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Literature / Conciencia y Voluntad

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La Plata, raining and bleeding

Conciencia y Voluntad is an independent novel by the writer Esteban Ruquet. It was published in Argentina in 2012 by Pixel Editores, a small publisher from La Plata city. The work has won the first prize from the Aurora Venturini award, and the prize money was used in order to publish it.

The plot revolves around the finding of the missing terrorist and political figure Franco Rocafirme by a young private eye in an Used Future, where the relatively minor city of La Plata has arised as a new Soft Empire after the sunking collapse of the modern civilization. Pablo Astoria, the private eye, is put in charge of this job by the old University professor Nicolás Pérez Aznar, an old friend of Rocafirme and also a major figure of the revolution.

The setting is placed in the year 2057 and revolves around the remains of the Western civilization, mixing the Noir genre and soft Science Fiction, and involves two cities: Ensenada and La Plata, now heavily changed by the wars and the climate changes. La Plata is now a sort of walled Crystal Spires and Togas citynote  that hides underneath an oppresive Empire around the control of the world sources of drinking water, after the fall of the old USA empire by his warmongery against half the world, the exhaustion of the oil and the fearsome climatic changes that made the coastal cities sunk. Ensenada is a misteriously non-sunked coastal city politically dependent on La Plata, though autonomous, where rain is omnipresent. Most of the main plot occurs in Ensenada, but the conclussion and major plot points happen in La Plata.

This work provides examples of:

     tropes from A to H 
  • The Ace: Franco Rocafirme is just like this. It's lampshaded that Augusto Dumont and Nicolás Pérez Aznar were Aces as well. And all the Eldar, in their own way.
  • Action Hero: Sort of Pablo Astoria. He ceirtanly knows how to handle a gun.
  • After the End: La Plata has taken the power after the colapse of the western civilization.
  • Author Avatar: Divided between two characters, Esteban Ruquet and Franco Rocafirme, now two old men.
  • Bad Future: Most of the actual Argentina goes through another military and civilian dictatorship little after his fall. Also, this is a bad future for coastal cities. And there is a past Third World War. However, the world isn't as awful as it could be.
  • Badass Pacifist: It's lampshaded that Esteban Ruquet was one. He even killed a politician figure, takes the blame and goes to jail, but cannot abide the remorses.
  • Battle in the Rain: Actually, two of them, Astoria vs. Homing, and Astoria vs. Rocafirme. And a shooting. And almost everything.
  • Berserk Button: For Pablo Astoria, threatening or punching a girl. For Rocafirme, naming Esteban Ruquet or the failure of his revolution.
  • Bolivian Army Ending: Augusto Dumont, the old University professor of Pablo Astoria, ended that way. And that was one of the main events that led Pablo to flee from La Plata.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: This is lampshaded many times.
  • The City: Both La Plata and Ensenada.
  • City Noir: Ensenada, the Ever Raining City in which a normal family has no place, takes this up to eleven and works as a counterpart of Crystal Spires and Togas La Plata.
  • Continuity Cameo: A mysterious figure that looks a lot like Lord Morpheus in his former incarnation. He appears in a train very similar to the one in the End Of The Worlds arc.
  • Damsel in Distress: Anita, at a certain point, though she isn't a defenseless girl at all.
  • Deliberately Monochrome: the illustrations are always black and white. With the only exception of the covers, that are also with a very downer palette. Even the pet cat is black, and the trenchcoat and hat of Astoria are white.
  • Downer Ending: Anita is dead. Nicolás is dead. Rocafirme is dead. Ruquet is dead. The revolution fails for being pacifist. Astoria fails to achieve money. And so on. At least, the epilogue is nice for the characters involved.
  • Dystopia: Played with all around the novel.
  • EMP: The main device for winning the war against the invading US armies in the Southern Cone. But this costed the destruction of Argentina as a country, and now several regions are independent from each other.
  • Expy: Physically, Astoria is an expy of John Constantine. But is more like a wannabe. Also, the Honky Tonk bar is a (voluntary) copy of the same bar in Get Backers, as the barman is a fan of the series.
  • Flooded Future World: The book takes place 20 Minutes into the Future, where runaway Global Warming has sunk all coastal cities — the walls around La Plata are partly to keep the waters at bay, and partly to provide cover against the roamers of the ruins of sunken Buenos Aires.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Both Astoria and Rocafirme use this awesome martial art: beat the crap out their enemies.

