This page shall describe how the chapter summaries and volume recaps are to proceed. Please note that due to various constraints (not to mention the sheer richness of the text that is Ravages), the forthcoming analyses might not be that comprehensive or incisive. For that this blogger can only apologize and rely on the more astute readers as well as the more carefully crafted writings.
Each chapter will be looked at from four ‘lenses’, in the following order: PLOT; SCHEME; PROP; and THEME. The first portion outlines the actions and events depicted in the chapter, at the ‘present time’ of the story. The second portion presents and unpacks the various ruses and stratagems, tactics and strategies that are mobilized or mentioned in the chapter, whether in the ‘present time’ or as flashbacks. The third portion takes note of rhetorical devices, literary techniques, allusions, and symbolism that are woven into the chapter – this would of course include flashback scenes and dream sequences (and the black text featured the end of each chapter in volume compilations, whenever available in the scanlation). The fourth portion explores possible topics and issues that are either explicitly raised in the chapter, or connected and thought about by this blogger. Going beyond – and placed after – the four lenses would be the PLUS section, containing whatever more personalized comments I have on the chapter.
Now one feature of this method would be that it tries to highlight the complexity of the series by dividing the chapter summary into distinct (though overlapping) conceptual layers. However, this comes at the cost of deviating from the narrative flow set in the chapter. Moreover, given that different chapters feature different scenes, it is also likely that the lenses would vary in length… for example, an action-heavy chapter would have long PLOT but perhaps shorter entries in other layers, while a chapter consisting mostly of flashbacks would have an extended PROP section. In any case, this should hopefully encourage prospective readers who will have stumbled upon this blog to go through the Ravages reading experience themselves.
As for the volume recaps, the plan is to simply give one-sentence descriptions of the chapters contained in the volume, plus a few additional remarks. I originally thought about a strict protocol where each volume recap follows from the summary of the last chapter of the volume concerned, but I realize that I am slow (and unmotivated) in writing those summaries, even as I keep skimming through the chapters.
The chapters and volumes can be further compiled into much bigger chunks. This blog shall not deal with how the special or limited edition volumes work (they seem to bundle two normal volumes as one volume), but there are a few more groupings that may be touched upon. On the one hand, there are what may be called ‘arcs’, usually concerning campaigns or main characters. While there is a more or less ‘canonical’ grouping (found in a guidebook for the first 40 volumes, for instance) or perhaps a ‘dominant’ grouping agreed upon by Chinese fans, this blog shall slightly depart from them and feature a reordered list of arcs. On the other hand, arcs in turn can be seen as parts of a character-centered ‘act’, and this is where the partitioning becomes more idiosyncratic. Yet another manner of grouping the volumes and arcs would be in terms of larger ‘sagas’ that are about key stages/events in the deterioration of the Han empire and the rise of the Three Kingdoms.
APPENDIX: GUIDE TO SOME STRATAGEMS
WORK IN PROGRESS