Further Notes on Ignota
A collection of notes and queries on ‘Seven Surrenders’ compiled by CAMESTROS FELAPTON, at the Request of Certain Parties, being a sequel of sorts to my previous notes.
Page numbers and text are from the 2017 Tor US hardback edition. Errors and typos are from me except where indicated. The notes are not authorised by the author or editorialised by the editor. I’m speculating people! Latin translations are often my best guess from Google translate or from the book itself – corrections welcome.
Notes are given in the order that I spotted something in a book. In some cases, a reference is later explained in the actual text of the book. In other cases, I’m guessing. In many cases, I have added further comments to an observation based on later information from the book. Note also, that my last set of notes contained some unwitting spoilers – i.e. unexplained references in the book which are then later explained by characters for plot purposes.
As many things in this book explain references in the previous book, there are fewer notes overall. I have also included some stray observations as things occur to me. ’TLtL’ will refer to ’Too Like the Lightning’
Character and author intent. Most of the book is narrated by Mycroft Canner, who is obsessed with Voltaire and the Enlightenment. To what extent are his references the intent of the character or that of the author? Obviously it is both, but in general, I’ll assume that it is Mycroft trying to say something if the reference is Mycroft and Palmer is trying to say something when it is a reference outside of Mycroft’s control. Likewise, with possible errors, I’ll assume these come from Mycroft as a character.
As with the original title page, this comes with a “Recommended – Anonymous”. In TLtL this looked like quirky humour: a book recommendation by nobody in particular. Here we now know that The Anonymous is one of the Hive societies most influential figures. His endorsement is important.
Page 7 List of Characters
Thank goodness! A great benefit for readers.
• ‘Ockham Prospero Saneer…Officer of Security’ – Prospero being the magician in Shakespeare’s The Tempest. Prospero manipulates events in the play by magic but at the end of the play, he abandons his magic to return to civilisation. As such he is similar too but contrasts with Marlowe’s Faust. As servants are relevant to the story, Prospero is aided by the spirit Ariel and served grudgingly by Caliban, the child of the witch Sycorax. And while we are on the topic of the Tempest, in Dan Simmon’s books Ilium & Olympus the stories of both the Iliad and The Tempest play a major role, as does the character of Odysseus who is somehow made real in an apparently (but not actually) future utopian society.
• ‘pentathlete’ – Aristotle declared that the athletes in the original pentathlon were the most beautiful because they needed to balance their skills between multiple sports. The original pentathlon was a range of sports based on the skills needed for a Greek soldier of the time and according to legend was invented by Jason when he was recruiting his argonauts. When the modern Olympics were started the ‘modern pentathlon’ was an updated form to match the skills needed for a 19th-century soldier and so included fencing, shooting and horse riding.
• ‘Felix Faust (Gordian)…a headmaster’ – ‘Faust’ being the character from German legend popularised by Christopher Marlowe in the play of the same name. His pursuit of secular knowledge leads him to damnation. More contemporaneously to the age of the Enlightenment, Faust was the subject of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s play-to-be-read Faust. Goethe doesn’t get a name check in the novels (that I recall) even though his lifetime overlaps with Voltaire and he was also a polymath – famous now for his writing but in his own time was a notable botanist. [I note also that Felix Faust is routinely referred to as ‘headmaster’, whereas the non-gendered term used in British schools is ‘headteacher’ and elsewhere in Anglophone countries ‘principal’.]
Page 11 Chapter the First: Nihil Obstet.
The chapter includes discussion of its title term which was covered in earlier notes.
• ‘…as It stopped Apollo’ – Mycroft has already revealed that he and Saladin murdered Apollo Mojave but in context, he appears to be referring to god or providence.
Page 12 Chapter the Second: Sniper’s Chapter
• ‘Assassins’ – a word that entered European languages via the crusades. The term was derived from a Persian word Hashshashin for the sect of Nizari Ismailis, a breakaway sect of Shia Islam. Active in Syria and nearby regions during the middle ages, the sect used guerrilla warfare tactics an assassination (obviously) to make up for their lack of an army.
• ‘Tyrant’ – originally a Greek term for a ruler, by the time of Plato the term had taken on some pejorative meanings implying somebody who rules without regard to the law. Diderot’s encyclopaedia defined the term as a person who rules according to their own passion in the place of law.
• ‘shorter because they stoop’ – again an implied servility from Mycroft but this time from Sniper.
• ‘as fresh at thirty-one as it was at seventeen’ – implying Mycroft was 31 either when this account was written or when Sniper first came to know Mycroft in his role as a servicer.
