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Melissa_W
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TGWHD: A Sleeping Humpty Dumpty Beauty, The Mandalay Cure, A Flock of Geese, and The Greatest Love

Please use this thread for discussion of the fifth through eighth stories in The Girl Who Heard Dragons.
Melissa W.
I read and knit and dance. Compulsively feel yarn. Consume books. Darn tights. Drink too much caffiene. All that good stuff.
balletbookworm.blogspot.com
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dulcinea3
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A Sleeping Humpty Dumpty Beauty

This story is also set in the world of the Alliance vs. the Khalians.  I found it quite different from the previous story (Duty Calls).  In that story, there was more action, the conflict and the Khalians were described, etc.  In this one, we have a third- vs. a first-person narration, and it mostly takes place on a ship where we meet a doctor (Bardie Makem) who is nearing the end of her term, after which she will return home; other than the injuries that she treats, the war is not a main theme.  This was really a kind of romantic fairy-tale, as indicated by the title.  Bardie is a very skilled doctor, replacing organs and body parts and tending to the war wounded.  One unconscious man is brought in, and he is so handsome that her assistant nicknames him 'Sleeping Beauty'.  He is also a 'Humpty Dumpty' because there of his extensive wounds; he has to be put back together again.  His wounds are so bad that normally he would be disembodied (like the pilot on the previous story), but his records show that he has indicated that he does not want this, so they know he will be discharged once he is better.  Although Bardie does her usual magic, Roger O'Hara inexplicably remains asleep (although not comatose).  Bardie finds herself drawn to the handsome man, and when she inadvertantly touches his face and hair, he shows some signs of life, although he does not wake.  Later, she remembers his 'Sleeping Beauty' nickname, and kisses him, and he does wake up, but she does not see him again until she sees that he is on the same shuttle that she is going home on.  However, once they are on the way, she is called and told that he is asleep and won't wake up.  It turns out, though, that he is faking sleep so that she will be called to help, and he can get another kiss!

 

This was a really cute story.  I liked the fairy tale references, and the happy ending.

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Grand Dame of the Land of Oz, Duchess of Fantasia, in the Kingdom of Wordsmithonia; also, Poet Laureate of the Kingdom of Wordsmithonia
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dulcinea3
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The Mandalay Cure

This is the third and final story with the same setting as the previous two.  In this one, set on a ship called the Mandalay, Life Support Systems officer Amalfi Trotter is battling a bad odor on the ship.  She can't find the source, and the most likely theory is that it is due to fear among the battle-weary troops on board.  They are supposed to be heading for some R&R, but in a meeting of the officers, it turns out that they are heading back into battle, along with the rest of the Alliance's forces.  It is a mystery why, because the battle with the Khalians appears to be over, and the Alliance has won.  A colonel on board has a wife on the flagship, so he manages to find out from her the bad news: the Khalians have turned out not to be the main enemy; there is an even stronger enemy known as the Syndicate that they must now fight against.  They know that if the troops find out, or even notice that they are not going in the expected direction, there will be a lot of trouble - suicides, fights, etc.  Suddenly, Amalfi remembers a report she read about sleep and dream therapy.  They trick the troops into getting into their life-support gear by sounding alarms, and then pump a sleep-inducing gas into their quarters.  This is highly successful - the odor disappears, and by the time they reach their destination, the sleepers are in better shape and ready to go.  This technique (S&D - sleep and dreams, rather than R&R) is named 'the Mandaly Cure'.

 

I enjoyed this one, too.  Like the previous story, it wasn't so much about the war itself, but about the people involved in this one segment of the overall picture.

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Grand Dame of the Land of Oz, Duchess of Fantasia, in the Kingdom of Wordsmithonia; also, Poet Laureate of the Kingdom of Wordsmithonia
Distinguished Bibliophile
dulcinea3
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A Flock of Geese

This was an interesting one.  Chloe, a woman born in the 18th century, has been inadvertantly caught up in time travel.  She had been fleeing from some men, took refuge in a cave, and later experienced a time shift that left her in another time.  Since then, she has been in many time periods, some past and some future.  She also can tell when a shift is about to happen, and gets back in her cave in time; anything outside the cave remains behind.  Along the way, she has been collecting - people and their possessions.  Chloe is a dictator who treats the people she finds as slaves.  She keeps a tight control over their supplies, and makes them work for her.  If someone is not much use or gets a bit mutinous, she makes sure they are out on an errand during the next shift, so they are left behind.  But first she makes sure she has taken anything they have that is useful!  I was interested in the light described in the first paragraph; it is obviously a flashlight, and later an 'incredible pen that never needed to be dipped in ink' is mentioned.  She also manages to keep a lot of their clothing, and makes quilts from them (for her own use, of course).

