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Jade City (The Green Bone Saga, #1)
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Jade City > JC: Where are the good guys?

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Colin Forbes (colinforbes) | 506 comments Okay, I'm about half way through the book and it's a good read so far, but it's lacking many characters that you can really identify with.

Not to put too fine a point on it .... they're all a bunch of gangsters!

We're obviously supposed to root for the Kauls and their No Peak clan, but are they really any better than the Mountain clan?

The obvious exception to my above statement is Shae, who has at least tried to distance herself from the family business - but I'll eat my hat if she doesn't end up wearing her Jade before the end of the book!


Trike | 8768 comments I don’t have the need to identify with characters, but the closest I come in this story is the adopted son Anden.


message 3: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 4075 comments I'm thinking there are no good guys in this book. Only a struggle of compromised halfway decent people against (view spoiler)


message 4: by Rick (new)

Rick | 2869 comments It's a mob book. There aren't good guys if we judge good by typical morality. They're all bad in that sense.

I think Hilo tries to be 'good' in the sense of doing the right thing by his family and those who look to it for protection. Lan as well though in very different ways. Shae annoyed me for a good part of the book though, because (view spoiler)


message 5: by Tassie Dave, S&L Historian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tassie Dave | 3603 comments Mod
Good is subjective.

I really like Lan, Shae and Anden. The same way I liked Walter White, Tony Soprano, Vic Mackey and Saul Goodman.

Just because a character does bad things doesn't, necessarily, make them evil.

Hilo, even if he wasn't a Kaul, would still be a thug.


Dara (cmdrdara) | 2702 comments Tassie Dave wrote: "Good is subjective.

I really like Lan, Shae and Anden. The same way I liked Walter White, Tony Soprano, Vic Mackey and Saul Goodman.

Just because a character does bad things doesn't, necessarily, make them evil.

Hilo, even if he wasn't a Kaul, would still be a thug."


Agreed. We're obviously supposed to root for No Peak and I think Lee makes a point to show Hilo, Lan, and Shae working to be good people within a system that is less than savory. She shows how Ayt obtained power and how the Mountain flouts rules clan and aisho versus how No Peak stays above the board where they can.


Trike | 8768 comments Situational ethics and relative goodness is a thing. Even the worst people have good qualities. It might not be enough to redeem them, but those good aspects are there nonetheless.

Going back to American organized crime, as bad as the mafia was it’s undeniable that their extreme methods kept neighborhoods and entire cities safer. In many cases the cost of that peace was too high, but today we have law enforcement veterans dealing with South American gangs and Asian gangs who are wistful for the “good old days” of the Italian mob. Bystanders and innocent people were rarely involved in disputes with the mob, but the cartels and triads frequently use terror as a weapon, randomly murdering kids and innocent non-combatants merely to make a point.

Al Capone was ruthless and a stone cold killer, but the only people ever murdered by him and his organization were rival gangsters. In an era of institutional racism designed to keep black people from having good jobs, Capone not only employed blacks but paid them the exact same wage as everyone else.

I heard a interview on NPR one time with a jazz musician whose father worked for Capone. One day the kid suffered an accident that nearly severed all the fingers on his hand. The hospital refused to treat him because he was black. Capone showed up and asked, “Do you know who I am?” They responded, “Yes sir,” and he said, “This kid gets the best treatment, capisce?” Not only did he get medical attention, he got the best surgeons. He would not have been able to become a musician had Capone not intervened. Heck, he wouldn’t have had fingers on one hand (best case scenario) or died without receiving immediate top-flight surgery.

Contrast that with American hero Charles Lindbergh, who was a famous and inveterate racist white supremacist. He was an avowed anti-Semite and viewed Africans, Asians and Italians as sub-human. He liked the Nazis and merely questioned the riots against Jews because they were a bit disorderly. Yet his investments in science and medicine led directly to innovations such as heart bypass surgery and, eventually, to heart transplants and artificial hearts.

Even Lindbergh’s friends the Nazis were huge animal lovers, and literally the first legislation Hitler and the Nazis passed once they came into power was promoting animal welfare. Hitler was famously a dog person, raising numerous German Shepherds. These are the monsters against which everyone else is measured, yet they treated animals better than they treated Jews, gypsies, and gays. They treated animals better than we do today.

