I hope everyone had a safe and wonderful New Year and that 2012 is filled with promise for you all. Today, we continue our read of Tanith Lee’s The Silver Metal Lover. For refreshing your memory or catching up, check parts one, two, three, four, five, and six.
Suffering from a fever, Jane goes out to find Silver after dolling herself up and feeling as though part of herself, the more spectacular Jain, is capable and blooming. She finds Silver in the all night market and surprises everyone when she joins in with his singing and helps him earn half their rent.
Reader Comments: This section felt like floating in that fever daze experienced during the flu and bad colds. It felt strange. I liked the actions of the section: Jane going out to find Silver and choosing to sing with him. However, I felt a bit disconnected, which was good in the sense that it was how Jane felt so Lee evoked her emotions well, but bad in the sense that I wasn’t as emotionally invested.
Writer Comments: Lee uses color and temperature to evoke contrast in the story and characters in this section. Jane puts on silver eyeshadow, suggesting she’s becoming more like Silver. Yet the rest of her coloring is stark: her pale hair and skin, her black mascara. Only her clothes, her peacock jacket that she puts on to protect her from the cold of the outside world, evoke splendor and rich color. In contrast, Silver, for all his artificiality, is rich with color: his auburn hair, his crimson cloak, and the words Lee uses to describe his warm, fiery voice. In this, she makes Jane more robotic or lifeless, even though Jane is more alive than ever before, and Silver more textured and bright than his human counterpart. These contrasts resemble the changes in the characters, as Silver grows more human, for example, and add another layer to the scene.
Silver takes Jane home. She apologizes for trying to force him to be human, and he confesses that he feels human and that he loves her, really loves her. Jane, for the first time, feels truly happy.
Reader Comments: I’m happy that Silver confessed his love, but isn’t this too soon? Lee ends the chapter with happiness as if it’s the end of the story, but it doesn’t feel quite done. The only reason I turned the page to read on was because I’d already gotten so far in the book and I knew something bad had to happen, surely.
Writer Comments: The general rule that I’ve heard from a number of writers, agents, and editors is that you should always try to end a chapter on a note that hooks the reader and makes them want to read the next chapter. This generally means that a chapter should not leave the characters fulfilled. Lee doesn’t do this here. I’m not sure why, but she certainly took a risk, for the story felt like it could have easily ended. I and other readers could have just put the book down and thought nothing more of it. Lee got away with it, perhaps because we know it can’t be that easy and we’re still holding nearly a hundred more unread pages in our hands, or maybe she was just lucky or the rest of the book was so great as to carry her anyway. But be very cautious about doing this in your own writing.
In this brief intro, Jane compares herself to a bright star that goes nova and is never seen again.
Reader Comments: Oh, dear. Well, there’s the bad coming.
Writer Comments: Lee may have ended the last chapter on a dangerously content note, but she certainly understands that she must swiftly reestablish conflict and doubt about the characters’ ability to succeed in the readers’ minds.
Jane starts the next chapter in obvious pain, so much so that her writing is faltering and comes in agonizing, forced passages, trying to convince herself that she must write what happened next. She describes her and Silver’s happiness and success, how their music sustained them and they began to run in the circles of other musicians. Winter takes a solid hold on the world, and Silver and Jane take to playing inside as much as possible. One of their favorite spots, Musicord-Ectrica, lets Silver play any instrument in their store and often treats them to dinners in the fancy restaurant above them. Life is good, but as they walk out of the building one night, across the street, a news show plays an interview that rocks Jane to her core and drives fear once more into her life. Electronic Metals Ltd., the company that made Silver, hosts an interview confessing how wrong they had been to try and create robots that could imitate a human. They show scenes of their robots, revealing how people really had nothing to fear because, up close, they are clearly not human. Besides that, they come with all sorts of flaws: a stiff walk, the inability to be creative or intuitive, and a tendency to short circuit. Jane instantly understands that E.M.’s interview is an attempt to allay the city’s fears and was undoubtedly forced upon them by the government. But such a wide broadcast showing the robots means that lots of people might realize Silver isn’t human. Perhaps worse, E.M. might be out looking for Silver to take him away and dismantle him like all their other Sophisticated Formats. Jane and Silver hide in their apartment for days until female hygiene forces Jane out. For two days, she walks the streets, and people only express regret at not seeing her and Silver out playing music. On the third day, Silver tells her to go out once more, and as long as nothing happens, he suspects it’s safe, that no one actually believes he’s a robot. Jane goes to the first place Silver played for money, and there, Jason and Medea show up and look at Jane with tight, ominous smiles.
Reader Comments: Whether E.M. or anyone else is looking for Silver, I’m 99% certain that Jason and Medea intend to cause Jane trouble, probably just to amuse themselves. They’ve certainly figured out that Silver is a robot, and all it would take is following Jane home.
Writer Comments: One of the things in this chapter, and in the whole book really, that struck me was that Lee does a great job showing natural, human thoughts and worries in Jane. As irrational as some of our fears might be, we still have them, like the fear that everyone knows the wrong you’ve done and condemns you for it. This makes Jane much more sympathetic.
Have a great week, everyone, and join me again Monday for the second to last section of our reading of The Silver Metal Lover by Tanith Lee. Also join me Wednesdays and Fridays for more forays into the speculative and the world of fiction.