aleph symbol with title UNSONG

Chapter 25: Lie Down Before My Feet, O Dragon

Afternoon, May 12, 2017
Los Angeles

I.

Coming from the edge of my consciousness, a faint voice:

[Thou shalt not krill]

The organizing soul within me – the kabbalists would have called it the neshamah – awoke, even as my body dozed on the hotel bed.

[Thou shalt not commit idolphintry] I answered, but I knew deep down it was a second-rate attempt.

[Weak,] said Ana. [Where are you? Are you safe? Are you okay?]

[I spent the morning kayaking with a pretty girl, and then she invited me back to her hotel room and handcuffed me to the bed.]

[Really?] asked Ana.

I opened my eyes, taking care not to break the hypnopompic trance that smoothed the telepathic link between us. The clock told me it was early afternoon. Jane was nowhere to be found. I still had a gag in my mouth to prevent me from speaking any Names, and I still had my hands cuffed to the bedposts to prevent me from taking off the gag. I’d asked Jane why she carried a gag and handcuffs with her in her luggage, and she hadn’t answered. Too rushed to restrain me so that she could run out and search for her precious Beanie Baby.

[Really,] I said, and sent Ana my memories of that morning. Speaking the Vanishing Name right under Malia Ngo’s watchful eyes. Escaping the Strategic Angel Reserve with Jane. The frantic search for her missing Beanie Baby, no amount of pleading inducing her to offer an explanation. Then her restraining me so she could expand the search to the rest of the city. [And you! What happened to you? You were with me in UNSONG! And then you learned a Name! Where are you? Are you safe? Where is Erica?]

[I’m on a boat,] she said. [I haven’t seen Erica, but she’s not dead. The link from the partial marriage ceremony would have told me that, I think. I keep trying to telepathically ping her, but I’ve never been able to feel her as strong as you.] Then she sent me her own memories. Sarah appearing mysteriously in her hotel room. San Francisco. The Comet King’s ship.

[So you don’t have the computer?]

[No.]

Everything I’d been doing up until now had been predicated on Ana having Sarah. If Ana had Sarah, the plan was still intact. She would become mighty. She would rescue me. We would be rich and important. If Ana didn’t have Sarah, then the error correction was our only hope. Otherwise, I’d be back to being nobody. The thought was somehow worse than being a fugitive, worse than being cuffed to a bed. I could take a lot if I was somebody. The thought of falling back into my cog-in-the-machine status filled me with dread.

Ana felt my worries. [As soon as we reach a friendly port,] she said, [I’ll find the error correction books. Or if I can get in contact with Erica, I’ll try to get her to read them and send us the information we need.]

I sent her a burst of grateful encouragement.

[In the meantime,] she asked [do you need rescuing?]

Jane didn’t seem evil in the same way as Ngo. And Colorado was a good place. But the handcuffs on my wrists reminded me that she probably didn’t have my best interests at heart either. And exactly because Colorado was a good place, it was the sort of place that she would reassure me we were going, even if she worked for the Harmonious Jade Dragon Empire or somewhere further afield. I noticed that she had told me we were going back to the Biltmore to meet her transportation back to Colorado, then left on her search without expressing any worries that she might miss said transportation. Jane didn’t seem evil, exactly, but she was suspicious, secretive, and maybe crazy.

[I think I might,] I said.

[Then when we reach our next port, I’ll get off and try to find you. I don’t think these people will try to stop me. They seem nice.] I felt no fear in her mind. Yes, Ana had the Spectral Name and potentially the element of surprise. That was a pretty deadly combination. But still. No fear. I sent her a burst of positive emotion. [One more thing,] she added, and she sent me the Airwalker and Zephyr Names.

[Who do you think got the computer and gave those to you?]

[Honestly?] asked Ana. [God.]

[You think God directly intervened in the universe to help you and your friend when they were in trouble? Don’t they warn you against that kind of thing in Theodicy 101?]

I didn’t get to hear her answer. The jingling noise of a key turned in the lock.

[Jane’s coming back,] I said. [You tell your mysterious billionaire sailor friends to keep you safe.]

