Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Ex Libris Noctis, by Jay Lake

(Urban Fantasy) Beatrice is dying, her brass heart failing, her captor leering at her. To survive and escape, she needs to remember how she got here. (5,781 words; Time: 19m)

Rating: ★★★★☆, Recommended
Recommended By: LTilton

"Ex Libris Noctis," by , appeared in Lightspeed Magazine issue 67, published on

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Pro: The story tells how Beatrice lost the ability to love, symbolized by her brass heart. By realizing that it's okay to love someone, even a very flawed person who injured you, she saves herself.

Obviously every section has all sorts of symbolic meaning. I'll look at a few of the obvious ones.

At the start, Beatrice is called "Out of Heaven's Benediction," much as Dante was called to visit Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven. In fact, Dante was called by his dead beloved, also named Beatrice. She meets him at the end of Purgatory and guides him through Heaven. As in Dante's Paradisio, the different sections of the story are the names of the "classical" planets, and those are Dante's destinations in Heaven when Beatrice guides him, although not in the same order as here.

The Latin word nox (noctis in the genitive) can mean night, darkness, dream, confusion, and even death. With that, we ought to be able to translate the section names and the book's title:
  • Out of the Book of Darkness
  • Dream of the Sun: Out of heaven's benediction
  • Dream of the Moon: Dried butterflies and tomes of causistry [clever but unsound reasoning]
  • Dream of Mars: Smiths or workers of iron . . . liers, great swearers
  • Dream of Mercury: Philosophers, arithmeticians, and diverse busy fellows
  • Dream of Jupiter: Lord of Heaven and Bringer of Light
  • Dream of Venus: Riot and dispense [Parties and Extravagance, from The Wife of Bath's Tale]
  • Dream of Saturn: Devourer of children
  • Dream of Anger: The end of all things

Armed with those translations, a rereading of the story should prove much richer.

Con: The story never makes us care about Beatrice. There's no emotional release, no tension, nothing. The story is finely crafted, but lacks soul.

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