 

I came to hate Chloe.  She is a petty tyrant and cares about nobody except herself.  She sees the people, as well as their possessions, as mere tools to help her survive.  I did wonder for a while if the time shift was only happening in the cave, and if she had never found it, everything would have been normal, but apparently one of the men she found in a future time knew about the shifts.  I also wondered why they were called 'survivors' - did people outside the cave die?  Why did she only find a few people here and there?  But apparently, the area in which she lived was sparsely populated until the 25th century.  As a matter of fact, before the shift that occurred in this story, she sent those that she wanted to set adrift towards a settlement that she knew was at some distance from her cave, knowing that they would find help there.  I did wish that they had found someone 'new' in the time they found themself, to see how she would gain control over them.  The title refers to the quilting pattern she is using for her latest quilt, and somehow it suddenly gives her a clue as to the pattern of time shifts, but we are not privy to what she figures out.

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Grand Dame of the Land of Oz, Duchess of Fantasia, in the Kingdom of Wordsmithonia; also, Poet Laureate of the Kingdom of Wordsmithonia
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dulcinea3
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The Greatest Love

There is a note at the beginning of this story that says it was written in 1956.  This is important, because what happens is commonplace to us today, but back then I imagine it was either unheard-of, or very rare, so probably would have been considered science fiction at the time.

 

This is a story about a surrogate mother.  Patricia Kellogg approaches Dr. Allison Craft with a startling proposal - she wants to carry a baby for her brother Peter and his wife Cecily.  This is something that Allison has been interested in for a long time - it has successfully been done in mice, cows, and sheep, and Allison experimented (unsucessfully) back in college.  Peter is a respected professor who was blinded in the Vietnam War, and he and his wife have long wanted a child.  But Cecily is unable to carry a child to term because of an abnormality of her uterus.  She keeps trying, however, always resulting in a miscarriage, and it is affecting her mentally.  Pat loves the couple so much that she wants to try this experimental technique.  Allison resumes her feline experiments, and is successful this time.  The procedures have to be kept secret, but Allison succeeds in removing the fertilized ovum from Cecily and implanting it in Pat.  Complicating things is Cecily's tyrannical mother, who doesn't much care for Peter and seems to be very investing in NOT becoming a grandmother.  She somehow finds out that Peter and Cecily are expecting, and confronts Allison about raising false hopes (assuming Cecily is currently carrying the child).  Allison does not give the secret away, and merely assures her that the pregnancy is proceeding normally.  When the baby is to be born, they go to a hospital in another area and Pat checks in under Cecily's name.  A surprise that Allison's examinations did not reveal is that there are twin girls!  Unfortunately, Cecily's mother finds them and announces to everybody in the hospital that the babies are the result of incest between Peter and Cecily.  The news precedes them home.  Pat is kicked out of her boarding house, fired from her job as a teacher, and Peter and Cecily are thrown out of their apartment.  Some people are ready to believe something slightly less damaging - that Pat is an unwed mother, and Peter and Cecily are adopting the children.  A local minister, however, has heard of surrogacy, and is sympathetic.  When the police arrive to arrest Peter and Pat for incest and adultery, the minister spirits the babies out the back to an unknown location (later revealed to be with some nuns).  A fraternity brother of Peter serves as their lawyer, and manages to prove by blood tests that the babies could not genetically be Pat's.  However, the final proof is when Mrs. Baxter takes the stand and the babies are brought out.  The judge immediately gives the proper verdict, and when Allison takes a good look at the babies and Mrs. Baxter, it is clear why - they look EXACTLY like her!

 

I liked this story, and its shock value when it was written.  However, I couldn't understand why they didn't just let the story about Pat being an unwed mother stand until they could prove it with the blood tests.  It seemed to me that there was really no need for Peter and Pat to be arrested for incest.

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Grand Dame of the Land of Oz, Duchess of Fantasia, in the Kingdom of Wordsmithonia; also, Poet Laureate of the Kingdom of Wordsmithonia