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Harman Storyline

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Harman Storyline

The Harman story is distinct from the other two story threads (at least within the context of Ilium) but for two points - the turin dramas showing the Trojan War, and the presence of Odysseus. While the effect of literature on the physics of reality is overt in the Hockenberry thread, in the Harman thread it takes more time to detect. The Harman story is influenced by two major literary works: Vladimir Nabokov's "Ada: or Ardor" (which guides the first half of the story), and Shakespeare's "The Tempest" (which guides the second half of the story). Robert Browning's "Caliban Upon Setebos" plays a central role in defining the Caliban character.

In the Nabokov book, much of the action takes places at Ardis Hall, where the predominant players are Ada and Van, who become lovers and later find that they are brother and sister. Their real father is Demon. There are two Earths in the book, and while one of the Earths are real, it is ambiguous as to whether it is Terra or Antiterra. Van writes a science fiction novel (Letters from Terra) about this alternate Earth where modernization and horrible wars took place in the 20th century - it later is made into a hit movie. It makes it clear that most of the populace of Earth lives out a decadent, self-serving life. As characters in Ilium, Ada, Daeman, and Ardis Hall are clearly derived from the Nabokov book. Although Harman becomes Ada's lover, it is unclear whether or not he represents Van, and if he does why his name is Harman. Likewise, Hannah seems to play the role of Lucette, Ada's sister (even uttering the identical question: "What are Jews?"), but again it is unclear whether Hannah directly represents Lucette.

"The Tempest" needs no introduction. The major characters which are derived from the play are Prospero, Caliban, Ariel, Sycorax, and Setebos (although Ariel, Sycorax, and Setebos remains offstage during Ilium). Major missing characters from the play are Miranda (Prospero's daughter) and Antonio (Prospero's brother).

Page numbers refer to the SFBC edition of Ilium.

