A selection of my favourite passages from the book
• ‘We are all arbitrary children of calamity,’ he said in his academic voice. ‘We have to take the leavings.’
• chaos is the opposite pole of boredom,
• When they finally destroy us, if they finally destroy us, they’ll destroy their own means of living so I do not think they will destroy us. I think an equilibrium will be maintained. But the Soldiers would like to destroy them, for Soldiers need to be victorious, and if the Barbarians are destroyed, who will we then be able to blame for the bad things?’
• there was nothing but custom to keep her in the village and nothing she wanted to take away with her; not a single one of all those things she had once possessively marked with her name now seemed to belong to her. She had wanted to rescue him but found she was accepting his offer to rescue her.
• She loved nobody in this place but beyond it lay the end of all known things and certain desolation.
• after the sun penetrated the branches, the trees acquired flesh from the darkness and, as the sky grew light, she saw nothing that was not green or else covered with flowers. Plants she could not name thrust luscious spires towards her hands; great chestnuts fantastically turreted with greenish bloom arched above her head; the curded white blossom of hawthorn closed every surrounding perspective and a running tangle of little roses went in and out, this way and that way, through the leafy undergrowth.
• Tangled in briars, she called out to the young man but he did not hear her for the forest seemed to merge into an element heavier than air, which drowned her voice.
• Her head ached with the viridian dazzle of the sunlit forest.
• the Barbarians did not segment their existence into hours nor even morning, afternoon and evening but left it raw in original shapes of light and darkness so the day was a featureless block of action and night of oblivion.
• perhaps chaos is even more boring than order.
• In daylight or firelight, she saw him in two dimensions, flat and effectless.
• Creation from the void is more difficult than it would seem.
• ‘The more choices one has, the larger the world grows.’
• They all sat so perfectly without movement it was as if the night supported itself upon the pillars of their stillness and nobody dared move.
• When she glanced at him, he looked as insubstantial as if cut from paper.
• ‘If the lion could speak, we would not understand it,’ said Donally.
• I could make you so terrifying the bends of the road would straighten out with fright as you rode down. I’ll make you a politician and you could become the King of all the Yahoos and all the Professors, too; they need a myth as passionately as anyone else, they need a hero.
• Since he reconstructed the world solely in terms of imagery, she found it hard to understand him.
A selection of my favourite passages from the book
• The beauty of it cannot be understood, either, and when you see beauty in desolation it changes something inside you. Desolation tries to colonize you
• Nothing that lived and breathed was truly objective—even in a vacuum, even if all that possessed the brain was a self-immolating desire for the truth.
• As if somehow the blankness of the walls fed off of silence, and that something might appear in the spaces between our words if we were not careful.
• It was entirely in keeping with his personality to become set on something and follow it, regardless of the consequences. To let an impulse become a compulsion, especially if he thought he was contributing to a cause greater than himself.
• I didn’t cultivate friends, I had just inherited them from my husband.
• As I left the landing, I had the peculiar thought that I was not the first to pocket the photo, that someone would always come behind to replace it, to circle the lighthouse keeper again.
• That’s how the madness of the world tries to colonize you: from the outside in, forcing you to live in its reality.
• Observation had always meant more to me than interaction.
• Cheap motels for vacations by the beach where Mom would cry at the end because we had to go back to the normal strapped-for-cash life, even though we’d never really left it. That sense of impending doom occupying the car.
• Death, as I was beginning to understand it, was not the same thing here as back across the border.
• I felt as if I were stuck between two futures, even though I had already made the decision to live in one of them. Now it was just me.
• All that time, I discovered later from thrash marks in the grass, I wasn’t frozen at all: I was spasming and twitching in the dirt like a worm, some distant part of me still experiencing the agony, trying to die because of it, even though the brightness wouldn’t let that happen.
• The dirt and grit of a city, the unending wakefulness of it, the crowdedness, the constant light obscuring the stars, the omnipresent gasoline fumes, the thousand ways it presaged our destruction … none of these things appealed to me.
• The individual details chronicled by the journals might tell stories of heroism or cowardice, of good decisions and bad decisions, but ultimately they spoke to a kind of inevitability.
• the blue-green light was like nothing I had experienced before. It surged out, blinding and bleeding and thick and layered and absorbing.
• A complex, unique, intricate, awe-inspiring, dangerous organism. It might be inexplicable. It might be beyond the limits of my senses to capture—or my science or my intellect—but I still believed I was in the presence of some kind of living creature, one that practiced mimicry using my own thoughts. For even then, I believed that it might be pulling these different impressions of itself from my mind and projecting them back at me, as a form of camouflage. To thwart the biologist in me, to frustrate the logic left in me.
• What do I believe manifested? Think of it as a thorn, perhaps, a long, thick thorn so large it is buried deep in the side of the world. Injecting itself into the world. Emanating from this giant thorn is an endless, perhaps automatic, need to assimilate and to mimic. Assimilator and assimilated interact through the catalyst of a script of words, which powers the engine of transformation. Perhaps it is a creature living in perfect symbiosis with a host of other creatures.