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Shadow & Claw (The Book of the New Sun #1-2)
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2011 Reads > S&C: The Botanical Gardens (Shadow, Through Chapter 29)

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terpkristin | 4142 comments Maybe I'm not far enough into the book, but I'm finding myself rather confused by the entire Botanical Gardens scenes...and some of the aftermath.

I've read it in print once and listened to the scenes a few times in the audio book. I'm not sure what we learned there, for us to have spent so much time there, and as yet (through chapter 29), not gleaned much.

What did we see:
1) Severian seems to be drawn into the reality of many areas of the gardens. Agia doesn't seem to have this affliction.
2) The entire Jungle Hut scene, which there's a separate thread on (Jungle Hut Scene Theories, Spoilers!).
3) We get introduced to Dorcas...not sure what to make of her, yet, but she seems to be an odd one. She hasn't eaten in awhile? She reminds someone of their mother, returned? She took Severian to the military hospital?
4) We see Hildegrin , who Severian thinks is the other man from the first chapter, the man who was with Voldaus? Why would he deny it?
5) Agia tells Severian to pluck the avern with his hand protected. We find later that the flower can react to his body heat and may have attacked him?

I'm so confused.


terpkristin | 4142 comments And, to be honest, I didn't know what to make of the rambling in the jungle hut scene except that it lined up with the fish story Thecla told Severian.

This entire section, given how much time was devoted to it, seems like it's important, but it really just confused me, both in prose and its point..


terpkristin | 4142 comments And one last thing, is the avern really poisonous? Or does Severian have some special protection endowed to him, that he was cut with a leaf (petal?) and survived...


message 4: by Ed (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ed (edwardjsabol) | 170 comments 1) There might be more to why the rooms of the Botanical Gardens affect Severian more than Agia, but maybe it's simply because Agia has been to the Botanical Gardens before, so it's not quite as fascinating for her as it is for Severian. Recall that Severian has had a rather sheltered life until now.

2) See other thread.

3) Dorcas will be explained later, but I suggest you re-read the section where Severian falls off the boat closely and you'll get some hints. What do you think is happening there?

4) Sorry, I don't remember what the deal is with Hildegrin, but Vodalus is a revolutionary. Surely, his cohorts would want to keep their association with him a secret.

5) So what Agia told Severian to do almost got him killed. Do you think she knows better or do you think she was just as ignorant of the danger as Severian?


message 5: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (last edited Feb 26, 2011 06:56PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
1) In addition to what Ed said, Agia mentions that the Autarch wants certain people to be lured into staying at the Gardens (and Father Inire devised the means to accomplish this)...since Severian, in his loyalty to Vodalus, is an enemy of the Autrach, maybe there's something to that.

2) My current theory (elaborated in that other thread) is that the hut scene is the introduction of time travel in the series, though there's probably more to it than just that.

3) My guess at this point is that Dorcas was one of those interred in the lake, and was woken (from death?) by Severian when he fell in -- woke just as he was losing consciousness, and then she brought him out of the lake with her, just after she surfaced. As Ed said, I remember there's more about her identity revealed later.

4) Yeah, I believe he is who Severian thinks he is, but if he's a underground revolutionary and a grave-robber to boot, he has no reason to risk trusting Severian yet.

5) Edit: You'll find out about Agia's intentions very shortly.

The avern is really poisonous. Currently I'm taking Severian's survival as one of those 'here's the first sign this person may be different from other people' kind of moments, but it may end up being something else...


message 6: by Ed (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ed (edwardjsabol) | 170 comments 2) then 1) If the Botanical Gardens utilize time travel in some fashion (and I agree, see Jungle Hut thread), then maybe the reason why Severian is so affected by them is because Severian is somehow drawn to time travel. I'll leave it up to you to theorize why Severian might be drawn to time travel.


message 7: by Colin (last edited Feb 26, 2011 08:22PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Colin | 278 comments I believe his 'immunity' to the poison of the avern is probably the easiest thing to work out. Or at least it should be as you read a bit more into it. I hope this wont be too much of a spoiler, but he has a certain something on his person (against his knowledge) that reacts strangely to danger.


As for Dorcas, i think the lake is some form of suspended animation. I got the impression that it was where people were "interred" when they couldn't be supported by their families? Because i got the feeling she was in there for a LONG time.


terpkristin | 4142 comments I know the item of which you speak, Colin, though I haven't seen it in action as it were. I thought he'd taken off his clothes, though (at least his top), for the fight, so wasn't sure if that could be related...unless it's formed some sort of a bond with him.


terpkristin | 4142 comments Ed wrote: "2) then 1) If the Botanical Gardens utilize time travel in some fashion (and I agree, see Jungle Hut thread), then maybe the reason why Severian is so affected by them is because Severian is someho..."

Have you read the book before? Or the entire New Sun quartet?