So even within terrible organizations doing horrible things you can have individuals behaving in ways that not only seem good by comparison, they seem good by our standards today.


Oleksandr Zholud My problem with the mob depiction in this book is that they try to avoid victims among ordinary people, unlike real life gangs, who drive-by shooting in public places often killed more innocents than rival gangsters.
Regarding ‘good old days’ cops recall, let’s check US homicide statistics, e.g. New York: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_i...

The peak was in 1990 and note that it is almost 4 times (!) lower. Other crimes are also mostly down for the last 30 years.


Trike | 8768 comments The mob refers specifically to the Italian mafia. The tongs, triads, yakuza, cartels, gangs, etc. are different.

You’re conflating the general murder rate with murders by the mafia. Most murders are committed by people who know the victim. Being randomly murdered is very rare outside of specific neighborhoods.

That said, non-Italian gangs are much more violent towards the general public than the mafia was. I’m not trying to claim the mob was composed of honorable men who were nice guys, not at all. Most of them were amoral and quite a few were straight up monsters. But incidents like the one which occurred in Chicago over this last weekend where gang members randomly shot up a block party were quite literally unheard of. And if anyone dared do that, the mafia’s goons would track down the perps, who would then disappear.


Oleksandr Zholud Trike wrote: "The mob refers specifically to the Italian mafia. The tongs, triads, yakuza, cartels, gangs, etc. are different."

I'm not a native speaker but etymology dictionary says you're wrong - the word in English at least from the 1680s
https://www.etymonline.com/word/mob

As to Italian mafia being less violent... if we are talking about the 1920s USA then I guess they are roughly the same as other gangs at the time, less violent [per unit of time per person] than unaffiliated bank robbers like the Dillinger gang


Trike | 8768 comments Oleksandr wrote: "Trike wrote: "The mob refers specifically to the Italian mafia. The tongs, triads, yakuza, cartels, gangs, etc. are different."

I'm not a native speaker but etymology dictionary says you're wrong ..."


Organized crime under direction of the Italian mafia is the mob.

Hamill is talking about the last days of the mob, confusing that with what what was happening during Prohibition. The Italians and Irish did not get along, and long before the Great Depression the Irish gangs were gone from the big cities, replaced by the Italians and Jews.

The reason why every Catholic Church in America has a “multipurpose room” (usually in the basement) is because the Irish didn’t want the swarthy Italian immigrants mingling with their nice white girls, so they forced them to celebrate mass separately. This animosity extended to the criminals. It was only in the 1980s that the remnants of the mafia, mostly led by the Gambinos, made peace with the new, IRA-connected Irish gangs.

This animosity was so ingrained in the culture that when my dad, an Italian, married my mom, who is Irish, my grandfather and great-uncles (two of whom were in Cosa Nostra) referred to it as a “mixed marriage.”


message 12: by John (Taloni) (last edited Aug 11, 2018 09:21AM) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 4075 comments ^ The ethnic thing was going on all over. My grandfather was full blooded Czech whose family immigrated in the 1870s and married a woman of Northern European extraction whose family went back before the Revolutionary war. We didn't visit a whole lot, them being in Texas and us in Mass. On one visit my uncle referred to his father, my grandfather as having "married white people." Apparently the Czechs did not qualify for that.


message 13: by Iain (new) - rated it 4 stars

Iain Bertram (iain_bertram) | 1419 comments I am not sure that Jade City is about organised crime. The clans were created by the leaders of a resistance movement who then created the new government.. the clans are not an underground movement, they function as part of the government...

Jade City feels like a post independence soueast asian island state such as the Philippines 🇵🇭 or Indonesia 🇮🇩 (Thin oil rather than Jade).


message 14: by Ruth (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruth | 1138 comments Iain wrote: "I am not sure that Jade City is about organised crime. The clans were created by the leaders of a resistance movement who then created the new government.. the clans are not an underground movement..."

To me the clans seem a bit like the Japanese Yakuza, which deal in both organised crime and above-the-board business.


message 15: by Ruth (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ruth | 1138 comments This is essentially a book about violent gangsters having a turf war. The characters are nearly all morally suspect, but for me what made the No Peak clan feel like the 'Good Guys' of the story is their unshakable loyalty to each other. All the No Peak characters have their own version of loyalty - sometimes it's pretty twisted and questionable, but it's always there.

