I just finished listening to the audible.com reading of this book… liked it, I accidentally spoiled myself for the ending slightly but I was still startled by it.
However, I have to admit that I was a little perplexed at how Niven completely left a big question unanswered that I expected to be referenced somehow near the end of the book… so, hoping that I’ve used up enough space, I’ll go into spoiler box to ask it:
(spoilers for ‘protector’, obviously:)
[spoiler]Okay, why exactly was Brennan/Vandervecken abducting people, wiping away their memories and then bribing them not to investigate it? Was it just because he was lonely for human company? Were they all ‘breeder’ descendants of his and it kept him hungry to be able to smell them?
I know that that theory makes sense, but it’s a little anticlimactic, especially given that the abductions are hardly mentioned after Alice and Roy land on Kobold, except for Roy mentioning that Brennan probably thinks they already know, and Brennan’s description of the technique he used to accomplish the memory wipe effect. I kept waiting for Roy to ask Brennan about it at the last moment, all through the space journey together, and then I kept waiting for Roy to say that he’d figured it out logically, after he was a protector and Brennan was dead. But there wasn’t anything.
I have to admit, I was kind of hoping for some more interesting explanation of that little maguffin. (big sigh)[/spoiler]
Anyone have anything that they can say to help??
Yeah, you’ve pretty much got it.
Protectors have to be physically “reminded”, every so often, of the existance of their family, otherwise they lose the desire to eat and die. He was kidnapping them to keep his will to live going.
Okay, let me play devil’s advocate here for a moment.
Phssthpok at the beginning didn’t ‘need’ to smell his descendants to keep going or keep eating… he didn’t have any, after all. He did stop eating every now and then, but always started again because the mission had allowed him to ‘adopt’ the lost colony of earth as his psychological children… and he couldn’t smell them either.
Okay, well Brennan has descendants, but he wasn’t insisting himself into constant contact with them and taking their part against immediate rivals, like a typical Pak protector. By and large, he was living by choice as a childless protector would, keeping his family safe only in terms of keeping the entire Sol system society safe, and ‘adopting’ some of the colonies as distant stepchildren as well, that he would protect if he could, as long as they didn’t interfere with the future of Earth or the Belt.
So… did he really need to smell his kinfolk? Or was it kind of like an almost-irresistable psychological addiction… something that he could withstand as long as he kept his willpower up, but nagged at him again and again because he COULD get to one of them, because he knew that he could bring somebody with him and cover his tracks, so he did it as infrequently as he could (because he might get discovered by mischance on each such expedition, or afterwards,) but didn’t quite have the mental discipline [hard to think of a Protector as lacking discipline I know] to avoid entirely??
I think you’re comparing apples and oranges:
[spoiler]The thing you have to remember, by the time that Brennan met Phssthpok, Phssthpok had been alive for some thousands of years, even with time dialation. He was old. Not old like Garner was old, but older than the pyramids, old. At that point Brennan, and the author, both make it clear that Phssthpok had accomplished his mission, in his eyes, and was ready to die.
The characterization of Phssthpok that’s more analogous to the Brennan-Monster’s tendency to kidnap his descendants is that of Phssthpok in the library back on the Pak homeworld, trying desperately to find some reason to stay alive once his last descendant made the transformation to Protector. He didn’t need to have his descendant around all the time to reassure his instincts, but he did need to know where she was, and presumably where he could visit her. Once she made the transformation, and he had no more breeders of his direct line to care for, he had to be able to make the emotional adjustment to wanting to protect a greater portion of the Pak race.
Similarly, the Brennan-Monster couldn’t visit anyone on Earth, nor in the belt - he’d be considered too much of a threat by the ARM and other government agencies. So, he had to kidnap his descendants - and then wipe their memories, to protect the secret of his existance. Likewise, Brennan was in a very unusual position - where Pak were programmed for almost constant war, he believed that absent some external threat the presence of more than one protector would be devastating to humanity. It’s possible had he no children he could have adopted the race at large, but with his children still alive (or their children), he was stuck with the emotional ‘hardwiring’ for needing to be reassured of his descendant’s health.
Similarly, even though the protector who had been Brennan’s descendant didn’t know the status of his own child - he could still stay alive because he felt that there was a threat of sufficient magnitude to all of humanity that needed his skills and abilities. [/spoiler]
okay OtakuLoki, that does make sense, though I still think the distinction I drew makes some sense. I was actually starting to wonder about something vaguely like the points you made after I submitted.
It still seems strange to leave the point implicit when it could have been spelled out… but then, I suppose it might have ruined the dynamic about…
Ray’s suspicions of why he had been brought on the interstellar flight, and Brennan’s odd confirmation, as he was dying, that he could have killed Ray, except that he knew Ray was his descendant.
It’s been very weird, coming to ‘protector’ after already listening to ‘ringworld’s children’, which has a big hefty dose of protector mythology in it already, though from quite a different perspective.