Two Serpents Rise read-along: part three

Two Serpents RiseHey everyone! It’s week 3 of the Two Serpents Rise read-along, and I’m glad I happen to be the host for this week because “Part Three” has been the most interesting part of the book for me so far. The relationship between the two main characters finally starts to develop and together they grapple with the core ethical issues of the plot. There’s some more incredible worldbuilding, and another cliffhanger to whet your appetite for the final section.

Please feel free to leave a link to your post in the comments, and I’ll add it to the blog hop list at the end of this post.

For those who haven’t been reading along, be warned that there are plenty of SPOILERS ahead!

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1. After the fight at Seven Leaf, Caleb apologises to Mal and they finally start dating. What do you think of the way their relationship has developed? Do you agree with Mal that Caleb chased her because he needs gods in his life?

I’m so glad that something finally happened between these two. I really wasn’t feeling their chemistry, but when they started having some actual dates and in-depth conversations (without any blood or death) I could imagine them as a couple.

I don’t quite agree with Mal’s idea about Caleb’s motives; I wouldn’t say he longs for gods per se, but everyone needs a sense of purpose for which they’re willing to make sacrifices. It just so happens that religion fills that role for some people. Caleb was in a rut, as evidenced by his recent tendency to play it safe when playing cards. Gambling probably offered a temporary solution to the need for purpose and risk, but I don’t think it’s sustainable. His work clearly isn’t all that fulfiling either. So when he met Mal, he found something (someone) to bleed for.

One last thing: Gladstone totally wins the award for most original sex scene – lying on a magical ocean, half-devoured by a shark, with fireworks going off in the background. Definitely haven’t come across that before. Don’t know if it’s cool or just absurd.

2. This section has been quite philosophical. Where do you stand on the debate – gods, no gods, or some kind of compromise? Do you agree with Caleb’s idea of sacrificing your morality because the religious alternative is even worse?

I think this, more than anything else so far, has got me invested in the novel.

Clearly the current system isn’t sustainable. It’s going to wreck the environment and then, as Mal speculates, Dresediel Lex will cannabilise other cities in order to survive. Caleb’s argument about sacrificing morality is a particularly interesting one. I think Qet was an extreme example, and doesn’t apply to the general populace since most don’t know about him, but most citizens probably do see – and ignore – all the terrible things that have to happen to allow them to go one with their lives. And that applies to the real world too – we all know that our environment is being ruined, species are being driven to extinction, people work hard only to live in poverty, etc., but we generally just ignore it so we can go on living the way we want to. Caleb seems to think this kind of moral bankruptcy is the only choice for Dresediel Lex.

And yes, I have to agree with him that they shouldn’t go back to the old system of human sacrifice. Maybe the sacrifices are willing, but what happens to the loved ones they leave behind? And what happens when the priests don’t have enough volunteers?

So I guess Mal’s idea is the only viable option:

“We should bring [the gods] back, on our terms. We form a society with sacrifice, but without death.”

I don’t know how that would work, but I certainly agree with her principle in general. For any society. I think most of us live too easily without knowing what it takes to make our lives possible. Paying money for things isn’t the same as knowing what they cost. The price of my food tells me nothing about the environmental effects of producing it. The price of a t-shirt would reveal nothing about whether or not the person who sewed it gets a decent wage.

So yeah, I like the idea that there should be some system of sacrifice so that people can engage with the way the world works on a personal level, but the sacrifices shouldn’t have to be fatal. Death surely makes the system unfair – some die, others live off those deaths. Rather, you should be able to enjoy the benefits of your sacrifice.

3. Gladstone is still unveiling amazing things in his world, like a sport based on myth, the eclipse festival, walking on water, and a half-dead sea god whose heart is being used for desalination. What interested you the most? 

“Meh” tends to be my reaction to almost any sport, but I thought the scarred ocean was quite a cool idea. And I really want to walk on the ocean! Terrifying and amazing, not to mention a great thing to show your date, assuming at least one of you has the power to chase away sharks and other nasties from the depths. Caleb made a good bet when he packed that condom.

