Notas Tertius: Being further unauthorised notes, musings and rabbit hole explorations on the Terra Ignota series. Covering the matter of The Will to Battle: Terra Ignota Book III by Ada Palmer
Page numbers are from Tor Hardback edition 2017. All notes and speculation are those of myself. Notes are written progressively and in some cases questions raised are answered later in the text. Allusions made by characters are speculative and might not reflect the intent of the author.
“Top secret material” the front piece starts with a sans-serif bold font out of keeping with faux 18th century style of the front piece of the earlier books.
A list of 6 bodies add their security classifications. Mitsubishi Hive and the Cousins are not listed but the Cousin’s Legal Commission appear on the next page classifying the document as Potentially Harmful
A Seven-Ten List for Our Changing World
A Dramatis Personae but titled as a seven-ten list, the influential list which precipitated the events of TLTL
Thomas Hobbes Leviathan is the source for the book title. The section in chapter 23 states in full:
Out Of Civil States,
“There Is Alwayes Warre Of Every One Against Every One Hereby it is manifest, that during the time men live without a common Power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called Warre; and such a warre, as is of every man, against every man. For WARRE, consisteth not in Battell onely, or the act of fighting; but in a tract of time, wherein the Will to contend by Battell is sufficiently known: and therefore the notion of Time, is to be considered in the nature of Warre; as it is in the nature of Weather. For as the nature of Foule weather, lyeth not in a showre or two of rain; but in an inclination thereto of many dayes together: So the nature of War, consisteth not in actuall fighting; but in the known disposition thereto, during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary. All other time is PEACE.http://www.gutenberg.org/files/3207/3207-h/3207-h.htm
Leviathan, written during the English Civil War outlined Hobbes’s view of government. This section in particular reflects that particular war where Parliament and the Monarchy grappled for political supremacy and in the process created a different kind of war. England had plenty of internal conflicts before of course. The War of the Roses ended at the Battle of Bosworth Field in 1485 and the first proper pitched battle of the English Civil War was Edgehill in 1642 — a time period similar to the distance between now and the American Civil War.
Hobbes is set to play the same role in this book as Voltaire did in the previous volumes.
Chapter the First: We the Alphabet
Mycroft details in this introduction a metaphor he will return to and which is stated in the title. The people of the world are alphabet, according to Mycroft, with which God(s) compose their words.
Mycroft sets the scene in the manner of the opening of Shakespearean historical play, reminding us of the main players and the key events that have brought the world to the current juncture.
“Find myself at thirty-one” In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus is said to be about 30 when he starts preaching. https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Bible_(American_Standard)/Luke#3:23 There are numerous Jesus parallels in the Terra Ignota books, understandably as the Christian/Diest conception of God is central to several character’s beliefs. However, some of those references sometime apply to Mycroft. As always, be wary of me reading too much into what could just be an arbitrary age.
“three hundred years of peace” – various empires have claimed periods of influence during which there was nominal peace. The most famous of which being the Pax Romana, a period of 200+ years of relative peace within the region controlled by the Roman Empire. The three hundred years here would be historically exceptional as a world peace and one without an empire as such.
“Four months past” – the time of the previous books (TLTL and 7S). These books (in some form) had been made public a week earlier than the time of Mycroft writing this third book. It is implied that during the events Mycroft is recounting in WtB, he is also writing TLTL & 7S.
“No court or council can trust my testimony” – Mycroft is a reliable but legally unreliable narrator. He is not a conventionally unreliable narrator. His central paradox is that he trusted by multiple powerful people who are at odds with each other and he is also famous for being untrustworthy.
“Plato’s apology preserves lost Socrates” – no written work of Socrates survives. However, Plato’s account of Socrates trial is taken to be an account of Socrates words, even though in other works Plato uses Socrates as a character to explain Plato’s own thinking.
“we humans are the letters of a message our Creator wrote to make first contact with His Divine Peer” – to recap Mycroft’s current theology. Our universe has a creator God of a conventional sort of the kind familiar to 18th century Catholics. Mycroft also believes the JEDD Mason is a similar god but of another universe who is visiting our universe. JEDD is the “Divine Peer”.
Chapter the Second: Human Dignity
April 8 – Day 1
“Vivien Ancelet” – the new Humanist president. There’s not an obvious ‘Ancelet’ from the milieu that Palamer draws names from but Gabriel-Auguste Ancelet a 19th century architect has some of the connections: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gabriel-Auguste_Ancelet (Coincidentally a fan wiki tells me there’s a NPC in the Elder Scrolls Online called Vivonne Ancelet https://elderscrolls.fandom.com/wiki/Vivonne_Ancelet )
“strat” – a reminder that nation states have a remnant as “strats” within hives.
