Keeping It Real Chapter 15

This chapter has Lila greeting us from captivity. Apparently sleep wasn’t such a good idea as it allowed her to be captured by a pack of squirrels suffering from gigantism. Or she wakes up automatically because the machine detected something bad. She’s already running and drawing her guns when she comes to because her “AI-self” picked up a threat.

Being as Lila has a partially cybernetic brain, Robson really should have thought about coming up with a new term rather than clunkily writing “AI-self” every time she wanted to talk about Lila’s cyborg self. Hell, Lila could even have called it “the box” like it’s some sort of enigmatic monolith which stands in the back of her head, silently running her body when she checks out.

Personally, I’d be a bit nervous about living with a machine that can wake you up when it wants. Even more so if I could wake up to find myself running full speed at someone with a gun in each hand. But Robson isn’t here to explore the impact of technology on people like thought provoking sci-fi. This is all about magic and elves and ‘splosions.

Lila hears the sounds of clashing metal and shrieks of unearthly creatures. Dar is still asleep so Lila, being almost a complete stranger to elfland, decides to go wander outside and investigate. Because we all know how well it turns out when someone goes off on their own to find a strange noise in the dark.

There are some elves fighting a Saaqaa. There’s one elf dead on the ground, another casting magic and a third fending it off. Because Robson was feeling lazy, the Saaqaa is just a largish humanoid shape with a tail that’s all black. It’s fighting with a spear and Lila can tell things aren’t going so well.

For reasons that aren’t immediately clear, Lila fires a flare at the critter. Then the magic casting elf runs towards her while the Saaqaa kills the second elf and comes for them. Lila grabs the living elf by the wrist and drags him into the Convenient Hut before bolting the door. Then she puts him in plastic cuffs and drags him over to Dar.

Dar claims that the new elf won’t talk except to lie. Then the new elf, who we’ll call Barry, gives Lila a look when he hears her armor folding back in on itself. Lila can tell that Barry is disgusted by the way he begins spray painting the wall with bile. The he tells Dar that they came there to talk.

Barry claims that the elvish secret service is openly split. Dar tells him to shut up and hits him when Barry mentions that Lila is the Otopian agent that Dar hurt. Then Dar rips off the talisman Barry is wearing. Lila says it looks like the omega symbol and Dar says that Barry is a necromancer and is more dangerous than twenty agents. Then Barry says that Dar’s friend, the one that kept him from being executed, is dead. Barry says that Dar doesn’t stand a chance compared to her but he can help.

There’s some banter which is supposed to be intriguing but only comes out confusing. Barry talks about how Dar was ever the ladies slave and how it’s exactly like it was during the demon wars. Which doesn’t make sense because we don’t know about those. I get that Robson was trying to hint at a deeper back story to her book but it’s done so clunky no one’s buying it.

I hate when authors do that. When they try to fill in some back story or hints of a deeper past and fail. They never get the feel right though because they forget it has to fit the world. When characters reference something, it should be a part of the universe. Like how Robert Jordan’s characters talk about the Aiel War. Sure it happened almost twenty years before the main story gets going but it informs the universe. Because of that, people are a little racist towards the Aiel and they have little sayings that reflect their mistrust.

Authors like Robson and Paolini always have their characters offhandedly mention some epic event. ‘Hey Bob, remember that time when everyone’s eyes all turned into marshmallows? And how the only way to save everyone was to go to the foot of mount Frumpty and defeat the Warlbog?’ ‘Yup. Good times.’ ‘Indeed. Let us continue to reminisce about things which happened in the past but without divulging too much detail as the author hasn’t thought about it much.;

Barry starts trying to Wormtongue his way into Dar’s good graces which Lila doesn’t buy it. Barry says he was only going along with those two because he had to keep his allegiance hidden. And no, I don’t know when the gateway opened and they slid to a universe full of taut political intrigue but I’ll let you know if Robson gives us a clue.

Lila switches her vision to magic view mode—why she’d turn it off in a realm full of magic and invisible creatures is beyond me—because she wants to see Dar’s andalune. Yes, that’s the reason Robson gives us. In reality, it’s just an excuse to show Barry’s andalune touching Dar’s so we know why Dar recoils. Dar then says that’s why you don’t let them talk and stabs Barry. Then we get a moment that’s just hilarious.

Dar starts yelling at Lila asking if she thinks this is a game. She yells back, asking if Barry was lying and Dar shouts that he doesn’t know. It’s played out like a scene from a crime thriller where the characters have just stolen the diamonds and shot a cop but now they don’t know what to do. Bad as it is, I kept laughing because I was picturing Lila and Dar in matching plain suits, standing around in a warehouse.

So they strip Barry down and Lila feels sad. Then, for no reason, Lila leans over and kisses Barry’s forehead. This causes his spirit to flow into her and now Lila can hear Barry in her head like a song that’ll never leave. Dar says that means he was trickier than he appeared and starts ranting how Barry—we still don’t know his name—was once passionate but was corrupted by dark powers and became logical. I guess all that Sudoku lead to the elvish dark side.

Lila demands Barry’s name, well after invading her consciousness, and it’s Tath. And because spell check keeps correcting me and spelling it as That, I’m going to stick with Barry. Dar knows Barry’s TrueName but will only use it if Barry tries to control her. Dar also advises against Lila giving over her will to the necromancer. Damn, Barry, you’ve been foiled again by the wit that is Dar.

Then there’s a tense moment when the “bees”, as Lila refers to the sensation of Barry living in, wants her to take his weapons along but that his spirit has to touch it before they’re safe. Lila doesn’t trust him and gets ready to burn them until Barry says he’ll disarm the magic on them without tricks as long as she doesn’t do that.

Then Barry comments on how lucky it is that Lila touched him and not Dar. If Lila wasn’t a cyborg, Barry would have displaced her soul and taken her over a la Captain Ginyu. Which makes me wonder if this spirit is really Barry or if Barry was just one more vehicle in a long line of disposable ones. I doubt it as Robson probably didn’t think that far ahead. He also says that Dar enchanted the metal in her body and she should mistrust Dar.

Then they take Barry’s body out to the field with the two other dead elves and put him down. With a burial by scavengers taken care of, they head back into the Convenient Hut to wait for dawn. Which means that this entire chapter has been one long, pointless diversion. It’s done nothing but tell us that Lila is even more special than a multimillion dollar cyborg can be and give her a “wacky” sidekick.

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