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Originally, I'd intended to put some sort of rambling entry in this space about Slaughterhouse Five (in honor of the day an assasin fired a laser rifle through Billy's head, after which there was simply a peaceful violent hum; also the day the Allies put some serious effort into turning Dresden into a carbon smear, and did a pretty good job at both that and sparking discussion afterwards about how means and ends intersected) and similarities with portions of the WW2 arc of Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, but my muse has let me know that's simply not the way the moment's structured, so to speak. It had mostly to do with both books presenting time as a sort of immediate, all-at-once manifold, the former explicitly of course, the latter by Neal's use of present tense throughout while simultaneously jumping back and forth between World War 2 and late-90's IT Bubble timelines.

The similarity passage that really sparked the idea was a bit in the opening chapters of Crypto (which I've just recently started rereading, while the Baroque Cycle is relatively fresh in memory) of the Marines getting the hell out of China as the Japanese are starting to do a number on it. Said scene being a description of the very worst part of the crowd complicating the marines' departure being all the women with half-white babies, some in hysterics trying to wade into the marine clot, but the worst being the ones simply staring stoically for a last dead look at the departing daddy. The final sentence being a quiet clobbering one, about how they'd heard about what the Japanese were doing upriver at Nanking, and that very soon the only evidence that any particular pair of woman-and-child had ever even existed would be a really bad memory for some poor marine boy.

Reading that made me flash immediately to one of the most powerful bits in Slaughterhouse Five, that being a simple, clinical description of what the deal was with an iron maiden. Lined with spikes, doors to be shut slowly on the poor bastard inside, etc. There was a pair of spikes where the criminal's eyes would be. There was a drain in the bottom to let out all the blood. So it goes, in one of the best-timed uses of that device in the book.

Anyway, there would have been an entry about that, with more of a point that those scenes were in their respective books. And there might well be one later.

In the meantime, happy Billy Pilgrim day.
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February 2005

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