• ‘There’s a scarring on their upper lip’ – The parallels with Loki and Mycroft aren’t sustainable but this is a similarity. Loki was punished for his tricky on one occasion by having his lips sewn shut, leaving him with scars on his mouth.
• ‘Even in Hell they’re stunned to find an angel’ – Lucifer’s status as a fallen angel.
• ‘Democide’ – a term coined to mean killing (directly or via neglect) or large numbers of people by a state. The term was coined by political scientist Rudolph Rummel as a term to describe the deaths from Stalin’s purges and Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Apparently, he also wrote a set of time-travel books in which his heroes go back in time to stop communism.
• ‘Laconic’ – Laconia was the region of Greece that included Sparta whose inhabitants were known for being terse.
• ‘O.S.’ – Presumably ‘Officer of Security’ as listed but discussed in depth later in the book and an alternate derivation is given in the next chapter.
Page 16 – the named people are Julia Doria-Pamphili and Dominic Seneschal, I assume.
• ‘2442’ – limited edition Sniper dolls, the year I assume or it could be the number released. I don’t know if there is anything going on with the numbers that appear in these books but no harm in noting them.
• ‘A boy’ – Sniper as well as being non-binary when it comes to gender is also intersex and apparently has two kinds of genitalia. The term ‘hermaphrodite’ is one that people in the intersex community rightly object to because of its confused unscientific connotations and its stigmatising history. However, in the context of a book which makes repeated classical allusions and with connections between the Saneer-Weeksbooths and Heimdall/Mercury/Hermes there is an inevitable Greek myth reference to Hermaphroditus, the child of Hermes and Aphrodite here. Their story was recounted by Ovid in his Metamorphoses – a beautiful youth Hermaphroditus became the target of affection for a nymph Salmacis who attempted to seduce him. After he spurned her advances she caught hold of him and begged the gods to never let them be parted. The gods obliged and blended them into a single person who is both male and female. The character of Hermaphroditus could represent many things including marriage. In the alchemy of the early modern period of European history, they were also a symbol used to represent the rebis (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rebis ) or the outcome of a great work of alchemical transformation [Note: Palmer doesn’t use the term, so its inclusion here in the notes is from me.]
• ‘Athletes’ – Sniper is pentathlete and the Humanist Hive incorporated the Olympic movement. The original Greek to term was somebody who took part in any kind of contest, which also fits the Humanist Hive ethos.
• ‘Gender they called the universal language…’ – the first clear statement of the gender politics of Madame’s circle of influence.
• ‘avocation’ – explained in the text
• ‘Don’t trust the gendered pronouns Mycroft gives people, they all come from Madame.’ – which would have been handy to know earlier.
• ‘Owen and Schwarzchild’ – As explained, Wilfred Owen and Karl Schwarzchild but also they form the initials ‘O.S.’
• ‘Thirteenth O.S.’ – there have been 13 of them
• May 23rd 2454 – approximately two month after the events in the book
Page 25 Chapter the Third: O.S.
• ‘fifth day’ – 27 march 2454
• ‘Jack the Ripper’ – 19th-century references and English references are rare in the book.
• ‘Perry’ – lots of Casimirs in the world and lots of Perrys. However, there was a Jean Casimir-Perier who was President of the French Third Republic at the end of the nineteenth century but who was otherwise not notable. Given later events in the book, I think this name is an intentional choice of somebody who is famously not notable.
• ‘moral calculus’ – a phrase suggestive of utilitarianism which was not really codified until the 19th century but which has its roots in Epicureanism. For an 18th century take on utilitarianism David Hume (whom the book is avoiding for subtle reasons) had also suggested similar ideas.
• ‘we aren’t discussing a normal…person’ – This is an interesting insight into the Chief Director. He thinks JEDD Mason will not see the pragmatic benefits of life saved over the small number of murders that achieved peace but instead will see those murders as wrong. Of course, this reaction is the normal one and the one the Chief Director fears from the masses. He forgets his morality isn’t the ’normal’ one.
• ‘as rigid and precise as mathematics’ – I assume the comparison of the pragmatic ‘moral calculus’ to the strict and unyielding ‘mathematics’ of JEDD is intentional. It is clever either way to compare both contrasting attitudes to mathematics.
• ‘a strict hierarchy’ – The competitive Humanists have a hierarchy, as does Mitsubishi, as do the Masons.
