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May 18, 2016

Too Like the SPOILERS
Posted by Abi Sutherland at 04:29 PM * 63 comments

The day was May the eighteenth. Making Light had loaded full of strength that day, for May the eighteenth was the birthday of Omar Khayyám and the Day of Revival, Unity, and the Poetry of Magtymguly Pyragy, a day on which written works honored their Creators in ages past, and still do today.

And this May the eighteenth was the day that a spoiler thread was to be inaugurated on Making Light. Do you know, Reader, the delight and the torment of spoiler threads? Do they exist in your time, as they do in ours, when there is such a wealth of reading matter in the world, so high-piled To Be Read stacks and long library hold lists, that people may sometimes be unprepared for a discussion of literature? And when they exist amid such an abundance of intellect and curiosity, a richness of communication and connectivity, that literary discussions abound in whatever venue they choose to frequent, abound in such quantity that that those imprisoned (for prisoners they are, though it be of wealth) by the former must be freed from the latter?

And this, in short, is the purpose of a spoiler thread: to spare the rich in both unread literature (happy souls! with such delights ahead of them!) and brilliant company (fortunate minds! surrounded by such pleasures!) the consequences of their doubled wealth. Within the threads, the greatest freedom exists: the freedom to openly discuss all the aspects of a work, to analyze and dissect it in intimate detail, to treat it as the dearest and longest-held of lovers. At the same time, outside of the thread, the work may be held at a remove, regarded with the reserve and the respect one grants an acquaintance not yet become a true friend.

Understanding then, O Reader, the nature of spoiler threads, you may choose whether to venture inward on this one or to hold yourself apart from it. Only choose wisely, and do not regret the choice you make.

Comments on Too Like the SPOILERS:
#1 ::: Jacque ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2016, 05:29 PM:

Oh, abi, you are an evil, evil child. Ooookaaaay...

#2 ::: Evan ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2016, 05:51 PM:

I am not joining in the discussion thread yet because I haven't finished the book, but I wanted to step in here (fingers in ears and chanting LA LA LA) to applaud the glorious intro above.

#3 ::: Steven Brust ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2016, 06:24 PM:

Quite looking forward to this.

#4 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2016, 06:27 PM:

A setting is richly developed when I am shocked by what they would find shocking. Most notably, the revelation of what the J in JEDD stands for (I had supposed it would be something similar, my money on "Jesus Elohim Domini D[something]") elicited a verbalized "HOLY SHIT" from me. That, and how stomach-turning I found the extent of the game-rigging, are what are sticking with me right now. We'll see what's sticking with me when Seven Surrenders comes out.

I feel like now is a good time to actually get around to reading Political Order to Political Decay, as the car-bash and the Illuminati-bash both twigged my memory of the thesis of the first half (Origins of Political Order), about the conflict between family power and state power.

#5 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2016, 06:46 PM:

I don't even know what work I am supposed to read/watch before coming to this thread.

#6 ::: Sherwood Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2016, 07:35 PM:

Just finished my second, slower read and have been lumbering around crashing into things as I try to articulate how much I love this book, and why.

The Diderot narrative sidesteps! The Humanist view of De Sade!


The Homeric adjectives . . . the deft hints about what is human and not...

The kindly warmth, even when flaying me with images that I really, really did not want to see. But I couldn't look away, and the narrative voice knows it.

Now I'm perishing for the second half of the story.

#7 ::: Steven Brust ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2016, 07:48 PM:

Allen@5: Too Too Like the Lightning by Ada Palmer.

#8 ::: Steven Brust ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2016, 07:49 PM:

Except without one the "too"s. *glares at fingers*

#9 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2016, 09:10 PM:

Too, Too Like the Lightning is either the Regency Romance version, or a fictional (Borgesian fictional) work mentioned in a play by Oscar Wilde.

#10 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2016, 09:33 PM:

Oh, that this too too solid flash gordon....

#11 ::: Steven Brust ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2016, 09:44 PM:

Ye gods, what have I done?

#12 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: May 18, 2016, 09:47 PM:

Dinner was delayed slightly because I was reading the last few pages of "Too Like the Lightning" while snapping beans.

I love the style, how much everyone talks and thinks, the layers of world-building and characters. The fact that the Enlightenment includes both Voltaire and De Sade.