“dreadlocks” – Ancelet has dreadlocks. Dreadlocks have been worn by multiple cultures and at different points of history. However, as a specifically religious symbol they are most closely related to Rastafarianism (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rastafari ) Given his hive allegiance and the stigma against religion in Hive society it is unlikely that Ancelet’s locks are religious in nature.
“Prospero” – Ockham Saneer has shifted to using his middle name so that his initial are no long OS. The new OS is Sniper Saneer who now goes by the name Ojiro Saneer.
“Ojiro” Sniper’s first name. I don’t if there is any significance to it but the town of Ojiro in Japan is listed as one of the most beautiful towns in Japan.
“merged with O.B.P.” a hive that merged with the Olympians to form the Humanists. I can’t recall if this has been mentioned before or what OBP stood for.
“2333” a year. I’m just tracking numbers in case they mean something later.
“Gordian-Auxilio Hiver Merger” – another hive merger in the past. The word means help or support in Spanish.
“You will plead terra ignota” – the title of the series and meaning ‘unfamiliar land’ and here implied to be a legal concept that the acts of OS and Humanist is an area not covered by law.
“Beast of Malmesbury” Thomas Hobbes as explained in the text. Aside from his assertive views, the “beast” sobriquet also alludes to two of his most famous works Leviathan and Behemoth both of which are named after Biblical monsters. Malmesbury itself is a charming and historic town in Wiltshire famous for its abbey and the possibly aprocypham Eilmer of Malmesbury, a medieval monk who attempted to build a glider. Given the relevance of flying cars to Terra Ignota, I think Eilmer deserves a mention.
“All the land’s horses and all the land’s men” Mycroft changes “king” to “land” in the line from Humpty Dumpty. I assume this was accidental on Mycroft’s part and he is citing how the rhyme is usually given in his time without the monarchical reference. Alternatively, it is intentional. Hobbes’s argument defended monarchy so presumably the King would have no interest in preparing the damage to humanity’s reputation.
“John Locke to develop his Blank Slate” – John Locke (1632 to 1704) was a English philosopher and a significant figure of the enlightenment. The tabula-rasa/blank slate did not originate with Locke but has had a long history in the on going debate over nature versus nurture in shaping the human mind. Locke himself used the analogy of white paper rather than a literal blank slate:
“ 22. How men commonly come by their Principles. This, however strange it may seem, is that which every day’s experience confirms; and will not, perhaps, appear so wonderful, if we consider the ways and steps by which it is brought about; and how really it may come to pass, that doctrines that have been derived from no better original than the superstition of a nurse, or the authority of an old woman, may, by length of time and consent of neighbours, grow up to the dignity of PRINCIPLES in religion or morality. For such, who are careful (as they call it) to principle children well, (and few there be who have not a set of those principles for them, which they believe in,) instil into the unwary, and as yet unprejudiced, understanding, (for white paper receives any characters,) those doctrines they would have them retain and profess. These being taught them as soon as they have any apprehension; and still as they grow up confirmed to them, either by the open profession or tacit consent of all they have to do with; or at least by those of whose wisdom, knowledge, and piety they have an opinion, who never suffer those propositions to be otherwise mentioned but as the basis and foundation on which they build their religion and manners, come, by these means, to have the reputation of unquestionable, self-evident, and innate truths. “
“Hobbes says that…” Mycroft is paraphrasing Hobbes, Leviathan “The Desires, and other Passions of man, are in themselves no Sin. No more are the Actions, that proceed from those Passions, till they know a Law that forbids them; which till Lawes be made they cannot know: nor can any Law be made, till they have agreed upon the Person that shall make it. “
“Divine Right” Hobbes does touch on the divine right of kings in the section of Leviathan entitled “Moses Was (Under God) Soveraign Of The Jews, All His Own Time” but Leviathan itself is not primarily an argument for the Divine Right of kings. It was the hot topic of the time though, with arguments for the Stuart’s reign based on divine right a central argument against parliament prior, during and after the Civil War.
“he was resurrected” both Mycroft and JEDD get Jesus parallels.
“Seven-ten list” see TLTL
“palimpsests” – explained in the text (parchment written on once and then written over). Medieval parchment would have been animal hide and hence akin in nature if not in texture to boot leather.
“like type in a printing press” – the sole of the boots are covered in letters, which match Mycroft’s earlier analogy of people to letters with which god composes messages like a printer. How Ancelet boots connect with Mycroft analogy (perhaps they inspired it?) I don’t know.
“Almoloya de Juárez” a Mexican town. The “Juárez” part of the name being a reference to the national hero Benito Juárez.