• ‘Kurdish’ – It is implied here that Kurdish regions are now part of the European Union. Mycroft is Greek and it seems likely that Saladin may be Kurdish, making them both associate with the European Union in some way.
• ‘Golden Age’ – A classical concept arising from mythology and referring to the original age o Each when Cronus/Saturn ruled. In Metamorpheses Ovid wrote about it as
The Golden Age was first; when Man, yet new,
No rule but uncorrupted Reason knew:
And, with a native bent, did good pursue.
Unforc’d by punishment, un-aw’d by fear.
His words were simple, and his soul sincere;
Needless was written law, where none opprest:
The law of Man was written in his breast.
With an implication that in this age humans lived in a natural state from which peace and justice arose spontaneously – closely related to the notion of the noble savage.
• ‘from days of yore by DNA retrieval’ – I think I’ve missed something. Is Ganymede made from some historical figure’s DNA?
• ‘learned to click his heels like that’ – It is suggested that Ockham clicks his heels like a character in an old war movie…which pretty much is a way of comparing him to a Nazi I guess.
Page 40-43 End of Chapter 3
Page 44 Chapter the Fourth: Providence
• ‘a virgin with a bag of gold’ – a claim of lawful peacefulness that was made supposedly by Ghengis Khan i.e. that such a person could walk the length of his kingdom unmolested.
• ‘this universe’s God’ – a phrase that reoccurs which is suggestive of Gnostic view on god. The demiurge is the creator of the physical universe but the ultimate god in Neoplatonism is the good – the top level abstraction or abstractions. Conceptually the two are different and hence to some were/are different beings.
• icy stab wounds ‘doubt’ – prior to his capture Mycroft implies he was full of certainty.
• ’seventeen then’ – Dominic is 17 when Mycroft first becomes a servicer after his capture.
• ‘He Who Had Shattered my Illusory World’ – suggestive of both Plato’s parable of the cave (in which reality is perceived indirectly as shadows on a wall) but also of mystery cults and the process of initiation.
• ‘Calvin, Ramanuja, Augustine’ – Calvin we’ve discussed previously. Ramanuja would be the Hindu theologian 1017–1137 CE (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ramanuja ). Augustine is Saint Augustine of Hippo 354-430 CE the highly influential early Christian theologian. It’s a diverse set of theologians but each discussed aspects of a personal relationship with god(s).
• ‘She, Mycroft?’ – another longer section discussing the gender perspectives of Madame’s circle.
• ‘Read his lines aloud…’ – Mycroft advises on how to read Dominic’s thee’s and thou’s so they seem more natural. Unfortunately when I try this Dominic ends up sounding like my George Formby impression.
• ‘thou knows does not exist’ – this is an interesting discussion on how people experience fiction in a way that is akin to how some religious people experience spirituality or a relationship with god.
• ‘Spinoza, Nietzsche, Averroes’ – an interesting and relevant trio who have been notable by their absence. Of the three it is the Islamic theologian Averroes who is closest to the Aristotlean Catholic orthodoxy of Thomas Aquinas. Spinoza we have discussed before – excommunicated from Judaism because of his philosophical ideas on the nature of god, his views were not atheism but about as close to atheism as you can get while believing in a concept of god. Nietzsche, on the other hand, is a 19th century dark mirror to the Enlightenment and famously declared that God was dead. Most relevant to the discussions in Terra Ignota are his unfortunately named concepts of Master and Slave morality. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Master%E2%80%93slave_morality . For Nietzsche ‘Master’ morality was evaluating what is helpful versus what is harmful, taking the ‘big picture’ but from an individual perspective (i.e. that of master, the person with willpower) with the added element that what is good is what is noble and strong etc and what is bad is weak and timid. ‘Slave’ morality subordinates the individual to the wider good of the community and valuing virtues such as humility as a way of hiding from the fact that humility has been forced upon them. Nietzsche regarded classical society especially Rome as based on Master morality which was then corrupted by Christian and Jewish ‘slave’ morality. Not surprisingly Nietzsche has been popular with the worst kinds of people ever since.
• ’tippedest off the police’ – I feel Dominic is just taking the piss with his archaic phrasing at this point.
• ‘thy Clockmaker does not exist’ – With the scientific discoveries of the 17th-century, in particular, the physics of Issac Newton, the notion of a deterministic ‘clockwork’ universe was a compelling one. Of course, the increased sophistication of clockwork in the 18th-century would have helped that notion along as well, along with the growing industrialisation in Western Europe. God as the being who made the clock and then set it going answered a range of theological questions and kicked the ball off the field for a bunch of others, making it an intellectually attractive (if somewhat unrewarding spiritually) notion of god.
