Unpacking a Crack in the World

At last Jeremy has reached The Ravine! I cannot believe how many twists and turns these characters have taken on their journey through The Inner Valleys. It’s been fun watching this world unfold, but I’m very glad to get to see what’s going on in the Senate.

Yesterday’s post almost didn’t get written. Between the family having the day off, painters working on our house, and an afternoon service project I was booked solid! Still, I desperately wanted to introduce The Ravine this week and managed to write most of the post late Monday night. The final third I wrote early Tuesday morning. Let’s unpack.

The Journey through the City

Once the guards begin proclaiming Walter as a Senator, people take notice and form a running celebratory crowd. This was set up deliberately by President Satal, who realized the more public Walter’s approach to the city the better. In fact, the display did cause Merkot to alter his plans, he had intended to have the guards drag Walter before him.

Interestingly, the delay in finishing this section led to a brief encounter being cut from the final draft. Originally, a Seeker “accidentally” bumped into Walter and secretly handed him an update from Tollen. As I slept it occurred to me this was an unnecessary bit of subterfuge and I decided to edit it out. Tollen will appear again soon, however.

Walter really doesn’t like the public attention Senator’s receive. This is one instance where Ama is wrong about her friend. Even she confuses Walter’s penchant for being near the center of things with a secret enjoyment of the spotlight. Yet again this is part of my own personality coming out in the story. My callings frequently have me near the center of things, or near when the “spotlight” happens to be pointed. Being in that position is not my natural instinct 1. I’d much rather hide in a corner.

President Satal

Satal took a political risk by appearing and ordering the First Run guards away. Command holds a great deal of sway when it comes to politics in The Ravine, and they are almost all loyal to Merkot.

Still, guards in The Ravine actually take their orders directly from the President of the Senate, and not Command. The decision to delay city guards irked the good president, which she saw as a dangerous precident. Prior to Merkot’s direct manipulation of city politics, Satal was more willing to allow things to play out. Once he began attacking her personal sphere of influence, however, she decided she couldn’t hold back any longer. This does reveal something about her character, she’s more than partly motivated by personal interest. Still, she does want what’s best of The Valleys and to do right by the people – it’s just that she’d like to do so while managing to hold on to her seat of power.

Hopefully, in this instance, these oft-conflicting impulses didn’t cause her to move to action too late to be of any good.

The Ravine

Basically, the main city of The Ravine is set up like a huge mall. It’s 2.5 miles long and roughly a half mile wide. The further south you go, the deeper it plunges. Where the party entered it’s seven stories deep. The Southern tip, where the Senate building is located, it’s twenty-three.

The city is, indeed, enclosed with the same crystal which envelopes Shelter. Um healers run a ventilation system which keeps air moving and fresh. The city has running water, a working sewer system, and is wonderfully climate controlled. It truly is a wonder of the world.

The design of The Ravine emerges from my time working at a mall when I was in high school. I was employed at a movie theatre, and often found myself walking through the service corridors of the facility. When I’d re-emerge into the main corridor it always made me think of the two different worlds which existed in that single space – an open air park with fountains and benches and leisure, and a grimy place of work and labor and garbage. I began to wonder what it would be like if the mall were buried deep underground and was actually the remnant of a vast civilization 2. These thoughts probably sprung from my memories of seeing Logan’s Run on TV, and almost formed the same framework explored in the book The City of Ember 3.

When it came time to imagine The Ravine, I revisited the idea of the “mall as a city.” Here, however, the residents of The Ravine never forgot about the surface world and are, in fact, very much part of it. Their ancestors may have been leery of being caught out in the open, but by the time this story takes place that era is long past.

We’ll explore some of The Ravine while the characters are in town. Ama needs to convene the heads of the healing orders, and we’ll spend some time seeing what’s up in the Senate before the party is off again. They will eventually be heading South, toward the end of this first book.


  1. Acting, teaching, and preaching don’t count. In all three I’m not the center of attention. When I’m acting I’m someone else, and it’s easy to make that person the center of attention. When I’m teaching and preaching it’s not me who is the center of attention, it’s the content. Specifically, when I’m preaching, the center of attention is on Jesus. 
  2. I was a weird kid. I’m still a weird adult. 
  3. Though I think the Ember series was bit uneven, it was very similar the world I imagined while working in the mall. 

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  1. First book? Will there be a second? Being weird is good.

    Sent from my iPad

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