[You tell your psychotic spy girl friend to keep her hands off you,] she thought back. [You’re already kabbalistically married!]

I sent her a burst of the most positive emotions I could manage just as Jane flung open the door and turned on the light, breaking my trance. I startled fully awake.

Jane looked a little sweatier and dirtier, but the permanent scowl on her face had only deepened.

“I got you some food,” she said, putting a bag of McDonald’s on the counter, “and some clean clothes. Get dressed. We’re going to Las Vegas.”

“Las Vegas?” I asked, after she had taken the gag off.

“The manager doesn’t know who took my dragon. The cleaning staff all say they didn’t take it. No toy store in the whole city has a replacement. But they all say there’s a big specialty store in Las Vegas that will. So we’re going to go to Vegas. Get dressed.” She unlocked the cuffs.

Jane was nothing if not efficient. Less than five minutes later, we were on our way out. I grabbed the bag of food and a bottle of Apple-Ade from the mini-bar.

She glanced at me as I took the drink, but said nothing. Which was just as well, considering.

II.

“Jane,” I had asked her very gingerly, earlier that morning, as she was nearly tearing the room into pieces, “what do you need seven toy dragons for?”

She’d rounded on me. “You shut up!” she snapped. “You know too much already! If you hadn’t screwed everything up on the Angel Reserve we wouldn’t be in this mess! Mind your own business!”

Then she went back to searching like a madwoman. She went into the other room of the suite, and I could hear her opening and slamming the colors.

I walked over to the dresser, looked at the six purple dragons inside. I was no expert on Beanie Babies, but they looked pretty normal. I shook one. It felt like there were regular beans inside. Very carefully, I squeezed it. Nothing happened.

Behind the dresser I saw a glint of purple.

The seventh Beanie Baby had fallen through the back of the drawer, and was wedged in between the dresser and the wall. I reached my arm in and grabbed.

“Jane!” I called.

From the other room, again, her voice. “Shut up! I swear by the Most High, if I have to tell you to shut up one more time, I will burn your tongue out. You think this is funny? Just. Shut. Up!”

Then more slamming.

Atop the dresser was a mini bar; in the mini bar was a plastic bottle of Apple-Ade tinted an almost opaque green. I poured the Apple-Ade down the sink, stuffed the seventh Beanie Baby into the bottle, then put it back on to the bar.

Why had I done it? I wasn’t sure, now. I was being treated like an infant. And I was being kept in the dark. I hate being treated like an infant and kept in the dark. I was sick of reacting; I wanted to act.

But the more I thought about it, the more I approved of my previous choice. I couldn’t shake the feeling that something terrible would happen when she got that seventh Beanie Baby, that it would complete whatever arcane plan needed a book from the angels’ own library, that there would be something very final about her getting it.

And now we were going to Vegas. A dark place, to be sure, but not Jane’s place and not on her terms. If Ana was coming to rescue me, I’d rather Jane be off searching for a Beanie Baby in Vegas than doing whatever she would be doing when things started going her way.

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99 Responses to Chapter 25: Lie Down Before My Feet, O Dragon

  1. B_Epstein says:

    …and now we can only pray and hope that Aaron’s childish (if understandable) reaction wasn’t crucial in the apocalypse happening after all.

    Interesting hypothesis there by Ana. Anyone smarter (ahem… Sniffnoy…), care to speculate?

    • Walter says:

      Don’t think I’m smarter, but Ana’s theory makes a lot of sense if Sarah = God.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      I’m not really sure what you expect me to add here? Like, it’s probably not God. But there are other mysterious forces potentially out there (such as Raziel).

      • B_Epstein says:

        Vinge’s Principle – if I knew what I wanted you to add, I’d add it myself 🙂

        Past experience had taught me that you frequently do have non-trivial insights, at least for me. Sorry if that somehow felt like pressure to you.

  2. Droid says:

    So does Ana think that God intervened directly through Sarah? Or is she saying that metaphorically kabbalistically?
    Would God notice if someone (Aaron) spoke the Vital name and endowed something (Sarah) with life? He certainly doesn’t seem to notice other huge developments in His universe (the war of the angels, etc.)

