Hot Best Seller

Perhaps the Stars

Availability: Ready to download

From the 2017 John W. Campbell Award Winner for Best Writer, Ada Palmer's Perhaps the Stars is the final book of the Hugo Award-shortlisted Terra Ignota series. World Peace turns into global civil war. In the future, the leaders of Hive nations—nations without fixed location—clandestinely committed nefarious deeds in order to maintain an outward semblance of utopian stabilit From the 2017 John W. Campbell Award Winner for Best Writer, Ada Palmer's Perhaps the Stars is the final book of the Hugo Award-shortlisted Terra Ignota series. World Peace turns into global civil war. In the future, the leaders of Hive nations—nations without fixed location—clandestinely committed nefarious deeds in order to maintain an outward semblance of utopian stability. But the facade could only last so long. The comforts of effortless global travel and worldwide abundance may have tempered humanity's darkest inclinations, but conflict remains deeply rooted in the human psyche. All it needed was a catalyst, in form of special little boy to ignite half a millennium of repressed chaos. Now, war spreads throughout the globe, splintering old alliances and awakening sleeping enmities. All transportation systems are in ruins, causing the tyranny of distance to fracture a long-united Earth and threaten to obliterate everything the Hive system built. With the arch-criminal Mycroft nowhere to be found, his successor, Ninth Anonymous, must not only chronicle the discord of war, but attempt to restore order in a world spiraling closer to irreparable ruin. The fate of a broken society hangs in the balance. Is the key to salvation to remain Earth-bound or, perhaps, to start anew throughout the far reaches of the stars?


Compare

From the 2017 John W. Campbell Award Winner for Best Writer, Ada Palmer's Perhaps the Stars is the final book of the Hugo Award-shortlisted Terra Ignota series. World Peace turns into global civil war. In the future, the leaders of Hive nations—nations without fixed location—clandestinely committed nefarious deeds in order to maintain an outward semblance of utopian stabilit From the 2017 John W. Campbell Award Winner for Best Writer, Ada Palmer's Perhaps the Stars is the final book of the Hugo Award-shortlisted Terra Ignota series. World Peace turns into global civil war. In the future, the leaders of Hive nations—nations without fixed location—clandestinely committed nefarious deeds in order to maintain an outward semblance of utopian stability. But the facade could only last so long. The comforts of effortless global travel and worldwide abundance may have tempered humanity's darkest inclinations, but conflict remains deeply rooted in the human psyche. All it needed was a catalyst, in form of special little boy to ignite half a millennium of repressed chaos. Now, war spreads throughout the globe, splintering old alliances and awakening sleeping enmities. All transportation systems are in ruins, causing the tyranny of distance to fracture a long-united Earth and threaten to obliterate everything the Hive system built. With the arch-criminal Mycroft nowhere to be found, his successor, Ninth Anonymous, must not only chronicle the discord of war, but attempt to restore order in a world spiraling closer to irreparable ruin. The fate of a broken society hangs in the balance. Is the key to salvation to remain Earth-bound or, perhaps, to start anew throughout the far reaches of the stars?

30 review for Perhaps the Stars

  1. 5 out of 5

    Henk

    A very satisfying conclusion, with a remarkable trust in the general capacity of good by (future) people. A rollercoaster of a book, full of twist and turns and many concepts to ponder on We are the instruments that carve the path from cave walls to the stars Ada Palmer her Terra Ignota series is the discovery of the year for me in terms of science-fiction, and thought provoking books in general. In Perhaps the Stars, the final instalment of the series, we follow a broad cast of familiar character A very satisfying conclusion, with a remarkable trust in the general capacity of good by (future) people. A rollercoaster of a book, full of twist and turns and many concepts to ponder on We are the instruments that carve the path from cave walls to the stars Ada Palmer her Terra Ignota series is the discovery of the year for me in terms of science-fiction, and thought provoking books in general. In Perhaps the Stars, the final instalment of the series, we follow a broad cast of familiar characters in their first war. I loved the thoughtful portrayal of the opening acts of the war, with communications and transportation (and hence geography) being central once again. Also the role of [anonymous] (such a fascinating position in general) is great to have a complete picture of the events unfolding and the politics involved. Told mainly from the perspective of someone in the world capital, located at Sardinia, the war is both global and local with battles at the bridges and communication as far as Kashmir trickling in from a pass-it-on makeshift system. Agreements on identifying combatants, on how to celebrate religious feasts even though there is war, reviving a kind of Red Cross, there is not much Ada Palmer has not thought of. You can already feel the fibers of the world regenerating, town by town the narrator says, and the war in general is far from as destructive as one could imagine it to be based on more recent examples. Space elevators are of prime importance, one being located at the Maldives, who are interesting enough still around after climate change. Although I like the less flowery narration in the first 20% equally, when a old familiar face comes back a veritable mini Odyssee, with a splash of The Count of Monte Cristo unfolds, I was rather awestruck by the audacity of combining these kind of narratives into a science-fiction novel. Hope opens up the armour inside of us one of the character says, and it is hard to stay cynical after following the cast for three books and nearly 2.000 pages. In terms of epicness the story is also everything one can hope for, from speeches saying: We face tomorrow tomorrow. We face tonight tonight or Peace comes only after victory to We can’t undo this level of destruction that had me gasping, very gripping how Palmer makes tangible how many years would be lost. Again this is a sprawling, twisty novel, full of high stake brilliance and two conceivable sides for the very future of humanity, very different than the initial sides clear at the start of the war. Mindgames, ultimatums and twists hit the cast full on, with many old favourites making appearances: Cornel, Ando, Ganymede, Lorelei Cook, Thisbe, Perry, Joyce Faust just to name a few. Humanity is teamwork, and this concept of what direction humanity should move towards, is further made urgent because there is a being who represent First Contact in the midst of the turmoil. I chose not to choose yet he notes, but that choice is exactly the center of the conflict and possibly the whole direction of the future evolution of the species. Meanwhile he kind of burns humanity on the mess we make of meeting an Alien for the first time: You must become better at making your touch kind. Not next time, this time.. A venerable conversation between gods somewhere at 2/3's is very brilliantly done to make the philosophical sides these stark visions take in, clear. All this topped of by a reference to Plato: You will not always have a philosopher prince. Meanwhile in the macro conflict there is also a mini conflict brewing between our narrators who are in quite some psychological stress due to all the events: Friends help friends ignore the voices that tell us we’re not human, outside voices and in one thinks, and even an old enemy says to them: If I couldn’t be happy, you wanted to help me to at least be excellent The Iliad and Odyssee references are brilliantly interwoven, we have super innovative voting systems to protect plurality, dialogue and the interests of those affected by decisions. There is a minors speech at the end which is like Greta Thunberg at her finest in terms of rhetorics on Earth’s children war debt. All in all the resolution of this book promises A richer, more plural world, almost like a futuristic version of Humankind: A Hopeful History by Rutger Bregman in novel form. Was it always fully believable? No, there is a real Deus Ex Machina, even called that way in the novel for instance. But in terms of provoking thought about not technology, which most people would associate with the genre, but democracy, society, war, politics and our finding purpose in a post scarcity world, this series is unrivalled. Highly recommended!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    There is no easy way to review this or the other three books in this cycle without first distinguishing the whole lot from all other SF. It is important to note that this one is smarter, denser, more deeply thoughtful, and planned out than most heavily world-built stories. If you took your extensive knowledge of history of Romantic periods: from Humanists, Utopians, divine rights of kings, gender explorers, anarcho-libertarians, and more, mix them all up with futuristic tech and then set them all There is no easy way to review this or the other three books in this cycle without first distinguishing the whole lot from all other SF. It is important to note that this one is smarter, denser, more deeply thoughtful, and planned out than most heavily world-built stories. If you took your extensive knowledge of history of Romantic periods: from Humanists, Utopians, divine rights of kings, gender explorers, anarcho-libertarians, and more, mix them all up with futuristic tech and then set them all up to tear their shared utopias apart over the span of the first three books, then you'll get Perhaps the Stars. War. The third great World War, full of idealists that want to limit the damage as they fight for their ideals, the totally predictable slide into atrocities, plots within plots within plots, massive death tolls, and a huge cast of characters all following their values to their inevitable dooms. From the first book, Too Like the Lightning, where the future world is rocked with massive betrayals to its utopia core -- to Seven Surrenders which seemed to have an ultimate winner in the wonderfully intricate values battle -- to Will to Battle, which proves that politics never really ends until all parties are safely dead -- to Perhaps the Stars, where we live the horrors of war and their aftermath, including setting one's hopes ever higher -- I have to say this series is one of the most intricately interesting pieces of fiction I've ever read. The last book is a true capstone to the others. One fair warning, however: because of the amount of love that had gone into these four books, I don't expect anyone to absorb all the goodies in these pages. It is rich, dense, and deserves multiple readings. It took me much longer to finish this simply because I had to absorb so much, and I'm generally a fairly fast reader. Fortunately, it is ALL very much worth it. In a genre that generally attracts intellectuals and scientists and those who truly appreciate the imagination, this one rises to the very top of the intellectual chart. In a world of SF that seems interchangeable with itself, the Terra Ignota series aims for the stars.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Asher

    In some ways, it's hard to review this book without talking about the plot because there's so damn much of it and it's so damn compelling. Worry thee not, noble reader, I shall endeavour to shield you from the smallest spoilerous detail. Look, if you're reading the final volume in a series, you've enjoyed the rest enough to keep reading; I believe this will be especially true of Terra Ignota given how integrated these four volumes are. Thus, gentle reader, the question you want answered is not " In some ways, it's hard to review this book without talking about the plot because there's so damn much of it and it's so damn compelling. Worry thee not, noble reader, I shall endeavour to shield you from the smallest spoilerous detail. Look, if you're reading the final volume in a series, you've enjoyed the rest enough to keep reading; I believe this will be especially true of Terra Ignota given how integrated these four volumes are. Thus, gentle reader, the question you want answered is not "should I pick up this book," but instead "does this live up to what has come before?" I'm very pleased to report that it does. The intricate worldbuilding continues, managing to feel like it is simultaneously incredibly inventive and also an obvious conclusion that we could have thought of if only we had given enough hours to the task. The narration from the end of The Will to Battle continues, bringing a delightfully new perspective to events. The theology is maybe my favourite theology that I've ever gotten from a novel and has, for the first time ever, made me think about real-world theology differently. Questions are answered that you, dear reader, were thinking about and that haven't occurred to you. I have, at the time of this review, read this book twice in its entirety and more than that in my favourite parts. I first read it in a frantic weekend and then, a couple months later, reread it at a more leisurely pace. I can report that it works well either way: the plot is driving, explosive, and utterly compelling so you don't want to put it down; the prose and world and characters are enjoyable and thought provoking so that you want to take your time with it and really savour and think. I will, no doubt, read this again this year. I don't need to talk about the specifics for you, kind reader, to understand that 2020 was a traumatic and grief-filled year, and this was a book that helped me through one of its darkest moments. I think it will likewise bring joy to you.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Alex

    Not sure I’ll have the words for this, and so hard not to spoil. Like the deluge from a broken dam that must eventually settle down to a natural flow. or the momentum of this ultra fast freight train that still has to pull into station. This was such an onslaught of action and revelations for 500 pages, then a letting off, a pumping of brakes, a disembarkation. Each loose end ferried to its termination. And in the end, respect and warmth and redemption for our unlikeliest hero (friend).