Qet was the most awe-inspiring thing for me though – the scale of his body and the horror of his undead state and the way it’s been appropriated.

4. Mal has noted twice that they don’t have much time, and she apologises to Caleb while he sleeps on the ocean. Then Alaxic kills himself and tries to kill Temoc – the last two priests of the old Quechal. What do you think is going on here? Any speculation about how it might turn out?

Wow, I didn’t see that coming. This seems to confirm that Temoc hasn’t been involved. Instead, he’s in the way. Alaxic’s suicide and assassination attempt suggests that he’s much more progressive than I assumed him to be, if he’s trying to make way for a new way of thinking and doing things. So I’m a bit worried that Temoc got away.

I only have vague ideas of how this will turn out. It sounds to me like Mal knows exactly what’s coming, and she and Alaxic both seem to believe in a new way of doing things (sacrifice without death). Based on the title I still think the serpents will awaken, unless the title has some alternative meaning.

Randoms
– I like how you pay small amounts of soul for everything you use, like hot water. It would certainly make people more conscious of their usage!

Check out what others had to say:
Lynn – Lynn’s Book Blog
Heather – The Bastard Title
Ria – Bibliotropic
Susan – Dab of Darkness
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5 thoughts on “Two Serpents Rise read-along: part three

  1. Hey, my link:
    https://lynnsbooks.wordpress.com/2015/04/26/two-serpents-rise-by-max-gladstone-readalong-week-3/
    Yeah, I feel after reading these chapters that Temoc isn’t involved – it makes me feel more like he’s in the way so somebody has either been trying to set him up for something all along – and that having failed, are now trying to eliminate him. Perhaps the people behind it think he’s one of the few who could undermine their plans?
    The Scarred Ocean is just a very strange idea isn’t it – I had to go back and check I hadn’t read that wrong or just plain got confused – ‘what? they’re walking on water’? Most unusual – not to mention the part with the shark – eek!
    I love the whole debate around Gods/Crafts people and the dilemma of striking up a system that doesn’t just work but is also morally viable. It seems to this point that what is needed is a balance of the two – clearly the Gods are necessary but a different approach is needed other than human sacrifice – like you said, everybody should be able to enjoy the rewards.
    Lynn 😀

    • Yeah, I also think the people behind it all are worried he’ll undermine their plans. I don’t think they’re too concerned about whatever major event is about to take place, but Temoc might ruin the revolution that follows by trying to reinstitute the old ways.

      I don’t think they can walk on the scarred part – I think it might kill them – but that was a great wtf? moment for me too. And during the sex scene, when the shark came up, I was shocked to realise that they were *still* on the water. I’d just naturally assumed they’d reached the shore or a sandbar.

      I hope they come up with a good compromise! I think Mal might have something in mind.

  2. Temoc could have been involved and been betrayed/double-crossed by Alaxic, perhaps?

    It’s an interesting philosophical discussion to have in the middle of the book, isn’t it? There are so many angles to it. I’m really looking forward to reading the last section. ^_^

  3. “everyone needs a sense of purpose for which they’re willing to make sacrifices. It just so happens that religion fills that role for some people.” I think this is spot on and definitely describes Caleb. He needs a purpose, and so far, his greatest drive seems to come out when he is opposing his father.

    I like your points about Caleb’s moral bankruptcy sacrifice and how it pertains to our world. My degree is in Environmental Biology, but some of the basics (like where our food comes from – industrialized farming) didn’t hit home until we moved to a little farm ourselves and started raising animals for food. It gave me a respect for the fancy price of organic, free-range meats.

    So during the love scene, it was awesome that safe sex came up (fumbling around with the condom) but at the same I couldn’t help thinking that a Craftswoman would be able to use the Craft somehow to prevent pregnancy at the least. It would just be awesome if we ladies could all be like female hyenas and simply piss away the sperm if we we didn’t want a pregnancy.

  4. Haha, definitely most original sex scene I’ve ever read! It also strangely worked for me despite also sounding terrifying. I love in the next section Caleb notices the bruises from the shark teeth, haha!

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