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Anathem - Ala

Suur Ala as depicted in Anathem Trailer

Suur Ala is a young member of the Decenarian (Tenner) math at the Concent of Saunt Edhar, part of Erasmas' crop, and around his age. A highly competent organizer and a close friend of Suur Tulia, she is an important, if often behind-the-scenes actor of the events in Anathem.

According to the audio book version, "Ala" is pronounced with a leading long "a" sound, similar to the "a" in "jay." (ie, "Ala" rhymes with "Jay-luh.")

Events of Anathem[]

At Eliger she joins the New Circle, a Procian chapter which often produces hierarchs; most of Erasmas' crop have her pegged as eventually becoming Warden Regulant.  Early on, Erasmas describes her as bossy—"the self-declared captain of the bell-ringing team"—and we see her confidence in action when she suggests to Grandsuur Tamura, who has gathered the whole crop in Saunt Grod's chalk-hall, that they move to a larger venue, a suggestion Tamura ignores. During Tamura's questioning about Saecular iconographies of avout, Ala must be given a reminder, then easily answers her question. Erasmas describes her as small and bony, but after kissing her, he calls her "the most beautiful girl in the concent."

Ala harbors a crush on Erasmas, which he does not discover until after Orolo is Thrown Back, although it is apparently well-known among the suurs in the concent. 

Despite Suur Ala's close friendship with Suur Tulia, Ala is not part of the group trying to discover why Orolo was Anathematized until she essentially forces her way in, first confronting Erasmas, Jesry, and Tulia in a field, then later waylaying Erasmas and Jesry at Shuf's Dowment. Erasmas accuses Ala of trying to score points with Suur Trestanas, the Warden Regulant, by finding something to report about him (and Jesry); after Erasmas threatens to storm out of the Day Gate if he's assigned more Chapters of the Book as punishment, he realizes that he has profoundly hurt Ala. After (a minimum of) four days, Erasmas makes amends by bringing Ala a bouquet of wildflowers to her while she is in the carillion with Tulia. He impresses her by asking her permission, and including one of the Eleven forbidden plants (Saunt Chandera's Bane) in the bouquet, which he had to carry up through the Regulant Court. Ala, in turn, impresses Erasmas by showing him that she and Tulia have turned the room into a camera obscura, meaning they can make daytime observations of the sun without blinding themselves. It is Ala who first notices the blue sparks coming through the camera obscura's pinprick; she and Erasmas stop what they were doing (kissing) and, tracing the sparks on a piece of paper with a pin, realize that whatever has been in polar orbit around Arbre is changing course. Ala notes the time (two o'clock) and the position of the sun on the paper. As they prepare to leave the camera obscura, Ala asks what they should do; Erasmas, for once managing to read between the lines, realizes that Ala is not talking about what is probably an alien ship orbiting Arbre, but instead their relationship. He proposes that they publish an Etrevenean Liaison, to which she agrees, and they set the date for the next day; this is the equivalent of going steady.

Before Ala and Erasmas can celebrate their aut and publish their liaison, all members of the concent are summoned to a Voco.  To the shock of everyone present, there are six names on the list, one being Orolo's, suggesting that the document was prepared before he was Thrown Back.  The others Evoked are: Jesry; Suur Bethula, a Hundreder of the Edharian order; Fraa Athaphrax, a Hundreder of the Edharian order; Fraa Goradan, a Tenner of the Edharian order; and Ala. Since Voco means that an avout never returns to their concent, Ala's Voco means that she and Erasmas both assume they will be separated forever. Ala slips Erasmas the map they made in the camera obscura as he kisses her farewell.  Later, before the summoning of the convox, Ala enters into a liaison—what kind is not specified, though it may be Tivian—with Jesry, despite his earlier declaration that "I don't have any affection for Ala, and I don't think she has any for me."

Like Erasmas, Tulia desperately misses Ala, though she is equally concerned for why her best friend was Evoked. Arsibalt suggests that it was "to organize a large number of people," which is precisely why Tulia is concerned.

After Erasmas arrives at the Convox, he discovers that Ala has been assigned to work organizing the various working groups, and even begun a secret working group made up only of avout who want to do more than simply talk.  Despite her youth, Ala becomes a vital link between the avout and the Saecular military, and is the primary organizer of the Antiswarm, in which all of the concents of Arbre disperse, and avout are assigned to "cells". She groups some of her closest friends—Erasmas' whole Provener team—as well as Fraa Jad, Sammann, and members of the Ringing Vale into Cell 317; Jules Verne Durand is a late addition. This is the team that will approach/assault the Daban Urnud. Ala calls her decision a "terrible choice," in the sense that Orolo made a terrible choice at Ecba: painful, but right. Each member of Cell 317 has his or her own support cell; Ala places her best friend, Tulia, at the head of Erasmas' support cell. Given Ala's sense of right and wrong, it is highly unlikely that she was aware that Cell 317 was "salted" with Everything Killers without their knowledge or consent.

After Cell 317's mission, it is Ala who greets Erasmas when he is brought out of cryo-sleep, and she unwittingly reveals to Erasmas the extent to which Fraa Jad (and possibly Fraa Loghodir) altered their Narrative when she "reminds" Erasmas that Fraa Jad did not survive the launch. She attributes Erasmas' "forgetting" Jad's death to shock. She also tells him about the Magisterium—the new political consensus on Arbre, in which avout are equal to Saeculars. Ala and Erasmas are able to spend nearly two hours together, but as soon as the peace treaty ceremony begins, she is once again extremely busy, only speaking to Erasmas to tell him to put on his earpiece, and suggesting that the Provener team members "sing something" as they carry the casket of Lise (Durand).

At the end, Ala is one of the founding members of Saunt Orolo's, which is largely populated by avout who were at Convox, although it also welcomes Saeculars. Other members of Erasmas' and Ala's crop have taken positions as Saunt Orolo's that conform to predictions made by their friends earlier: Arsibalt is apparently Primate, as he leads the auts (though he turns over wedding duties to Magister Sark and Fraa Paphlagon); Lio is apparently Warden Fendant, working with former members of the Ringing Vale to prepare the defenses in case of a Saecular attack. Ala, then, would likely be Warden Regulant—assuming that the Inquisition still exists, and has not been made redundant by the Magisteria. In a double ceremony, Erasmas' sib Cord marries her boyfriend, Yulassetar Crade, and Erasmas and Ala enter into a Perelithian Liaison, which is the equivalent of marriage.