  5. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    Terra Ignota is very dear to me, and so whether my opinions of the series' conclusion were glowing or otherwise, they could never be impartial! I was so excited to receive a review copy - I've been anticipating it for a long time now, and had adored the previous three installments (I had been mid-way through a re-read before I found out I'd gotten an ARC of this one). It's hard to discuss Perhaps the Stars without reflecting on Terra Ignota as a whole - and there is so much to say about the serie Terra Ignota is very dear to me, and so whether my opinions of the series' conclusion were glowing or otherwise, they could never be impartial! I was so excited to receive a review copy - I've been anticipating it for a long time now, and had adored the previous three installments (I had been mid-way through a re-read before I found out I'd gotten an ARC of this one). It's hard to discuss Perhaps the Stars without reflecting on Terra Ignota as a whole - and there is so much to say about the series! I'm on a mission to get more people to read it, so that I can talk about it endlessly, and hear other thoughts too. This installment differed in some ways from the previous three - there was a lot more plot, and we were hearing voices other than Mycroft's far more frequently. I found seeing this universe unfold, suddenly not within Mycroft's head, to be quite jarring at first - but I became equally attached to other narrators in time. I'm always more drawn to characters, rather than plot - but despite the novels occasional play-by-play of the actual warfare, and events therein, rather than the more personal slant Mycroft always gave, I absolutely adored this book. Just before the mid-way point, the narrative really started to kick in - plot points occurred which made me gasp, and I ended up staying up past my bedtime, on multiple occasions, for "just one more chapter". (The irony here being that some of the chapters are monoliths! Although I raced through it, this is not a quick book - I can't wait for my physical copy to arrive (I definitely haven’t cancelled my pre-order!) so I can see what a doorstopper it is. As previously in Terra Ignota, however, this book isn't just gripping because of the plot - there was a philosophical discussion near the end which literally made me have to put the book down and have a little think. I love that this series has that effect - it achieves what the best of sci-fi does, encouraging you to think, to reflect on the present and dream of the possible future. Of all weeks, this one was a good one for me to have read Perhaps the Stars I think - I feel like I needed this, and the small burst of hope and inspiration it's given me. Thanks to Macmillan / Tor and Netgalley for the ARC.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Aden

    I did not enjoy a majority of this book. Up until the last 50 pages, I was going to give this 2 stars. But I'm sentimental, and these are emotional books with big ideas which really tug at your heart. And even though soooo much of this final book frustrated me, if I'm trying to be as objective as possible, then this book, like the previous 3 - though I do think this is the weakest - is an epic piece of literature, something unique and so human and what science fiction is all about. But wow so muc I did not enjoy a majority of this book. Up until the last 50 pages, I was going to give this 2 stars. But I'm sentimental, and these are emotional books with big ideas which really tug at your heart. And even though soooo much of this final book frustrated me, if I'm trying to be as objective as possible, then this book, like the previous 3 - though I do think this is the weakest - is an epic piece of literature, something unique and so human and what science fiction is all about. But wow so much of it made me mad. I think this books biggest flaws are in it being way too fucking long and the characters being way too fucking dramatic. It's like the author watched a shit ton of anime before writing this novel - but not the good kind; the kind where every little interaction is drawn out over multiple episodes, and everyone acts like an melodramatic maniac. E V E R Y T H I N G is dragged out: every decision, every conversation, every act - page after page after page of characters verbally jerking each other off when in the end they almost always do what they initially say they're going to do. Every page is a dance when sometimes it'd be nice if it was a nice, brisk walk. At one point we get this... And then the invading Mitsubishi captured most of Romanova. Sorry to be so curt, but we have to move now and I wanted to leave some summary in case we get blown up and I never finish. (161) ...and I'm just like NO, PLEASE GOD, BE MORE CURT! So much more of this book needed to be summed up. It really needed editing. Things That Annoyed the Shit Out of Me JEDD Mason. JEDD is terrible. JEDD is someone who is so smart and so odd that everyone thinks he's a literal God or Alien. But he is really not written as such - in a believable way. He reads like, at best, an autistic savant, and at worst, a complete moron, and yet every character practically bows down to him after every little piece of word-vomit that comes out of his mouth. He reminded me of that fucked up child from the movie Midsommar who just draws nonsensical paintings, and then the elders take the painting and make up prophetic nonsense about it. He is one of the biggest plot elements of the whole series, yet he completely misses the mark for me - his half-baked, anthropocentric philosophy theology, his "literal" way of speech, his downright inability to understand basic concepts - and he's a HUGE focus of Perhaps the Stars. "Where are you, Martin?" or "What has humankind named that place where stands thy flesh, My Martin?" Congratulations, if you picked the second option as an example of a sensible question to ask someone to acquire their location, then you're clearly a fucking weirdo you're clearly a sane individual who appreciates quality speech. Gordian. The Brillists play a bigger part in this novel. This should be a good thing - they are the psychologists, the brains - but it's not, because this book - and pretty much every crime show, tv drama, even most books, EVEN science books - butchers psychology. "Pick a number." "Five." "Larger than five." "One hundred thirteen million, six hundred and four." "Color?" "Silver-gray." They gave a little gasp, as when a judge sees the first good touch in a fencing match.... ...and then the Gordian reads the character like a book. Look, I know we love the fantasy of a Sherlock Holmes, or a Spencer Reid, or [insert genius detective character who can read someone's life story by looking at the dirt under their fingernails], but this is not how psychology works. In reality, every person is an island; emotional fingerprints do not exist, and there are factors of unpredictability that no calculation based on personal experience or stereotyping or statistical average can account for. The characters of this series - especially JEDD and Gordian - are constantly doing this bullshit mind-body reading that isn't a true replicable science in reality, and sci-fi books need to stop using this trope as massive plot elements. Leviathan, The Iliad and Odyssey, and Fate. This book just goes off the rails with references to other books. People talk shit about books like Ready Player One for relying on nostalgia and lacking a unique voice, but Perhaps the Stars is guilty for the same overindulgences. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing - no work exists in a vacuum, and homages and building off other ideas can be great - and it wasn't a bad thing in book 1 or 2, where philosophy and history is relevant to the world-building. But Homer's epics become more than a relevant parallel in book 4, they devour the plot, turning any realistic plot-potential into a play, without real stakes and without believability. I never realized how much OS and the Humanists carried this series - thought it was mostly Utopians and the big ideas before - until they became largely absent (though many humanist characters do return, and they are the highlights of book 4). Achilles and Cornel MASON. Annoying, melodramatic man-children. Miracles and Answers. This series started off feeling like an epic historical sci fi with elements of magic that would turn out to be Clarke's third law. By book three and four, it starts to feel like fantasy. I was a little prepared for this though - I didn't think we would get very satisfying answers to Bridger or the miracles. In some ways, I was actually pleasantly surprised with some "answers" in book 4 (but really only because I had such low expectations for sensible answers in the first place). I've learned that people kind of suck at ending books like this - shows like Lost - movies like Prometheus - which present some insane shit early on that gets you hooked but can't deliver. Things That I Enjoyed U-beasts, Huxley, Faust, 9A, Sniper, Cato, sometimes Mycroft.... All these had their good moments. There is a torture scene that is the best part of the book. The Humanists are great characters. Gender and human flexibility. Strongest aspect of the series. I think it fails in metaphysics and new wave philosophy, but it doesn't fail in gender politics.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sam Worby

    In Mycroft / 9A style, I could give two very different reviews of this book at the same time. On its own terms it is a masterwork, a clever, kind and thought-provoking book. It is so full of ideas it can barely hold them and at points they spill over. The writing is clever, with sections seemingly in blank verse - very Homeric. I found some sections so emotional I had to take breaks from reading to recover. The use of scale and perspective are genius level moves for dealing with a story this big. In Mycroft / 9A style, I could give two very different reviews of this book at the same time. On its own terms it is a masterwork, a clever, kind and thought-provoking book. It is so full of ideas it can barely hold them and at points they spill over. The writing is clever, with sections seemingly in blank verse - very Homeric. I found some sections so emotional I had to take breaks from reading to recover. The use of scale and perspective are genius level moves for dealing with a story this big. The villains were horrific and convincingly successful, the stakes high, the heroes were so many and so human. Yet in terms of the book I wanted … it does not completely deliver. That’s fine, it is it’s own thing and clearly does what the author intended. But part of me is disappointed. It is a big story but not epic. There is only one genuine Moment of Awesome (where the pay off made me gasp and cheer). The final victory, such as it was, was barely there - fast, forced and rushed. More than that, however, this didn’t feel like the pay off for the last three books and the characters / concerns / foreshadowing laid out within. It felt like a different story from the intimate, questioning and personal world the author had so carefully built. It felt like a different story - interesting in its own right yet not the one I wanted. The ending was pious enough to be an episode of TNG. Worst of all, the author barely seemed to know what to do with our awe-full, beloved / hated monster Mycroft. All the Wolfe-isms I loved from earlier books were gone. Then finally, two small niggles. (1) the use of bigot as an insult was a helpful character signifier, yet the repeated casual and unquestioned use made me think too much of modern internet culture where insults too often take the place of examination and discussion. It felt unworthy of an otherwise philosophical book and bounced me out every time. (2) the use of and interplay between sex / gender is almost always thought- provoking and interesting in these books - apart from one late section which switched entirely to a focus on gender only (eg with no focus also on biological sex) and I felt lacked depth. It read like a sop to people who had previously criticised these clever books for their questioning of gendered perceptions. If I seem to have written a lot about things I didn’t enjoy, it is only because I love these books so much and their flaws as well as their virtues always make me think. I hope that’s part of the great Conversation Palmer has said she wants. Highly recommended.

  8. 5 out of 5

    VexenReplica

    I'm finished and I'm crying and only slightly jibbed that the page count is off by about 10 pages and if it not for an irl deadline I would be on the discord and subreddit and basking in the conversation threads and consuming fic for approximately the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours. But tomorrrow I will rise with full strength, oar in hand, the eighteenth of November, a day on which men had honored their Creator in many ways in ages past, and still do today, and poco a poco, step by step, I'm finished and I'm crying and only slightly jibbed that the page count is off by about 10 pages and if it not for an irl deadline I would be on the discord and subreddit and basking in the conversation threads and consuming fic for approximately the next twenty-four to forty-eight hours. But tomorrrow I will rise with full strength, oar in hand, the eighteenth of November, a day on which men had honored their Creator in many ways in ages past, and still do today, and poco a poco, step by step, ippo ippo, change the world in some small way. PLEASE READ THIS SERIES. r/fantasy book bingo: 2021, chapter titles, witches, trans/nb, comfort read, found family, and I'm sure others that I can't think properly of because I'm sobbing. TuT Thank you, Ada Palmer, for creating this wonderful series.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jon

    And there it is, the conclusion to the best sci-fi series of our century, and perhaps the best articulation of what the concept of Utopia really means: an endless striving towards something better, grasping out into the dark in hopes of finding a better world, a better humanity, a better truth. It both should inspire new waves of utopic scifi and stun any would-be author into inaction in the face of how great it is.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Gavin