One part of the world-building that frankly baffles me: how monolingual most people seem to be. The fact that people talk in *Latin* to conceal the topic of their conversation from speakers of other Indo-European, and even Romance!, languages, wtf. Particularly surprising because their Enlightenment heroes were all polyglots.

There's one thing that bugs me, but I don't know if it's going to be dealt with later or not. This is yet another futuristic novel (of a string I've read recently) with hereditary aristocracy and even rulership, where the aristocrats/princes include people of exceptional charisma, intelligence, and beauty. That trick never works! -- at least, not when the general population is healthy and well-fed. Regression to the mean is one driver toward democracy, especially since charisma seems to be poorly heritable (or not at all). Contemplate Prince Charles if you find yourself thinking that a long line of royal ancestors will tend to produce exceptional leaders.

Similarly, I can't figure out why control of the transport network is so hyper-centralized: not just in one group, but one family. Why would people do that? Wouldn't it make more sense to have more people doing it, in more places (not an earthquake zone, for instance), and have the workers chosen on the basis of skills/talent/experience, not family membership? Am I missing something?

Basically, I can't figure out if Palmer has almost forgotten about democracy and how it works, or if there are guillotines in these aristocrats' future.

Do you believe that the death of little Mycroft Canner's bash' was accidental? No, I don't either.

#13 ::: HelenS ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2016, 12:53 AM:

Too, Too Like the Lightning is the flapper-era version, darling.

#14 ::: Paul Weimer ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2016, 06:08 AM:

Yeah, I had a "Holy crap!" moment when JEDD's name got fully revealed.

I was gobsmacked and had to really reevaluate things when Mycroft goes into detail as to who and what he is and what he has done. I was hooked at that point (since its a couple of hundred pages in), and cursed and thanked the author for so easily pulling me in to following a monstrous protagonist.

#15 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2016, 09:17 AM:

@12: I think it's pretty clear (it's explicit at least as to Danae and her brother) that there are genetic shenanigans going on in those few that are actually hereditary. The rest aren't hereditary, it's just that Madame has suborned all the world leaders into her little cult in THIS generation, and they're custom-building a next generation to inherit.

#16 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2016, 10:10 AM:


BSD@4: A setting is richly developed when I am shocked by what they would find shocking.

That's a good way of putting it.

Some of the ideas are so much fun to explore—the sensayers, in particular, for me—that I was startled when something came along apparently contradicting them.

(Speaking of the sensayers, though: I did get distracted thinking through the practicalities of religions with priesthoods that require a chain of succession.)

Doctor Science@12:

There's at least a threat of guillotines, given that one is explicitly mentioned.

I don't think democracy is forgotten at all. People choosing their hives have chosen different degrees of democracy; but we're seeing the significance of those differences diminish as the elites of the six hives make (or are pulled into) their own club.

#17 ::: Cat ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2016, 10:15 AM:

Pardon the long comment; as I said in the other thread, I have Thoughts.

@Doctor Science

(Regarding the degree of monolinguality) Yes, when I went back and looked again it occurred to me that the members of one Hive aren't restricted to a single geographical area and thus pretty much have to be mingled with members of other Hives, so wouldn't a lot of people have to know more than one language? If only to say "I am sorry I stepped on your foot" or "pardon me, I need to get by."?

But I have the vague impression from somewhere that there was a _lingua franca_ --English, maybe? Perhaps people learn the language of their birth Hive and the _lingua franca_ (--and again, don't people sometimes join other Hives when they're grown? And don't bashes form from members of more than one Hive? Maybe it's just very common to learn languages in this future? If you only have to work 20 hours a week that leaves more time for what is a deeply time consuming process...)

Come to think of it maybe native languages are distributed by bash rather than by Hive, and you learn a Hive _lingua franca_ and a world _lingua franca_? And if you aren't linguistically gifted one of the tensions of choosing a Hive would be that you have to already know the Hive _lingua franca_?

@Paul Weimer.

Mycroft Canner has me baffled. Given what he has done I don't understand why on earth anyone gave him the computer access he has, no matter how capable he is. Nor do I understand WHY he did what he did to the people he did it to. If he's just some sort of mad dog who does this for fun again I don't understand why he is even allowed to run loose much less given such high level computer access. Also why the hell would anyone allow him out from under oversight when they think they haven't found the device that let him dodge his tracker? How would they know he didn't hide it somewhere with plans to go back for it later?