  3. Lambert says:

    So now we have some kind of reptile and apple(ade). sounds a lot like the fall of man to me.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Finally the story is moving forward. A little.

    [You tell your psychotic spy girl friend to keep her hands off you,] she thought back. [You’re already kabbalistically married!]

    Hmm, that seems like a far cry from chapter six:

    “I’m not your wife,” said Ana. “The whole marriage ritual was a test. I’m glad we did it. It’s interesting. But I’m not your girlfriend and I’m not your wife.”

    • Ben Finkel says:

      I think Ana’s “jealousy” is a joke here.

      • I think it’s a “joke”.

      • Anonymous says:

        Maybe it is. But just because something is a joke doesn’t mean it isn’t real.

        And either way, how Aaron is going to interpret it is a separate question. The story of his relationship to Ana — especially the beginning of it — reads vaguely like a parable about a Nice Guy. I’m not sure if Scott is particularly willing to explore that theme in the story; it could be quite interesting if he did, though. I mean, chapter 20 was glorious.

        Speaking of Ana, take chapter five:

        “If you’re going to grab dinner, why not call it a date? It’s just a word.”

        She shut her book with great force. “Did you really say ‘just a word’? You call yourself a kabbalist! Words have power! Words are the only tools we have to connect the highest levels of our intellect to the mysteries of reality! Once we describe something with a word, things happen! It’s been given a life of its own! The angels are on notice, working their secret little works around it, starting reverberations that echo across the entire structure! Words are the vestment of divinity, the innermost garments of Juan!”

        and in the very same chapter she agrees to participate in a ritual called “Secret Kabbalistic Marriage of Minds”. And yet in the next chapter she says: “I’m not your wife”. I don’t find holding these two viewpoints simultaneously to be defensible as consistent, unless Scott appeals to some kind of “woman logic” — which I doubt he’ll do, since he isn’t that much of an anti-feminist.

        • LHC says:

          Aaron isn’t Ana’s actual wife. But he is her kabbalistic wife, which means that it would be very bad to cheat on her because that’s specifically prohibited by God.

        • It doesn’t have to be specifically about women. I think it’s pretty natural for both genders to simultaneously not want to date someone and to not want them to get over you.

        • Calien says:

          I’ve been hoping that Ana’s asexuality and mostly lack of romantic interest in Aaron will be treated respectfully, given that Scott has said he’s at least mostly asexual himself and hence has obvious Author Interest, not to mention the fact that he has standards.

        • MugaSofer says:

          I wouldn’t put it past Scott to use a gender swapped metaphor for some aspect of his life.

  5. G1986 says:

    I think that I have to give up on this. I am just not enjoying unsong. One way to think about this: pick a character, and then describe them. Aaron? Ana? Sohu? Erica? Do they have any interesting traits? Any personality at all? Best I could come up with is that Aaron is a stand-in for Scott, and so all of the things that I think are true of Scott are probably true of Aaron. But that’s about it. The characters aren’t fleshed out, there’s no plot, there’s just a set of increasingly disappointing torah puns. I’m sad that so much of Scott’s time and energy is going into this story instead of one-shot fics, other posts to SSC, or an epic work that lives up to its potential.

    • LHC says:

      Get the fuck out and stop trying to break Scott.

      • Tumblr says:

        Reblogging to show everyone how ignorant Unsong fanboys really are.

        (I wish I could link to the Tumblr parody screenshot in that post. Seriously, chill.)

      • λ says:

        Telling someone to fuck off isn’t a good way to respond to constructive criticism, even (especially?) when the criticism wasn’t aimed at you. I expect Scott should be able to deal with this, rather than breaking. Unless perhaps the OP made some veiled nasty remark that went over my head?

        • LHC says:

          It isn’t constructive criticism. It’s an attempt to impede the continuation of this story.

          • 27chaos says:

            No, it was constructive criticism. Not detailed, sure, but far beyond just saying mean things for the sake of it. Unless G1986 has been saying mean things before now, I’m baffled why you responded like that.

