Notas Tertius Part 2: Being even 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.
Two long but largely self explanatory chapters, with a shorter more mysterious chapter between them.
Some repeated motifs: ancient river gods, dogs, and the Trojan wars (as always)
Chapter the Third: Is this the Spark
April 8 – 9 day 1 and 2
This is an odd and intentionally confusing chapter.
“have seen a graveyard” – the chapters has multiple references to graveyards as a metaphor for Mycroft’s memories of events which in this chapter are very fractured.
“aeons” Mycroft isn’t using the more common spelling of eon but there is a double meaning of a very long time and also was used by Plato to indicate the world of forms and by gnostics as the emanations of god.
“few still-legible descriptions already fading in the graveyard” – Mycroft’s metaphor continues.
“Thou forgets” – Mycroft’s imaginary reader is back and still full of thee’s and thou’s.
“My two weeks are not salient letters etched deep to withstand assaults of wind and tempest in the battered graveyard of my mind. My two weeks are the storm.” – the ’two weeks’ being Mycroft’s teenage murder spree with his accomplices Saladin. Mycroft is pulling his alphabet and graveyard metaphors together. The storm reference sounds very ominous but it appears that Mycroft is saying that his murder spree was an attempt to forget other things.
“Caesar this is Achilles” – nothing to say about this other than it is a neat sentence.
“The Major was the first man I had ever seen enter the Citadel of Alexandria without pausing…” – Mycroft compares The Major and Achilles reaction to MASON’s citadel, underlining where the action is taking place.
“toward Ocean” – The word ocean was once a proper noun being both the name of a titan and the name of the giant river like body of water that surrounded the world. Hence Mycroft capitalises it.
Troy references continue.
“if anything happens to Patroclus” – More Iliad. After Patroclus is killed in battle, Achilles rejoins the fight against the Trojans while consumed by grief, eventually killing Hector. Patroclus and Achilles grew up together with Patroclus being an older mentor, mirroring the relationship between Saladin and Mycroft.
“hound-sleek shape of natural humans” – Were people smaller in the past? I looked but I don’t know if there is a definitive answer to that or whether average heights have fluctuated depending on diet, agriculture and population density. There is specific research on whether ancient Greeks and Romans were shorter and the answer is yes, they were by a few inches. However, that’s a broad period of time and I don’t know if the people of Achilles time would have been taller or shorter than at other times in Ancient Greece. Achilles was described as tall, so it is reasonable to assume that Homer imagines a man taller than average. BUT! How tall are these future people? They may well be taller than us through better diet, healthcare or maybe genetic engineering.
“familiaris” see TLTL
“You don’t want to burn down Alexandria again…” in 49 BC Julius Ceasar was at war with rival general Pompey. At Alexandria, Ceasar ordered the burning of his own ships to block the harbour. The fire spread to the city and was one of many occasions when the famous Library of Alexandria caught fire. For an added parallel, the Greeks burned their own ships for other reasons when besieging Troy.
“ordo vitae dialogorum” – see TLTL. OVD looks a bit like Ovid
“there are moe illiteracies than script” – Mycroft treats different styles of thinking and reasoning as different kinds of reading, so as to continue his letter metaphor even further.
“Like what” by a standard convention the dialogue stops stating who is speaking and the implication that this is MASON speaking to Achilles. The conversation continues without labelling the speakers with the reader assuming it is Achilles and MASON taking turns.
“Kosala smiled” – at some point the conversation is no longer Achilles/MASON but Achilles/Kosala.
“why is Kosala here?” Mycroft’s imaginary reader is confused as well.
“This is Casablanca, reader” – and Mycroft is confused also having previously stated that we were in Alexandria.
“the old man of the sea” one of many Greek sea gods and identified with different ones. The Old Man of the Sea was in legend the father of Achilles mother.
“Antony and Cleopatra” Another Rome/Egypt reference. Cleopatra was embroiled in Julius Caesar’s civil war against Pompey. After Julius was assassinated and the triumvirate took power, she would become embroiled in the war between Octavian (alters Augustus Ceaser) and Mark Anthony.
“The World’s Mom sighed” – this is the last reference to Kosala and the dialogue drops the name of who Achilles is talking too.
“it is Spain who speaks” – again the person Achilles was speaking too and the location of the conversation switched mid dialogue with no indication where. The point being this was a blurred series of similar conversations as Achilles canvased the opinions of several world leaders.
“The two kings” – Achilles was son of King Peleus but I don’t know if he was a king himself.
“You can read men” – Another character shift in Achilles dialogue. We have moved from the King of Spain to Felix Faust.
Mercifully Mycroft renders the Faust/Achilles conversation in script form with a name before each entry.
“over two billion theoretically possible developmental sets” – The Brill scale, in the this future world is a multidimensional set of traits measuring personality and cognitive aspects.