More generally about Mycroft:

Does it bother anyone else that we're always getting hints about how hard it is for him to get food--and the one time someone does give him food he gives it away--and we never see him eat? Is he a robot? Is he a vampire? (Magic exists in this world, after all.).

More generally about the book:

Did anyone else feel like sexual harassment was taken for granted in this future--even farther than it is in ours--and not only do victims seem to have no social or legal recourse but they don't even seem to notice it's a problem beyond their personal discomfort?

Also Bridger reads to me as acting younger than his age. I'm not sure whether to interpret this as a peculiarity of Bridger's abilities, or a peculiarity of the way he has been raised (seeing only a couple of people and without a peer group) or what.

And what the hell is up with Dominic? If JEDD is so damn perceptive doesn't he realize there's something wrong? Is JEDD just okay with it? (In which case my judgement of his character is seriously off, which is a thing that happens to me sometimes.)

So black laws supposedly "give up the *protection* of the law" but they behave as if they have given up the *restraint* of the law instead, which I would have thought was not a survival trait--but maybe I am misled by a small sample size that includes Dominic and also by some of the threatening behavior being sexual harassment, for which see above.

Also is it just one hell of a coincidence that the leaders of most of the major world powers are literally in bed with each other? Or has this um, intimate power structure been the product of deliberate maneuvering, perhaps for generations?

#18 ::: Edmund Schweppe ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2016, 10:16 AM:

Teresa Nielsen Hayden @9: Whereas Tutu The Lightning is the story of a South African sensayer named Desmond.

#19 ::: Edmund Schweppe ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2016, 10:17 AM:

Steven Brust @11: You provided the straight line, of course.

(You're good at that. You're also good at consuming the straight line.)

#20 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2016, 01:19 PM:

Steven Brust #7: Are you channelling Murder By Death?

#21 ::: Doctor Science ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2016, 01:27 PM:


Re: Canner. Toward the end of the volume there are indications that JEDD did Something to Canner's brain, that "fixed" him or at least de-activated his ability to do violence.

As for why JEDD tolerates Dominic -- does God need Satan? And the name "Dominic" means "belonging to God [or the Lord, or the Master]".

Bridger *definitely* reads much younger than his putative age to me, too. He sounds like he's 8, not 13. Note: one translation of "Bridger" would be Pontifex.

I don't think it's supposed to a coincidence at all that the heads-of-Hive are in bed together, but it's hard for me to buy. Or rather, it's hard for me to buy if they are actually powerful -- if they're all figureheads and true political power is being wielded by Perry and the like, then I could accept it.

#22 ::: mjfgates ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2016, 02:16 PM:

dotless i @11 : People in TLtL are mostly bilingual-- English plus Hive language. The use of English to address mixed-Hive groups is mentioned more than once. Martin confirms that non-members of the Masons are prohibited from learning Latin by law when he describes his experiences during the anno dialogorum; he mentions being relieved that everyone else in the class was also just starting out. Whether the other Hives' languages are "private" by law or custom is not made clear, and at five hundred years' distance the distinction is blurry anyway.

Then again, there are also a bunch of nation-strat languages hanging around, so there are plenty of people using at least three languages. There's got to be a set of laws and taboos around using your nation-strat language which just happens to be somebody else's Hive language. Does a Cousin from Spain just carefully ignore it when a group of Humanists try to speak privately in Spanish? Does the Spaniard's nation-strat insignia make this a "speaker beware" situation? Is failure to wear your insignia a faux pas or a felony?

That Mycroft knows All Of The Languages is almost certainly a crime in itself, but a very handy one for all of those Hive leaders. It also seems to make him better able to translate J.E.D.D.'s "natural" language as in the chapter where J.E.D.D.'s words get translated into "normal" Latin by Martin, but Mycroft interjects his own, presumably better, translations a couple of times.

Do we know yet what the Hive languages of Gordian, the Cousins, or the Utopians are? Do they perhaps not have them?

#23 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2016, 02:50 PM:

Spoiler: that moving finger writes on--piety and wit isn't enough too stop it!

#24 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2016, 09:29 PM:

"Look, I just don't--"
"Yes, you do!"
"No, I really, honestly do *not*--"
"Do too! You do too like the spoilers!"

#25 ::: oldster ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2016, 09:34 PM:

"I've always thought those aerodynamic wings on the back of cars are really just for looks."

