I just finished listening to your second part of V.R.T and below are my thoughts regarding part I & II.
We have Karel Capek's epigram at the start of this novella, and does Wolfe wants us to think more than the short story which he has provided to us ? Because I am reading Capek's "War with newts", and although it is not similar to fifth head but, in that book humanity discovers a new species, but due to selfish and shortsightedness of humans, as well as their behavior to use anything and everything for their own purpose, they ignore the long term consequences of such discovery. While in fifth head we have a group of natives, who have completely become extinct on their home planet, and humans just don't care as to why and how did this happen.
The slave is described to us as having high shoulders with sharp chin, and a shock of black hair, the same description which we get from Dr Hagsmith of how the abos looked like he says specifically that "They looked like people but with color of stones and great shocks of wild hair."
The officer seems like an peculiar case to me because he does not give a damn about the way he carrying out this investigation, because depending on his judgement a person's life is to be forfeit. Also he has a bias towards people having good handwriting skills, because he immediately discards V.R.T 's composition book and considers him a savage due to his poor writing.
Also the composition book of V.R.T starts with him seeing a skull shrike bird, and I think the bird has caught it's prey, if only we could get more from the composition book, we could get
more background details regarding V.R.T.
The initial entry in the diary of Marsch gives us mention about some explorer who went farther south, and are supposed to have reported signal drumming on standing trunks of hollow trees.
What made me curious here is how can we have a tree which has an hollow trunk ?
Marsch does not seem happy at all with Saint Anne, as he thinks that it a back of civilization, also he does not like the climate because he feels hot and humid in it. There is also some quality about the light on Saint Anne which makes you imagine things, and question your sanity. We also discover that the tide which Saint Croix causes completely changes the environment on Saint Anne, for the time the tide is active, and once it resides the planet goes back to a rotting state.
Marsch writes in his diary that "To this indigenous people, human kind and technological culture must have proved more toxic than to any aboriginal group in the history."
From this it can be surmised if a A Story is to believed that the abos were sentient race which were present on Saint Anne, and they took fantastic shapes of nature. They did have consciousness and communicated with each other in some form of telepathy.
Then they encountered humans, and starting adopting human shape along with their culture and religion, but they did not try to understand the reason behind the things which they were adopting.
Due to such imitation they not only lost their identity, but as number five dreams, they have been stuck on a ship which is heading no where.
Then we have the interviews he conducts
"Our men just took land or stock or whatever they wanted." - Mary Blount
"They looked sometimes like a man, sometimes like wood." - M. Culot
"Oh. it's quite unlucky to see one." - Dr. Hagsmith
"You can find them at the wharves,or at their sacred places" - Dr. Hagsmith
"The wife use to steal with abo part." - Dr Hagsmith
"No not really human, you see, the abos can't handle any sort of tool." - Dar Hagsmith
Although Marsch makes a lot of assumptions about the natives by comparing them to earth like caucasoid pygmies, or terming his own term for the natives namely by calling them Annese in every interview, but there are few points which I think we can summarize from these interviews.
The early french settlers have at least tried to come in contact with the natives, and how exactly this contact happened or what did they discover exactly has been lost in the war.
The english speaking people haven't tried from their end to find the natives and whatever research the french have done, they consider it a fable.
Also the english speaking people term the abos as thieves, and have ruthlessly murdered them without even seeing that they are killing children. Also what can be said about the governance on Saint Anne during the english speaking days, when someone murders three children, but isn't even convicted.
Also Marsch's trial is done in a military court I think because an officer in the military is going through all the evidence. So basically the planets of Saint Anne & Saint Croix seem to be under military rule.
Also why was the war fought between the french and english in the first place ? because the planet of Saint Anne seems to be mostly covered in marshes, while Saint Croix is mostly made up of water, there is nothing precious natural resources found here, but still a bloody war was fought.
There seems to be two species of abos because one sighting is that of natives having human like features, and other sightings is that of natives looking like a tree.
Also if Hagsmith is to be believed the natives tried to escape from the planet, that's why they designed the test to shovel some dirt, this exact test is the officer subject to, when the brother officer asks him whether he is going to come to spade tomorrow ?
I think from the second part we come to know why exactly Marsch landed here fresh from college, he wants to make reputation of himself here by discovering the Annese, by which he will be able to establish himself in the field, and get some good college to teach in.
But his methods are all bookish, not only he sets out on the expedition in just a month, but he trusts information from a drifter Trenchard, who will say anything for s few sols,
Trenchard even shows him an annese temple near the docks.
Also Marsch's understanding of philosophical anthropology is to go in the wild in search of native people shoot anything and everything in sight, discover the natives and become famous.
V.R.T is an interesting character because he seems to have lived in woods if he is to be believed with his mother, he has also seen elk men, gods traveling on logs, and traveling trees, I think he is not able to tell clearly in english what he wants to convey.
He also seems to be good at tracking, and using tools, and that partially quashes the assumption that abos can't use tools, because he believes that he is half abo. Also he seems reluctant to learn to use an gun.
I think his most interesting statement is that he calls the abos the free people.
Also we have encountered four cats
- A cat in epigram
- A cat mentioned by M Culot
- The graveyard cat
- The cat which is following Marsch