Warning: Contains Spoilers!
‘Enter this, the Uplifted Realm,’ Doctor Dee exulted. ‘Bosco-Uttwar, speak to us.’
Aufwader’s Thoughts: First of all I love that Doctor Dee says ‘Lord have mercy on us’ at the close of this chapter – the very same phrase uttered in The Alchymist’s Cat at the arrival of the plague to London. In a manner of speaking, Death has come to his fair city in a different guise.
Anyway, now that the first big reveal has been made, I finally get to start unpacking the many layers of genre, theme and symbolism this story contains.
Let’s start with Brindle’s folk at home, the Iribians. A plant-loving, poetical people who speak a musical language, can’t interpret flat likenesses, and have apricot-coloured blood. They build temples to scent, so they evidently have some sort of spirituality, though really the most apt Iribian deity would be one with two faces, for they are a people of stark contradiction. Parasites, they assimilate the technology and scientific knowledge of the unfortunate planets they come across, and their history is stained with their search for the deathscent; the cause and cure of all their ills.
Guys, they’re space vampires.
Mr Jarvis evidently knows his horror history, his folklore, and his science-fiction. He knows that the undead were once not so neatly divided into ‘vampire’ and ‘werewolf’ as they are now; that a gentle soul unwillingly transformed into a vengeful, merciless beast could also be a bloodsucking parasite. The Iribians are traditional, ancient ‘creatures of the night’ (or should that be creatures of the Outer Dark?). Like the werewolf, they face a cruel battle with their primal, murderous nature; like the vampire, they must feed upon others to survive.
The most interesting aspect of all of this is the hint, barely there, that the Iribians were not always this way. Brindle mentions that the scent of the rose would bring a similar kind of healing to his kind as it brought to him – that they would hold it sacred, and, basking in its fragrance, in some way feel absolved of their monumental crimes. The implication is that the rose would help them to forget, or at least ignore, the lure of the deathscent. (Recall what Brindle says in the Malmes-Wutton garden; that he would ‘never again long for home or kin’ were he permitted to stay with the roses forever. That says something for the powerful influence the plant would have on his kind, since Brindle clearly and obviously loves his kids.)
So, if the Iribians were not always death-slurping vampire-werewolves, what happened to make them that way? What garden were they cast out of, what fall from grace did they endure? Will they ever be allowed to rest in peace?
Matt’s Thoughts: And now, thanks to the shew stone we have the full back story – which matches all the suspicions we’ve had about Brindle all along.
However, what’s exciting about this is that the ending is still not cut and dried. In lesser hands, this would be showdown with a monster. (Yawn, seen it all before. But the unknown factor here is Brindle himself – is there some hope that he can rise above his own nature? Or is there ‘naught he can do to prevent it’? Two chapters to go!