Book Review: The Will to Battle by Ada Palmer (Terra Ignota #3)

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Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Tor Books

Length: 368 pages

Format: eARC

Rating: 5 stars

Publication Date: December 19th 2017

 

 

 

 

Publisher’s description

The long years of near-utopia have come to an abrupt end.

Peace and order are now figments of the past. Corruption, deception, and insurgency hum within the once steadfast leadership of the Hives, nations without fixed location.

The heartbreaking truth is that for decades, even centuries, the leaders of the great Hives bought the world’s stability with a trickle of secret murders, mathematically planned. So that no faction could ever dominate. So that the balance held.

The Hives’ façade of solidity is the only hope they have for maintaining a semblance of order, for preventing the public from succumbing to the savagery and bloodlust of wars past. But as the great secret becomes more and more widely known, that façade is slipping away.

Just days earlier, the world was a pinnacle of human civilization. Now everyone—Hives and hiveless, Utopians and sensayers, emperors and the downtrodden, warriors and saints—scrambles to prepare for the seemingly inevitable war.

 

Book Review

 

Provocative, political, philosophical and almost too clever for its own good, The Will to Battle  is the third installment in Ada Palmer’s ambitious Terra Ignota quartet and, as a fan of this series from the beginning, I wasn’t disappointed at all.

I won’t detail the plot too much because, at this point in the series, it’s so complicated that I would probably do a poor job. However, I will just disclose what the title already tells you about the book. This book is not about the battle but the will to battle: what precedes the battle and the calm before the storm. It is about the making of a war , it’s about preventing humanity from destroying itself, it’s also about the stars and the future of humanity beyond Earth. It’s about the ending of what was considered the perfect society.

I feel like this series represents what speculative fiction does the best: make us rethink our vision of the world. This series is based on a very simple question: how would the world be if you could make a world tour in a few hours? You could live in Tokyo, work in New York and visit your friends in Russia in a day. In this world, borders wouldn’t mean anything and countries would be rendered obsolete. How the world would end up looking like if you could choose your government and your laws not just thanks to your geographical location but simply with your true political beliefs?

In this utopian world where people have a complete choice of their leadership and values, live in peace and have access  to universal education, healthcare and a world without crimes, what could draw you to war?

This book explores this issue while discussing the consequences of such a war on the future of humanity. Indeed, at this point in time and with the technology available, this war could be the end of humanity. The Will to Battle is about leaders doing their best to prevent things from getting too ugly and too deadly while dealing with the issues that lead to the conflict. This idea of a war solely based on ideas and not geographical location is fascinating because, since borders don’t exist anymore, who are you supposed to fight against or with?

As usual with Palmer’s work, this book features a ton of philosophical ideas and, as the war approaches, the philosophers mentionned become less and less idealistic, the first book heavily featured Voltaire, this one is much more focused on Hobbes.

This book is also very much focused on politics and laws. It features a couple chapters solely based on laws that I personally found very interesting but I can understand why a few readers didn’t find them as compelling as I did since those passages were quite long and detailed. Some might find them too info-dumpy but I really liked how knowing about the law in this world allowed me to understand how it all worked.

The Will to Battle took me just over a month to read and that’s not because I found it bad, on the contrary, I never wanted it to end. I just wanted to stay in this fascinating world and see how the events would unfold. The evolution of the events in this series are mindblowing and I am just amazed by the sheer scope of the story. I cannot wait to see how Palmer is going to end this quartet. This series was an achievement from book one and it keeps on getting better. I feel like Palmer is pushing the boundaries of science fiction and what it can do.

This book was great discussion starter, I had a lot of very interesting discussiions with reader and non-reader friends alike and that’s the best thing I could ever ask from a book. Sure this series is not for everyone, the books are complex and quite dense, it is political, philosophical and very odd but I love it. I want the next book, Perhaps the Stars, in my hands now. And I mean with a name like that, I know I’m not going to be disappointed…

 

Highly recommended.

 

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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Short Fiction Sunday |Clarkesworld #140

As I mentionned in my last post, I have been reading short fiction again which means that I can finally revive my (sort of) weekly segment on short fiction. Short Fiction Sunday is a way for me to share the short works I have been reading recently, it can be a review of a whole issue or just a couple of stories from different venues that I read. Today, this SFS is going to be focused on the May issue of Clarkesworld that I read and quite enjoyed last month. 🙂

 

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Original Fiction

A Vastness by Bo Balder ★★

A Vastness follows a scientist obsessed with a group of alien creatures. It is about searching for the meaning of your life and what you do when you finally realize what it is.

The premise was interesting but I had trouble engaging with the story. I don’t know if it was because of the writing or the characters, but something was off for me. Also I found the ending was a bit anti-climatic.

 

Not Now by Chelsea Muzar ★★★

A pro-robot family living in a city where most people are afraid of them find themself in an accident involving one. Indeed, one day they found their house crushed by a giant mechanical arm. Not Now follows the repercussion of this accident on the family and particularly how their daughter is affected. It is about loss, discrimination and growing up.