          • Sniffnoy says:

            You keep asserting that.

            Whether it’s constructive or not, claiming it’s an attempt to imped the continuation of this story is… a reach. People like expressing their opinions. People are generally not out to stop people from writing stories they don’t like.

          • LHC says:

            Good people aren’t generally out to stop that, yes.

          • Aaron says:

            @sniffnoy
            OP (G1986) publicly posted that they are sad that Scott is spending “so much” of his time and energy on Unsong. The subtext is very much there and it says “Scott please stop writing Unsong”.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        People who don’t like Unsong are not trying to “break Scott”. Cut it out, LHC. People are allowed to disagree.

    • Guy says:

      You must reaf you some Jonathan Strange, sirrah.

    • Yes, yes, yes, and yes. Interesting traits and personality, each of them. Now fuck off.

    • Vokasak says:

      Goodbye.

    • Marvy says:

      You’re free to leave if you don’t like it of course. This is not “required reading” and there will be no pop quiz 🙂

      But: no plot? Really? There’s all sorts of plots. There’s Aaron plan to create the mother of all botnets. (Almost literally: the mother of all botnets.) There’s the Comet Kings Story slowly being revealed, there’s Malia Ngo and Uriel and Sohu and Jane seems to have an interesting plan and I bet she knows Sohu. Maybe plot is the wrong word. But there’s many threads of story being woven here all at once.

      And no personalities? Just look at Ana’s answer when asked what she would ask Metatron. That was a VERY Ana thing to say. Who else would say that.

      Even the minor characters like Bill are reasonably well developed, by minor character standards at least. (And I doubt that Scott intends Aaron to be his alter ego.)

    • I would request people not respond to these comments in unpleasant ways or start arguments.

      (but man, I have two plot chapters in a row and this is the response I get…do you know how hard it was for me to do that?)

      • Sniffnoy says:

        Personally, I’d just like to note that this chapter definitely addressed the worry I had from last chapter about the plot starting to get too wandering. It took the two different Jane plots and combined them into one while removing the implicitly-introduced character of the thief. Plot seems back to manageable levels now. Yay.

      • Forge the Sky says:

        Agree with Sniffnoy. People have been all on about how the plot isn’t moving forward, there’s too many side-threads, etc. There’s some difference in people’s taste for complexity to be sure, but I think a lot of this is more an artifact of reading it as a web serial rather than as a dead-tree presentation. If you’re holding a 1500-page tome in your hands, you don’t really sweat it if it’s page 200 and things are still building rather than resolving. If it’s a 300-page book you might start to wonder a bit. It’s like this is pinging as ‘I read ALL OF IT and we’re still NOWHERE’ to people or something.

        I didn’t think there were too many story threads (though I thought that there probably shouldn’t be too many more). And now we see multiple threads coming together in this chapter. This is a sprawling book. I think that the balance is quite good.

        Having gone from short form to long form fiction myself before, I can attest that pacing and structure are the primary new issues you face during the experience. I think Scott’s done a bang-up job considering this is a first shot at the medium.

        If people aren’t liking the speed/pacing, I’d advise to stop reading weekly and instead wait for a whole book to be finished then catch up then. I did that with the first book and may go back to the practice at some point if I stop eagerly looking forward to the new chapter each Sunday.

        • Justin Elms says:

          I’m late to this party, but I agree with the facts of what you’re saying, but inverted by my personal preference. I love the unlimited possibility of a web serial. Coming at it after it’s all done (I believe?), I explicitly did NOT scroll down on the table of contents so that it could be almost any length.

          With that unbounded scope, I’m able to just steep myself in the story–whatever it is, as long as it’s interesting. With a story like this, when there’s a thousand little threads–each of which seems more or less important–all cast up into the air, then it amps up the narrative tension further:

          Will the next chapter, with a single event, snap together those seemingly disparate threads and bring the story right to it’s conclusion? Will they slowly be knit together until, imperceptibly, they start to form a new whole? Which that seem important will fall away and hang as questioned possibilities when the story is done? Which that seem trivial will be brought in to stark, shocking clarity by the end, perhaps forming a rosetta stone to reinterpret the whole work?

