Put aside, for the moment, the question of whether or not androids dream of electric sheep. The question today is why Phil Deckard dreams of unicorns.
And why he doesn’t seem to fit in anywhere.
I think it’s obvious: the man’s an Amberite. An amnesiac Amberite – although as his unicorn dreams suggest, his memory is trying to heal itself. And there’s only one Amberite he could be: Corwin.
Obviously, this suggests that the Amber story as we know it would need to be revised somewhat: clearly, Corwin didn’t awaken from his amnesia quite as early in this variant (or maybe this is it – Zelazny was blissfully non-specific about the exact timing in “Nine Princes In Amber”). The events of the rest of the story can play out more or less as we know them (at least for the first quintet of novels; the second quintet date themselves in our world a little more firmly).
The question then becomes: what was he doing there? And who knows that he is there? Is someone watching him? Is another Amberite behind the Tyrell Corporation? (And if so, is is Brand, or perhaps Caine?) The replicants could be a potentially unstoppable force in open warfare – is someone creating an army? For that matter, has their use in war attracted any Amberite attention – has Benedict glimpsed attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion?
It might defy belief, but simple logic argues that the cosmos of the Vorkosigans lies somewhere out there in the myriad worlds of Shadow. And consider for a moment the nature of their world: a high-tech society dominated by a feudal military caste, with intelligence capabilities and diplomatic weight beyond what its actual size would seem to indicate.
It almost seems tailor-made to be used as a tool by one Amberite or another in their never-ending power struggles. Not that the the Amberite now using this tool is necessarily the creator of it. Of the Amberites we know well, only Benedict seems like one who might create such a world, as a means of observing warfare between two armies of wildly differing levels of technology. He may well have been as surprised as anyone by the eventual Barrayaran victory over the Cetagandans. It’s likely that his interest in Barrayar and its neighbours waned a generation or so ago in Barrayaran times, when all the great wars were over.
But another, slyer Barrayaran might well have taken up where he left off. Likely candidates for this role include Caine, Fiona and Brand, with Bleys, Eric and Corwin as less likely choices. For one reason or another, few of the other Amberites seem likely to have been that interested.
Consider, for a moment, the likely effect on Barrayar when it was finally employed by its Amberite patron. Not only will it completely upend their ideas of the laws of physics, but the court of Amber might well be surprised to learn that there are Barrayarans who play politics at least as well as they do. Emperor Gregor and House Vorkosigan are unlikely to take kindly to being manipulated in such a fashion – which might well lead to a three-front war throughout Shadow with the throne of Amber itself as the stakes. And that’s assuming that Chaos doesn’t get involved…
Snuff finally figures out the correct location, and not a moment too soon. And finally, the whole Game is laid out for us, and those nasty suspicions concerning a certain Mythos are confirmed.
But the part of this chapter I love is the throwaway reference to the time the Game was played and no one got the location right – so on Halloween, all the players sat down together and feasted, and made a joke of it before going their individual ways. This is the sort of thing that makes me love Zelazny so much – his willingness and ability to blend horror and humour has few rivals (and all the ones I can think of are also dead, mores the pity).
While Snuff was off consorting with strange wolves, events continue apace. The Good Doctor’s place burns to the ground, and Snuff and Gray go to investigate.
Bubo tells them something that makes a whole lot of sense: he and the Good Doctor were never in the Game at all. Bubo made up the whole thing to get a little respect from the other companion animals. Which means that not only was there no secret player messing up the divinations, but the mess was actually caused by wrongly including the Good Doctor.
Oh, and the Good Doctor’s creation got away, which is nice. I liked him.
Another surprising development, as Owen and Cheeter exit the Game – Owen fatally and Cheeter willingly. So now the Openers are also down one, restoring the balance by weakening both sides equally.
Cheeter’s tale of woe and how Snuff and Gray help him escape from it, and it’s oddly touching, partaking as it does of the generosity of dogs, the ruthlessness of cats and the carefee-ness of squirrels.
Not actually much advancing the plot here, surprisingly enough for a fairly long chapter. Jack and Snuff experience a setback, but not too great a one. More interesting is the revelation that Snuff can only speak human between Midnight and 1 AM – the witching hour, of course.
Plus, of course, Jack and Jill seem to be getting friendlier all the time – which can’t be too good an idea with the big conclusion bearing down like a freight train and them on opposing sides…
Another long, busy day. The most notable event is the death of Rastov, and Quicklime’s resulting defection from the Game. This weakens the side of the Closers, now that they are one down.
Also, the Vicar seems to be increasingly active and increasingly dangerous, for all that he is clumsy and unsubtle. And at the same time the friendship between Gray and Snuff, and Jack and Crazy Jane, seems to be growing ever deeper – and yet, it is doomed, as they all know they will be on opposing sides come Halloween…