Juggling all the many characters of TMC has been one of the major challenges of the book, especially compared to my previous which was very lean in comparison. Now that we’re at the finale, though, it’s proven to be a real help, as I can jump around the battle from various perspectives. It gives me a lot of flexibility in how I present the story, providing additional control over pacing and tone.
This chapter is a case in point – I use it to cut away from the main action, so that rather than having an endless Mega Battle between Tarn and Kraisa we instead have a momentary lull after the climax of the previous chapter. As this chapter begins we’re unsure of when it is set in relation to the main events, only becoming clear when Tarn and Kraisa burst out into the sky near the end.
The activation of the machine happened while we were stuck underground with the Big 3 characters, so this is also a way to show what’s happening to the valley in a wider sense. It all adds together to create a much wider and deeper understanding of what’s happening.
One running theme of TMC is that most of its characters are very reluctant to believe what’s happening around them. There’s a lacing of cynicism throughout, more overt with some (hi, Tranton), but nobody is comfortable with what’s happening. In Lord of the Rings the characters are shocked by the severity of Sauron’s actions, but they take the existence of the Ring and Orcs and Elves and Trolls without much question. Even the Balrog doesn’t surprise anyone, as horrific as it is.
TMC, on the other hand, has existed in a quasi-Mediterranean, mid/northern-Italy style societal setup for several hundred years. Other than the peculiarity of being trapped within the valley, everything is pretty ‘normal’. Having occasional reminders of this, of Stryke noting how out of his depth he is, keeps the story grounded even as increasingly outlandish and fantastical elements make themselves known.