Reviews and Analysis - Stations of the Tide Analysis
Informal Remarks on Stations of the Tide
(caution - heavy spoilers)

by Michael Andre-Driussi
(© 2000, from a private correspondence with Nick Gevers)

Re: Stations of the Tide, I'll start from the ending: Gregorian vanished, the briefcase set free, the bureaucrat transformed. Focus on that clear and physical transformation, since from the beginning of the book:

1) Magic has been almost entirely explained away as sleight of hand (the "transformation" of bird into fish by the false Chu and the transformation of plutocrats into sea otters by Gregorian both involve murder);

2) In addition, the bureaucrat makes quite vocal the case against any such rapid and individual transformations, strongly suggesting that they are impossible even by the magical technology of the orbital government;

3) There is strong evidence that native lifeforms (from plants and animals to the mysterious haunts) can achieve limited transformation in response to the world's climate changes, since they all evolved there, but even then the transformation of the few is marked by the death of the many (out of the horde of lemmings, a few will translate);

Of course, the bureaucrat may be lying about orbital technology.

The upshot is - either

I. The bureaucrat was lying and he himself possesses the magical Technology (that is to say, Gregorian's version of the situation at the end [that the bureaucrat is no better than Gregorian is, since he in fact uses the proscribed technology], is true), and

  1. has possessed it all along, or
  2. acquired it, and the knowledge of how to use it, along the way (for instance, maybe Earth gave it to him in their encounter);


II. The bureaucrat was not lying, there is no such orbital technology, and therefore the bureaucrat has "wild card" talent that he

  1. has possessed all along (and was lying to the reader), or
  2. has possessed it all along but he didn't know it until it was awakened within him by the rituals.

(That is: the bureaucrat is a haunt, either self-aware from the beginning, or a "Manchurian Candidate" who is awakened to his "Slan" powers through the rituals.)

In any event - there is a recurrence of the theme that planet-based data systems are bad (Earth itself; the Atlantis-spawned Trauma and megadeath of the haunts) and orbital-based data systems are good (like the Star Trek Federation is good). Yet in the end the bureaucrat has unleashed an AI to colonize the sea (just like Earth told him to do), the first step of a new planet-based system; and he has become a true haunt or pseudo-haunt himself! (Notice how strongly this resonates with Gene Wolfe’s The Fifth Head of Cerberus!)

Clute says the surface plot of Stations is something of a mcguffin. I'll take the hard line here and say that situations IA and IIA are definite mcguffins - and if these readings are the whole truth, then the online review comment on Stations as "mind candy" is right on target rather than way off base. (That is to say, I resist such a simple reading.)

If situations IB or IIB are the truth, then there is no mind candy - the "trip" is all very necessary, the process by which the bureaucrat is activated; rather than a mcguffin, the situation is something more like "The Purloined Letter" - hidden in plain sight.

In all cases, since Earth's will is done, Earth is the one who gave Gregorian nothing or not enough (i.e., a mcguffin), so that she could give the bureaucrat the real trigger (hidden in plain sight); thus the game is a chess match between Earth and Prospero system (or maybe the Seven Sisters), and Prospero has lost.

New thread: the title Stations of the Tide has two obvious meanings. First being literal, or should that be littoral: the advance of the mounting jubilee tide, from lands that will be sunken, to the beached Atlantis ship, and the power stations that were instrumental in the unforeseen accidental megadeath of the haunts (the sin which in turn led to the tech embargo). The second meaning is associational to Stations of the Cross, and buttressing this sense is the fact that the book has fourteen chapters and there are fourteen Stations of the Cross - furthermore, the chapters link up to the stations, in a bit of a jumble at times, and not perhaps completely.

(J=Jesus, B=the bureaucrat, G=Gregorian)

Station Chapter
1. J condemned B falls to Miranda (see 3)
2. J made to bear cross timbers are lifted (match)
3. J falls first time B meets G's mom (see 4)
4. J meets his mother B meets burned-out AI
5. Simon bears cross B meets and borne by witch (match)
6. Veronica wipes J's face B meets Fox, falls second time (see 7)
7. J falls second time Black Beast story, briefcase returns
8. women weep B meets Earth, sound of weeping (match)
9. J falls third time B pushed and falls (match)
10. J stripped of garments B uses prostitute and strips (match)
11. J nailed to cross B "nails" Korda as criminal (match)
12. J dies on cross B (nearly?) dies in snowstorm (match)
13. J taken down from cross B wakes up in chains, takes communion
14. J placed in sepulcher B morphs, case unbound, G disappeared

Still, this Cross-word puzzle implies that there is a Jesus involved. But who? First guess is the bureaucrat, since he is the protagonist, after all. But then again, Gregorian is the one with the virgin birth, etc. So maybe there are two Jesuses (one light and one dark, which is a big part of the magical thread of the book), or maybe Gregorian is more like a John the Baptist? Or maybe the bureaucrat is actually the Cross.

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