Category: Notes Ignota

Infomocracy versus Too Like the Lightning

In the near future technology and social change has largely brought an end to the nation-state. Instead, new groupings via for loyalty among people (some based on corporations, some based on ideals) while individuals shop around for systems of laws that suit their lifestyle. Amid this world where people hop easily between continents, shadowy elements are seeking to upset this new order in a bid to bring back to the world the spectre of war.

The underlying set up for Malka Older’s Infomocracy and Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning, are fascinatingly similar. However, the actual stories both in style and plot are so utterly different that the books are not easily comparable. Infomocracy is a taught and often economical thriller that makes clever use of cyberpunk conventions. Too Like the Lightning uses the lens of Enlightenment-era France to examine broader political and cultural change. In particular, Palmer’s narrator is such an unusual character and has an overtly archaic view of the world (and manner of speech) that the futuristic setting is partly obscured. It’s not that the actual world in  Too Like the Lightning is deeply different than Infomocracy but that we don’t get to see it the way its inhabitants do.

Infomocracy’s scope is more limited than Too Like the Lightning and that enables a tighter plot and also a clearer focus on the issues raised. The focus on manipulation and control of information within electoral processes as a proxy for warfare is particularly timely. The motives of the antagonists in Infomocracy are simple but hidden and the individuals are secondary to the various groupings they belong too. The political ideas of the Heritage and Liberty factions are not explored in depth but there is a sufficient sketch of their approach to getting a sense of what these factions represent.

Intentionally, Too Like the Lightning is concerned with a ‘great men’ perspective of history. Broad social change, shaped by economic and technological change is occurring but our narrator is a man obsessed with how powerful individuals shape the world around them, whether by political power or by divine intervention. The world seems much weirder and exotic in Too Like the Lightning even though it is really not very different than the world of Infomocracy. The overtly fantastical elements (specifically Bridger) also make the novel feel quite different from its nominally near future setting but coupled with a potentially unreliable narrator (in lots of ways) it is hard to know what the world is like for non-Mycroft people.

I certainly wouldn’t suggest one is better than the other as the pair are so different in style and focus as to make a simple comparison ridiculous. Having said that Too Like the Lightning is essentially an incomplete story and needs to be read with its sequel, whereas Infomocracy is more self-contained. Both stories offer a vision of a way forward for our fractured world without endorsing or condemning the alternative offered. The mechanics of Infomocracy‘s micro-democracy which combines local government and global politics is more clearly articulated than Hive system of Too Like the Lightning. However, the Hives have a more detailed backstory and history that makes it easier to see how and why nation-states gave up their grip on political power. Yet of the two, it is Infomocracy that has a stronger sense of realism and air of plausibility.

Too Like the Lightning is the more fantastical work — it answers more questions but those answers require more active suspension of disbelief. Infomocracy skates past the history that might have brought its political system into place but in doing so keep the world plausible and focused.

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Gender and Terra Ignota Again

Ada Palmer’s Too Like the Lightning has had more than its fair share of coverage here. However, I’d be remiss not to point to a three part series of essays Palmer herself has written on the issue of gender in her books. Given that gender in particular was a problematic issue for the books, it is interesting to get Palmer’s perspective on what she was trying to do.

Note the different parts start with the same introductory section – you need to scroll down to read the new bit. The third essay comes out on August 7.

http://queership.com/terra-ignota-gender-pt-1/

http://queership.com/gender-terra-ignota-pt-2/

 

Review: Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer

This review meanders somewhat and assumes you’ve read the book and also maybe all those notes I wrote. So, no it isn’t really a very useful review of a book! So I’ll start with: yes, I got a lot of enjoyment out of these books 🙂

I’ve split things into sections so you can skip bits. Spoilers etc below the fold.

Utopia or dystopia?
Is Mycroft Loki?
What’s going on with Frankenstein?
And the gender thing?
Figure and Ground?
Is it a philosophical book?
So what do I think now?

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Return to Ignota: Volume the Second – Part the Fourth and Final

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.

These notes take us to the end of the book. Events move rapidly and much is explained in the book. Spoliers follow but some majo ones are not mentioned.

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Return to Ignota: Volume the Second – Part the Third

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.

These notes take us to the end of the sixth day. Events move rapidly and references are fewer.

Continue reading

Return to Ignota: Volume the Second – Part the Second

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.

A shorter set of notes that brings the story to the end of the fifth day. [No, you can’t spell Iliad]

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Return to Ignota: Volume the Second – Part the First

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.

Continue reading