"Au contraire! They are highly functional: they're designed to do a job."

"So they're tool-like, the spoilers?"

#26 ::: Cat ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2016, 11:09 PM:

Doctor Science @21

I think I remember seeing those hints that Canner had somehow been deactivated also... But even if they can't do violence anymore, can they be trusted with those computer over-rides?

As for God needing Satan, I guess I am thinking of JEDD as a real human being with actual free will to refuse to tolerate someone in their service that they know is oh, for example kidnapping and torturing children. While a person can be seduced by a pleasing symmetry of the "I'm God; I must have a Satan to set me off" variety, I expect them to draw the line when they realize that innocents might be harmed. I wonder if Dominic is right when they speculate that JEDD needs or wants worship?

Yes, I was guessing about the same age for Bridger that you were. And while I suppose his name could be a reference to Pointifex (it would totally be in keeping with the complexity of the rest of the book) I thought the Pontifex was the Pope and Bridger's powers seem more God like (or at least Jesus like) than Pope-like though.

#27 ::: Bill Stewart ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2016, 12:12 AM:

I'm scrolling rapidly over the longer postings, to avoid spoilers, while reading the short ones. I'm going to echo both Jacqui's and Evan's comments 1 and 2 here.

But I hear skzb's "Too Too Like the Lightning" not with a Regency accent, but with a New York / New Jersey one. Cuz yo, it's kinda like the lightning, but not too too like it.

#28 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2016, 04:52 PM:

We know Canner is hiding a variety of things from his various masters (the biggest two being the existence of Saladin and his ability to fox tracers without the so-called Canner Device) (on some thought, these may be one and the same!) Is JEDD aware of either of them?

#29 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2016, 05:06 PM:

I'm not far in yet, but the fact that the narrator is a slave is squicking the hell out of me.

#30 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2016, 01:25 AM:

It's a curious coincidence that I came to this one shortly after finishing Graydon Saunders' Safely You Deliver, because Graydon plays a very similar game with pronouns – not quite so complex, he simply abandons "he" and "she" and uses "they" for everyone. But that meant that I had some practice coping with singular they used for specific, definite people with definite plumbing, before having to cope with what Ada does.

I found myself wondering well before the end whether this is really our world four hundred years on. On the one hand we have a well-built society recognizably connected with our own...on the other hand we have Bridger's power. His power is sheer fantasy.

In a material world.

But in a computer generated simulation? It becomes something I could imagine actually existing.

This being virtual reality would also render more sensible some of the talk about "this universe's God".

I suppose I'll have to see what, if any, light Seven Surrenders sheds.

#31 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: May 23, 2016, 01:09 PM:

David Goldfarb@30: On the one hand we have a well-built society recognizably connected with our own...on the other hand we have Bridger's power. His power is sheer fantasy.

This is one place I found the choice of a Robert Charles Wilson blurb on the cover particularly interesting (beyond being a great way to sell me a book, if I hadn't already been sold on it): Wilson is particularly good at throwing one big, often inexplicable, monkey wrench into a society, and then playing out the consequences. Thinking in terms of the story, it's intriguing that, so far, Bridger hasn't had any big, wide-ranging effects. Only a few people have been affected, and the effects are mostly metaphysical and potential. (The miracles J.E.D.D. Mason performs have had a much wider impact in the aggregate, but they're also largely individual acts.)

#32 ::: bryan rasmussen ::: (view all by) ::: May 26, 2016, 04:45 PM:

what? this is just a spoiler thread for a particular book, that's boring. I was hoping for a spoiler thread for EVERYTHING!

#33 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: May 29, 2016, 12:52 PM:

I finished reading the book last night. Now I am grappling with the question of how much of what Mycroft Canner tells us is lies lies lies.

I take the time-honored approach of doubting everything I can think of, so that when book 2 comes out I can say "See? I thought of that!" least once. If I'm lucky.

But really, there's so much room for doubt.

⁃ In the first chapter, Carlyle bursts into the house because the door is unlocked. The narrator attributes this to Providence or the dog. But the motif of the entire plot is "coincidence my ass."
⁃ Similarly, Tully Whosis comes back from the Moon to give a street-corner speech on the street that Mycroft is walking down. Come on.
⁃ The scenes where Earth's Great and Good get together in a sex club and ordain the future of the planet while fucking each other silly. That sounds a lot more like Mycroft's literary device than anything that actually happened.
⁃ Saladin. Does he exist at all?
⁃ For that matter, what about Mycroft? We strongly suspect that JEDD Did Something to him. We don't know what. Is our narrator the same historical Mycroft Canner that Carlyle describes, or a cartoon with the same face?