     tropes from K to Y 
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Cautiosly averted. In the final fight Nicolás Pérez Aznar chooses a katana to fight against Franco Rocafirme, who has a longsword, but it's easily overpowered by him. This could be atributed just to the fighters over the weapons.
  • La Résistance: Augusto Dumont and his followers. Also, many of the followers of Franco Rocafirme.
  • Loser Protagonist: Astoria gets laid only twice a year. despite his Love Interest, he still is a loser
  • Master Swordsman: Franco and Nicolás, and possibly Esteban Ruquet.
  • Mating Dance: Tango, of coursenote .
  • Meaningful Name: Word of God 'Pablo Astoria' is a hispanicization of 'Paul Auster', a primary source of inspiration for the novel. Additionally, 'Franco' (Frank) is a Spanish word for 'direct', 'sincere', and the last name of The Generalissimo of Spain during X Xth centurynote . 'Rocafirme' can be translated as 'Strongrock', and the character is the embodyment of the sheer willpower without concience in this novel. Also, 'Pérez Aznar' is a real family in this world, the same family that owns the (also real world) manor in La Plata in which he lives. The character itself, Nicolás, is based in an editor and comicbook critic from Argentina, Federico Musso (his mother's name is Pérez Aznar), one of the spelling and grammar editors of the novel.
  • Men Can't Keep House: partially straight with Astoria. But he does the effort when a girl is coming to visit.
  • Mind Screw: Tlönism, the main ideological justification for La Plata policies. Franco Rocafirme also is an embodiment of this.
  • Must Have Nicotine: Pablo could stand a little starvation. But he never, never, can stand without smoking.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: the immigration office for entering La Plata in Ensenada. At least until one shows connections with the Pérez Aznar family or some other important political figure, which automatically turns them in beleaguered or thoroughly Corrupt Bureaucrat.
  • Prison: Esteban Ruquet has been in jail and escaped a long time ago, for commiting a political murder.
  • Private Detective: Obviously, Astoria.
  • Rule of Cool:
    • Many new Platenses use swords now not because of their efficiency, but because it's cool. See the Final Fight with the Hocus Pocus soundtrack.
    • Also, Astoria smokes because it's cool.
    • Word of God Ensenada is an ever raining city by this rule exclusively.
  • Secret Police: There is a secret spy service that derived in the murdering of many intellectuals and the weaker opponents to the Eldar in the novel.
  • Sunken City: Buenos Aires and Berisso, near La Plata, and almost any major coastal city.
  • Super Serum: Lampshaded. Certainly, many old soldiers are dying of cancer due to the overdose of a certain drug that has given them advantage in the past battlefields. Not overly common nor a plot device whatsoever, though.
  • The Strategist: Astoria moves the tides to make the whole imperial city of La Plata tremble in fear. note .
  • State Sec: for the jobs that the Secret Police derives. They made public shootings of opposers.
  • Sword and Gun: More like a standard equipment here.
  • The Revolution Will Not Be Civilized: played with. It is the karma of Franco Rocafirme, who indeed tries to bring an almost Velvet Revolution, but fails miserabily. It's a bad move to give your own soldiers gum bullets
  • Trash of the Titans: Astoria only cleans his apartment when he thinks that he's gonna get laid: twice a year.
  • Trenchcoat Brigade: Pablo Astoria is an example of this. Lousely based on John Constantine, but with his own personality, his name is a "spanishification" of Paul Auster, if you don't believe in the Death of the Author.
  • Trenchcoat Warfare: the revolutionaries.
  • Trick Bullet: The revolutionaries of Franco Rocafirme use this trick twice: One with Rubber Bullets (failing) and one with paintballs (painted in red, but achieving the purpose of scaring the hell out of his enemies.)
  • 20 Minutes into the Future: Although a lot has changed in fifty years, a lot has remained the same. Or backwards. Depends on the Rule of Cool.
  • Underwater Ruins: Many of them, specially in Buenos Aires. There are squadrons dedicated to recover cultural artifacts from them, or at least for doing very good copies.
  • Used Future: Almost ANYTHING electronic is discarded in this future, as the main internet servers are offline and above tons of water. The other Internet part is broke by a massive hacking attack by Rocafirme and the Eldars note . The main electric devices are reconstructions of mid '50 devices.
  • Vice City: Ensenada. It's lampshaded that La Plata is this but subtletly.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: A lot. Franco Rocafirme, between the first
  • World War III: It happened in the past, and its effects, although vast, aren't as fierce as a nuclear warfare.