Warning: Contains Spoilers!
Illness has a smell all of its own and it is unmistakable. Sweet and cloying, it lingers in a sickroom, waiting for the patient to recover or fail.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: Of the three wonderful prologues in this trilogy, I think this is my favourite. One of Mr Jarvis’ signature narrative motifs is the idea of monumental struggles with the forces of evil happening alongside the everyday doings of ordinary people; out of sight and out of mind, but affecting us all.
In the dismal scene on the bank of the Thames, we see this in action. The terror of Jupiter, even of his corpse, means nothing to the anonymous builder who finds him. In death, the fearsome Lord of All is rendered powerless – revolting, perhaps, but awe-inspiring no longer. Just how narrowly the world escaped his evil is spelled out to us in no uncertain terms.
It’s incredibly atmospheric for such a short scene. The vistas of Deptford Mr Jarvis paints for us seem grim and drab even on a sunny summer morning, and I love the little aside that ‘nature took a hand’ in ejecting Jupiter’s body from the river. It’s never stated, but I like to infer that that was the work of the Green.
Matt’s Thoughts: I haven’t read The Crystal Prison for quite a few years – possibly not since I was a teenager – and so I didn’t remember quite how poignant this chapter was. It’s also a lot more personally resonant to me now.
There were a lot of people lamenting at the end of last year that so many celebrities passed away in 2016. But there were other people that never made it out of 2016 either – one of them was my father. We first learned of the heart condition that was to eventually kill him back in 2014, when he had several heart attacks over a period of about a month. The second lot of these put him in intensive care, with a less than 10% chance of survival.
While he miraculously survived and lived for another two years, I’ll never forget the experience of him being in hospital that time. The dreadful waiting by his bedside, wondering whether the particular breath he was taking – exaggerated by the sound of the life support machine – was going to be the last one. Sleeping on chairs in the emergency waiting room in case he took a turn for the worse in the middle of the night. It was a draining week.
Reading this chapter, so much of that is brought to the surface. The quietness of everyone, just waiting around for the inevitable. The lack of sleep, the haggard lines under eyes. It was all there and it felt painful to me. Which makes me wonder, is this just a resonance to me and my experience? Or was it also a resonance for Mr Jarvis when he wrote it? If you look at The Dark Portal, you’ll see that the book is dedicated ‘For my parents’. But in the beginning of The Crystal Prison, it says: ‘For the rest of my family, who now live without the light of my father’. I wouldn’t know for sure, but perhaps this chapter was personal for Robin as well.
Either way, it sets up a tremendous tragic backdrop for the mysterious meeting with the Starwife which is about to take place.
Oh yeah, and in the midst of all that, in a few skillful paragraphs, Jarvis sets up a believable romance between Audrey and Piccadilly as well. The man doesn’t waste words!