#34 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2016, 12:05 AM:

Some interesting points, Zarf.

I will say that I do think Saladin really exists: note the discrepancies in Mycroft's timeline that Ektor Papadelias quizzes Mycroft about in chapter 24. Mycroft provides a handwave...but the real explanation is that he had a confederate. (I strongly suspect that Papa suspects it.)

I swallowed it being coincidence that Mycroft encountered Tully Mardi, and I agree with you that smells a bit.

(I assume that Tully is named for Marcus Tullius Cicero.)

#35 ::: Peter Aronson ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2016, 05:09 PM:

And if you really want to be paranoid about the unreliability of Mycroft as a narrator -- he's the only source we have for Bridger's "miraculous" powers -- none of the sub-narrators mention them directly.

#36 ::: Stav ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2016, 05:25 PM:

And how DID 8-years-old Mycroft manage to save a critically injured Saladin and get him treated, all without leaving any record? If it really happened, there must have been some powerful person involved.

My immediate suspect was MASON* Senior, but he seems to have given up on whatever his plan was for the Canner bash (OR DID HE?). So now I'm thinking whoever orchestrated the "accident" might have been placed to do it, though for what purpose is beyond me.

* I'm irrationally fond of this capitalization. So... shouty.

#37 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: May 30, 2016, 10:52 PM:

While we're doubting things: Mycroft's ability to fool the tracker network is his most closely guarded secret for thirteen years...and then Princess Danaë gets it out of him basically just by asking? Are we to believe that nobody else had ever asked him about that?

#38 ::: Jameson Quinn ::: (view all by) ::: June 03, 2016, 05:28 PM:

I thought that the implication was that Mycroft had sought Tully out, and that Tully had planned it that way. I don't think it's a big mystery, that is entirely within the bounds of both characters.

#39 ::: SorchaRei ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2016, 08:36 PM:

I liked this book quite a lot But . . .

This book was enormously frustrating to me. I'd start it and get pulled right in. Then I would have to stop, in order to sleep or cook or work or feed the cat. And when I came back to the book, I couldn't manage to pick it up at the same spot. Imstead, I would have to start over because it seemed I would only get pulled into the style from the very beginning.

So I finally gave up and waited until I had a whole stretch of time I could devote to reading it straight through. Which, as it happens, was how I spent my three-day weekend.

I'm looking forward to the sequel, but will anticipate this problem and save it for a holiday weekend or a trip to the coast.

#40 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2016, 06:39 PM:

Qe Wrxxly naq Ze Ulqr ner ernyyl gur fnzr crefba.

#41 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2016, 06:43 PM:

Or is this about spoilers of a specific book (not explicitly named), rather than spoilers in general for any and all books? Silly me.

#42 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: June 06, 2016, 11:19 PM:

The book in question is called Too Like the Lightning. Note the proximity to Patrick's post about that one.

#43 ::: Fade Manley ::: (view all by) ::: June 09, 2016, 02:23 PM:

Having just finished, a few comments regarding things brought up here!

Bridger's Age: I too found it very strange early in the first chapter that he was said to be thirteen, but spoke more like a seven-year-old. But near the end of the book, when Dominic brings out Bridger's drawings, it's made explicit that he uses visual iconography like a small child, but the hand-eye coordination like a preteen, when they're speculating on what his actual age is. That, combined with what Bridger says to Saladin about what Mycroft told him--needing a childhood in order to be not a monster--suggests that his childish speech/action is a combination of deliberate action on Mycroft's part and his isolation. Bridger is, emotionally/culturally, a small child, despite being right on the edge of adolescence.

The aristocracy in the world of democracy: I do think that's supposed to be a flaw in the system that people are starting to notice, not just "Ha ha, humans keep rebuilding the monarchy!" There's a lot of discussion of war because of majorities, and war because of associating closely with nation-states, and war between groups of high-powered people in charge of countries who know each other very well. So I took it as quite deliberate that, two hundred years into the utopia, they're starting to recreate historical errors. That incestuous group of world leaders is not only literally incestuous, but incestuous in the "This is unhealthy and will cause problems, even if they think it's fine because they like it right now" sense.

