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by Ada Palmer

Pub Date: Dec. 5th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-7653-7804-0
Publisher: Tor

A stagnant, complacent Earth faces war in the 25th century in the third of an ongoing science-fantasy series (Seven Surrenders, 2017, etc.).

The world, now ruled by Hives affiliated with philosophical viewpoints instead of geographic nations, has had 300 years of peace, now coming to an end. Anger rises over various revelations that peace was maintained by corruption, secret assassinations, and government manipulation. The data suggest that war is coming, but no one seems sure precisely what the sides will be and what they will fight about. All the issues eventually coalesce around J.E.D.D. Mason, the young man who plays a major role in all the Hive governments and who has proclaimed himself a god from another universe, incarnated in human form as a Conversation with this universe’s Creator. There is something curiously compelling about Palmer’s narrative, but its success depends on whether the reader believes in this world of technological marvels that is purportedly our own but which also features two gods and a resurrected Achilles created from a toy soldier. It’s clear that the Hive system isn’t working, but should the only alternative be an autocracy directed by a supposedly kind and benevolent alien god whose two closest companions are a cannibalistic murderer and a sadistic serial kidnapper? The cannibalistic murderer is our narrator, the brilliant, brutal, and extremely broken Mycroft Canner, who in this volume is showing signs of extreme mental deterioration. What initially appears to be a literary device—Mycroft’s intense conversations with an imagined audience which includes a future reader of the book; the philosopher Hobbes; and Apollo Mojave, one of his murder victims—actually signals a growing madness that apparently no one is bothering to treat except in the most minimal way. Appreciating the book depends on whether one is willing to spend extended time in Mycroft’s pompous, servile, and erratic company. Some might also find Mycroft’s beliefs about gender in what is purportedly but not convincingly a gender-neutral society somewhat offensive.

Still intriguing and worth pursuing, but the strain may be beginning to show.