    Of the war between Myopia and Utopia. Hold on until page 125. That wait would be fatal in a first book, but everyone who makes it here, to book four, has proven hardier and will eat it gladly. Not a lot of war in this war novel before then. Instead, a Hufflepuff hum - faint in previous books, risen in this one. I don’t mean to be mean: the philosophical principle that nice things are important, philosophically rich is one of mine. But 9A, the narrator, is too much the overgrown child. They say “sn Of the war between Myopia and Utopia. Hold on until page 125. That wait would be fatal in a first book, but everyone who makes it here, to book four, has proven hardier and will eat it gladly. Not a lot of war in this war novel before then. Instead, a Hufflepuff hum - faint in previous books, risen in this one. I don’t mean to be mean: the philosophical principle that nice things are important, philosophically rich is one of mine. But 9A, the narrator, is too much the overgrown child. They say “snugglier”. They emphasise snacking. Someone cries in every chapter I think. Like Odysseus. They also rave against free speech (though Palmer is a historian of censorship and should not be identified with 9A). Neotene domesticity is all very well for Becky Chambers, but it doesn’t gel with the other gigantic aesthetic banners of this work (the Enlightenment consummated and their language appropriated; a society transformed, deluding itself to be peaceful; the ideological roots of conflict, the inexorability of war’s logic, thus this realistic war between lovers and friends). The achievement of this book - besides the truly baroque prose, the truly insane narration - is that it nearly succeeds in making every faction reasonable. Uncertainty justifies terrible things, the most terrible: distrust, surveillance, subterfuge, war. (view spoiler)[Palmer slips a few times. Kosala freaking out and blowing up the Almagest ex ante doesn’t change anything; Utopia-Mason already have the Alexander, space weapons. Moreover, her killing MASON is bound to kill many more people, and she’s not a consequentialist. I cover the great emptiness of Brillist anti-exploration in the spoiler below. (hide spoiler)] I can’t remember this being done so well. Maybe in Hugo or Dumas. I am a big fan, but, so I dislike a lot about this series. I find the central conflict arbitrary, and the central psychological claim wrong. Actually maybe I just dislike the Ninth Anonymous, puppy Odysseus. —- * Meme: “in the grim darkness of the C25th, mankind has divided into the elemental archetypes: jock, fash, hufflepuff, freud, stemlord, landlord, libertarian, people with a country of origin instead of a personality”. (This is no critique of Palmer when we remember that all such groupings will arise through weird partially random historical contingencies: the resulting categories don’t need to make sense and probably won’t.) * Common bit of silliness: “…languages are precious enough to be worth people dying for. A human life has infinite value, infinite consequences over the universe of space-time, but apparently They think a language is another order of infinity.” Piety. I can’t think of any language worth anyone dying for. (view spoiler)[In fact naive infinite ethics is the root of the conflict. Gordian says each human mind is infinite and so infinitely valuable; Utopia says the light cone is larger if not infinite. Jedd in the middle goes hmmm yeah can't see anything wrong with treating each person as equally valuable with a universe full of people, what a moral puzzle. (hide spoiler)] * I like the Renaissance conceit of calling god The Great Author, and Jedd's conceit of calling the Utopians "small authors", small gods. Later, this is expanded into a huggy thing where all humans are small authors - in the afterword Palmer implies more: that we're all obeying the Utopian oath by working so much as 40 hours a week. I honour this thought - for instance a cleaner is in fact doing something of moral significance when they work, is in fact imperceptibly pulling on the rope that leads to the future. But it's a piety to say that all stories are equal-sized, that all pull the same. Many have described to me the journey from feeling they could never maintain such a high standard to realizing that we already are. No, there is more to do. * So many hundreds of details, like the Brillist / Gordian double name (ideology and instantiation). Recalls GNU / Linux. The verisimilitude of mess. * The office of Anonymous doesn’t make sense. Has there ever been a writer who successfully spoke for humanity? Is solving epistemic logic puzzles really the only qualification you want for such a person? * The stable stagnation following the exponential age seems pretty implausible. Then there's the laughable smallness of the AI threat - one serial killer(!). (I suppose Utopia solved AI alignment. But then set-sets would have to be obsolete, unless the other Hives hated U-beasts, which they don't seem to.) * There’s a moving sequence about chronic fatigue, also one of Palmer’s personal crosses. Wheelchair as throne. * The book takes a slightly absurd view of the wisdom and effectiveness and moral stature of the UN. Maybe they get better over 400 years of irrelevance. * The plot is excessive, and I think it's intentionally difficult to track all the threads. Fine, but one bit goes too far for me: (view spoiler)[Achilles' dying speech implies alternate timelines and him as a multiverse hopper. And this in turn makes Palmer’s god less stupid, if he is the multiverse maximiser, the only theodicy I find even vaguely satisfying. Palmer's mainline theodicy is different: the universe is the offering of a blind mute god who wants to talk to a solipsist god. It's pretty cool. (hide spoiler)] * The main characters spend lots of their most critical resources on documentation, history monging. Sniper’s chapter is bought at extreme expense, Mycroft’s whole shtick… This is sorta realistic - militaries have war artists and official bookworms. But it’s not usually the commanders and chief strategists scribbling for posterity as the death squads stalk their corridors. Palmer uses epistolary devices to great effect, but I find myself wishing they’d focus on the war for a sec. * I like the Mitsubishi a lot more in this one. (view spoiler)[disregarding their purported sadism in Mycroft’s literally hallucinated odyssey. (hide spoiler)] Palmer makes me notice that the rich are a minority. Less vulnerable than the others, but there's a high floor to the vulnerability of any small group. * a bit of body horror and mind rape, be warned. (view spoiler)[Largely unpunished (hide spoiler)] * The novel could do without religion. Jedd could be a vast noble alien, and we would have no need for This World’s Creator or even Bridger. (view spoiler)[The relics are Faust’s stated casus belli but others are easy to imagine. (hide spoiler)] The narrators’ abjection before Jedd makes their tweeness worse. If there’s a god, you should wrestle him, not kneel. I could do without the extended (view spoiler)[Iliad plot mirroring too. (hide spoiler)] * Yet another fundamental problem: (view spoiler)[Jedd is not actually morally superior, which is why I don't like people kneeling to him. Absolute caring is not actually the perfect morality. He beats the monsters and Kosala and beautiful primitive Mason, but not Huxley. This is stupid for instance: Some occupations, mainly medical, may be judged too essential to subtract from, but for the rest, even the most important projects in the world”—tremble, Utopia and Gordian—“we must give up a portion of what would have been our life’s works to restore what we can of the devastated life’s works of the dead Postponing a death from heart attack is essential, but preventing deaths from aging isn't?? A debt to the past is lexicographically above all present and future people?? He is good at cutting knots, removing the bizarre theory-blind fatalism of the Censor, Gordian, the Mardis, and even Utopia. Nothing like the stupidity of a group with an overfit predictive model. I understand why there's no retribution in the aftermath of the war - the hugginess wins - but there's not even any proportionality. Utopia suffers more than Gordian! No repercussions, then, for Gordian’s deceit? They get it all, even their collaboration, Bridger’s relics shared, thy Jehovah’s great wealth shared with the twin projects? That does not feel like justice. It does not feel like goddess Nemesis, reader, who ravages the guilty, paying pain with pain. It feels like something better.This shows an unreasonable level of trust in Faust; if someone commits mass murder and mind rape once, you should expect them to do it again. By all means let them work on great projects for the world they defiled. But defang them first, and watch them. (hide spoiler)] * The Masons are shown as heroic and vast in numbers, and yet they seem most of the way to fascism. With one bad MASON, they could ruin everything. Their superiority complex, retributive deontology, lack of individualism, and willing lack of freedom, are in far more severe contradiction to the Hive Alliance than the conflicts Palmer chooses to emphasise. Cornel is a liberal tyrant and a longtermist, and so they do good despite their terrible potential. (It’s not just their power - Utopia is powerful too. It’s the sheer lack of checks.) I wish I could say I find it unrealistic for a billion people to larp full-time as a Roman pleb or Mussolinian. (view spoiler)[Palmer knows all this and nerfs them in the denouement. (hide spoiler)] * This book will age better than most, but parts of it ring trendy, sarky, Whedony. (view spoiler)[Like the reservationists coming out of nowhere to save the day. (hide spoiler)] The bold, unclichéd treatment of gender of past books - as gravity, as a seductive force that can be covered up but not ignored, dimorphism as transgression, feminine arts as mind control, pronouns as a spicy personality marker. Their comportment invites it, that toxic artificial helplessness that coded feminine in olden days, and makes us all fall over ourselves wanting to do things for Heloïse, so much so that we stifle when they try to do things for themself. Here it gives way to a soppy constructionism, gender as conspiracy: (view spoiler)[ Madame toiled fifty years—fifty!—to revive patriarchy, narrowing the gates and cramming all high offices she could with the prey this mantis matriarch found easiest, all masculine in mind and genitalia… The Big Three leading this World War: matron Danaë, nursing Lesley, me, and not a dick among us. Where are they now, Madame? The artificial creatures, stiff and male and defined by their penises, you said would rise once war dispelled our supposedly fake equality? Well, you did contrive two dozen of your own male characters to coincidentally fall, to yield this panel. (She returns to the interesting moderate view in the great denouement.) (hide spoiler)] —- But the main gripe: (view spoiler)[The Gordian / Utopian split, the heart if the whole series, is not at all crisp. Earth vs Space. In vs Out. Unity vs fragmentation. Variety vs far greater variety. Life extension vs space exploration. Just let the ones who want to stay stay! People often pose life extension and space exploration as opposites, but they just aren’t, and so they are an unsuitable pair to base thousands of pages of conflict upon. I can’t take Faust seriously when he arbitrarily prefers current people to all of the thousands of worlds’ worth of people that space exploration would bring. He misses the great daily loss of entire galaxies, lost forever. He says he wants ems, which could pack the earth denser with minds. Well consider the greater packing of galaxies full of ems! The only way it makes sense is if they’re selfish, scrabbling to keep themselves alive. His war, his terrorism, is thus rooted in repeated errors, and the books are rooted in his war. I cannot love this. How to have them clash deeply? Make Utopia pro-death! Science advances by funerals! (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)[In fact almost no part of Brillism makes sense. They hate set-sets for reducing natural personality and cognitive variety. But every set character we see is different from the others - and different from all natural characters! Sets are strictly increasing the variety of humanity. There’s nothing wrong with depicting bad philosophy, but it’s presented as a serious dilemma and I don’t think Palmer thinks Brillism is mistaken, just ruined by extremism and instrumental harm. (hide spoiler)] That said, nearly all the main characters are Explorers, taking one side. What would I have as the war’s great theme? The one from the last book is fantastic and underemphasised here: faith in a benevolent dictator vs pragmatic, aggressive scepticism. The second? Past-regarders and future-regarders. Long reflection vs Builders. Noble lie vs radical honesty. Bioconservatism vs transhumanism (represented already, a little). Theory vs praxis. Academia vs autodidacts. Stamp collecting vs engineering. All better than the chosen (view spoiler)[inwards vs out. (hide spoiler)] What about Jedd’s philosophy? Like Yahweh, he has serious problems with respecting boundaries. That his subsumption and illiberal eternal hugging is taken so seriously is annoying. His lack of socialisation is half stupidity (demanding unconditional surrender at the cost of millions of lives), half defamiliar genius (why do people die, father?). (view spoiler)[That he is a particularist, favouring his family to the point where this has a serious chance of outweighing every other being and the course of history he chooses, belies his being particularly alien or godlike. Kin favourites is classic mammal. (hide spoiler)] One more deep disagreement: (view spoiler)[the war is said to be needed because humans are growing too comfortable to go to deep space. But this seems completely backwards to me. Just as a small minority of people in the richest parts of the world strain unprecedentedly without needing to - marathons, free soloing, biohacking, psychonautics, workaholism, and yes, space - I expect greater wealth and tech to inspire a similar proportion of contrarian strivers. And it only takes a few hundred offworld to seed all else. This is Utopia’s bizarre error / overconfidence, or Palmer’s error which makes itself true for them. Gordian have no blame in it, it’s enough for Utopia to believe it. (hide spoiler)] (view spoiler)[Cato as Hephaestus, the divine inventor, yields a funny insight: all of this could have been avoided with sufficient technological progress. Can everyone have what they want, with sufficient technological progress? No, but it gets you pretty close. (hide spoiler)] And yet I am so glad. There is nothing like it in C21st literature. I am only able to attack its philosophy (philosophies) because it’s so clearly and sympathetically drawn, because so intellectually ambitious. I am certain there are readers out there who view Utopia as trivially wrong, though it’s hard to imagine anyone loving (view spoiler)[terrorist Gordian. They’re from Ingolstad! (hide spoiler)] Characters routinely do the reasonable thing, including positive-sum trades with their mortal enemies, including instrumental harm for enormous stakes. It is one of the few works which sees the full stakes so clearly, which sees the world-historical significance of nerds, science fiction, and technical tat, both beneath and beyond the average novelist. Over-the-top, wrong, and great. --- Clippings: I could see you, across the sky, the crowded sea, a thousand black and winged shapes for every tardy, well-meant Peace-dove. But humans began digging a canal across the Gulf of Corinth more than three thousand years ago and finished it in 1893. It’s worth trying things again. Apollo Guardian of Strangers knows that it’s worth trying things again. Especially for such a goal as peacefall. (view spoiler)[ Why not both, Mycroft? A week ago, I could not have answered you, reader, but now I think I can. The light is almost out. Space is too terrible, and Earth too good, not only space too hard but Earth too good, the gifts of Nature, more, for we have spent this hundred thousand years not only building boats and braving seas but tilling fields and planting cities, cultivating Earth’s great human garden. Even in the Exponential Age, when we wounded Mother Gaea with our garbage and our growth, we coaxed her back to health. Perhaps with Master Hobbes still there beside you, you imagine struggles are a constant of humanity’s condition, but our ancestors worked hard to make a better future for their children, and it worked. Life now is good. Not just for most, for all of us, such health, such plenty. And every year, as art and gardens prosper, we make this rich blue world that much harder to leave. Since we don’t have to. Not even to find our next frontier. Gordian has its own infinity which will not make us brave an airless sea, or weep upon a rock alone. Ever. They bypass grim Poseidon, leave the god who rings the Earth to stand mote-keeper of his black kingdom alone, and chance not to his mercy. Their branch is warm and easy, happy, without aspera, their frontier the Institute’s own motto Profundum et Fundamentum, the boundless deep and foundation: the mind. As progress husbanded by Gordian’s genius makes Earth yet happier... (hide spoiler)] Free Speech, that old tool of plutocracy, the intoxicating, rosy blossom under whose petals parasite lies can breed and multiply until they devour all the garden. None of us wants that. I hope none of us wants that, but there are still Free Speech zealots in this day and age, and they’re just the type to have communications tech, to build a radio or study Morse code, and volunteer to join our network as a link and pass on . . . ​death. I’m panicking, I know it. Everyone understands why we need censorship... I do believe it was a pretty thing once, Free Speech, such a lofty notion, but we outgrew it with our communications revolution, as with our machine guns we outgrew pretty chivalry. Odium! Also odious: our true beliefs are visible in what pokes above the psyche’s surface in those moments when the overflowing heart sings out in gratitude, and then we learn what name it calls: Nature, Humanity, Reason, God, Gaea, Fate, subtle Prometheus, or Providence that takes so much but gives this. (every worldview a religion - I spit. Some less so than others!) I hope the ideas, the fragile and imperfect Hives of 2454, and the battered but changing-for-the-better Hives of 2456, will help you rise with strength tomorrow morning as you lift your oar, or pack, or first aid kit, whatever task at hand, they’re all the oar so long as you still carry in your breast the ancient spark, contagious, shared from breast to breast, that has died out a thousand times, but never yet in every breast at once. We will.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Maja