• ‘he has no navel’ – Did Adam and Eve have belly buttons? There were (or are in some circles) two schools of though. Firstly God made them as people and people have belly buttons, therefore, God made them with belly buttons. Secondly, God made them and hence they were not born and hence wouldn’t have had an umbilical cord and hence wouldn’t have a belly button. The question is unresolvable of course but in many notable works of art (e.g. Michelangelo’s painting of Adam on the Sistine Chapel) they do have navels. The question gains added significance when considering that Adam was made in God’s image, therefore if Adam has a belly button then so does God. Luckily for modern religion, people like me are atheists these days and hence less inclined to worrying about such things, preferring unresolvable questions about why C3-PO appears to have a belly button. In the 19th-century the question was adopted as a wider metaphor for the troubling question of the age of the Earth as implied by geology versus the age of the earth implied by scripture. Philip Goose was a man with strict religious views and (at the same time) a gifted naturalist with a keen interest in Charles Darwin’s new ideas about evolution by natural selection. In 1857 two years before the publication of the Origin of the Species, Gosse published a book attempting to reconcile his biblical literalism and what was already then known about geology. Called Omphalos (Greek for belly button) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omphalos_(book), in the book Goose argued that while God may have made the earth relatively recently, he did so in a way that made the Earth look old. It is, I think, one of the cleverest arguments to have never really convinced anyone but its author. Martin Gardner, Stephen Jay Gould and even Jorge Luis Borges have written about it, mainly because it is a kind of closed sphere of logic and manages to have no implications about anything.
• ‘navel’ contd. – Dominic cites the lack of navel for Bridger as a direct evidence of divine intervention. It is oddly uncompelling and I’m not sure why Carlyle would find it even relevant. Notably, the most famous people to be or become god, gods or godlike did not lack navels. Jesus would have had one, Rama would have had one. Whereas in this future society of reconstructive surgery and who knows what kind reproductive technology. A lack of navel is neither necessary nor sufficient to imply divine intervention. However, whether by god or by active deception or by accident, Bridger’s lack of a navel is a thing of significance for people who will have worried over the question of Adam’s navel before. Dominic is pointing more at the semiotics the belly button rather than the logic of it. Anyway, enough navel gazing – time to move on.
• ‘Maimonides’ – yet another medieval Aristotlean theologian. Moses Ben Maimon aka Maimonides 1135-1204 CE was a Jewish theologian and philosopher who was highly influential in Jewish and Islamic philosophy and whose works later influenced Catholic theologians.
• ‘Familiares Candidi’ – we’ve already met the term familiarise which in the books denote people under the rule of MASON. ‘Candidi’ is the latin masculine plural of the verb ‘white’ but which can also mean ‘pure’ or ‘naive’. The feminine plural is ‘candide’ which is, of course, the name of the titular hero of Voltaire’s most famous story.
• ‘aided entropy’ – I may use this line in a meeting.
• ’Notre Maitre’ – our master
• ‘hubris’ – overambitious, pride etc and classically an offence against the gods. However, in Ancient Greece, the term mainly applied to the crime of shaming or humiliating somebody else perhaps by violence in a sexual way. Mycroft uses it in the sense applied (retrospectively by later writers) to Greek tragedy of a person whose pride offends the gods by challenging them.
• ‘Athene appeared before him…’ – In the Iliad Athena intervenes when Achilles angered at his treatment by Agamemnon moves to draw his sword and attack him. Athena grabs Achilles hair to prevent him lunging forward. Achilles asks her why she has come and whether it is to witness the arrogance of Agamemnon. Mycroft recasts Achilles question to a more general one – why do the gods intervene now? While the science occurs near the start of The Illiad, the story itself starts many years into the siege of Troy.
Page 64 Chapter the Fifth: If Anybody in the World Can
• ‘Apollo’s Iliad’ – Apollo here being Apollo Mojave but as a segue from the end of chapter 4, it is worth noting that the argument mentioned between Achilles and Agamemnon takes place after Apollo (who largely sides with Troy in The Iliad) has sent a plague among the besieging Achaeans.
• ‘Operation Ariadne’ – Ariadne being the daughter of King Minos who helped Theseus find his way through the labyrinth to slay the minotaur. She was also associated with the god Dionysus. I had it in my head that this WW2 operation was also called ‘operation Ariadne’ but that doesn’t seem to be the case ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kidnap_of_Heinrich_Kreipe ) although the house the general was in was Villa Ariadne. Maybe it is in the Dirk Bogarde movie? Maybe I just made it up?