We know from early on, however, that the Mountain Clan is led by a woman who slaughtered her own family to gain her current position, so that Clan feels inherently untrustworthy.


Oleksandr Zholud Iain wrote: "The clans were created by the leaders of a resistance movement who then created the new government.. the clans are not an underground movement, they function as part of the government."

At the same time they can judge and kill jade thieves w/o due process as well as kill other Green Bones. As for their resistance fighters story I cannot fully buy it: how the isle was colonised by outsiders in the first place? Jade usage is presumably quite old (it is in their mythos after all) and resisting invaders with swords is much easier than invaders with guns.


Trike | 8768 comments Iain wrote: "I am not sure that Jade City is about organised crime. The clans were created by the leaders of a resistance movement who then created the new government.. the clans are not an underground movement..."

That’s exactly how the mafia and yakuza function. There’s no way to fully eradicate organized crime because you’d have to pursue it into every level of government and every church. Japanese zaibatsus often include yakuza ties. (A zaibatsu is a conglomerate of businesses who work together for their common good. For instance, a manufacturer, a bank, local government, etc., all coordinating their businesses so that they all profit. In America this is illegal; it still happens, but informally.)

Sicily is actually a perfect analog for the island in Jade City. The reason the mafia came into existence was because of war and the collapse of feudal government. Sicilians were tired of being constantly invaded, so in order to throw off the various Islamic and European rulers, they banded together. After a while the regional rebels joined together to create a larger organization. They eventually formed a government, but because they began as an illegal anti-government entity, the Cosa Nostra never shed the criminal and thuglike aspects of their roots. They formed legitimate businesses and government, but that vicious swagger was always there. By the time Italy took over the island, the local warlords had pretty much settled things amongst themselves.

Since the mafia mindset was now ingrained in Sicilian culture, they did what all organized crime does: they agreed to the terms of the new government and then proceeded to undermine it immediately. Paper pushers and functionaries ain’t got no swag, so it wasn’t cool to just be a g-man. They infiltrated every aspect of Italian society, creating what was effectively a shadow government.

Which is pretty much how things work in Jade City.


Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments Responding to the original post.

Trike wrote: "Which is pretty much how things work in Jade City."

But it is not. The No Peak did nothing that was actually illegal. Can you point to an instance where No Peak broke a law that was explicitly named as such in the text? How could the Clans be organized crime when they are not actually committing crimes.

(view spoiler)

Moreover, the Clans were the Zaibatsu/Chaebol, etc. and not some shadowy organization that the businesses were secretly or tenuously attached to.

(view spoiler)

Oleksandr wrote: "At the same time they can judge and kill jade thieves w/o due process as well as kill other Green Bones."

There is no evidence in the book that people are guaranteed due process legally.

Oleksandr wrote: "As for their resistance fighters story I cannot fully buy it: how the isle was colonised by outsiders in the first place? Jade usage is presumably quite old (it is in their mythos after all) and resisting invaders with swords is much easier than invaders with guns.."

How long was the occupation? I think it was 80 years, but I could be wrong. IRL by the 1960 gunpowder had been used in standard infantry weapons for over 300 years. So it is not inconceivable that they were invaded by a larger force wielding firearms vs their swords.

So how could Kekon be taken over when they had Green Bones? Even if an army has superior troops, if they are not deployed in a way to maximize their value, they will be overwhelmed by a more numerous force with better arms.


message 19: by John (Taloni) (new)

John (Taloni) Taloni (johntaloni) | 4075 comments ^And also, it's Fantasy, so I invoke the "Austin Powers" time travel exception: "Don't...think too much about it." That's the history, and if you force the author to make up a reason she will. But that's the history.


Oleksandr Zholud Nathan wrote: "How long was the occupation? I think it was 80 years, but I could be wrong. IRL by the 1960 gunpowder had been used in standard infantry weapons for over 300 years. So it is not inconceivable that they were invaded by a larger force wielding firearms vs their swords."

I'm not sure whether the occupation period was mentioned precisely, but okay, let's assume is was 80 years and ended somewhen in 1950 to 1960. Minus 80 means 1870-1880. At that time most technologically advanced just start to use early machine guns (extremely ineffective) and rifles move from needle guns to more modern mechanisms, but still 1 bullet in a time. By 1950 we have aviation, carpet bombing, SMGS, long range artillery and rockets. Can jade warrior withstand 152mm mortar that fires 40 km? Bombers at 10.000 feet? Can it even feel their hatred? There is no person specific hatred when Enola Gay dropped the atomic bomb. If they can draw off modern army then they could much easier not allow invaders to gain territory in the late XIX century


Oleksandr Zholud Nathan wrote: "There is no evidence in the book that people are guaranteed due process legally."

