As Part 3 of Against the Day opens, we find the Chums of Chance aboard subdesertine frigate Saksaul under the command of Captain Toadflax. They’re searching for the lost city of Shambhala. The Chums learn that Iceland spar allows them to use the Sfiuncino Itinerary as a map. They can go inside the map where the distances are marked in the dimension of time. Along the way, they stop at the city of Nuevo Rialto, where they encounter sand fleas the size of camels. The chums also learn that the lost city of Shambhala may not be the main objective of the Saksaul. It’s possible, they’re after oil instead of adventure.
We then return to Colorado briefly where Merle Rideout misses his daughter Dally. He begins a journey to places east and develops a fascination for movies. In particular, he’s caught up in how they manipulate time through the use of light. Meanwhile Frank Traverse has returned to the United States and is looking for his girlfriend Estrella in Nochechita. When he gets there, he has the feeling she’s in town, but somehow can’t see her. The reason Frank had left the United States is that he killed Sloat Fresno to avenge his father. Sloat’s partner, Deuce, who has married Frank’s sister Lake, is afraid of meeting the ghost of Webb Traverse. This fear forces him to admit his part in Webb’s murder to his wife.
We jump from Colorado to London and return to the adventures of the True Worshipers of the Ineffable Tetractys – the TWIT – along with Yashmeen Halfcourt and Lew Basignight. Yashmeen has been obsessed with Riemann’s Zeta Function decides to go to Göttingen. Her professor Renfrew wants her to be on the lookout for a professor called Werfner.
From here we join the steamship Stupendica where Dally Rideout is crossing the Atlantic with her mother Erlys Zombini. Kit Traverse is also there. When he and Dally meet, they remember their time in Colorado and they begin flirting with each other. Their romance is doomed as a result of the bilocation of this section’s title. The Stupendica is also the Battleship Emperor Maximillian with its own destiny. Kit finds himself working below decks on the Emperor Maximillian. After several adventures, he finds his way to Belgium. As Kit tries to figure out how he’s going to get to Göttingen, he is pegged as a nihilist outlaw. He begins to see that Belgium is a pawn of international affairs just as his home state of Colorado is.
The Chums of Chance are now in Brussels where handyman Miles Blundell encounters one of the Trespassers, who are voyagers through time. It’s pointed out that any study of time is ultimately a study of mortality. The Trespassers don’t voyage through time because of any technical knowhow. Rather they became time travelers when time was ripped open. The Chums hope the Trespassers might be able to help them find eternal youth, but Miles points out that the Trespassers don’t have that power.
Meanwhile, Kit Traverse falls in with a group of arms dealers while also falling in love with a woman named Umeki Tsurigane from Japan. The arms dealers realize the Chums’ airship, the Inconvenience is rarely seen. Only the Chums are seen and it seems to be a property of light. Umeki is working on using light as a weapon, splitting it into rays that are ordinary and extraordinary. Kit dreams about the weapon’s power, then tells Umeki about it. Ultimately, she leaves him to go to Japan.
Dally, aboard the Stupendica, arrived in Europe as expected and she travels with the Zombini family of performers across Europe. Eventually, she decides she must make her own way and asks to stay in Venice. Dally becomes associated with Hunter Penfallow, who we last saw associated with the Vormance Expedition in the last part. He tells her a story from the Gospel of Thomas that leads her to realize that one might find order when one expected chaos.
Back in London, private investigator Lew Basnight is put on the trail of an antique dealer named Lamont Replevin who supposedly has a map of the lost city of Shambhala. Lew is able to photograph it. Now, Kit Traverse and Yashmeen Halfcourt have converged in Göttingen. Kit’s funds from the millionaire Scarsdale Vibe are cut off, but Kit also realizes that Yashmeen has an incredible power. She can step outside of time itself. Yashmeen offers to help Kit find employment with TWIT. She also reveals that her father might be another person seeking the lost city of Shambhala. Kit meets with Yashmeen’s father and learns: “As for what lies beneath those sands, you’ve got your choice – either Shambhala, as close to the Heavenly City as Earth has known, or Baku and Johannesburg all over again, unexplored reserves of gold, oil, Plutonian wealth, and the prospect of creating yet another subhuman class of workers to extract it.”
In the United States, we follow Frank Traverse as he’s hired to run arms into Mexico. Frank begins to have dreams about his father Webb. At the same time, Frank’s brother Reef has been working as a dynamiter in Europe. He now knows that the millionaire Scarsdale Vibe is connected to his father’s murder and Reef feels compelled to hunt down Vibe. Reef ends up connecting with his brother Kit along with Yashmeen. Kit wants to go to Venice on Scarsdale Vibe’s trail. Kit and Reef attend a séance where the “speak” with their father, Webb, who tries to dissuade them from chasing down Scarsdale Vibe.
This part of the novel wraps up with Lew Basnight in London. He thinks he runs into Professor Renfrew, but it turns out it’s Professor Werfner. After consulting with his friends Nigel and Neville, Lew realizes Renfrew and Werfner are the same person, somehow separated through bilocation.
Keeping track of all these plot threads is definitely a challenge, but it helps to focus on the thematic threads. The Traverse brothers are seeking justice for their father, but justice may find itself tied to international politics. There’s the quest for Shambhala, which might be a quest through time as much as through space. There’s also the very notion of “bilocation.” People and places that may be two things at once, each with different fates. As Dally discovered in Venice, the world appears to be in chaos, but we may find order yet. In part 4, we’ll literally turn “Against the Day.”
As I’ve noted before, I see echoes of Pynchon’s steampunk experiment in my own writing. I see the exploration of the Wild West. I see the worldwide saga and I appreciate Pynchon’s fascination with math and science. To learn more about my steampunk saga, visit: http://davidleesummers.com/books.html#clockwork_legion