“has even lost its gills” – a human fetus doesn’t have functional gills but does have structures related to gills.
“1-5-2-19-19-2-21-1” Eureka Weeksbooth’s personality parameters on the Brill Scale. I guess that should be “scales” plural. There are eight figures. I don’t know if each parameter has the same range or what the upper range for each is. As there are eight and the numbers tend to be on the low side of 0-100, I’ll assume they each go up to a round 31, giving 32 values including zero. 32 to the power of 8 is 1,099,511,627,776 or about one British billion or a thousand American billions. 15 to the power of 8 gives you about 2 billion (US) which suggests some of those parameters have a smaller range than others OR they they all go up to about 35 making it just over 2 billion (UK). OR the numbers don’t really matter, which is a lot more likely.
“A thousand” – Faust asks Achilles for a really big number and the upper limit for Achilles is a thousand. Our capacity to name and deal with large numbers is a product of our time. A billion is a number we have to conceive of but would be something an Ancient Greek would not have the cognitive or linguistic tools to deal with easily.
Mycroft stops messing with us or has got a better handle on which conversations he is dealing with. Achilles now talks to Utopians.
“recognise the coat for what it was” Apollo Mojave’s coat?
Chapter the Fourth: Ghost
April 12 Day 5
April 10 and 11 are apparently skipped.
The chapter is written in the first person but the character speaking appears to be Saladin, Mycroft’s partner in crime.
“a new Canner Device” – see 7S
“to kill JEDD Mason” – it is hard to imagine that Mycroft would say this even in jest or to deceive. So can we assume this chapter is not written by Mycroft? If not then he still chose to include it.
“since Saladin and I shared those deeds, so he deserves to share my name” – This is more clearly Mycroft but he appears to be saying that Saladin is also Mycroft. This makes sense if they are a set-set and also matches how wider society saw Mycroft’s teenage murder spree. It was assumed to be him alone whereas it was actually him and Saladin together. So the fearsome “Mycroft Canner” the mass murderer is as much Saladin as it is Mycroft. Mycroft is writing the scene as if he is there but I assume he is not physically present in a conventional sense.
Chapter the Fifth: Strangest Senator
This chapter is involved but largely explains itself.
April 13 Day 6
“Scamander plane” – the river on which Troy was built and also the river god of the same name who fought Achilles. Lot’s of river gods are turning up. Should that not be “plain”?
“200 senators”, “twenty-seven Mitsubishi”, “twenty-two Humanist” – keeping track of the make up of the senate.
“Is the image of her grandchild” – Mycroft’s misgendering continues, his reasoning for how he decides what gender to use remains unclear.
“sixty-one Masons” – still keeping count. That’s 110 senators accounted for between Mitsubishi, Humanist and Masons.
“thirty-two of my peers” – the speaker is a senator for the Hiveless but I’m not sure this means there are 32 Hiveless senators or just 32 senators who agree with the speaker on this issue. The miraculous resurrection of JEDD has created a conundrum for a society where theological matters are regarded as a private and taboo for public discussion.
“twenty-two of my colleagues” – presumably 22 Cousin Seantors
“ten minor senators” – non-voting youth senators. Based on the vote splits given in this chapter, the 200 senators doesn’t include these ten.
“to young Mycroft Canner” – Mycroft is being cited as an example of the danger of set-sets.
“only three of the nine Hiveless tribunes were in attendance that day” – I assume tribunes aren’t senators
“Chambeshi Rhymer” – The Chambeshi is a river in Zambia and a source for the Congo
“Castel Natekari” – a Blacklaw, and chief rumourmonger of Hobbestown who we will meet in a later chapter
“Reason and Necessity” – MASON is beginning a filibuster by reading the constitution. Although the term is modern, the practice dates back to at least the Roman Republic.
A nice use of two column format to show MASON’s speech alongside the reactions to it.
“not the eight” – Mycroft is relieved that the vote split is not everybody else versus the Utopians. There are 8 Utopian senators.
“as when a good dog…” – Mycroft loves dog metaphors. He uses them so often that it is fair to say that he sees humanity largely as dogs, including himself.
“a target” – The pro-Sniper faction are adopting a target as symbol which is appropriate given his name and the role of shooting in the pentathlon. Note also the similarity between a target symbol and the blue-white-red Royal Airforce Roundel adopted as symbol by the Mods of 1960s and 1970s Britain. Is The Will to Battle actually Mods v Rockers? Given the retro-fashions it is probably a slightly anachronistic Mods v Teddy Boys.
“the enemy’s name is Archer!…I mean Sniper!” – an odd error by Achilles. Is he translating the meaning of “Sniper” into ancient Greek?
“Eudorous” – name chosen by Mycroft for one of the Servicers based on the names of Achilles’s followers in the Iliad.