Monday, February 8, 2016

Monday Excerpt: Beneath Her Skin

Now Playing: Marcin Przybylowicz, Mikolai Stroinski, Percival - The Trail (The Witcher 3 OST)


Despite all the praise I've been giving this book, I've had trouble picking out a moment that truly encapsulated why the prose built on the atmosphere so well. Usually I remember a particular phrase or passage as it is written, but with this book, all I  remember are images. Vivid images. Which is not how I really remember books at all.

However, because it's how I remembered this book, I picked a scene that stood out to me. And I think part of the reason I remember it so much is because of its length--it goes on and on, in such close detail to draw out how agonizing the pain must be. It doesn't try to hold back in its brutality.

Major spoilers for the end of the book.

Close, the Wood-queen seemed even more strange, not quite alive; her lips were parted, but her breast didn't seem to rise and fall. She might have been carved from wood. Her skin had faint banded pattern of wood split lengthwise and smoothed, waves of light and dark. Sarkan opened the vial, and with one quick tip he poured the fire-heart directly between her lips, and then spilled the final dregs over her body. 
Her eyes flew open. The dress caught, the roots of the heart-tree caught, her hair caught, fire roaring around her like a cloud as Sarkan pulled me back. She screamed a hoarse, furious cry. Smoke and flame gouted out of her mouth, and bursts of fire were going off beneath her skin like orange stars flaring, in one part of her and another. She thrashed on the mound beneath the roots, the green grass charring swiftly away. Clouds of smoke billowed around her, over her. Within her I saw lungs, heart, liver, like shadows inside a burning house. The long tree roots crisped up, curling away, and she burst up from the mound. 
She faced us, burning like a log that had been on the fire a long time: her skin charred to black charcoal, cracking to show the orange flames beneath, pale ash blowing off her skin. Her hair was a torrent of flames wreathing her head. She screamed again, a red glow of fire in her throat, her tongue a black coal, and she didn't stop burning. Fire spurted from her in places, but skin like new bark closed over and even as the endless heat blackened the fresh skin once more, it healed again. She staggered forward, towards the pool. Watching in horror, I remembered the Summoning-vision and her bewilderment, her terror when she'd known she was trapped in stone. It wasn't simply that she was immortal unless slain. She hadn't known how to die at all.
- Uprooted by Naomi Novik

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"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
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