Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Nicholas van Rijn, Detective

Van Rijn and Adzel spend three weeks in an automated spaceship with Thea Beldaniel, human slave of the Shenna. (I have just noticed the two components of that surname: "Bel..." and "...daniel." And "Thea" means "goddess.") At mealtimes, van Rijn talks over the food, then over large quantities of wine and brandy. At first, Beldaniel excuses herself early but soon stays to listen at length. Van Rijn has briefed Adzel on what to say, ask and either agree or disagree with. Van Rijn also experiments with conversational and anecdotal styles. His purpose is to gain her attention, then to learn from her responses. He is both an actor and a detective.

By the half way point, he has learned how to keep her attention and no longer needs Adzel. He maintains the Jovian/Jovial character he has adopted by flamboyantly rejecting some perfectly acceptable wine. When Thea indignantly rejects his suggestion that the Shenna fear Technic civilization, he realizes that she worships them. He gets her slightly drunk and plays Terrestrial melodies while Adzel slowly adjusts the light to a romantic glow. Van Rijn's purpose is not physical seduction if only because that "...would have triggered her defenses." (David Falkayn: Star Trader, p. 529)

Beldaniel rightly says that "'...human nature is plastic...'" (ibid.) but then follows this with a non sequitur: "'I don't believe you can call us warped, any more than you yourself are because you were brought up in a particular tradition.'" (ibid.) What is the truth about our species?

Each of us is brought up in a tradition that is not and cannot be of our own choosing;
traditions vary across a wide spectrum (the species is "plastic");
some traditions allow or enable individuals to learn and develop;
however, other traditions warp and distort individuality in many weird and wonderful ways.

"Neither of us is warped because each of us was brought up in a tradition" is nonsense if my tradition was law-abiding and yours was the Mafia.

Look how much Beldaniel discloses in a casual reminiscence:

"'My earliest memory is...Isthayan, one of my master's sons, took me exploring...he wanted someone to carry his weapons, even their toddlers have weapons. ...We went out of the household, into the ruined part of the old, old building...we found some machinery in a high tower room, it hadn't rusted much, the sunlight struck through a hole in the roof like white fire, off metal, and I laughed to see it shine... We could look out, across the desert, like forever -'" (pp. 531-532)

We could make a long list of how much Nicholas van Rijn, Detective, has learned from those few unguarded sentences.


Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Listing some of the things Old Nick must have learned:

Thea Beldaniel, when very young, used as a slave.
Isthayan, one of Gahood's sons.
Even Shenna toddlers are bellicose and carry weapons.
Gahood's home was an ancient, very large structure, partly ruined.
Hot, bright sun, and a partly desert planet.


Paul Shackley said...

Those are the essential points. Also - not only ruins but machinery left to rust.

Sean M. Brooks said...

Kaor, Paul!

Implying both the building and the machinery were NOT made by the latter day Shenna.