As well as absence of tails or horns on these humans. If we assume alternate 1960s Earth then all left unmentioned is in line with the real one


Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments Oleksandr wrote: "Nathan wrote: "How long was the occupation? I think it was 80 years, but I could be wrong. IRL by the 1960 gunpowder had been used in standard infantry weapons for over 300 years. So it is not inco..."

Hense the guerrilla war.


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Sean | 353 comments Oleksandr wrote: "Nathan wrote: "How long was the occupation? I think it was 80 years, but I could be wrong. IRL by the 1960 gunpowder had been used in standard infantry weapons for over 300 years. So it is not inco..."

I don't know how far in you are, but there's never any implication that Green Bone warriors are completely invincible. They obviously aren't, otherwise there would have been no occupation, and no rebellion.

And there is mention of the occupying forces dropping bombs on the rebels, with mixed results. The rebels were very likely either hiding among the civilian population, or in hidden settlements. They weren't a standing army, and their tactics included sabotage and taking on small groups of soldiers, not fighting out in the open.

(view spoiler)

Getting back to the OP, while I do understand your point (yes, all the characters are, for all intents and purposes, members of a mob family), but I wasn't bothered or even surprised by it. I distinctly recall it being pitched as "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon meets The Godfather," which is a fairly accurate description, and I was quite satisfied.

Now, maybe you didn't get that piece of information. But, if you managed to make it half way through the book and are still waiting for someone to come in and arrest them all or something, well, I'm sorry.


Trike | 8768 comments Nathan wrote: "Responding to the original post.

Trike wrote: "Which is pretty much how things work in Jade City."

But it is not. The No Peak did nothing that was actually illegal. Can you point to an instance ..."


Explicitly, no, not as a clan. But it is implied time and again. I recall one instance where motorcycle gangs killed a bunch of people in the poorest district and Lee specifically says that the clans manipulate the criminal class to keep people in line. The Pillar was worried that street battles were getting out of hand and that a Green Bone would get involved directly rather than manipulating things from offstage.

If that’s not the very definition of using a cutout for criminal enterprise, I don’t know what is.

Plus, (view spoiler)


Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments Trike wrote: I recall one instance where motorcycle gangs killed a bunch of people in the poorest district and Lee specifically says that the clans manipulate the criminal class to keep people in line. ..."

A criminal class they are sperate and distinct from, that is why they are more like Chaebols with a kind of paramilitary component, from my point of view at least. If anything they are set in opposition to the criminal element. e.g.

"The Green Bones made peace, made sure the criminals and foreigners did not take over . . . " (end of chapter 8, I have the ebook so I do not know the page number)

"The Horn was visible, tactile, the clan's most formidable warrior, leader of the Fists and Fingers who patrolled and defended clan territory and the residents from rivals and street criminals." (Chapter 3)

Chapter 17 states that the clans kept the criminals in line but manipulated them as well (I think this is what you are referring to), but it was not to keep the people in line but to use against their rivals.

(view spoiler)


Oleksandr Zholud The clan was expected to keep not only criminals but trade unions in check, forcing them back to work, and I guess it is a hint on how irl organized crime (sic!) broke strikes. Is it criminal enough for you?


message 27: by Nathan (last edited Aug 16, 2018 07:51AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments Oleksandr wrote: "The clan was expected to keep not only criminals but trade unions in check, forcing them back to work, and I guess it is a hint on how irl organized crime (sic!) broke strikes. Is it criminal enoug..."

Actually no, they were not.