          I felt similar exultation when reading through hpmor in the same fashion. A feeling I just can’t get from a book, because the mere physicality of it is there constantly answering a question that I don’t even want to ask.

    • I do wish people wouldn’t post these kinds of criticism (of the form “the story’s bad and here’s why” rather than “there are things that bother me”). It does get under my skin a bit, because I’m really excited about this story and when people post things like this it makes me feel like being open about being excited about it will make people attack me, and that’s depressing.

      • wr4ith0 says:

        I don’t really care what other people think myself, but I’m loving this thing. Should it matter, I’m a creative writing major and a professional editor (newspaper though, not fiction).

        Thanks Scott.

      • Sly says:

        Agreed. I am really enjoying the story and hope that Scott realizes that folks like me are loving it. This is one of the big things I look forward to doing on Sunday. (Please please do not stop)

    • James Blair says:

      Why had I done it? I wasn’t sure, now. I was being treated like an infant. And I was being kept in the dark. I hate being treated like an infant and kept in the dark. I was sick of reacting; I wanted to act.

      It’s strange, Scott knows exactly how I feel.

      • Forge the Sky says:

        Not your therapist, but as a person who’s been there: the only way out is to just do shit that you haven’t done before. Try stuff at random, just between you and yourself. It hardly matters what it is at first, just create a bias towards innovative action and maybe doing things that scare you just a bit. Eventually you’ll start to learn what sorts of things you actually enjoy doing and being and can leave behind what other people tell you you should enjoy and be.

        Maybe that doesn’t apply to you but hey, at least it’s there for some lurker someday 😉

    • Jack V says:

      I think the *sort* of criticisms made are valid, in the sense of things to bear in mind in improving as a writer. But I also think, lots of people really love unsong, if you want something else, lobby Scott to write something else next, but just stop reading unsong, don’t keep coming back and being ostentatiously critical about it.

    • Quixote says:

      Consider the possibilty that the characters are developed and fleshed out but that you are not seeing or sliming over the cues which do this. I think I have a good Handel on many characters. Judging from comments I think many other readers do as well.

      Consider that you are noticing a characteristic of yourself as a reader rather than a property of the text as an object.

    • TheAltar says:

      No flames. Don’t like, don’t read.

    • Fj says:

      Actually, this chapter further demonstrated that Aaron is really sort of dumb, arrogant, and driven by less than purest motivation. Which hopefully makes them different enough from Scott as we know him, so counts as Mary Sue successfully averted and proper character constructed, in my book.

    • In complete seriousness, it’s such a good sign when you attract some haters. If you don’t then you’re probably not doing something interesting enough. Paul Graham (Y Combinator cofounder) often makes this point in the context of startups and I think it applies just as much here.

      I’ve personally spent over 20 hours reading UNSONG and am hanging on every word. It’s delightful and exciting and hilarious.

  6. Anders Sandberg says:

    Hmm… a purple beanie baby dragon. According to the beanipedia, at least in our world that would be the Dwynwen the Dragon. Not entirely sure what a Welsh-themed dragon named after the local patron saint of lovers has to do with things.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Oh yeah, why didn’t any of us think to look that up last chapter? Here’s the Beaniepedia page. Note that other information about Dwynen could be relevant, such as his birthday or poem.

      (It’s possible it’s not actually meant to be Dwynen, and isn’t a real Beanie Baby, because Aaron hasn’t mentioned a flag appearing on the dragons. But if it is real, it must be Dwynen.)

      • Lambert says:

        From the linked page:

        Poem

        “Cenedl heb iaith yw cenedl
        heb gallon!”

        ENGLISH TRANSLATION
        A nation without a language
        is a nation without a heart

        That sounds relevant, given how language seems to be an important manifestation of the Adam Kadmon.

    • Clearly, the kabbalistic implication is that gathering all seven dragons allows you to summon Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson.