I liked the themes but the characters felt a bit too flat. The daughter was only anger and frustation and the parents were the definition of indifference. I understand how an accident could affect them but I don’t understand why they were made to be so one-dimensional.

 

Flying Oslige by Sally Gwylan ★★★★★

Set in alternative world where people are at war with either a) modified humans or b) humanoid aliens, Flying Oslige follows a woman who is just trying to survive the conflict. She is escaping her city with a small group of soldiers and we follow her journey as she tries to reach a safer place. But where can this be when you can trust no one?

This story was terrific, I never wanted it to end and I hope Gwylan is going to expand this universe with a novel, a short story collection or both! I highly recommend this one.

 

Farewell, Doraemon by A Que ★★★★★

Another very good one.

Farewell, Doraemon is about a man returning to his village after quiting his job as an illustrator in Beijing. However, it’s also about his childhood and his love for an anime, Doraemon, that changed his life when he was little. It’s also about friendship, love and the consequences of small actions.

This story is quite melancholic and full of nostalgia but I was completely immersed in it. I found the whole thing fantastic: the characters, the ideas, the pacing, the ending, everything felt right.

I believe I read something else by A Que in a previous issue of Clarkesworld and I remember really liking it as well so I should definitely check out other works by this author!

 

Reprints

 

Cold Comfort by Pat Murphy & Paul Doherty ★★★★

Cold Comfort follows a very pragmatic scientist who is not afraid to commit a bioterrorist attack in order to show the world how dangerous global warming is. I really, really enjoyed two things in this story. First of all, I loved the main character and how sure she was of her action and I also loved how the authors imagined the future and how humanity will adapt. It still managed to feel optimistic (it reminded me a bit of New York 2140!) I won’t say much more but I want to read more stories set in this world!

 

In Panic Town, On The Backward Moon by Michael Flynn ★

This is without a doubt my least favorte story of the issue. It follows a theft/murder investigation on a planet (Mars maybe? I don’t remember well which shows how much I cared!…).

It felt very dated and I just couldn’t connect with anything. It wasn’t the worst story ever but I forgot it immediatly after turning the page and that’s definitely not a good thing. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone.

 

You can read all of those stories for free on the Clarkesworld website here.

 

I know that not a lot of people read short stories but they are amazing! They really are a way to discover new authors and sample their style. The format is also great to tell certain stories that wouldn’t work on a longer format.

May Wrap-Up & June Reading Plans

 

It’s now June and I feel like I say that every month but this year is going fast and I don’t seem to able to read much. 😦 Sometimes I wish I could go back to high schoolwhen I could easily read more than a hundred books a year, but sadly, it seems that I get less and less time to read… College is definitely time-consuming but I also struggle to make time to read when I can!

Anyway, I still managed to read a bit more than two books so it’s not as bad as April!

 

Books Read

  • Disco Sour by Giuseppe Porcaro ★★★

  • The Will to Battle by Ada Palmer ★★★★★
  • Clarkesword issue 140 ed. by Neil Clarke ★★★★
  • Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee (yes it’s my second re-read!) ★★★★★

 

As you can see, most of what I read was pretty great so that’s very good! I have been getting back into short fiction after a couple of month of hiatus (I read a few anthologies but zero magazines). I re-started my subscription to Clarkesword and so far I don’t regret it (I read one story of the June issue and it was amazing so you can expect issue 141 to be in my June Wrap-Up!). I think I might start again my Short Fiction Sunday segment where I discuss the short stories I read recently.

I will have a review of The Will to Battle coming up this month and spoiler alert, I freakin’ love that book. This series is getting weirder and more philosophical with each installment but I am definitely here for it!

Also, as you can see, I’ve managed to yet again read  Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee, but, what can I say? I love those books and I will probably continue to regularly re-read them in the future as I find them even better each time!

 

Favorite Books

Well it’s a tie, I cannot choose one. Of course it’s going to be those two:

 

Currently Reading & June Reading Plans

 

I am currently reading several thing at the same time as I usually do. To fully prepare myself for Revenant Gun, I am re-reading Raven Stratagem by Yoon Ha Lee (and as for Ninefox Gambit, I love it even more the second time!). I am also reading Spaceman in Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfar and, to be honest, so far I don’t like it very much. The main character is a self-centered douche and I really don’t care about the story. I don’t even know if I will be able to finish it which saddens me because, I usually read Clarke shortlisted book in their entirety even when I’m not enjoying them very much. We’ll see if it gets better.

In terms of short fiction reading, I am reading the May issue of Apex and the June issue of Clarkesworld. I have to show you the cover of the Apex’s issue because it is gorgeous! If I were a cover, I would definitely want to be look like this:

 

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The cover art is by Anna Duttman and you can check more of her art on her website here.

I have several ARCs to read in June such as Revenant Gun, Summerland by Hannu Rajaniemi and by The Freeze-Frame Revolution Peter Watts so I will try my best to get to all of them before the end of the month! 🙂

 

Well it appeared that I had a lot of things to write for this update but how was your May? Any good books?