The Final Reckoning | Chapter 2

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Warning: Contains Spoilers!

‘Piccadilly,’ he announced grandly, ‘I name you the official Minister for War.’

Aufwader’s Thoughts: One of Mr Jarvis’ gifts is that he can make even the most mundane of places seem like the eeriest, most atmospheric, most magical of stage sets. In this chapter, the London Underground gets this treatment, and it gives me shivers every time I read it.

Having stood on those echoing platforms and been squashed into those creaking carriages myself, I can speak from experience when I say that there’s something special about the Tube. Maybe it’s because it’s so archaic and haphazard, maybe it’s because it seems, when you’re down there, like its own subterranean world. Certainly, I’m not alone in my thinking, as the Underground has been immortalised by writers and creators of all sorts, appearing in everything from Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere and China Miéville‘s King Rat to cult horror comedy An American Werewolf in London.

In this chapter, we catch up with Piccadilly at last, and discover a little about how he has grown up (I can hear his fans screaming from here). I love how he gives Smiff and Kelly lip while still remaining wary – it’s apparent that whatever thoughtless courage he might have once possessed has been quashed by his death-defying run-ins with the power of Jupiter in The Dark Portal.

The rats in this chapter are collectively fantastic. What’s great about Mr Jarvis’ bewhiskered villains is that they are not just a homogeneous crowd of nastiness with tails and claws; each has a separate, distinct personality and look. Smiff and Kelly demonstrate this perfectly – they are majestically horrid. We can practically smell their reeking fur and hear their mocking laughter, and I would not like to be around when Kelly gets hungry!

Then there’s Barker. The Final Reckoning was another of those books I had on cassette first, and I can remember how that pitiful, whinging old codger stood out to me, as much for his  manner as for the information he reluctantly imparts. Further chapters will tell, however, whether there’s anything more to that one than an empty belly and a lumpy head.

 

Matt’s Thoughts: That explains the origins of mouse weapons as well – a combination of heirlooms passed down (like the old spear that the Holeborn sentry amusingly had that he’d inherited from his great great grandfather) and a bunch of new ones (like Sid, the Minister for Craft, was ordered to make).

As well as that, we now have another system of mouse government, which is quite fascinating. So the Deptford Mice have Master Oldnose, who’s more like an old school teacher than anything else. The Fennywolders have a democratically elected King. Meanwhile, the Holeborners have a Thane whose title is passed down by heredity. But nonetheless, a very well ordered fair society … They’re all interesting forms of cooperative communal living.

Is this, in some sense, one of the themes of the Deptford Mice (perhaps even unintentional on the part of Mr Jarvis)? Cooperative communities of various stripes on one side (the mice) vs selfish every-man-for-himself communities where even your best efforts are just to benefit the ‘fat cat’ at the top (the rats)?

Interesting … but of lesser importance than the fact that Piccadilly just got appointed the Minister of War! (I know, how awesome is that?)

 

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6 thoughts on “The Final Reckoning | Chapter 2

  1. And now for someone completely different! The time has come for Piccadilly Power! That’s right, folks! The grey mouse with attitude makes his long-awaited return in Chapter Two! Can you guess just how excited I am? Or am I being much too subtle? Let me put it this way, since Chapter Two and Chapter Three both tell of my favorite mouse, that effectively makes them a double-length chapter devoted to him taking the spotlight! I am soooo excited that I can’t believe it!

    The mouse community in London is so cool. I would love for a whole book to take place there. When I think about the system which the London mice have going, Holeborn reminds me of an outpost of human civilization in a post-apocalyptic world. Think of The Walking Dead or any other series which focuses on the premise of how life would be after civilization has crumbled and you’ve got it. The London mice are effectively living behind the wall of a fort. Security is taken very seriously. Although some drifters are welcome to join them, the city mice are wary of allowing just anyone to enter this bastion of safety and security. On the whole, the system is one that runs smoothly as the mice work together and make their network of concrete mouseholes a place everyone can take pride in. There’s a real sense of belonging to be found in Holeborn and a daring mouse like Piccadilly would naturally thrive there.

    Even though he has returned to the land of his birth, the grey mouse seems to have left his heart behind in Deptford. Are Chapter One and Chapter Two taking place at the same time? Is Piccadilly wishing that things could have been different between him and Audrey while Audrey is regretting the shabby way she treated Piccadilly? I dearly love to believe that their hearts are beating in harmony despite the huge gulf of distance which lies between them. What can I say? I’m a romantic at heart. Always have been.

    Leaving Deptford behind for London means that we are naturally introduced to a whole slew of new faces, some friendly and others much less so. As he broods about the love that might have been, Piccadilly becomes aware that a pair of eyes are watching him from the shadows. He soon catches up with the mysterious stranger who turns out to be a rat. Not just any rat but the most ancient, half-starved, toothless and whimpering specimen you could possibly tackle in a dark railway tunnel. While sulking about the growing collection of lumps on his much-abused noggin, the old geezer (whose name is Barker) lets slip a few ominous hints about the ‘new blood’ which has been stirring up trouble among the rats. You know, I always thought that the London Underground referred to the train network as opposed to a potential rat uprising. Heh.

