Conrad's Fate (at last)

Colin Fine colin at
Sun Jun 5 14:11:29 EDT 2005

Now that I've read it, I can join in the discussion.

I don't agree with those that found Conrad dull or unsatisfactory: he is 
a young boy, and impressed by a strong will (and probably some magic). 
And once he begins to find his feet, he has resourcefulness and 
sometimes even initiative. And his ambivalence towards Christopher gives 
his character a little more depth than it otherwise would have.

I do agree that the story is rounded off a little too pat (actually, 
somebody said 'abrupt', which is not quite the same thing). The business 
about the photographs seems unnecessary, and it's usually a weakness in 
a novel to reveal something in the denouement that the readers have been 
given absolutely no hint of. In fact I found the whole business of the 
ghost a little gratuitous, though as a plot device it propelled Conrad 
out of the hall to find Millie and Christopher.

The bit of the plot I have most trouble with, though, is the Walker: why 
on earth did Albert and the Circle tell him to summon the Walker? 
Judging by Albert's remarks at the end, the cork should have been quite 
adequate for his purpose, (and Albert intended that Conrad be executed 
for the act), so what did the Walker add to their plan?

There seems to be some faulty editing on P385 of the UK edition, where 
Gabriel de Witt says that "we returned [the witch's soul] to Seven D, 
where I am pleased to say they promptly put it in prison", but the next 
paragraph says "We have, of course, returned the woman's soul to Seven D 
now, so that she may stand trial in the proper way".  These two are not 
necessarily inconsistent (though at first sight they appear to be), but 
I cannot think of any reason why he should repeat the information.

I did enjoy the book though, but I would not put it among my favourites 
(which would certainly include The Homeward Bounders).


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