As for my general opinions... I am left with extremely mixed feelings. I deeply admire what was done in this book. It's brilliant and complicated and challenging. But I find some of its themes, tropes, and choices in how to deploy them unsettling, in what is no doubt a deliberate way, but also a way that makes me not want to read on.

I'm not sure if I'm going to read the sequel, and about 80% of my pull towards Not is that I am so amazingly tired of all the sexual assault and torture. They are handled with great care and they are clearly Thematic, but frankly I just don't enjoy reading about people being sexually harassed, fondled against their will, or tortured, no matter how plot-critical and relevant to the philosophies being dissected such actions might be.

So, well. I think it's an amazing book! But there's a good chance I'll never read the one after it.

#44 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: June 15, 2016, 09:38 AM:

So, before I go back in for a re-read: does anyone else have thoughts on Africa's place in this world, and any clues about how it got there? My memory of how it's depicted is really disconcerting.

#45 ::: Yarrow ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2016, 02:00 PM:

I also have extremely mixed feelings. This is a book so brilliant that I'd ordinarily burble on about it to anyone willing to listen - but I almost stopped reading after Chapter 20. I haven't talked about it to anyone, caught I suppose between a desire to give huge trigger warnings and a reluctance to give the concomitant huge spoilers.

I'll read Seven Surrenders, since my understanding is that it's basically the second half of the first book. But I don't know about the rest of the series.

#46 ::: Daniel Audy ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2016, 08:27 PM:


My recollection was that Africa was mentioned as being a reservation.

#47 ::: Ralph Giles ::: (view all by) ::: July 01, 2016, 04:21 PM:

Wow, complicated book.

I had a lot of trouble with the harassment and violence too. Reading Iain Banks' "Transition" it was clear he was very, very angry at anglosphere governments for bringing back torture. Here I kept feeling like the author was equally angry, but at me for believing in the Enlightenment project. I guess the most difficult thing is that I don't understand the purpose of it. Toward the end, Guildbreaker says they would shield Mason and MASON from 'what' while there is no 'why'. Protect them from knowledge which would hurt, without any path to act on it. The reader is not so shielded.

Perhaps it's a metaphor for internet culture. We believed free, global, pseudonymous communication would be an intellectual utopia. Instead we got a new way for people to be awful.

I'm really hoping there are jokes in the different Latin translations in chapter 21. Can anyone comment? Who's 9A, and how many framing devices does this story have, anyway? :)

#48 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: July 02, 2016, 02:02 AM:

I'm far from the best Latinist ever, but I didn't notice any games going on in the different Latin there. I definitely wonder who 9A is, and how that affects the frame. I assume that we'll learn more in the second book.

(Which has been pushed back to February, apparently. A pity; I had hopes that I could nominate the two as a unit in next year's Hugos. I don't think that I want to nominate just the first one without seeing whether it sticks the landing. I will say that I find it hard to imagine not nominating Palmer for the Campbell.)

#49 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2016, 03:04 AM:

Also Bridger reads to me as acting younger than his age. I'm not sure whether to interpret this as a peculiarity of Bridger's abilities, or a peculiarity of the way he has been raised (seeing only a couple of people and without a peer group) or what.

It's said somewhere very early on that Bridger is developmentally delayed because he's been so isolated.

Who's 9A, and how many framing devices does this story have, anyway? :)

Upon first encountering '9A' in the book I was compelled to note without necessarily drawing any conclusion that there are nine letters in the name 'Ada Palmer'.

So I took it as quite deliberate that, two hundred years into the utopia, they're starting to recreate historical errors.

The repeated mentions of World War I land this question quite conclusively in the deliberate camp, I think.

The extent to which Mycroft is an unreliable narrator is really... wow. I need to reread the book just to try to see through all the lies he's telling us.

#50 ::: dotless ı ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2016, 11:27 AM:

Kevin Riggle@49: I need to reread the book just to try to see through all the lies he's telling us.

Agreed. Conversely, in just rereading the beginning I'm noticing the perfectly true things we're told that I just wasn't ready to understand on first reading. The basic substance of Mycroft's crimes is pretty well covered by the content warnings on the first page, for instance, but there's enough that's strange about those warnings that it was hard to know how seriously to take them. Likewise, Mycroft's "have you never watched a death?" paragraph in the second chapter sounds a lot different the second time through.