  • Ardis Hills, Ardis Hall (p5) - Daeman faxes into Ardis Hall from Ulanbat (Mongolia?), revisiting for the first time in 10 years. He was invited to Harman's birthday celebration, but he has plans to seduce Ada. He is collector of butterflies. The age difference between Daeman and Ada suggests Nabokov's Lolita. His status as first cousin to Ada, and the associated incestual taboos come from Nabokov's Ada.
  • Ardis Hall (p24) - Harman reveals that he is 99 years old, and that he celebrates annual birthdays, not each Twenty as is traditional. We also learn that few people travel without the aids of the 317 known faxnodes (although Harman does). People live for 5 Twentys, Harman describes his recent 100 mile hike through a portion of the Atlantic Breach, an 80 yard wide path through the Atlantic from Philadelphia to Spain, created by two force-walls, allowing one to walk the floor of the Atlantic. First mention of Turins and Troy. After-dinner discusions reveal: there were Post-humans who watch ove humanity, but are now gone (presumably to the two Rings which encircle the Earth); Voynix were deactivated for some period of time, but are now active again; people once had access to a richer array of technology (reading functions, comm, geo-positioning, data access, self-fax), but no longer. Harman is the only man alive who can read. Harman and Ada are looking for a spaceship, and believe that Daeman can help.
  • Ardis (p57) - In the morning Ada and Daeman discuss jinkers - old time aircraft that have stopped working, and the post-humans keeping population levels to one million. Several guests engage in a Turin view of the happenings at Troy. In the evening the guests go out into the woods to perform a bronze casting - the first in at least a thousand years. Hannah forges a bronze cross. Daeman, who had walked into the nearby woods to relieve himself, is attacked and eaten by an allosaurus.
  • Paris Crater (p74) - Ada, Harman, and Hannah fax to Paris Crater where Daeman has been reconstructed. They view the thousand foot "Enormous Whore", as well as a temple to Apollo (which probably used to be Notre Dame). The crater is "bottomless". They meet Daeman's mother Marina (in Nabokov's book, Marina is Ada's mother). Harman notes strangeness of Voynix failure to protect Daeman. They discuss "the witch" with Daeman, who he met at last year's Burning Man, who claimed to have walked in; Hannah had attended as well. No one recalls the faxnode location, but Harman determines from clues that it must be one the Antarctic nodes. Ada and Harman surmise that the witch is Savi - The Wandering Jew, who missed the Final Fax 1400 years ago. They decode to fax to Antarctica in the morning. It becomes apparent that much of Earth's civilization has been devastated by unknown events, and that humankind is generally poorly educated. Ada and Harman close the evening with a turin scarf session.
  • The Dry Valley (117) - Ada, Harman, Hannah, and Daeman fax to the Dry Valley node, and apparently find nothing but cold wind. Later, Harman reveals that he saw the numbers 8849 written in cursive words, but didn't say anything because he was suspicious of the mechanical servitors there. Using the thermskins given them by the servitors at Dry Valley, they fax to node 8849, and find there is no pavillion there - no way to fax back. Harman determines that they are on Mount Erberus in Antarctica, in the home of the Wandering Jew. There they find a sonie (a flying machine). Kept alive by a forcefield bubble, the sonie flies them to a large iceberg, one of the homes of Savi (aka The Wandering Jew). She admits to leaving clues for Harman, but is fairly vague about why or how she knows of his movements. She briefly touches upon the disappearance of the post-humans, that the human population is more like three hundred thousand, and describes how 9,113 humans were faxed into something called the neutrino stream (The Final Fax), and never heard from again.
  • South Polar Sea (148) - Discussion with Savi continues. She tells the the 9113 were survivors of a pandemic - all Jews (Hannah asks "What are Jews?", exactly the question asked by Ada's sister Lucette in Nabokov's novel). She claims that all post-humans were women. They lived in the Rings, but occasionally came to Earth in the Mediterranean Basin - a fertile area of land created by damming Gibraltar. They fly to what was South America, and land on the north tower of the Golden Gate at Machu Picchu. Savi reveals that after the Fifth Twenty, humans are faxed to the Rings, but there are no post-humans there. At the top of the tower, they visit what appears to be a museum, and in the museum they meet Odysseus, son of Laertes.
  • Golden Gate at Machu Picchu (189) - Savi tells of how she discovered Odysseus three weeks ago in a cryotemporal sarcophagi on the bridge. Odysseus, Harman, and Ada go hunting Terror Birds for supper. During afterdiner discussion, Savi calls today's people eloi, after the people in H. G. Wells Time Machine. Savi asks Ada, Daeman, Hannah, and Harman to take Odysseus back to civilization (for three weeks). She also describes how their biological records are stored in the Logosphere, allowing them to be faxed, and that the final fax taken by one after their Final Twenty, probably just drops their data and faxes them nowhere. Savi claims that to fax or go anywhere near civilization would be fatal for her. She also claims that sonies won't work over the Mediterranean Basin. Harman and Ada sleep together.
  • Texas Redwood Forest (247, 269) - The crew take a sonie up to the isthimus, then northeast, stopping for lunch in a Texas Forest. After lunch, Odysseus tells the tale of his theft of the Palladion, which led to the downfall of Ilium. Hannah and Odysseus, and Harman and Ada walk off into the woods. Savi shows Daeman how to access some of the forgotten palm function, including farnet, proxnet, and allnet. Odysseus, while with Hannah tells her that his current sword was a gift from a "female" (it is later revealed that the sword comes from Circe - aka Sycorax), in a situation similar to that of the Lady of the Lake. It is not the sword use at Troy, but a piece of high technology, able to vibrate through solid masses. He received it some years after the war.
  • The Mediterranean Basin (307), Jerusalem (340), Jerusalem and the Mediterranean Basin (353), - Savi flys the crew to Ardis Hall, which is apparently located in Ohio (Ardis is greek for "the point of an arrow"). Upon arrival several Voynix ignore the humans, making a beeline for Odysseus with killing blades extended, who slays a Voynix with his vibrating sword. Daeman, tired of the insanity of the last two days, takes a Voynix to the nearest fax portal, then changes his mind. They fly east, staying overnight near the coast, then following the Atlantic Breach to Europe. Carefully skirting the Basin, they travel along the south rim to Jerusalem. She describes the Final Fax that took place there, and the tens of thousands of Voynix who came to live after two centuries of inactivity (arriving out of the "temporalclastic cloud"). They stop at a temple built by the Voynix at the time of the Final Fax and watch a shaft of blue light erupt upwards into space. Savi claims that her friends are in that light, that they were stored in a continuous neutrino loop, while the posts cleaned up the planet from a variety of experiments including quantum teleportation. The blue beam appears every Ninth of Av (The Ninth of Av is a day of mourning which commemorates the destruction of the first and second Temples, as well as the expulsion of the Jews from Spain). Savi thinks that the Earth passes into the beam once a year. A Voynix attacks Savi, who kills it with her flechette gun. She attempts to recall the sonie by remote, but large numbers of Voynix have disabled it. Then thousands of Voynix begin to hunt them. They make their way through underground tunnels, while the Voynix track them from above with proxnet. Using a crawler long before hidden away by Savi, they escape the city. At the edge of the Mediterranean Basin, their path is blocked by about 500 Voynix, and Savi plows through them. They do not follow into the Basin.
