Warning: Contains Spoilers!
Martin was too terrified to refuse. His spirit was completely quashed. He could not fight this. Nothing in the world could. He reached out a tremulous hand and took the jar.
Aufwader’s Thoughts: As dreadful as the Ismus is, it’s hard not to enjoy the extreme hamminess of his appearance in this chapter. The part where he reveals his true mouldy self to Martin is reminiscent of a fantasy or sci-fi villain transforming into some sort of ferocious monster during a movie finale as the hero looks on in despair. You can practically hear the evil laugh. I’m sure, had he been in less immediate peril, Martin would have been able to appreciate the cinematic drama of the whole thing, but it does make Austerly a little hard to take seriously in the long run.
As for Evelyn turning up at the last minute as getaway driver, I fully appreciate Robin’s apparently unconscious need to have badass elderly ladies in almost everything he writes, and I couldn’t imagine a more Robin Jarvis-like ending to this chapter. The quickly-vetoed idea of Martin and Evelyn being the Last of the Aberrants, teaming up against the Dancing Jacks in a post-apocalyptic Felixstowe, is definitely fun to think about, even if it’s unlikely to go anywhere since of course, Paul is our main concern.
As for the Jockey, I’ve an inkling as to who it might be, but we’ll get to that in a few chapters.
Matt’s Thoughts: And finally, the Jockey arrives on the scene – albeit with the caveat that we’re not sure which human host has become this character.
The Jockey is an interesting one and you could possibly speculate a few things about what role he plays in everything. The paradox you’re trying to solve is that if the whole of Mooncaster is essentially a creation of Austerly Fellows, why invent a character who just aggravates the heck out of everyone? Especially if that aggravation works its way into the real world and the Jockey has no qualms about ruining the Ismus’ schemes in real life.
My own theory as to why the Jockey was created is that Mooncaster was essentially thrown together in a rush without a great deal of care or forethought for characterisation. In other words, if Dancing Jacks were just a book it would – as Martin discovered when he read it – be pretty ordinary.
So I suspect that Fellows wasn’t thinking too hard about what impact the Jockey might have on all of this.
In addition, I get the feeling that Mooncaster is meant to be filled with types of people, so that when someone gets possessed by the book, there is a certain character type that they would naturally meld into. (i.e. Emma’s obnoxiousness lends her to be a great match with the Jill of Spades).
So I suspect the Jockey was always meant to be a holding point for people who don’t play by the rules and don’t really like any kind of hierarchy.
As to whether he would be likely to cause havoc in Mooncaster, the answer is of course yes, but that’s only a problem if the end-game of all of this is to have everyone be part of Mooncaster and live there forever. But if Mooncaster is just a front for something more sinister, well then, who really cares if it’s a bit chaotic in the meantime?
So I suspect it was just a bit of brilliant irony that by making the character of the Jockey so determined to break all the rules, that Martin is saved in this chapter.
But what do you think?