[W]as he wrong? Should he give himself up? Would he be able to tell everything he knew and dump the problem into the laps of others?
To give himself up would be an act of self-destruction. He would be confined, isolated. He would be prevented from doing the one thing he must do: seeking out new hosts for the alien micro-organisms that had made themselves such fundamental parts of his body. Their purpose was now his purpose, and their only purpose was to survive and multiply. All his increased strength, speed, coordination, and sensory ability was to keep him alive and mobile, able to find new hosts or beget them. Many hosts. Perhaps three out of four of those found would die, but that magical fourth was worth any amount of trouble.
The organisms were not intelligent. They could not tell him how to keep himself alive, free, and able to find new hosts. But they became intensely uncomfortable if he did not, and their discomfort was his discomfort. He might interpret what they made him feel as pleasure when he did was was necessary, desirable, essential: or as paon when he tried to do what was terrifying, self-destructive, impossible. But what he was actually feeling were secondhand advance-retreat responses of millions of tiny symbionts.
The woman touch him to get his attention. She had brought him a tray. He took it on his lap, trying, and in the final, driven instant, failing to return the woman’s kindness. He could not spare her. He scratched her wrist just hard enough to draw blood.
It’s hard for me to articulate how I feel about Clay’s Ark. Sandwiched in as the third of the Patternmaster series, Clay’s Ark feels dramatically different from the pacing and tone of Mind of My Mind and Wild Seed. In many ways, Clay’s Ark functions as a bridge to explain the events that lead to the creation of the Clayarks and their eventual war with the Patternists. There were no standout characters to wrestle with, in this one – the main thrust of the novel is the series of extraordinary circumstances that bring about the end of (a) world.
We’re a bit behind in the book club, so let’s call this one the “winter break” read. We’ll do a summary post in January, and then roll right into Patternmaster.