  • The Mediterranean Basin (376) - While driving into the Basin, the crew sees black metal crosses, each impaling a human body (Calibani). The crew stops for a potty break in the pouring rain. Daeman becomes disoriented in the corn field, eventually bumping into one of the mounted Calibani. After the crawler rescues Daeman, they park and eat, and Daeman shows Harman how to use the farnet function, who sees Odysseus lecturing at Ardis Hall. Daeman then shows Harman the allnet function, and Savi explains that the Internet was enhance with AI's which evolved into a planet-wide datasphere, which was then connected to the biosphere, and sprinkled with self-awareness, and then called itself Prospero, who named the sentient biosphere Ariel, who together created the Calibani. Then Savi goes off the deep end, describing her pact with Ariel, allowing them to cross the Basin in order to save the Earth.
  • Atlantis and Earth Orbit (401) - They continue towards Atlantis, being shadowed by calabani. Savi admits to only having been awake about 300 or her 1400 years, the rest spent in cryosleep. Their destination is about 300 miles west of Jerusalem. They examine an energy device after passing by Cyprus. While Savi has never made it to the rings yet, so does reveal that she has made this trip several times, always with 2 other eloi, all of whom died. They reach the city, and climb to a platform which has three chairs, which only operate when all three are occupied (explaining why she always came in threes). They use the chairs to ascend to the rings.
  • Equatorial Ring (419, 437, 457) - Savi, Harman, and Daeman are dropped into an orbiting asteroid city on the e-ring, and find that artificial gravity and some of the life support has failed; they survive via thermsuits and rebreathers. They find many mummified corpses, all female post-humans. They appear to have died of some type of savage wounds. They eventually locate the firmary, which has 1/10 gravity. They view bodies a set of tanks where bodies are repaired, but they also find a set of tanks where fresh bodies have been removed and killed, when they encounter Caliban. They flee from the firmary, only to be later caught by Caliban in a net. Caliban takes the three to his lair, in a scene which borrows both setting and bits of dialog from Robert Browning's Caliban Upon Setebos (particularly the phrase "the many-handed as a cuttlefish" oft-used in the sequel Olympos); in fact, the poem seemingly overtakes reality. While ranting lines from Browning's poem, Caliban infers that either Prospero or Setebos commanded him to kill the post-humans. He also links this story to Mahnmut's story by describing the zeks that place Prospero's stone likeness. He also describes the manipulation of Odysseus by Setebos and Prospero, and tells of Prospero calling for the robots to come to Mars (although not clear as to whether it was deliberate). Then Savi shoots Caliban with the flechette gun, just before Caliban kills her.
  • Ardis Hall (463) - Meanwhile at Ardis Hall, Hannah has reached her First Twenty and faxes up to the firmary. Much of the chapter is devoted to the teachings of Odysseus at Ardis Hall. When asked by Ada how much longer Odysseus intends to stay, he anwers "until the sky begins falling." Minutes later flames began to tumble from the sky. Clearly this chapter is a bit out of sync timewise from the rest of the Harman story, acting as a foreshadowing of events to take place on the e-ring.
  • The Equatorial Ring (476, 491, 499, 510, 523, 533) - After the departure of Caliban, Harman and Daeman retrieve their osmosis masks and the flechette gun, and leave Caliban's lair. They finally ermerge from the caverns two weeks later, subsisting on albino lizards. They explore the city for another two weeks, mostly looking for transportation down to the surface. After exploring all but the far end of the firmary and a dark kelp-filled corridor they have been avoiding, they decide to check out the corridor. At the end of the corridor they push through a semipermeable membrane into Prospero's chamber. Prospero is a projection of some sort, but reassures them that Caliban will not enter the chamber (and implies that Sycorax is alive, just not there). Prospero shows them the location of the sonie (outside the city), that Ariel released and programmed to fly up to the e-ring. Prospero tells them how to get to the sonie (through the firmary) and implies that they need to destroy the city (probably so that Caliban cannot escape). Prospero shows them how to control the fax nodes, to prevent new arrivals to the firmary and beam out the current residents once they're healed. Prospero also tells them that there are 3 more ateroid cities, but only one firmary. He then shows them how to use one of the orbiting linear accelerators as a weapon, and they program it to hit the city in 50 hours - 1 to get to the firmary, 48 to fax out the people currently in the firmary, and another hour to get to the sonie. The two reach the firmary and shutdown the incoming faxnodes. During the work Prospero acknowledges that Sycorax is alive, that Setebos and the Voynix were mistakenly "brought in from the dark". Caliban begins to interfere with the remaining bodies undergoing repair. Daeman and Harman find Hannah. Since she can't survive the trip to the sonie without a thermsuit, Harman stays with her, and Daeman goes to fetch the sonie. Caliban attacks him along the way. Daeman wrestles Caliban into open space, which debilitated Caliban enough for Daeman to get to the sonie. He flies the sonie into the city, picks up Harman and Hannah, and makes for Earth as the linear accelerator slams into the city. The millions of pieces of the city flame towards Earth.
  • Ardis (549) / Ardis Hall (560) - At Ardis Hall, everyone watches the flames for a while and then notice that the servitors have collapsed, and the voynix have disappeared. The sonie lands near Ardis Hall. Ada, noticing the serious injuries everyone has, suggests faxing them to the firmary. The turin cloths no longer work, although terristrial fax nodes do. Odysseus reveals that it was he and Savi who distributed the turin cloths, imported from "far away". Harman and Daeman are unsure as to whether they killed Prospero and Caliban or freed them. Daeman vows to free the 9000 from the Jerusalem blue light.

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