    Before we get into that, ummm…Piccadilly should really think twice about charging down the railway tracks after the terrible fate his parents suffered. I’m just saying…

    Actually, let me tarry for a moment longer while I give some thought to Piccadilly’s attitude towards this stool pigeon…ummm…that is to say, this stool rat whom he’s questioning. His utter disdain for Barker leaves me bemused. You can hardly blame Piccadilly for being wary of the ratfolk given his most recent experiences with them. But the implication we get is that he’s never had any kindness to waste upon them even prior to the harrowing events of The Dark Portal. What did the feckless bacon rind-chewers ever do to him? Do the other city mice share his dismissive attitude towards their neighbors? Do the mice view themselves as civilized people and the rats as savages who cannot be trusted to mingle with them peacefully and therefore must be treated with caution? The mice are aware that the rats can speak, meaning that they are clearly recognized as sentient beings and yet are treated like pests at best and outright scum at worst. Your thoughts on this matter are welcome, folks!

    From Barker, Piccadilly learns the name of the one responsible for disrupting the balance between Holeborn and the rats. Old Stumpy. Something about that alias (which it has to be since I doubt that the mastermind’s folks named him Old Stumpy) strikes a chord deep within the grey mouse. Perhaps the source of the foreboding he feels is the obvious fear in Barker’s whispering voice. Or could it be…could it possibly be that…

    The interrogation ends before Piccadilly can glean more details about Old Stumpy’s identity and motives, interrupted quite rudely by two new arrivals, a duo of rats who are unwholesome even by rattish standards. Ooer. The illustration which depicts them terrorizing Barker says it all, really. Smiff and Kelly are disgusting. Literally everything about them is disgusting from the brown rat’s dribbling snout to the way the black rat eats his food. Once more, thumbs-up for our author whose talent for illustration leaves us with no room for doubt that these rogues live up to how distastefully they are described.

    Oh my gosh, how badass is the stand-off between the two rats and the lone mouse? As he stands facing them with a knife in his paw, it has the deliciously gritty vibe of a vigilante hero confronting two vicious street-punks in a dark alley! Piccadilly reminds me why he’s always been my hero by telling Smiff and Kelly exactly what they are. Bullying cowards who get their kicks from tormenting an old rat who can’t fight back. Ha, ha! Kelly calls Piccadilly pretty boy! See, even the rats admit that our hero is good-looking! Matthias of Redwall, eat your heart out!

    Greatly tempting though it is to cheer for the grey mouse as he dishes out his saucy insults with a grin and the gruesome twosome fume, my own grin disappears when it swiftly becomes clear that Barker will be the poor soul who suffers at their claws. The last we hear of the old rat is a terrified scream followed shortly after by Smiff and Kelly’s laughter. The phrase “Give him ten of the best.” has never turned my stomach quite like it did in this chapter. Swine. Savage swine.

    Piccadilly high-tails it back to Holeborn with much indeed to tell his fellow mice. The timing of his return is rather lucky since the other mice have gathered before their leader to discuss the growing savagery of the ratfolk. I seem to remember Mr Jarvis having mentioned that this assembly was supposed to go on for longer before he made the decision to edit chunks of it out. I’m curious about the old campaigners Sir Robin mentioned. What would those missing pieces have contained? More discussion of the looming crisis? Further details about how Holeborn functions as a mouse community based in the big city?

    Bravo to the grey mouse for daring to step forward and speak his mind! It would have been so much easier for him to keep quiet while the community leaders took care of the situation. But not Piccadilly who recognized just how valuable his information was and did not hesitate to share it at the meeting. If Piccadilly had chosen to hold his tongue about what happened to him earlier, the city mice would probably have written the encounter between Charlie Coppit and the rats off as an isolated incident and paid it no more mind, leaving Holeborn vulnerable to a very real danger.

    One of the rules of being a hero is this: never keep your head down for the sake of a quiet life. Always speak out and take action when the situation is crying out for something that needs to be said or done. If Holeborn is to survive, it needs to be defended by so much more than people who blindly follow orders. It needs the type of mice who are willing to disagree with their leaders and offer criticism when disagreements and criticisms can lead to a stronger community. As the Great Thane looks Piccadilly in the eye and recognizes the presence of so many valuable traits embodied within this young mouse, he comes to a momentous decision.

    Piccadilly has been back in the spotlight for one chapter and he ends it as the Minister Of War! Not too shabby for a mouse who was a random face among the crowd before that meeting began, huh? And then the first thing he does as Minister is volunteer to enter rat territory and seek out identity of the mysterious Old Stumpy! Forget what I said about Matthias! Martin the Warrior himself has got nothing on Piccadilly! Nothing at all!

    To be continued in Chapter Three!

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  2. If the delivery estimate I just got from Amazon.Com is on target, The Devil’s Paintbox should be in my eager hands tomorrow! Are the rest of you as excited as I am to return to Whitby and catch up with the gang?

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