#51 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: April 03, 2017, 11:36 PM:

I just re-read _TLTL_ in preparation for _7S_ (which I have picked up, but only read the first chapter of).

Further thoughts on _TLTL_:

Mycroft has a habit of disappearing to repair sewers whenever people want to call him in for economic modelling sessions. Is he punishing himself, or passive-aggressively punishing his "betters"? Not yet clear.

Add to the list of things Mycroft is telling the truth about: Thisbe is a witch. That is to say, she uses her scent-track tools to manipulate at least Bridger. Oh, and they're in her boots, and her bash'mates pay a *lot* of attention to those boots now that I look. (Chapter 2, she hangs them in Mycroft's face during that whole conversation with Carlyle.)

My guess about "9A" is the Ninth Anonymous. (The one we meet in _TLTL_ is the seventh, I think.)

#52 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: April 04, 2017, 01:10 AM:

An interesting guess about "9A", but there are some things in _7S_ that make it unlikely, assuming that you're right about the current being the seventh.

I note that "Ada Palmer" starts with an A and has 9 letters.

#53 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: April 09, 2017, 10:16 PM:

Finished 7S now. Are we treating this as the series spoiler thread?

I still think 9A makes sense as the Ninth Anonymous. Seems the natural person to be in charge of publishing Mycroft's story, decades down the road.

#54 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2017, 12:22 AM:

Except that it's pretty obviously being written and published within a short time of the events chronicled. Mycroft expects / hopes that he will still be read in the future, but his audience is his contemporaries. And Sniper has obviously read Lightning before writing his chapter.

#55 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: April 10, 2017, 08:02 PM:

Andrew Plotkin, #53:

I'm a long way from having finished Seven Surrenders, but I agree a forum for spoilerrific discussion of it is needed, and this seems like a good place.

One obvious drawback: readers who've finished Too Like the Lightning, and would like to converse about it, but who haven't yet read 7S or the two Terra Ignota novels beyond it, will not be well served by lumping chatter about the entire series into one thread.


Is that a good enough reason to start a separate Seven Surrenders thread? I'm not sure.

#56 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2017, 12:27 AM:

Okay, I'll go ahead and yammer.

First, self-inspection. In my comment here May 29th (me@33), all my guesses were wrong. Everything I thought Mycroft might be bullshitting us about, or artistically exaggerating, was literally true in the story -- confirmed by other characters. Even the bit ascribed to "Providence or the dog" could have been, literally, Providence.

(Ironically, I forgot the "porn scene" in TLTL ch 29, where Mycroft *is* straight-up lying about the dialogue -- and says so, apologetically.)

But at least I was right about the boots.

Okay, 7S. I was not expecting that high a ratio of melodrama to philosophy! I will try to calibrate my expectations better for the next book.

The only interesting observation I have at this point....

In TLTL, J.E.D.D. says "the protagonist of every work of fiction is Humanity, and the antagonist is God." A couple of chapters earlier, Mycroft gets into an argument with the Presumed Reader about who the protagonist of the book is. Mycroft likes Bridger for it.

As Mycroft notes, a "history" shouldn't really have either protagonist or antagonist, just events. But let's say Mycroft is right. Who then is the antagonist? In TLTL, I think it pretty much has to be J.E.D.D. Mason. Bridger doesn't have enemies, but all of the struggle on Bridger's behalf is "keep Bridger out of J.E.D.D.'s hands, at least for the time being." If J.E.D.D. finds out about Bridger, that's failure; if Dominic does, they'll tell J.E.D.D., same failure.

In that framework, J.E.D.D.'s proposition is that Bridger is humanity, and J.E.D.D. is God. Which is... pretty much exactly right as of 7S. J.E.D.D. is God, or *a* God. (Who dies and then rises again after three minutes.) Bridger is the innocent who is destroyed by turning into a soldier -- that's humanity's fate at the end of 7S, in a nutshell.

Now, once you've read 7S, the protagonist is more or less literally humanity, which makes J.E.D.D.'s original observation fall flat. And J.E.D.D. is no longer much of an antagonist; we've got a slate of "better" candidates -- Madame, Julia, DeLupa, Sniper, Perry. None of these make particularly interesting gods. So I don't have anything to say there.

