This is a Constellation Games post. Spoilers up through like chapter 23, I think. And a little one from later than that.
Friends, Greenland is a place where souls go to dry out
It is a vast and terrifying place of ice fields and tundra
—Andrew Bird, “Dear Old Greenland”
It’s a giant ice sheet punctuated with muddy volcanoes, it plunges into darkness for months at a time, and it has a deliberately deceptive name that imputes verdant happiness to a vast, empty, terrifying desert of cold. It’s a pretty good metaphor for divorce.
I thought the Greenland Treaty got mentioned pretty often in Part Two, but I just went digging around in the archives and I am wrong—it’s introduced only through one line of Leonard’s patented sidelong exposition in chapter 17, and not really elaborated on, except that it allows for exit and entry visas again and that it gets signed right after Ariel’s difficult meeting with Her. Leonard did give the game away a bit in his chapter 17 commentary by connecting Ariel’s flirtation with Tammy to the Constellation’s offering more technology to Earth. The exchange and the treaty represent a slight warming of relations between the UN and the Constellation after the whole “stealing Antarctica” incident, but things are still a bit chilly. Both sides are hurt and pissed, and the one who really suffers is the kid.
Ariel ends up with one room (a spartan thing without any of his clothes or toys) and one group of friends who live near the cool parent, and another back on Mother Earth, who gets full custody. He pouts about it, then throws himself into a project, up until the Constellation sneaks through a port to kidnap him for a frightening but exhilarating night of bugs and friends reunited and sexual pair bonding.
Then the BEA shows up to literally break his home.
For people born in the twenty or so years before I was, the gradual introduction of no-fault divorce throughout the US was a shattering redefinition of how families worked and failed and recombined. For people born in the twenty or so years after me, like Ariel, it became almost a passage rite: if you didn’t expect it to happen to your parents, you knew that it was at least a possibility for your friends’. Ariel’s parents are still together and happy, actually—probably a spoiler!—so to put him through an equivalent amount of emotional damage requires something at a planetary scale.
There’s this big, dark, horrible cold thing trying to destroy him, but Ariel’s just trying to make a video game about growing up. It’s actually an adaptation of a foreign game, commonly referred to as a port.
“You know how you make a port?” said Fowler. “You have to use a black hole as a lathe.”