she takes it out on the only other innocent party in the love quadrangle? I just want to slap her.
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Offline Idlewilder

Re: The Folding Knife Week 3: Chapters 9 - 13
« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2013, 04:36:47 PM »
Like everyone else has said - lots happening in this section. I have to confess I also found the really long section about Aelius' recovery of the gold very tedious. It was very clinical, no dialogue, moving from point to point in a way which wasn't really all that entertaining.

But after that, things really picked up again. The sister is getting to be like a broken record, but Basso's plans for Bassano - when they were finally revealed - I found very cleverly handled. It makes sense that this is what he'd want for his nephew.

Regarding the twins and the rape, I like that Basso inferred to his sister that he is certain the twins are not really his sons - but instead her dead husband's - and it kind of sheds a bit more light on why he has thought so little of them throughout the book so far.

Parker is so matter-of-fact with the big moments! Antigonus' death is like a throwaway mention at the start of one of the chapters - aside, his letter to Basso was genuinely moving - but the style is very specific to Parker and works well. I liked Bassano's remark to Aelius that Basso may not be interested in the wide-scale tactics of war, but the details - the details are what he really thrives on. So true!
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Offline Arry

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Re: The Folding Knife Week 3: Chapters 9 - 13
« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2013, 08:14:34 PM »
like that Basso inferred to his sister that he is certain the twins are not really his sons - but instead her dead husband's - and it kind of sheds a bit more light on why he has thought so little of them throughout the book so far.
True, it gives a reason for his detachment. I have to say, can you imagine, if this was a Targaryen family, just think of the love he could have given to a child of his and his sisters.  :o

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Parker is so matter-of-fact with the big moments! Antigonus' death is like a throwaway mention at the start of one of the chapters
I sort of took that as yet another example of Basso's detachment with the people in his life. At least on a personal level.

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I liked Bassano's remark to Aelius that Basso may not be interested in the wide-scale tactics of war, but the details - the details are what he really thrives on. So true!
heh .... yep!  ;D
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