    ** thank you kind Netgalley for giving me a chance to read this masterpiece, to me who never reviewed anything on Netgalley before, to a stranger, thank you ** WHAT WOULD A UTOPIA LOOK LIKE? When the overcast retreated on the fourth night, I looked up at the returning stars and found them, for the first time in my life, not beautiful. How near it is, Apollo. How near that black and airless ocean where no sailor can tread water, nor stranded vessel hope to catch a fatty fish or thirst-easin ** thank you kind Netgalley for giving me a chance to read this masterpiece, to me who never reviewed anything on Netgalley before, to a stranger, thank you ** WHAT WOULD A UTOPIA LOOK LIKE? When the overcast retreated on the fourth night, I looked up at the returning stars and found them, for the first time in my life, not beautiful. How near it is, Apollo. How near that black and airless ocean where no sailor can tread water, nor stranded vessel hope to catch a fatty fish or thirst-easing drizzle. Terra Ignota book quartet was finalized with ‘Perhaps the Stars’ where we finally see how World War III would unfold. Mind you, this is a very specific circumstances-driven World War, which is not really a reflection of what might happen to us, but an idealization of sorts, a “I wish us humans were on that level of rationality and pacifism”-type of war narrative that is happening in far future with actors we cannot imagine being present to help us in our Present – i.e. an actual God from another dimension, resurrection potions, etc., etc. Free Speech, that old tool of plutocracy, the intoxicating, rosy blossom under whose petals parasite lies can breed and multiply until they devour all the garden. None of us wants that. I hope none of us wants that, but there are still Free Speech zealots in this day and age, and they’re just the type to have communications tech, to build a radio or study Morse code, and volunteer to join our network as a link and pass on . . . death. I loved the first book of the series, ‘Too like the Lightning’ from the first chapter years ago when I read it first. I loved it the second time around a month back when I re-read it. I loved the endless senate discussions of books two and three, and I loved the tame war with insane plot twists in book four. Terra Ignota is not one of the best science fiction series I read, it is THE best and I feel it’s grossly underestimated. After that, time lost its line a while. Patches of painful light and strange voices alternate in my memory with dreams of wandering salty shores, or shadowed woods, or searching in a tiny boat, alone in that vague but absolute despair that dissolves the illusion that time can be measured. BUT THE BEST ASPECT OF THE BOOK(S)? It’s Mycroft Canner. I said it when I read ‘Too like the Lightning’ years ago, and I’ll say it again: Mycroft Canner is one of my favourite characters in fiction! He’s a monster and a killer (I know the book tried to give him Reasons for being Good, but in my eyes, he is neither Good nor Evil, he’s Insane. Anyway, the eye of the beholder and all that…) that takes us through the complex narrative of first three books and now finally the last book which deals with the actual war we’ve been getting to for years now. But perhaps you are angry with me? Expecting a thousand apologies for my long absence? No. What would such apologies mean, reader, between we two who know each other now so well? This time around we see the narrative from both Mycroft’s and his Successor’s perspective, which was a genius idea because we finally saw Mycroft’s sometimes muddled point of view and then got the “objective” account of what really happened from his Successor. We got to see Mycroft observing the Outside, which gave us extra depth to Mycroft’s character. I will admit, though, his name – Mycroft – always gave me ideas about him being behind it all; behind the Seven-Ten list theft, behind the deaths and the War. I wanted him to be the final Villain, the one that only pretended to be good, that lied, that cheated, that worked a plan which was in place ever since his two-week killing spree years ago. I wanted Mycroft to be the ultimate Mega-mind behind every little thing, holding the reigns, pushing and pulling actors… He did do all that in a way, but not as a Villain because he ended up being the Hero. Which is fine. Just fine. Totally OK. Mycroft, our Odysseus finally come home. Time and distance make us ghosts to one another even when we’re still alive and here, but while it makes us ghosts it doesn’t make us nothing. Humans are so amazing that we can love somebody far away, or in the past, or future, somebody whose name we may not ever know, but love is no less real or powerful because you’re not together breathing the same oxygen. But yes, the Illiad and Odyssey references. The Greek mythology. The whole package was very satisfying. I loved how old-fashioned World War III in ‘Perhaps the Stars’ ended up being, how hard and clumsy and real. There were so many sides and developments and complications, I am awed at the work that must have gone into it to accomplish that level of complexity. We got to see everything: from new forms of communication when the wires and telephones failed, to the use of bicycles when all the flying cars broke down. We saw endless confusions of allegiances and battles and Hives and heroes and villains. I will not be moved from where I stand except by victory, which will be mine in death as much as life! For if I live, I live to keep my Almagest, and if die, the pyre my friends and Empire erect for me will burn on in incessant fires of war, in grind of wheels, in drums, in every instrument of vengeance, until my will is worked as absolutely in my death as if I held the chisel in my hand to carve my law into humanity! The discussions about using lethal weapons were really interesting. This is where I wish the Human Species got to in the future. A war fought with teaser-guns, a war fought under laws that forbid killing, violence, theft, etc. A Peaceful War. I’d rather have the chance to give my life to fix the thing than have no way to fix a thing that so needs to be fixed that I’d give my life for it. The Philosophy, though, is the best part of the quartet! Hobbes with his Leviathans and that one scene in the previous book where Spinoza’s work is used as a torture device. Divine! I mean, I am no philosopher. I read philosophy only as a hobby and most of it is from Instagram accounts about the Stoics. I never read Spinoza or Hobbes or de Sade, but the books were written so expertly that you don’t have to read them. There are numerous depths if you are familiar with these philosophers, but in general, the books can be enjoyed without that extra knowledge. But once you finish them, you’ll wish to know what Spinoza said that was so horrible to serve as a weapon. I know I do. These aren’t suicidal thoughts. They’re meta-suicidal thoughts, fear that I might become suicidal, pre-horror that this long grind will break me, make me betray so much. The me that I am now is horrified at the very thought of suicide, or dying at all really, but I can tell that me is changing, like I’m dough being extruded through a tube, and who knows what weird shape will spew out the other side. Every time the nausea peaks and I beg inside for the sedation to take hold, my welcome off-switch, the fear hits me: what if the self that spews out of this a month from now would beg like this for the off-switch that never ends? In short, I love smart books and this is It. Will recommend to everyone I meet if our conversations ever steer to books (which I’ll make sure they do.) The depths and death, and then perhaps the stars.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Yev

    Was it worthwhile to read this tetralogy? Yeah, overall, I suppose so. The narrative didn't go how I'd prefer, but it's consistently interesting if nothing else. In every book there's a considerable focus on experimentation in narrative style. Despite that most of the time I was more annoyed than intrigued by that, it was still worth reading. The narrative generally stayed at the periphery of the action, which made sense, considering the events that occurred and the narrator. Although this was a Was it worthwhile to read this tetralogy? Yeah, overall, I suppose so. The narrative didn't go how I'd prefer, but it's consistently interesting if nothing else. In every book there's a considerable focus on experimentation in narrative style. Despite that most of the time I was more annoyed than intrigued by that, it was still worth reading. The narrative generally stayed at the periphery of the action, which made sense, considering the events that occurred and the narrator. Although this was a change of pace from where most books are in the middle of whatever was going on, I found that reading daily field reports and similar wasn't a preferred method of engagement for me. It was definitely a strange experience reading about people who had forgotten how to wage war and were reading monographs about how to do so and establishing best practices to have humane internment camps. They wanted to wage war against each other without killing anyone. Overall their conflict was so sterile that it seemed alien to me, though that was certainly for the best for those involved. There were two extended psychological horror scenes and they were probably the highlights of the book for me, especially the first one. For several pages the narrative is presented entirely though a data log, which I don't remember if I've seen before, or if I have, it wasn't anything noteworthy to me. Unfortunately, which is something I write all too often, I was still unable to feel particularly invested in any of it, which as with every book, limited my enjoyment. As with the previous books, I wasn't able to appreciate the classical age references, because my reading of classics is negligible. I was indifferent to the ending. It works well enough for the context, though I would've preferred something more decisive. My main problem with it was that after four books it felt lacking in consequence, though that's probably a personal and cultural issue.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Ed