    • Musky says:

      Not entirely sure what a Welsh-themed dragon named after the local patron saint of lovers has to do with things.

      Welsh is what they speak in Wales… the story has lovers who speak in whales as well.

    • Dindane says:

      I propose that it’s actually Scorch the Dragon. He’s listed on Beaniepedia [1] as brown, but is actually purple and fades easily [2,3]. Other than that, he matches the description so far of the dragons better — they were called “sparkling” in chapter 24, and Scorch (but not Dwynwen) has iridescent wings. Also, there’s the absence of the flag, which is less strong evidence (maybe there is a flag and Aaron just hasn’t mentioned it).

      Poem:
      A magical mystery with glowing wings
      Made by wizards and other things
      Known to breathe fire with lots of smoke
      Scorch is really a friendly bloke!

      Birthday
      31 July 1998

      [1] http://beaniepedia.com/beanies/original/scorch-the-dragon/
      [2] https://wlswarts.blogspot.com/2012/08/divorced-from-nostalgia-scorch-beanie.html
      [3] I have one and could probably post a picture of it if people want

  7. “S stands for secret — you’ll keep it forever
    Provided there’s nobody else who is clever.”

    Maybe Aaron should have recalled his great-uncle’s advice.

  8. dsotm says:

    If the seven dragon beanie babies were to be exchanged for seven seal beanie babies missing one would have [un]apocalyptic consequences.
    Or maybe dragons and seals are cabalistically similar so no actual trade is required.

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Oh, wow, that’s good. It would explain why any 7 of them will do. It does raise the question of why they can’t get this rare seal at this specialty shop directly, but only the dragon.

      • dsotm says:

        well if someone has seven seal beanie babies in their collection they would only trade it for seven dragons and if seals and dragons are cabalistically isomorphic then maybe they need to be of the same kind to prevent an abomination ?

        • Sniffnoy says:

          But again, why not get the seals from the shop?

          • dsotm says:

            maybe it doesn’t have seven ? maybe these are specific beanie baby seals who came to someone’s possession without them knowing their purpose and are only willing to trade them for seven dragons beanies ?

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Following Anders’s lead, a seal Beanie Baby would be either Iceberg or Icy.

      Hm — Iceberg is retired; Dwynen is not. That could answer my question, actually; even if rare, Dwynen should still be easier to find than Iceberg. That does however raise the question of why it has to be Iceberg and not Icy (who is not retired).

  9. Vadim Kosoy says:

    I *love* this book, but my suspension of disbelief is somewhat broken by the fact Aaron and Ana don’t even consider the hypotheses that

    a. Nobody sent Sarah to Ana, Sarah is operating under her own agency.

    b. Aaron did not forget the Name, something else prevented him from using it.

    I mean, I don’t know whether these hypotheses are *true* but it is hard to swallow that otherwise intelligent (if occasionally monumentally impulsive) characters would not even consider them. And, yes, I know that this is the book where a number can be put down for maintenance, but character behavior and worldbuilding are different ontological categories, and the absurdity of the latter is a large part of the fun whereas some sort of quasirealism is needed in the former since I still want to relate to the characters.

    • dsotm says:

      They do consider something like b. in chapter 7 and ampyrically test other names – in a world where numbers are taken down for maintance and placebomancy exists this is as good science as can be expected, as for a. – it is only an obvious hypothesis for singulatrians/lw-ers not cabalists/theodicists I guess

    • Sniffnoy says:

      I think it makes sense they don’t consider B more strongly; Names are a fairly usual thing in their world, and that sort of thing just doesn’t happen (as far as anyone knows, that is). It’s more surprising they haven’t considered A, given that, y’know, they gave Sarah a soul…

      • And besides, something that could make you remember a name wrong without realizing it could probably make you not think about the possibility that it had made you do it.
        (a) does bother me, though.

    • Ninmesara says:

      > a. Nobody sent Sarah to Ana, Sarah is operating under her own agency.

      This is only possible if Sarah has managed to boostrap herself into “infecting” other computers with souls, and created Name chanting botnets. There’s no way she would have found about about so many interesting names, plus some way of moving autonomously, all by herself in such a short amount of time. Again, something the characters should have considered.