It seems to me that there are only modest inklings of something supernatural...which COULD be time travel, but only having just started Claw, I'm not seeing much positive proof as it were. I'm thinking, though, that some of it might be more obvious in retrospect.


message 10: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (last edited Feb 27, 2011 10:29AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
terpkristin wrote: "I know the item of which you speak, Colin, though I haven't seen it in action as it were. I thought he'd taken off his clothes, though (at least his top), for the fight, so wasn't sure if that could be related...unless it's formed some sort of a bond with him. "

Dorcas suggested they fight naked, which is one of the options, as that would have forced Severian's opponent to give up his armor, but the opponent refused, only agreeing to take off his shirt to match Severian's shirt-less ness. The object was in Severian's sabretache during his fight, which is not described as being taken off (he takes his torturer's mask out of the sabretache to wear, right before the first leaf is thrown at him).

terprkistin wrote: "Ed wrote: "2) then 1) If the Botanical Gardens utilize time travel in some fashion (and I agree, see Jungle Hut thread), then maybe the reason why Severian is so affected by them is because Severian is somehoecause Severian is somehow drawn to time travel."

Have you read the book before? Or the entire New Sun quartet?

It seems to me that there are only modest inklings of something supernatural...which COULD be time travel, but only having just started Claw, I'm not seeing much positive proof as it were. I'm thinking, though, that some of it might be more obvious in retrospect."


My view (so far) is the time travel is technological, not magical. I do like the idea that the Gardens' relation to time travel is what draws Severian to stay there, that would be a nice tying together of some elements.

Colin, I also like the idea of the "corpses" in the lake actually being in suspended animation instead.


terpkristin | 4142 comments I think some of the statements about time travel and stuff would make sense, but I think your viewpoint (and probably Ed's) is colored by what you know happens in the rest of the book. This is my first time reading it, and so far, I haven't seen anything thy says it's definitively time travel or anything that it's other than "odd."

What I wrote in the first post is literally my first blush thinking about what's gone on,what I've been confused by. In the Jungle Hut thread, I saw at least one commenter was so thrown by it, they stopped reading the book. I'm guessing that once I've finished the New Sun quartet, I'll probably be able to look back and fit it in, but as a first-time reader, it's jarring...and does feel out of place.

I'm not as much looking for answers as I am writing down things I think I need to revisit (and certainty appreciate the insight from you guys who have read this before) when I finish at least this half of the New Sun. I'm guessing that there are others like me in this group who, aren not far past this scene (like me), and who aren't sure what to make of things quite yet.

Having literally just started reading Claw, aside from what you guys have said, the entire scene feels out of place. That said, I've seen enough of Dorcas now to definitely like the idea of the lake being a suspended animation type chamber. Or at least pseudo suspended; maybe people can get out of their own volition which is where the old guy's wife went...


message 12: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (last edited Feb 27, 2011 11:55AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
terpkristin wrote: "What I wrote in the first post is literally my first blush thinking about what's gone on,what I've been confused by. In the Jungle Hut thread, I saw at least one commenter was so thrown by it, they stopped reading the book. I'm guessing that once I've finished the New Sun quartet, I'll probably be able to look back and fit it in, but as a first-time reader, it's jarring...and does feel out of place.

I'm not as much looking for answers as I am writing down things I think I need to revisit (and certainty appreciate the insight from you guys who have read this before) when I finish at least this half of the New Sun. I'm guessing that there are others like me in this group who, aren not far past this scene (like me), and who aren't sure what to make of things quite yet. "


Oh, I in no way meant to imply the scene isn't jarring and surreal -- I mentioned in the Jungle Hut thread that the first time I read the series I could make no sense of that scene (I just sort of absorbed it in the way one might absorb a surreal scene in a David Lynch film ;) ). It is definitely only in retrospect that it's seeming to fit in more (though I still have some questions about it). There's other scenes that will also be like that - I think it's one of Wolfe's tactics to throw you off with things that may only (possibly) make sense later.

So the answers I'm giving are not meant to suggest "of course it's this way" -- I'm just trying to give suggestions to keep you and others from getting frustrated. :)


terpkristin | 4142 comments Jlawrence wrote: "So the answers I'm giving are not meant to suggest "of course it's this way" -- I'm just trying to give suggestions to keep you and others from getting frustrated. :)"

And I completely appreciate it. :) I think more or less, I'm just assuming it'll make sense later and am trying not to let it be a detractor from the book (so far, it isn't).

I look forward to being able to look backward and understand this mess hahah. ;) (and how many times do you get to look forward to looking backward?)


message 14: by Jlawrence, S&L Moderator (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jlawrence | 960 comments Mod
Yes, I can't claim all of it will make sense when you do so, but hopefully more of it will. ;)


message 15: by Ed (last edited Feb 27, 2011 05:19PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ed (edwardjsabol) | 170 comments terpkristin asked: "Have you read the book before? Or the entire New Sun quartet?"

I read the whole Solar Cycle a few years ago and I've read a bunch of other Wolfe novels and short story collections also. I was mostly trying to be circumspect and use the Socratic method to help you to figure out the answers for yourself. :-)


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