    Magnificently conceived and superbly executed, Ada Palmer's Terra Ignota series is a triumph nothing short of masterpiece. A grand literary achievement that carves out fresh space in the genre, whilst continuing the great conversation of authors throughout the ages. Taking influence from Homer and from Voltaire as much as from Gene Wolfe or Iain Banks, its a magnificent blend of styles that perfectly works together. In the hands of a lesser author, it could come across as clumsy or mismatched, b Magnificently conceived and superbly executed, Ada Palmer's Terra Ignota series is a triumph nothing short of masterpiece. A grand literary achievement that carves out fresh space in the genre, whilst continuing the great conversation of authors throughout the ages. Taking influence from Homer and from Voltaire as much as from Gene Wolfe or Iain Banks, its a magnificent blend of styles that perfectly works together. In the hands of a lesser author, it could come across as clumsy or mismatched, but Palmer absolutely has the skill to pull off her very ambitious plans! Before getting into the bulk of the review (which may be significant, this is a seriously hefty book), the main thing to note is that it absolutely sticks the landing. I had a genuine fear going into this fourth and final book in the series that it would not possibly be able to resolve all the myriad plot threads in satisfying ways, but again, Palmer really does manage it! Plus the rising action you might expect in a final installment- the kind that makes you feel that all that came before was just setting the scene so that that we could tell the explosive story that we wanted to tell in this one. So then, the book focuses on the world civil war. What can war look like, when the world is divided along lines not geographic but ideological? The hives that we have become familiar with in the previous books are spread across the world thanks to the advances of transportation tech; one of the great aspects here (and that in my opinion is the marker of all good sci-fi) is how well-realised the technology and world is. Great care has been taken to consider how changing technologies and changing laws would actually affect the world and its citizens, and we get to see lots of these ramifications here. The battle lines seem to be drawn along the main divide; should the Hives be dismantled and remade into something better, or should they be allowed to continue, as imperfect as they may be? Like all wars, a single sentence doesn't do it justice, and the dividing lines between factions only become murkier as time progresses, allegiances shifting and redefining themselves. At the start of the novel, the flying-car systems that had really allowed this new world order are suddenly switched off. And not just off- they're now flying on seemingly random paths across the sky, preventing anything else from taking off. This is the first of many descents into relative darkness that we see; the apparent Utopia of this future society is systematically undermined- or possibly just revealed to be more fragile than most of its inhabitants believed. We get fantastic examinations of the classic Hume vs Rousseau debate on the state of humans in nature, and how different groups react to crisis. The philisophy never feels like its interfering with the action, the two are indelibly woven together in an absolutely gorgeous way. The world-building, again, is absolutely top notch here. We get to see more of the world that Palmer has created, including more of the world outside the Hive system, and how that functions, but also more of the off-world living pioneered by the Utopia hive- its really cool stuff. But we also get to see how the war affects all this, and some of it is genuinely horrifying. There are sequences in the book that had me completely gripped, more astounded and aghast at what was happening than any book in recent memory- these fictional atrocities that moved me to tears. Incredibly powerful stuff. On top and inbetween the world-war elements we have layered in a lot of dialogue on the nature of divinity. I read in an interview that part of Palmer's goal with the series was to examine what sort of book an earlier philosopher, like Voltaire, might have written if he had access to the modern 'canon' and techniques- the very idea of taking capital-G God seriously, and examining how it might manifest in other worlds is something that we just don't see, and it's fascinating to explore it with our characters. We are, as always, given enough leeway to decide for ourselves whether or not to put stock in the claims of various characters, and the ambiguity is delicious. Regardless of its truth or not, following through the debate and the revelations is genuinely wondrous, and full of mind-expanding moments. The ideas of religious freedom and censorship also take centre stage, and there is an exceedinly nuanced look at the whole topic- why do we need faith in a science-dominated world? And similar questions. There are also some extremely interesting plays with the voice of the narrator here- who the narrator is and how they are getting their message across. Having the extra layer of fiction of knowing that everything here is the product of certain in-universe characters allows for even more playfulness and double-meanings. We are given exactly the right amount of doubt in the sanity of our guide into this world, and it allows for endless examination and debate, as well as masking some of the more mystical elements, and allowing the shred of doubt; are these things happening the way they're presented, or simply the ravings of the narrator? This is a concept that it's easy to overuse; too much doubt and the whole story becomes meaningless; but Palmer walks this line precisely, never overstepping, giving us enough context and information from other sources that allow the reader to piece together the truth of the story. This is one-hundred percent a series that rewards close reading, with hidden nuggets peppered throughout for the keen-eyed reader. The takes on gender are less pronounced in this book than in previous, but it's another very nuanced and interesting discussion. The way that it is handled in the Hive society is fascinatingly flawed, a fact many in-universe are aware of. It's easy to think of this purely as 'big-idea' sci-fi, and that's clearly what I've written about so far! But there are also genuinely fantastic characters and human stories in here too- Palmer's infuriating brilliance is that she's great at everything. The narrator at the start, the Ninth Anonymous, is a great character with a tragic story; the Emperor of the Masons is fully fleshed out and full of human contradictions, the various Utopian characters are great, the distinctly eerie JEDD Mason is such a unique and memorable character (personally I come down on the side that they're absolutely not what they think they are), there's star-crossed lovers, there's scheming manipulators (all for the greater good, of course), there is a magnificent master detective dissatisfied with the lack of a worthy criminal opponent, there are just too many plots to try and summarise them all succicently. But they are all interesting, they all work, and none of them seem superfluous. One final thing I want to highlight is the sheer craft of the writing. The prose is lovely and sumptuous; gorgeous metaphors and similes, and it has a magnificent rhythm to it that carries you through the action scenes, swelling up to meet the action. Significant parts of the book are actually written in meter (iambic pentameter, I actually checked this), with the strictness to which it is adhered being tuned to fit the nature of the scene. An incredibly ambitious series that actually manages to achieve what it sets out to to; head and shoulders ahead of most other things being written today- not that its a competition, I would just love to read more books of this calibre. Endlessly inventive, deeply empathetic with deep insights into humanity, amazing technical skill, philosophically charged with something fresh to say rather than simply relying on existing interpretations, great action scenes, brilliant characters; I really can't gush with praise enough about these books. So happy to have found them, genuinely feel that my life is better for having them in it.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Miles

    There are times when I feel utterly incapable of expressing my appreciation and admiration for a particular book. This is the case with Perhaps the Stars, Ada Palmer’s magnificent conclusion to her Terra Ignota Quartet. Please know, dear reader, that even if you read this entire review, and my reviews of the other three Terra Ignota books (Book 1, Book 2, Book 3), I will never have enough words––or the right words––to tell you how deeply grateful I am to be alive in a time when such stories are There are times when I feel utterly incapable of expressing my appreciation and admiration for a particular book. This is the case with Perhaps the Stars, Ada Palmer’s magnificent conclusion to her Terra Ignota Quartet. Please know, dear reader, that even if you read this entire review, and my reviews of the other three Terra Ignota books (Book 1, Book 2, Book 3), I will never have enough words––or the right words––to tell you how deeply grateful I am to be alive in a time when such stories are conceived and disseminated. Palmer’s literary achievement is so brilliant and powerful that it defies this humble reviewer’s ability to heap sufficient praise; I will try to tell you how great these books are, and I will fail. In my senior thesis for my undergraduate degree, I posited a theory of “ethically complex narratives,” which I described as narratives that “struggle against the tendency to categorize moral agents and their actions within traditional dichotomous ethical formulas, such as ‘good and evil,’ ‘right and wrong,’ or ‘strength and weakness.’” I’ve come across many great stories that meet the criteria for ethical complexity, but none more effectively than Terra Ignota. Palmer’s 25th-century future is, above all else, a vision of courageous optimism in which even the ostensible villains generally strive to uphold the core tenets of humanism and basic decency. Perhaps the Stars describes a World War in which nearly all combatants are honorable and laudable, depending on your personal and ideological inclinations. It is notoriously difficult to generate genuine tension in such scenarios, and this is why most writers succumb to ethical simplicity, usually in the form of an overbearing antagonist who wants to control everything or destroy the world because…well, because we need that in order to generate conflict, and also to dispel any ambiguity regarding who we are “supposed” to root for. Ada Palmer is the living antithesis of that lazy approach. It’s nearly impossible to find an author with a broader range of influences. Palmer’s prose is replete with intelligent observations about languages, historical periods, philosophical traditions, technological possibilities, political structures, and mythological traditions. One fascinating feature of Perhaps the Stars is that it’s a retelling of Homer’s The Iliad, or perhaps a “remix” might be a more accurate term. It also contains a single chapter that’s a rollicking reimagining of The Odyssey. I prepared for this by reading Robert Fitzgerald’s translation of The Iliad and a few secondary texts, and that work really paid off. While I’d have to be as smart as Palmer to fully grok all of her allusions, many of them clicked for me after immersing myself in Greek Mythology for a few months. I had a huge amount of fun witnessing Palmer unfurl each new connection between her story and Homer’s. Palmer is unflinching in her love of humans, who she refers to as “the instruments that carve the path from cave walls to the stars…[and who] built this world and will build better ones” (2). She is also appropriately caustic when it comes to pointing out the many failings of “we who build so much and burn it, bumbling humanity” (540). She is nothing if not an epic thinker, and the plot of Perhaps the Stars hinges on nothing less than the longterm future of our species. Without dropping spoilers, I will say that in this book the core conflict of the War is revealed to be something quite different from what was previously indicated––a satisfying reveal that elevates the narrative to richer philosophical territory than it has previously visited. She also provides thoughtful and moving commentary on the nature of human relationships, the dangers and benefits of tribalism, the value of loyalty and political pragmatism, the tension between comfort and exploration, and humanity’s pressing need to become kinder in its dealings with other living things. One potential stumbling point is that Palmer refuses to give direct explanations for a couple of her major conceits. This is sure to disappoint some readers, and I will admit to being a little irked about it at first. But the more I think about it, the less frustrated I become. This could be because I seek to anchor an unalloyed adoration of these books in my memory, or because in the end Palmer’s tale could not have been told in a way that perfectly satisfies my preferences for narrative coherence. Whatever the case, sometimes we choose to simply love something without criticism or caveat. In the final analysis, I realize that Terra Ignota drew that choice from me as easily as I draw breath. I’d like to wrap up with my favorite quote from this 2020 interview with Palmer: "As Ursula Le Guin said in her National Book Award Speech, genre fiction writers of science fiction, fantasy, and alternate history are realists of a larger reality in which we are exploring not just the Earth that we’re in but other ways societies and worlds could be set up, expanding the breadth of imagination of our civilization and expanding the number of civilizations with which we have made a kind of first contact. Since the development of science fiction as a genre, when new technological changes have affected the world, we have had dozens of different well thought through answers to what might this do before it happens…Science fiction fights our ethical battles before we have to do them, and is one of the things that makes humanity now more humane and ethically prepared for the speed of change we face than we have ever been before." (2:17:00) This remains (and I imagine will remain) the best definition of science fiction I’ve ever heard; it’s also a perfect description of Palmer’s work. Like all great science fiction, Palmer’s story is as much about the present as it is about what may come to pass. Today, humanity is on the brink of achieving civilizational escape velocity that could propel us into an infinitely bright future, but our lesser angels––our bellicose bickering and atavistic urges––may yet wreck it all. I can’t begin to enumerate the diversity and depth of the ethical battles these books fight on behalf of a better future for humanity and life more generally. Most authors would be lucky to exhibit commensurate creativity and insight in an entire career, let alone a single series. Terra Ignota not only secures Palmer’s place in the highest echelon of science fiction authors, but earns her a position as one of our finest living writers in any genre. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next. This review was originally published on my blog, words&dirt.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Alex Sarll