#57 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2017, 12:28 AM:

Random question: what is the formal definition of the Blacklaw, Greylaw, and Whitelaw groups? We hear enough about Blacklaws to understand that they waive the protection and responsibility of (nearly) all law, so if one Blacklaw kills another, the world shrugs and says "their business."

We don't get any detail about the others that I can find. The obvious guess is that Whitelaws are protected by, and responsible for obeying, the laws of *all* Hives in parallel. And Greylaws have some subset, perhaps the intersection (least common denominator) of the Hive laws. But that's me guessing.

#58 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: April 13, 2017, 11:20 PM:

Also, in the middle of a twitter exchange where other people are generally being smarter than me, I said:

> "You fucked up a perfectly good utopia. Look at it, it's got anxiety."

It was these books I was thinking of.

#59 ::: Bill Higgins-- Beam Jockey ::: (view all by) ::: April 18, 2017, 03:40 PM:

In #57 Andrew writes:
Random question: what is the formal definition of the Blacklaw, Greylaw, and Whitelaw groups?

Ada Palmer addresses this, perhaps more briefly than you would like, in her article "Writing a Future in Which You Choose Your Own Nation." With bonus flag designs! Even the Hiveless have a flag. See section 8, near the end.

#60 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2017, 12:49 PM:

Thanks, that's helpful.

(I already had the flags, because I picked up a bookmark at a book launch event...)

I've also read some of the back-and-forth essays between Max Gladstone, Ruthanna Emrys, and Ada Palmer. Which I am somehow failing to find links for, but they're helpful.

#61 ::: Andrew Plotkin ::: (view all by) ::: April 19, 2017, 12:52 PM: , sorry, got it.

#62 ::: Andrew M ::: (view all by) ::: May 06, 2017, 10:28 AM:

I think the element of hereditary aristocracy in this book can be exaggerated. There is one world leader (the King of Spain) who actually has a hereditary title (but his power doesn't depend entirely on that), and another (Ganymede) who claims to. The Masonic Emperorship is not in fact hereditary: the one person who cannot succeed the Emperor is their child. Some Hives have ostensibly democratic procedures, and others have procedures which, though not democratic, aren't aristocratic either.

In a broader sense, no doubt, there is a hereditary element in the way the society works, in that there is a ruling class which is, as far as we can tell, hard to break into; children of powerful people are more likely to be powerful themselves. But that seems quite like the world we live in.

#63 ::: Tony Zbaraschuk ::: (view all by) ::: December 27, 2017, 09:24 PM:

Coming in late, but I just read TLL.. and promptly re-read it. I don’t do that with many books - I re-read lots, but not usually because I feel so compelled to so quickly. I may start a third re-read shortly, just to see what else I can pick up. The reveal of the murders at the end, the cliffhanger of Bridger and Carlyle and Mycroft all having uncertain fates, the hints in the narrative of upcoming catastrophe, the various reveals...

Going to get the next ones as soon as I can (money is a bit tight right now, but libraries, ah, libraries.).

Current thoughts, which will doubtless need editing as I go forward...

At first it’s like Eden, but one gradually comes to realize there’s a snake in the garden. Maybe seven snakes. Or six. And are the Utopians as clean as they are pictured? One really has to pay close attention to the little clues!

Bridger (yes,Pontifex struck me too) is the Messiah and J.E.D.D. Mason is the Antichrist. (I think. It may just be a question of how child rearing is done.... but the thematic parallel of Bridger’s toy soldiers and the miracles of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas is, well, screamingly obvious....)

Yes, you’re supposed to be alarmed that Mycroft is so ‘in’ with the circles of power — partly it’s another sign of their corruption. Partly it’s whatever J.E.D.D. did. Partly it’s that whatever Mycroft’s old ‘bash was, it was really handpicked for giftedness, and we don’t know the full story yet.

I’m not sure yet if Mycroft lies directly at any point (one made up conversation aside, and he confesses it right off the bat): the story misdirects by omission more than directly deceives, I think. But I’ll be keeping an eye out for that.

There’s a lot of taboo breaking going on i this story. Still thinking about how the narrator breaking the taboos of his age and the simultaneous breaking of our taboos is working.

This is the sort of book that needs a reader with much background knowledge and a willingness to put together lots of incluing, and works very well for them. I’m sure a lot remains buried.

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