"The Son and other Lantern Men petitioners to intimidate the union bosses and break up their gatherings . . . Hilo had snorted. 'Who do you think we are? Hired thugs?' The workers at the docks were No Peak constituents too." - Chapter 14


Oleksandr Zholud Nathan wrote: ""The Son and other Lantern Men petitioners to intimidate the union bosses and break up their gatherings . . . Hilo had snorted. 'Who do you think we are? Hired thugs?' The workers at the docks were No Peak constituents too." - Chapter 14"

This exactly proves my point - a Kekonese businessman, who knows how the things works in his country, ask for a criminal job from the clan. I guess Hilo dislikes that that man thought they can be hired :) and if there were migrant workers it would be okay to crack a few skulls


Brendan (mistershine) | 930 comments No Peak's main form of income appears to be tribute from businesses in exchange for security. This is known as a protection racket, a common setup for organized crime all over the world, and i'm pretty sure is illegal basically everywhere. "The mafia isnt criminals because they own the politicians who make the laws" is a strange argument to make, I think.


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Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments Brendan wrote: "No Peak's main form of income appears to be tribute from businesses in exchange for security. This is known as a protection racket, a common setup for organized crime all over the world, and i'm pr..."

A protection racket is usually buying protection so the people that are "protecting" you do not do you harm. There is no evidence that is the case here.

"The mafia isnt criminals because they own the politicians who make the laws" is a strange argument to make, I think.

Not the point I was making at all.

What I am saying is that illegality is something that is in world, not something we read into it. All I see is people reading things into the text that are not there.

Why do you assume Kekon's legal system and laws are like ours? If we were reading some other fantasy book set further in the past and it had nobles killing peasants for some small infraction, would your first reaction be "That's illegal" or would you let the text guide you on that?

Oleksandr wrote: "Nathan wrote: ""The Son and other Lantern Men petitioners to intimidate the union bosses and break up their gatherings . . . Hilo had snorted. 'Who do you think we are? Hired thugs?' The workers at..."

No, it was a request that was denied because it was not a regular duty, nor something that could be expected from the clan because they all were of the clan, as Lan reflects.

I could ask you to steal a diamond but that does not make the request a regular expectation of you. You are assuming things that are not textually shown.


Oleksandr Zholud Nathan wrote: "I could ask you to steal a diamond but that does not make the request a regular expectation of you. You are assuming things that are not textually shown..."

No one ever has asked me to steal a diamond. I guess such suggestions (if not made tongue-in-cheek) are usually made to people who do steal. The same goes for breaking down strikes.


Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments Oleksandr wrote: "Nathan wrote: "I could ask you to steal a diamond but that does not make the request a regular expectation of you. You are assuming things that are not textually shown..."

No one ever has asked me..."


Ok, I'll ask you to drive the getaway car then, you drive, right?


Oleksandr Zholud Nathan wrote: "Ok, I'll ask you to drive the getaway car then, you drive, right? "

I honestly don't know how, I don't have a driver licence and have never driven any car :) surprise, surprise, not everyone drives cars


Trike | 8768 comments Nathan’s heist has gone horribly wrong.


Trike | 8768 comments Speaking of kleptocracy, here’s an article that just dropped today about the Russian mafia, Putin, and Trump. This sounds a lot like the way the mafia usually works and specifically how Kekon operates.

https://www.newsweek.com/manafort-tru...


Nathan (tenebrous) | 377 comments Trike wrote: "Nathan’s heist has gone horribly wrong."

It always does :(


message 37: by Rory (last edited Aug 19, 2018 09:19AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rory Smith | 6 comments I would say all governments/clans/football teams have their thugs, and being caught in the middle you can only hope your thugs win, or you become a victim of someone else's thugs. At that point who the good guys are very much comes down to whose side you're on. If your clan wins, anything illegal you did is legalised, if your side lose, everything you did becomes illegal.


(view spoiler)


Julia (yurana) | 34 comments I was thinking a lot about wether it is really correct to call the clans crime families. Especially since (view spoiler)
The relationship between the clans and the rest of the public felt more like that of feudal lords to their subjects. There is a different set of rules and they have different responsibilities, but it's not a lawless society at all.
So, maybe we would look at the characters very differently if the book's setting was more medieval, more typical fantasy and less modern. To be honest, I can't see much difference between the values of the clans in this books and the values of (for instance) the Starks in Game of Thrones. And most people have no problem with calling the Starks the good guys, even if their behavior does not always conform to what we would think of as good or right.


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Iain Bertram (iain_bertram) | 1419 comments Rory wrote: "I would say all governments/clans/football teams have their thugs, and being caught in the middle you can only hope your thugs win, or you become a victim of someone else's thugs. At that point who..."

RE: Oliver Cromwell... Not if you are Irish it didn't.


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