    Staggering, ambitious, ridiculous, heartfelt, opaque; the most emotionally exhausting read I can remember. It's hard talking about a book concluding a series comprising the most impressive novels of the past decade, when not nearly enough people have read the damn things. Palmer's prose, for instance, and the reversals in the narration, are as big a part of her achievement here as the astonishing world-building – but if I were to comment on any differences there may or may not be between the nar Staggering, ambitious, ridiculous, heartfelt, opaque; the most emotionally exhausting read I can remember. It's hard talking about a book concluding a series comprising the most impressive novels of the past decade, when not nearly enough people have read the damn things. Palmer's prose, for instance, and the reversals in the narration, are as big a part of her achievement here as the astonishing world-building – but if I were to comment on any differences there may or may not be between the narration here and that perverse 18th century voice in earlier volumes, it would be a terrible spoiler both for those who have been reading the series, and for those lucky ones who have the whole thing still to come. Or even to explain the structure of the series, in which Too Like The Lightning gave us a seductive 25th century near-utopia; Seven Surrenders exposed its secrets and flaws; and The Will To Battle set it toppling...I've just given away some of the secrets of the best books of the past 15 years, but without doing so, how to say any more of this one than 'This is a science fiction book which is very good'? Not that I intend to give away too many of its secrets, you understand, and even if I did it would be a struggle; the series has always been a bugger to explain, sometimes even to follow, though it's important to note that this is the confusion of a real and solid and populous world, rather than any failing on the part of its maker and teller. Besides, the last time I tried to explain exactly what had me so animated in terms of the immediate plot, I got as far as 'so there's a toy soldier who's been brought to life, and an invisible lion, and a character who may be God', and realised I sounded like I was describing a particularly fevered dream. That even with all three of those character summaries being painfully incomplete... Little wonder if half the people on whom I've pressed Too Like The Lightning bounced off, and others couldn't get on with the series' subsequent wanderings. Even here, I suspect some will feel the series has finally gone too far. Palmer always knew that 'Show, don't tell' is advice for amateurs, but there are sections here which are barely even telling so much as notes of things we probably should be told. And the very ending looks at a number of widely mocked endings, then goes one louder. Yet for me at least, these were entirely fitting, the only way this could or should be told. So yes: Perhaps The Stars is indeed the story of the ensuing war – at once the return of something which seemed finally to have been banished from the world, and a horribly new phenomenon. Because nation states are vestigial in Palmer's future, most people instead pledging allegiance to various Hives according to preference and temperament – meaning that against the broad geographical axis of historical conflicts, this is something more like world civil war. As ever, Palmer's background as a historian means she can get the little details of a future era just right – the way a symbol which began as a way to signal neutrality can itself become a sign of alignment as the context changes; the resurfacing of old hatreds when people's backs are against the wall, paired with humanity's horrible gift for finding whole new bigotries. Factions and alliances become progressively more tangled, leaving almost everyone standing with those they can't abide, and the apparently noble casus belli – whether to preserve the greatest civilisation humanity has ever known, or remake it as something hopefully even better – ends up down in the mud, because war is war, and humans are humans. Yet not entirely in the mud; enough of the players have been shaped by nobler motives and better worlds that whatever compromises may be forced, whatever dreadful prices paid, Perhaps The Stars feels like it operates on a much larger scale than our own grubby age. Whenever I turned from this account to the news, reality seemed a very thin and unconvincing sort of thing in comparison. And for all that describing a book as unputdownable is a standard term of praise, I did turn away, even beyond the pauses obliged by things like work and life and sleep. For all that I've been impatient for this much-delayed book since, what, 2018?, there were multiple times when, looking at the book I've been most anticipating for so long, I couldn't quite bear to read on, so invested am I in the whole shebang and so terrified of what was about to happen. Although it could have been worse; I'm really glad it didn't arrive last year. The flying cars (such a key signifier of the future we were meant to have, and so a crucial fixture of the setting) are grounded, you see; "I have never been in a place before. None of us has, not really, not like this. We could always fly anywhere we wished in an instant or an hour. Now I am in Romanova. I will be in Romanova tomorrow and the next day. I will walk these streets and only these streets, sleep on this sofa, eat from this shop". There's even something which seems very reminiscent of that life-sapping combination of long COVID and lockdown. All of this in a book written pre-Event. I can suspect the odd line like "faces all around me show much vigor this vampire year has drained from all of us" as reaction, added during revisions, though even there I could be wrong. But dear heavens, it would have been a bit close to home in 2020, wouldn't it? "I will not hope again. Hope is the most dangerous thing. Hope opens the armor inside us." True, things are a little better now – though not so much so that I dare hope for a future like Terra Ignota, where yes, in this book all that is best about humanity stands under threat of destruction, but where at least we reached a point where we will have that much to lose. In the end – and I suppose this could be construed as a spoiler, but like the gleanings of any mystical experience, the summary won't make the requisite impact unless and until you've shared the experience – the series reveals itself as addressing that biggest and oldest of problems, the intolerability of death and separation, and what it does to humanity that we must tolerate them nonetheless, and how remarkable it is that despite this we can still somehow bring ourselves to love. (Netgalley ARC)

  16. 4 out of 5

    Mark Parnell

    Thus ends one of the weirdest (I mean that in a good way) wildest and thought provoking series I have read, maybe ever. My only complaint is that the four year gap between the release of The Will to Battle and Perhaps the Stars made it difficult to jump back into the series. A two or three page recap of events would have helped a lot. So if you the reader are interested in checking this series out I strongly recommend you set aside some time, settle down and read all 4 in order. Told from the pe Thus ends one of the weirdest (I mean that in a good way) wildest and thought provoking series I have read, maybe ever. My only complaint is that the four year gap between the release of The Will to Battle and Perhaps the Stars made it difficult to jump back into the series. A two or three page recap of events would have helped a lot. So if you the reader are interested in checking this series out I strongly recommend you set aside some time, settle down and read all 4 in order. Told from the perspective of Mycroft Canner, Ada Palmer introduces us to Earth 400 years from now. On the surface we live in a Utopia, nations states have been replaced by Hives and strats not limited by geography. Over the course of the first three novels we learn that nothing is what it seems, that the price of utopia (systematic elimination of humans that have been flagged as problems has kept the peace) and once that secret is discovered, the world that has known nothing but peace for 400 years now finds itself on the brink of a world war. Perhaps the Stars chronicles the war and the repercussions of the war and does so in a manner that leaves you asking difficult questions: should the death of anyone be accepted as anything less then murder, even during a war? Is the elimination of a single person to save a million lives ever justified? Can wartime reparations go too far and can they ever satisfy everyone? For me personally, the introduction of Bridger and Jehovah and the set sets and the question posited about human nature and first contact and our proven ability to destroy anything different has never been more relevant than the world we live in today. Part of the problem is that as adults we lose our imagination, our ability to believe in the impossible. It is not lost on me that the saviours (to a large degree in the series) in Bridger and Jehovah were both special kids. Its easy to look at a child with severe autism and dismiss their ability to communicate when in fact we should recognize they are communicating on a level that we cant comprehend. Maybe it will take the development of quantum computers and a functioning AI before we can communicate with them. My review doesn't even scratch the surface of the beautiful, dense and character driven world Ada Palmer introduced us to. Its a series that I will in the future read again in its entirety and one that I am confident saying will become more relevant as we crawl into the future.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tanya

    ...before I've sweated out my term as oarsman on Apollo's flagship, I must lead Utopia to some new world untouched by Distance, where the very oars and sails we use to battle grim Poseidon are undreamed. [loc. 12074]The long-awaited (and long) finale of the Terra Ignota series. (Too Like the Lightning, Seven Surrenders, The Will to Battle.) I will not attempt to summarise the tetralogy here, except to note that it's set in a 25th century that thinks it's small-u utopian but has elements of dysto ...before I've sweated out my term as oarsman on Apollo's flagship, I must lead Utopia to some new world untouched by Distance, where the very oars and sails we use to battle grim Poseidon are undreamed. [loc. 12074]The long-awaited (and long) finale of the Terra Ignota series. (Too Like the Lightning, Seven Surrenders, The Will to Battle.) I will not attempt to summarise the tetralogy here, except to note that it's set in a 25th century that thinks it's small-u utopian but has elements of dystopia. There are gods (some more Present than others) and monsters (oh, Mycroft), a World War and an ideological war conducted simultaneously, a villain in an underground lair (hmm, more than one of those), reversals and twists, blurred identities, mythic resonances, metamorphoses and miracles, space elevators, and -- regrettably -- spreadsheets, which have not yet gone extinct.The war subtracts two of the key technologies that society relies on: the car system, which had made it possible for individuals to live and work anywhere in the world with at most a two-hour commute, and the tracker system, which connected (and monitored) everybody. Chaos, in the form of riot and prejudice, ensues, and old alignments and alliances shift and change: the calming influences aren't necessarily those one might expect. The twin toxicities of gender and religion are further explored, and some of the limitations of the various approaches to both acknowledged. The existence and treatment of Servicers is also addressed, and by the end of the novel there are credible expectations of a better world. Or worlds.Not all endings are happy, but happiness is not necessarily the point. There were some conclusions that weren't wholly satisfying (Madame, reminiscent of Lady Macbeth; Thisbe; Ráðsviðr), and some developments -- those relating to the narrative voices, and the various Readers who interrupt and interrogate the primary narrative -- which felt slightly rushed: but the latter might simply be because I raced through the novel and missed foreshadowing. Conversely, it was cheering to spot a resonance or reference before it was made explicit. There's a lot of the Iliad here, as well as its in-universe sci-fi reimagining by Apollo Mojave (which was read and reimagined, in turn, by an impressionable adolescent). Apollo never, thankfully, got as far as the Odyssey, which is mirrored in Mycroft's tale. I cheered when Helen was revealed, and teared up at Odysseus' dog. ...Perhaps the Stars is a densely-written, complex, philosophical novel which I suspect I'll be assimilating for some time. It doesn't answer all the questions I hoped it would: it doesn't neatly tie off all the threads. But it is profound and provocative, tragic and triumphant and, literally, marvellous. Thanks to NetGalley for the advance review copy, in exchange for this honest and unbiased review which I'm posting out of sequence for publication day!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Paul Mcguire

    I received an early copy in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to NetGalley and Tor Forge. It isn't until chapter 11 that we get to find out what happened to Mycroft after we confirm near the end of book 3 that he is still alive. Everyone presumes him to be dead because they haven't had contact with him in months. But is he really alive? Up to that point we explore a number of different ways that the war disrupts various technologies that the characters have learned to rely on for decades. Pa I received an early copy in exchange for an honest review. Thanks to NetGalley and Tor Forge. It isn't until chapter 11 that we get to find out what happened to Mycroft after we confirm near the end of book 3 that he is still alive. Everyone presumes him to be dead because they haven't had contact with him in months. But is he really alive? Up to that point we explore a number of different ways that the war disrupts various technologies that the characters have learned to rely on for decades. Palmer instills negotiations between world leaders the same feeling of weight and urgency of a typical battle thanks to the fully realized characters built over the last three books. There are multiple chilling clashes, some with weapons, others clashes of egos, others battles of wits and wills. Through all that, Palmer manages to masterfully weave in themes from earlier books in a way that rivals Erikson's meticulously crafted Malazan series. This is one series that I expect I will return to in years to come. It benefits greatly from multiple reads. Perhaps the Stars stands out with how it deals with the consequences of the war for the hives involved. Few books explore the aftermath of war and the ways society chooses to punish those involved. Some of the punishments were surprising in their brilliance. I was kept guessing until the end how key tensions would resolve. You will not want to miss this thrilling conclusion.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ben Christensen

    Truly a masterful series. So many interesting, though provoking ideas, and Ada Palmer ties everything together in such a satisfying conclusion to this series.