• ‘Hermes or Dionysus’ – Greek gods both often depicted as youths.
• ‘Hercules’ – The Roman version of Heracles. Eight of his twelve labours involve fighting or capturing creatures.
• ‘…who dresses like Apollo’ – in context this appears to mean Saladin dresses like Apollo Mojave rather than the god, but I’m not sure how the Major would know this.
Page 66-71 End of chapter 5
Page 72 Chapter the Sixth: The Room Where Mycroft Canner Died
• ‘Salon de Versailles’ – The French Royal Palace first commissioned as a hunting lodge by Louis XIII and then turned into a paradigm of royal excess by Louis XIV aka the sun king.
• ‘vivisection room’ – More Frankenstein parallels but this time with Mycroft as Frankenstein rather than the creation.
• ‘fourteen’ – just tracking Mycroft’s age at various points. He was fourteen when he worked out who was The Anonymous at the time.
• ‘Kohaku Mardi’ – Kohaku is a Japanese first name. Mardi means Tuesday as in Mardi-Gras (as explained later in the text, the ‘bash have shortened their name)
• ’twenty-four thirty-five’ – the year Mycroft identified The Anonymous – nineteen years before the setting of the book. This makes Mycroft approximately 33 (I say approximately because we don’t know when his birthday falls).
• ‘They’re seventeen’ – In the scene, he is recounting, Mycroft was 17. This makes 2438 the year he was captured for his murder spree.
• ‘A child!’ – There are many remarkable children in the novel – JEDD and Bridger obviously but also And Mitsubishi’s adopted children and also set-sets in general. Further Sniper was a child celebrity. Mycroft also seems to have been a remarkable child – possibly Saladin as well.
• ‘Luther Mardigras’ – Mardi Gras aka ‘Fat Tuesday’ aka Shrove Tuesday, pancake day etc. The day before Ash Wednesday in the Catholic calendar and the last day before Lent – a time of fasting that lasts until Easter. Consequently, Mardi Gras is the last day to have a party.
• ‘science fiction Iliad’ – I think this the first time we’ve been told that Apollo’s Iliad is actually a sci-fi retelling.
• ’nine years earlier’ – Nine years before 2438, Mycroft survived the explosion that killed his ‘bash – as did Saladin but somehow only Mycroft was discovered. In 2429 Mycroft would have been 8.
• ’thirteen years later’ – 13 years after 2438 is 2451, three years before the events in the book, Eureka Weeksbooth discovers an anomaly – I assume the ‘black hole’ that is Madame’s home (but see the later note on the issue of 13 years). Mycroft compares his meeting with Madame to that and also effectively compares himself to a set-set.
• ‘eight years old’ – JEDD is 8 when Mycroft is captured, the same age Mycroft was when he survived the explosion.
• ‘Metamorphosis’ – a recurring theme
• ‘He is benign’ – JEDD evaluates Mycroft as incapable of doing harm at this point. Mycroft has yet to meet Bridger.
• ’thirteen years and counting’ – No, that’s not right Mycroft. 16 years and counting surely? Mycroft was 14 in 2435, he was captured when he was 17 so 2438, add 13 and you get 2451. Working backwards 2454 minus 13 makes 2441, which would make Mycroft 20 when his ‘penance’ started.
• ’Thirteen years…’ – Mycroft is insisting that it is 13 years.
• ‘thirteen years ago’ – since Apollo was killed and Saladin took his coat. MASON is also saying the interval has been thirteen years.
• ‘but Nineteenth Century Europe confined the conflicts to its colonies…’ – this is nonsense surely? OK, we’ll put aside the Napoleonic wars which (1803-1815) as being a kind of extension of the 18th century. I guess we should put aside the revolutionary conflicts. I guess the Crimea war does count as sort of colonial or at least away from Western Europe (although France, Russia and Britain were all involved to varying degrees as well as the Ottoman Empire). I guess we can ignore revolutionary violence. Hard to ignore the wars within Italy during reunification though. And the Franco-Prussian war 1870-71? That’s quite a big deal involving the creation of Germany as a single state, the Paris Commune and the French Third Republic, as well as being essentially a ‘modern’ war between industrialised nations. Put another way: generally in the books we’ve had a Franco-centric view of history because of the focus on Paris as the centre of the enlightenment. This perspective seems more Anglo-centric, i.e. war is something that happens abroad.
Page 93-97 end of Chapter 6