      > b. Aaron did not forget the Name, something else prevented him from using it.

      I think this one is quite probable. That someone could have been Sarah, but how? Does she know a name that can block other names? If so, how did she discover it? The obvious candidate is the recursive bootstrapping using the Ensouling Name, but even if she might be able to eavesdrop on conversations around her, she could only have heard the name when Aaron was ensouling Bill. She’s never heard the name before. Maybe all she did was preemptively ensoul Bill, so that the name doesn’t work anymore on that particular computer. Maybe she was able to listen to the first syllables of the name and use error correcting algorithms to guess the last ones before Aaron said them?

      All said, I agree it is somewhat strange that none of the characters thought about the possibility of Sarah acting autonomously.

      • Psycho says:

        > There’s no way she would have found about about so many interesting names, plus some way of moving autonomously, all by herself in such a short amount of time.

        She only needs to get lucky once to find a name that allows her to move. Or maybe she found a name which allows her to find names faster. Or maybe she found a name that let her break into UNSONG’s databases and extract a great many useful names. Or maybe she discovered the Prescient Name, which allows her to chart a path through the future: hence the very specific instructions to Ana.

        I would not be surprised to find that the path to godhood follows a very, very exponential curve once you’re a little ways up it, and being a computer with a soul seems like it might be a nice headstart.

    • MugaSofer says:

      It’s worth noting that if their memories of the Name were locked off by some cosmic being, then they have no idea what to do and would have to give up. Aaron doesn’t like things that suggest he’d have to be normal again.

      (Well, he could break into his old work for the list of names he was given that day, but he hasn’t considered that.)

      If Sarah haa acquired godlike powers, this puts him in a similar position of powerlessness, except now it’s his own fault.

    • Desertopa says:

      I don’t think this is that weird. The ideas are a lot more available to us than they are to Aaron and Ana. We’ve been primed by context to expect a computer which vaults into superintelligence in this story. For all that Aaron is dispositionally similar to a lot of the reader base, he’s distinguished from most of us in that there’s no indication that he’s ever read or thought about intelligence explosions. There’s a lot of inferential distance between him and the conclusion that his computer might have become autonomous and sapient, and not just sapient but intelligent enough that it could be maneuvering above him.

      Besides, a lot less time has passed for the main characters than for us since the characters lost Sarah, and it’s been under much more stressful circumstances for them than it has for us. They haven’t had much uninterrupted time to think deeply about it.

  10. Aran says:

    I’d asked Jane why she carried a gag and handcuffs with her in her luggage, and she hadn’t answered.

    Are you sure you want to know?

  11. Sniffnoy says:

    This chapter seems to (indirectly) confirm that Ana did send Aaron the Spectral Name. Interesting. I really thought it wasn’t her.

    • Chrysophylax says:

      I don’t think it does. We know only that Ana didn’t comment on Aaron saying that she learned a Name. The is Bayesian evidence for Aaron having received the Spectral Name from her, but it’s entirely possible she’s wrong about how he got it. She might have tried to communicate and failed, or might be reasoning that he must have picked the Name up through a mysterious kabbalistic marriage thing, or even just have failed to notice the problem yet.

      • Sniffnoy says:

        No, that’s not all we know. We know Ana didn’t bother sending him the Spectral name along with the other two. Also, Ana not only doesn’t comment on Aaron saying that she learned a name — she doesn’t comment on the whole “Aaron learning the Spectral Name” aspect of the memories he relayed to her.

    • Ninmesara says:

      After the “is it or isn’t it” back and forth saga of Sohu’s family connections to the Comet King, which dragged for weeks and was finally revealed in the comment section by the Author itself (the lowest point in an otherwise good book) I don’t know what to think about these indirect confirmations anymore. I’m quite undecided on this one; I ultimately believe Ana didn’t send it – too much Deus ex machina. It is far more likely to have come from somewhere else, like from a literal god from the machine, or raziel or whatever.