  20. 4 out of 5

    richardrpjasper.org

    Bleah I stopped reading this one when the central character started attacking Free Speech as the source of all (implied) 21st Century ills and advocating censorship instead. I know it is for all practical purposes a farce but living as we do on the cusp of autocracy when those who would dismantle democracy use disinformation and censorship to gin up their supporters it's too much. Bleah I stopped reading this one when the central character started attacking Free Speech as the source of all (implied) 21st Century ills and advocating censorship instead. I know it is for all practical purposes a farce but living as we do on the cusp of autocracy when those who would dismantle democracy use disinformation and censorship to gin up their supporters it's too much.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Vanessa Perry

    Can't wait pls Can't wait pls

  22. 5 out of 5

    kangeiko

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Well, that was… a lot. This series reached for that same ambition reflected in the most enduring of sf, crafting entire worlds and more. The uncertainty about the ‘trueness’ of the individual characters vs the pressure of the narrative they found themselves trapped in was also fascinating for me. I had a LOT of feelings about everyone in this entire series. There was a lot to cover in this final novel, and Palmer pulls it off… sort of. The things I loved first: unlikely apparently everyone else, Well, that was… a lot. This series reached for that same ambition reflected in the most enduring of sf, crafting entire worlds and more. The uncertainty about the ‘trueness’ of the individual characters vs the pressure of the narrative they found themselves trapped in was also fascinating for me. I had a LOT of feelings about everyone in this entire series. There was a lot to cover in this final novel, and Palmer pulls it off… sort of. The things I loved first: unlikely apparently everyone else, I liked 9A. I welcomed their war chronicles, and the horror of their confinement was particularly vivid. I really, REALLY liked the re-making of Mycroft / Odysseus, and the explanation for how he miraculously escaped (or, rather, how the narrative need for him caused him to repurpose the bodies of those who loved him). I liked seeing the exposure of humanity’s grimy underbelly, even the self-declared pacifists like Kossala, or the supposed Cousins faction Nurturists (who always struck me as weirdly militant for a fluffy Cousin group). I liked the politics. A LOT. But… look, I’m not going to beat about the bush, as a morality tale, it fell short. The bad prosper and get away with their crimes. We don’t see the repercussions of the torture of 9A (and that final ‘self-confessed crimes/sentencing’ scene didn’t really cover it for me). We don’t have the restriction of the Gordian hive, despite the fact that they willingly engineered the concentration camps and torture, as well as the murder, of so many civilians. And that is what really rankled. JEDD Mason draws these really strange lines in the sand, declaring death in war as a war crime. Except for self-defence, of course. Well, they also except Gordian because they did what they did because they wanted to conquer death… at some point, maybe. And gosh darn it, they will conquer it however many people they kill! (It did rather strike me as the Peacemaker rationale, and that’s… not a good look.) The Utopias by contrast are punished very vocally and publicly, and irrevocably. To prevent a war, they’re exiled and will continue to be exiled? Yeah, good luck explaining that to their bashes. Because here’s the thing. The Utopians are presented as all adults, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t have kids. Are those kids also exiled? Or can they return to Earth, knowing their parents are exiled and can never return? Honestly, there is a bit of a logic to the enforced diaspora rationale, but it won’t ‘solve’ the war problem, it will just transmute it into “we do all this work and then earth swans in and takes it from us, what the fuck.” How is that… going to encourage anyone to do anything? There’s such a thing as TOO much stick. Finally, although we see a small amount of comeuppance (primarily in Joyce’s death, holy hell how much I loathed her and Faust), there is a lot of hand waving away of genuine war crimes. No, death is not the crime. The evil prospered under the old regime, and continue to do so under the new regime. Putting Julia Doria Pamphili in charge of ANYTHING will just result in more victims, but that’s apparently judged acceptable? Gordian’s senior leadership are not held responsible for what they did to 9A? For the concentration camps? Honestly, I think the main issue I have is that JEDD Mason doesn’t convince as a god, just as… idk, someone neuroatypical. But the rest of the characters seem convinced he is a god, and treat his every statement as somehow a profound stone tablet style of statement, where he’s mostly just producing word salad that Mycroft attempts to turn into coherent philosophy. Death is bad, and distance is bad, and I’m glad he finally acknowledged that he has issues with object permanence but doesn’t that sound like a fairly crucial skill for someone who is remaking the world? He’s in pain when Mycroft isn’t around him all of the time. How the hell would the world function if everyone had to be surrounded by their friends and family all the time? Why is HIS bash so fucking important that he can only think in terms of the impact on himself (and when he breaks out of that, everyone is falling over themselves to say how selfless he is)? I mean - Cornel Mason keeps his lover’s killer alive for the greater good, the Humanists willing state they’re ok with dying for the greater good, we saw the S-W bash’s trauma after killing their parents as the ultimate sacrifice - and yet for JEDD Mason it’s somehow divine? People sacrifice themselves for those they love, for things greater than themselves, for causes or for the greater good. To end this rant… I still love the worldbuilding, the audacity of the ambition, how much I love so many characters in this world. BUT the philosophy discussed here is suspect at best. Am I satisfied by the ending? Yes and no. Honestly, I needed punishment for Julia and Felix Faust, and for something a bit more… humiliating for Madame than poison. And I needed A9 to be avenged, rather than having their torture swept to the side. Basically… I needed a bit more morality in this morality play.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Eitan Sapiro-Gheiler

    I received an ARC of this book from Tor in exchange for an honest review. My review will include spoilers for the previous books in the Terra Ignota series, but I’ll note which parts also include spoilers for this book. Terra Ignota is a monumental undertaking that grapples with huge questions—what does it mean to do evil? is creating a utopia possible, and can it be sustained? does human nature ever change? and perhaps most critically, why does the universe exists? All of this comes on top of a I received an ARC of this book from Tor in exchange for an honest review. My review will include spoilers for the previous books in the Terra Ignota series, but I’ll note which parts also include spoilers for this book. Terra Ignota is a monumental undertaking that grapples with huge questions—what does it mean to do evil? is creating a utopia possible, and can it be sustained? does human nature ever change? and perhaps most critically, why does the universe exists? All of this comes on top of a tremendously detailed world with its own byzantine legal system, tangled web of power brokers, and rapidly developing technology, including several intentional and occasionally very literal deus ex machinas. The previous books have presented some answers to those questions by revealing Mycroft Canner’s crimes and motivations, probing the ways in which Madame subverted or failed to subvert the Hive system, and offering up a variety of possible causes of war as the society of the 2450s moved towards collapse. However, Palmer pointedly refused to give an answer to the last question, leaving Jehovah Mason increasingly concerned about what terrible purpose the Author of This Universe might have for His creations. Rest assured that Perhaps the Stars offers us an answer. It’s a lot to ask even of a book this massive and complex—not for nothing is the “question of why” one of the driving forces of centuries of theology—but Palmer does not shy away from giving us an explicit, moving, and well-reasoned answer. She also wraps up the various conflicts that finally boil over (the phrase “fractal war” is coined to describe the interconnected tangle of fault lines the world is broken along, and it works spectacularly well as a description) and gives us a bold resolution that may not satisfy everyone, but certainly leaves a lot to ponder in terms of who faces consequences for their actions and how those consequences are structured. Perhaps the Stars is a long book, and that gives it time to be a war epic, several re-told Greek myths, a discussion of the politics of reconciliation, and an intensely personal drama. At the start, it feels a little more burdened by the necessities of plot than Too Like the Lightning or even the intermediate books of the series (which benefits greatly from a re-read to keep everything straight) but there are enough philosophical asides and carefully-handled wartime issues to keep the reader going until the intense theological high points of the final quarter. After taking a detour from the issues I found most interesting in The Will to Battle, Perhaps the Stars is a return to form for the series, and a conclusion that brings together all the big questions and shocking developments readers have come to expect. Four and a half stars out of five. Spoilers for Perhaps the Stars below! The presence and absence of Mycroft throughout this final book, after his untimely maybe-death at the end of The Will to Battle, is one of the strongest aspects of the book. The shadow Apollo’s Iliad casts over the structure of the war looms large as the characters come to realize how Bridger’s influence hangs over the major events of the day, and nowhere is this made more personal than with Mycroft. After toning down the magic and miracles in The Will to Battle, the reader is unprepared for Bridger to play such a major role in Mycroft’s perennial survival. The hints are there, and cleverly placed—Sadcat, the Odyssey retelling, and the reappearance of Cato/Helen—but it is still devastating to watch the Ninth Anonymous surrender himself to the narrative, and to know that Saladin finally found a part of the world that was worth giving up his freedom. Also well-done, but perhaps less personally satisfying, is the fall-out of the war. It is a bold move to impose peacetime justice on the crimes of war, and even bolder to have the presence or absence of crimes be self-imposed, but both are in keeping with the world and characters Palmer created. For a Being like Jehovah Mason, nothing could be stronger than the individual’s promise, and no legalistic tricks can elide the fact that while times change, actions still have consequences. Despite the promise of more pointed justice for those who committed the greatest crimes—Madame, Felix Faust—and the unfortunate ends met by some of the story’s main villains (looking at you, Perry-Kraye), I still found myself wondering whether such a result would be enough. Maybe Palmer truly believes that, in a better world, that would be enough. Maybe the other, invisible reforms—to the Hive system, to the state of technology, to people’s attitudes towards religion and gender—are doing the heavy lifting. Whatever the reason, I cannot bring myself to forgive and move on as easily as the gentler residents of Palmer’s imagined future. Even more challenging to stomach is the fate of Utopia—to be ceaselessly driven forward, unable to pause or look back. In Utopia, Jehovah Mason seems to find a worldview that is as implacable as his own—Apollo’s willingness to sacrifice this world to build a better one—and yet unacceptable, because despite being full of foreign concepts like pain and struggle, this world cannot be sacrificed. It makes sense, then, for him to doom them to permanent exile, but (perhaps having absorbed some of Cato’s hero-worship) it pains me to see the only Hive focused on the future left unable to live in the present. Maybe this is just the natural consequence of Utopia’s oath, which Jehovah Mason cannot but interpret literally. Still, it is harsh to see society’s dreamers confined to their dreams. Perhaps the Stars leaves room for many more discussions, including of course the central theological question. The presentation of that answer, in parallel with the re-wired Dominic, is a masterful scene, and one that I will think about for many months to come. It is a joy to pick out all the little details in how the war is conducted, the Chekov’s guns that inevitably come off the mantel just in time (even when they were placed there several hundred pages ago). While the Terra Ignota series is not for the faint of heart, it certainly rewards close reading, careful thinking, and the careful investment of time to return to information-dense scenes time and time again. Perhaps the Stars is a worthy conclusion to one of the most ambitious and philosophical science fiction series in recent memory.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Naomi

