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Thrilling Tales of the Downright Unusual
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Enlarge: Tallie knows the Clockwork Book is up to something

Tallie stood in front of the Book and gave it a Look. "You're up to something," she said. The Book blinked slowly.

They were alone again. Once the Book had inscribed the plans on a stack of thin steel sheets, Rosie couldn't wait to get to work. Tallie had made a withdrawal from the Book's contingency fund and paid a shocking amount for two CCAs. You could get a lot of tea for that money, she thought, because tea was the basic unit of the economy, as far as Tallie was concerned.

"It's not like I think it's any of my business," she lied, "but I think I can help you better if I know what's going on."

She was pleased when those very old gears of the Book's engaged, but did not squeak. Nice work there, she told herself. The Book just sat and spun its gears for a moment.

"As part of my function," it said carefully, "I am permitted to extend my machinery in certain ways. It might be that this is necessary to gain access to an unusual story, for example. In such cases I may trade information for services."

Tallie wasn't impressed. She knew all about the televideo screens: she knew, in fact, quite a lot about how the Book operated. She was the girl with the oil can. "Sure. And I guess that explains why you wanted me to get Rosie down here, which, in case I didn't mention it, is not exactly a job I enjoyed very much. At all." The Book didn't bother to reply since Tallie had already mentioned it, both before the fact, and afterwards.

"But why do you want a Chemical Communication Analyzer?" she demanded. "Why do you want that... other thing... Rosie's making for you? What are you up to?"

"Will you make some tea?" asked the Book. "You know I enjoy the steam. And then I will tell you a story." Tallie was working herself up to an explosion. "It will not explain everything," said the Book. "I am not permitted to tell you everything." One of its eyes slowly irised shut, and then opened again. "But it will tell you what I am able to tell you."

Tallie had never seen the Book wink before. After a moment she picked up the teapot and went over to the stove. "We'll just see," she sai

Reader Comments
There are 5 reader comments on this page.
rainycity1 says:
September 15th, 2011 at 9:01 pm

Whoa! I thought *this* was a story that The Book was telling Tallie! Guess we just didn’t get to hear that one? Or are we spiraling down into an infinite series of stories? Shades of Scheherazade!

Bradley W. Schenck says:
September 16th, 2011 at 10:51 am

We never get all meta here, with a story-within-a-story (except that the way I see it, everything here is being told in the Book’s voice, the way it retells the stories that people have traded). So I think maybe you got a little lost in one of the couple of places where the Book tells Tallie a story that we aren’t privy to.

But you do remind me of Robert Heinlein and Time Enough for Love. Last time I read that one I think I found myself three layers deep – Lazarus Long started to tell a story… within which, he told a story… within which, he told yet another story. It made me crazy. I kept paging back to figure out how many layers deep I really was. But of course like a lot of Heinlein’s characters, that man can surely go on and on and on.

rainycity1 says:
September 17th, 2011 at 8:06 pm

I usually don’t mind layered stories… I just follow which ever one is current until it ends and pops back up to the previous layer. It just surprised me when it looked like we were iterating again. Good to know this is just a common side amusement between The Book and Tallie.

Wow. Haven’t thought about Time Enough for Love in absolute ages. Wonder if I still have my copy? (Wonder if I can wade past the boxes to look on the book shelf that it might be on… it’s been quite a while and things accumulate.)

Bradley W. Schenck says:
September 19th, 2011 at 1:25 pm

I had a look back and I can tell where you became confused; it would be right after Gwen leaves, when the Book offers to tell Tallie a story and then we skip ahead to meet Rosie. It could be hard to see that you’re not in “story space” at that point. Maybe if I’m clever enough I can come up with some sort of visual cue when I lay out the print version.

But back to Time Enough for Love – I’ve read it several times because it was once my favorite Heinlein. But the first time I read it I managed to miss the last page; the next to last page seems like the ending, and I must have turned two pages when I finished it. That made it all the more interesting the next time I read the book because as it happens if you leave off that last page it’s really a very different book.

So there I was, the second time around, and I discovered that the book had a new ending. You don’t often get that kind of surprise when you’re re-reading!

rainycity1 says:
September 19th, 2011 at 11:05 pm

Oh, I *knew* right where I thought The Book was telling another story. My first thought was, “oh, he picked *this* one because Tallie’s in it”…

Maybe a different font for the stories (and each character could have their own voice/font… and… I’ll quit now.)

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