      • Éowyn says:

        Okay, I was pretty firmly in the “Sarah is sentient now” camp, but after reading this comment I’m (at least temporarily) convinced that Ana’s right and it’s actually God, just for the sake of the ultimate ‘deus ex machina’ pun.

      • Aaron says:

        What precisely did Scott say to confirm Sohu is related to the Commet King?

  12. I do wonder why Aaron put the bottle back on the mini-bar instead of just keeping it with him. He’d already taken it without Jane getting suspicious, and she seems careless enough so that there wouldn’t be too much risk of her figuring it out – probably less than of it turning out that he should have given her the dragon after all.

  13. 4bpp says:

    Not being familiar with the dragon plushies referenced, should I think of them as being similar to these?

  14. teucer says:

    Prediction: there being eight dragons soon instead of the intended seven will be kabbalistically relevant. (Fuck if I know how, though!)

    • Sniffnoy says:

      Seven are the days in the week. Eight are the days until circumcision…

    • Yair Morgenstern says:

      The Maharal states that Seven is the soul, the inner part of yhe cube that sustains the other six sides, making it the completion of nature, or ‘nature with purpose’. Eight is adding a fourth dimension on top of our 3, making 8 the first number above nature.
      Which is why there are 7 sfirot in our world, but tbe last 3 are those that are beyond us.
      Basically, if she planned on summoning something merely supernatural, but ends up witb something on a higher plane of existence…yeah, probably relevant =)

  15. stanislaus says:

    Just chiming in to note that I really like Unsong.

  16. hnau says:

    I predict that hiding the dragon will turn out to be a Bad Idea on Aaron’s part. Jane seemed friendly and reasonable (OK, a bit paranoid, but that’s probably smart of her) until she noticed that the dragon was missing. Also, Aaron made his decision for selfish emotional reasons, which usually isn’t a good sign.

    Then there’s the Apple-Ade. I can’t find any real drink with that name, which makes me think it was chosen for kabbalistic reasons. Seems likely that storing the seventh dragon inside of it will have unintended consequences. Maybe the seventh dragon is now Aaron’s secret in a kabbalistic sense as well as a literal sense, since he’s hiding it in his container of Knowledge.

    • Lambert says:

      I presume it follows the convention of x-ade being carbonated x juice. Only ever seen it sold under the brand name ‘Appletiser’, but I see no reason to not sell an own-brand version as apple-ade.

  17. Jack V says:

    Huh. It never occurred to me they were ACTUAL beanie-babies. I assumed they were some mystical statues or something, but Aaron was being sarcastic in saying “beanie-babies” because he couldn’t see why they were useful.

    I also have a really bad feeling about hiding the dragon. Maybe it will turn out well, and it’s true, his logic is plausible. But she has the canoe and the kaballah so she probably IS comet spawn, and whatever she’s doing, even if dodgy, is probably better than the alternative…

  18. Quixote says:

    Another great chapter! Thanks

    Hiding the dragon seems like a bad bad idea.

  19. Ninmesara says:

    [Originally posted on a different chapter by mistake]

    Something happened that gave humans superpowers (Divine Names), hints that someone knows the future (“ABSOLUTELY NOTHING WILL GO WRONG”), entropy taking over the universe (the divine light is running out), people who want to talk to God (those who board All your Heart/Not a Metaphor). We’ve been here before. Shoo out those sissy wissy Jewish nerds, BRUTE STRENGTH IS THE ANSWER.

  20. Good Burning Plastic says:

    I poured the Apple-Ade down the sink, stuffed the seventh Beanie Baby into the bottle, then put it back on to the bar.

    This is the most I’ve cringed so far reading this book, even more than when Aaron tried fighting UNSONG with Names in Chapter 10.

    I mean, I know Aaron is just 22, but seriously, WTF?

  21. Good Burning Plastic says:

    I still had a gag in my mouth to prevent me from speaking any Names,

    Clearly Aaron should devise a klipah enabling him to use Names via humming.

  22. EmGo says:

    I believe

    I could hear her opening and slamming the colors.

    Is a typo. Intriguing if it isn’t, though.

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