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I’m leaving my initial review intact below, but I added a star. I had to because, after my initial irritation and occasional boredom with the book, I’ve had three weeks where I can’t stop thinking about it. Not just the ideas, but the writing, which at its weakest is just a litany of updates on the status of the war, but at its strongest becomes dizzying, feverish, lyrical iambic pentameter for pages on end, full of sly references to Homer and ecstatic musings on the terror of the sea. I think i I’m leaving my initial review intact below, but I added a star. I had to because, after my initial irritation and occasional boredom with the book, I’ve had three weeks where I can’t stop thinking about it. Not just the ideas, but the writing, which at its weakest is just a litany of updates on the status of the war, but at its strongest becomes dizzying, feverish, lyrical iambic pentameter for pages on end, full of sly references to Homer and ecstatic musings on the terror of the sea. I think it was more important for this book to be interesting and entertaining after it’s read, and the time I’ve spent chewing over it since finishing indicates that it was very successful at its goal. ——— Series as a whole: 4 stars, 3 amazing books to start and a good finale here. This series is absolutely 100% worth it but this book was by far the weakest of the tetralogy. Parts of it were very satisfying, I had many feelings and I couldn’t put it down for 2 days. But the first fifth of the book is composed of daily field reports, which I really didn’t care about. I’m going to try not to spoil much, but I am about to address the shift in how the world treats gender and sex. At some point it loses some of the alien morality around gender and religious taboos which was so interesting in the world building, instead falling into awkward contemporary phrasing/perspectives (“Thank you for being so supportive of my asexuality”, Sniper’s description of “extra-validating” exploration of the vestiges of gender) and supporting the reintroduction of the tyranny and tedium of gender because the taboo against it didn’t snuff it out perfectly. When the small latent presence of gender is revealed as so venomous, why encourage it to proliferate? Why *celebrate* its reintroduction in the mainstream public? The best explanation, which was never provided in a book that explains EVERYTHING, is that the decensoring of this taboo will remove its secretive sexual appeal, thereby destroying the possibility of weaponizing it in the specific way Madame did. It’s not even clear how the new destigmatization of gendered thinking will be compatible with the treatment of Madame’s binary-gender-fetishists as addicts who need to be marginalized. The treatment of gender, sex, and sexuality in this final book generally threw me off—a large number of characters have their genital makeup revealed in a single page near the end (after a couple thousand pages of almost no characters’ biological sex being brought up—I kind of liked this scene’s refutation of Madame’s promotion of masculine male people, but it unnecessarily reveals the genitals of most of the cast), a last-second repeated mention about how everyone takes turns with pregnancy (cool, but probably better as earlier world-building, less interesting during the denouement—or was this intended as a reveal of these characters’ sexual anatomy? Do they have the technology to let anyone be pregnant?), and a few other cases like this. I liked that this society was doing its best to remove gendered thinking, even if it was through a taboo that had flaws. I enjoyed the rare occasion when some character Mycroft called “he” was casually mentioned as having breasts, two books into the series, or Mycroft would decide to switch pronouns due to some gendered behavior or situation, reminding us that these pronouns were arbitrarily selected by a madman. (I compare this to Ancillary Justice, where on rare occasions, characters had their anatomy described after we’d known them for a while, but most remained irrelevant and unmentioned. Here, many characters were left unsexed for most of the book as well, but abruptly revealed in the denouement.) I just don’t like seeing a gender-abolition semi-hugbox suddenly decide to satisfy the contemporary reader’s curiosity about every character’s genitals! You can challenge your readers by revealing these details and violating their assumptions, but you can also challenge them by refusing to reveal this information at all. The other big problem is that at the end of the book landlords still exist? And like, the solution to the "landlords charge high rent" problem was to remove an artificial incentive for high rents that is artificial and specific to the setting. Come on! Landlords don't need an extra incentive to overcharge their tenants. I will be thinking about many of the ideas here for a long time, though, just not so much Palmer's final take on gender. The ideas about consensual governance, space exploration, human aspiration—all very exciting! Regardless of how the finale stacks up against the rest of the series, it’s a good book and succeeds at its goals as a work of sci-fi philosophy. Not every part of the book was satisfying, but to be fair there are so many loose ends in the world at the start, it would be hard to wrap them all up in ways that satisfy every reader. Parts of it I’m not sure if I’m very satisfied or extremely unsatisfied (not to spoil too much of course, but: Utopia).

  25. 5 out of 5

    Nick Reno

    I finished this last night in a 3AM fever, and it's been consuming my every waking thought for like a week. Going in I was deathly afraid that the author wouldn't be able to wrap up all the copious loose threads left by the previous books, but I think that she pretty much nailed it. Although it ended almost perhaps too neatly, everything came together in a climax that perfectly suits this strange, complicated, political series. I am a little conflicted on who to root for here (yes I know that roo I finished this last night in a 3AM fever, and it's been consuming my every waking thought for like a week. Going in I was deathly afraid that the author wouldn't be able to wrap up all the copious loose threads left by the previous books, but I think that she pretty much nailed it. Although it ended almost perhaps too neatly, everything came together in a climax that perfectly suits this strange, complicated, political series. I am a little conflicted on who to root for here (yes I know that rooting is not a necessary thing, that that is decidedly not the point of the text, but a reader cannot have no opinions and mine are decidedly Humanist). While the hive system (and especially the taboos regarding religion and gender) needed to be reformed badly, I never really bought in to JEDD Mason as savior of the human race, as did our esteemed narrators. Perhaps that as humanity has lost its defenses against the arts of gender as Mycroft talks about with Danae's manipulation in TLtL, so too has it lost all defenses against those who would call themselves Messiah? Another thing that I wasn't wild about was how casually important characters were killed off, and especially the overwriting of 9A by Mycroft. Yes, loose ends need to be tied up and the branches of the story pruned, but the coldness and little fanfare hurts. The idea of the personality overwrite; Odysseus, Achilles, Helen does a disservice to the characters they were. Those archetypes are timeless, yes, but they come with their own baggage that wipes out characters that were compelling enough on their own, and made in my opinion flatter and less interesting. One last thing, which is in no way Dr. Palmer's fault: this book needs to have more pages. I can only assume that something something supply chain paper shortage, but the text is printed really small. Eye-strain small. Claustrophobically dense. I get it, but I think the same book at 800 pages would be better than at its current 600ish, just from a legibility perspective. TLDR: an excellent end to an excellent series.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Bookgrrl

    This is book 4 in the Terra Ignota series, so I’m not going to include a summary or a lot of details in this review so as to avoid spoilers. When I requested this book I did not realize that it was book 4 in the series, so I just binge read all of the books. Calling the series “sci-fi“ is a bit misleading in my opinion. The series takes place in the future, so there is advanced technology. But mixed in with the 25th century is a large chunk of 18th century Enlightenment philosophy, as well as a This is book 4 in the Terra Ignota series, so I’m not going to include a summary or a lot of details in this review so as to avoid spoilers. When I requested this book I did not realize that it was book 4 in the series, so I just binge read all of the books. Calling the series “sci-fi“ is a bit misleading in my opinion. The series takes place in the future, so there is advanced technology. But mixed in with the 25th century is a large chunk of 18th century Enlightenment philosophy, as well as a hearty sprinkling of Roman mythology. This is a very politics heavy series, so know that going in. There is an immense cast of characters throughout the series to keep track of; to further complicate it some of these people are known by multiple names depending on who is addressing them. This makes for an incredibly complex world. I know there are many devoted fans of this series who will disagree with me, but I think the world is overly complex, especially the language used. As an example, one of the main characters is J.E.D.D. Mason, who is a rather “different“ being, and has their own odd speech pattern (picture Yoda mixed with an adult learning English). This book features multiple big speeches from them, and the book places a lot of importance on those speeches, but because of the very odd manner in which they speak I really didn’t understand what they were saying or what the point was. I feel like there were quite a few plot points in this series that were unnecessarily complicated just for the sake of being complicated. Thank you to NetGalley & Macmillan-Tor/Forge for this advanced reader copy. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Adam

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. These books are so goddamned weird and I love them for it. Having said that, I don't know if this final entry quite sticks the landing. I'd have given the first half of this an easy five stars, but the second half (starting from around the point the Alexander is introduced) drags it down a bit, I think. Things I liked: - It was interesting to have so much more of the story told from a non-Mycroft perspective. - The expansion of scope to include the actions of so many non-focal characters to show These books are so goddamned weird and I love them for it. Having said that, I don't know if this final entry quite sticks the landing. I'd have given the first half of this an easy five stars, but the second half (starting from around the point the Alexander is introduced) drags it down a bit, I think. Things I liked: - It was interesting to have so much more of the story told from a non-Mycroft perspective. - The expansion of scope to include the actions of so many non-focal characters to show the wider impact of the war. - The rapid fire betrayals, side swaps, clarifications, and re-allying of so many factions really brought home the idea of a war of many factions with no fixed geographic territory. - The weaving in of the Homeric elements. Things I didn't: - The first three books played a lot with ambiguity and Mycroft's unreliable perception to make it unclear whether the supernatural elements of the plot might actually be more mundane, but this last one seems to take a much firmer stance, especially toward the end, and I think it loses something for that. - Petty, sure, but more or less every viewpoint character seems to be, to some extent, a partisan of the faction in the real underlying war that I disagree with. - The constant (lampshaded, even!) deus ex machinas. With a few exceptions, pretty much the only way for a focal character to "die" seems to be getting Bridgered into someone else. - The last fifth or so of the book is basically just people standing on a stage making announcements.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Moonglum

    Wow, that was awesome! This has been my favorite science fiction series of the last 10 or so years. Ada Palmer is a rare and amazing writer. The first book of the series, Too Like the Lightning is amazing, but like many openings to a science fiction series, you are having a lot of fun learning about the world of hives, set-sets, sensayers, religious reservations, Mukta... And you are having fun meeting the wonderful characters: Cato, Sniper, Bridger, Mycroft, Thisbe, Papadelias... But the second Wow, that was awesome! This has been my favorite science fiction series of the last 10 or so years. Ada Palmer is a rare and amazing writer. The first book of the series, Too Like the Lightning is amazing, but like many openings to a science fiction series, you are having a lot of fun learning about the world of hives, set-sets, sensayers, religious reservations, Mukta... And you are having fun meeting the wonderful characters: Cato, Sniper, Bridger, Mycroft, Thisbe, Papadelias... But the second book of a series is often a little less than what you want. You want a book that's better than the first one. Palmer absolutely delivered that in Seven Surrenders. Will to Battle is the perlude to this book, and is great, especially if you want more details about how the legal and political structures of the early 2450s work, but it is just the build up for this ultimate, amazing novel. It is an extraordinarily satisfying conclusion to every lose end I can think of, with many many unexpected twists and turns, and so much coolness, and so much fun. As a rule of thumb, I only give 5 stars to a novel if, at least once while reading it, I either laugh out loud or tear up or holler out loud about some coolness or plot twist. I can’t count how many times this book made me do all of those things. I also loved all of the kindness in the resolution, the way that we get to see unexpected alternative solutions to conflicts that our old stories, science fiction or otherwise, have not been able to imagine. And, I love how weird this novel, and the whole series, but this book especially, is.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    I feel like this book really was 2 books: the war and then the aftermath (of the war and of the entire series). The first half was such a slog to get through. If it was reduced down to just one or 2 chapters, then then entire book's pacing would be so much better. (view spoiler)[ This half feels like Neal Stephenson got a challenge: what would happen if a world used to immediate communication and near-immediate travel had to fight a war without those 2 things. I love Stephenson, but that scenario I feel like this book really was 2 books: the war and then the aftermath (of the war and of the entire series). The first half was such a slog to get through. If it was reduced down to just one or 2 chapters, then then entire book's pacing would be so much better. (view spoiler)[ This half feels like Neal Stephenson got a challenge: what would happen if a world used to immediate communication and near-immediate travel had to fight a war without those 2 things. I love Stephenson, but that scenario is not what I'm reading this series for (hide spoiler)] The second half definitely felt more in-line with the rest of the series, even as it focused on a character that I had my doubts about. Doubts that Palmer probably intended, although.. I'm not really sure about that. It definitely felt like the series started with " Here's a possible future that seems better but has some problems" and ended with "here's a few tweaks to fix those problems" which is fine. The series, with some unreliable narration and big philosophy and religion questions, definitely is making me think after reading it. I just with it had ended with a tighter book and maybe a little more skepticism about that that character.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    What a work. A work of love - philosophy, literature, grief, celebration, memory, so many things - but love above all, for all that we want to, and can, be. This is my main takeaway from this fourth and last volume of Terra Ignota. Throughout the series I've been baffled and inspired, have struggled and been kept riveted. Perhaps the Stars takes all these feelings up many orders of magnitude, challenging harder than most books have challenged me. And yet, and yet, here at the end it all feels so What a work. A work of love - philosophy, literature, grief, celebration, memory, so many things - but love above all, for all that we want to, and can, be. This is my main takeaway from this fourth and last volume of Terra Ignota. Throughout the series I've been baffled and inspired, have struggled and been kept riveted. Perhaps the Stars takes all these feelings up many orders of magnitude, challenging harder than most books have challenged me. And yet, and yet, here at the end it all feels so worth it. Perhaps one day I shall find the strength to reread this series (again), until then I wager my thoughts will often wander back to this tale of those who try so much, fail so much, lose so much, and yet keep going out of the love of what it means to be us (for the furthest reaching definition of that term). Thank you Ada Palmer for this inspiration, for illuminating so many paths to a better future! And for a yarn that seems to wander wide and far, defying the familiar warp and weft so that I felt lost in its tangles only to reveal itself at the - very, very - last, a wondrous tapestry.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...