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Lady of Mazes by Karl Schroeder

Lady of Mazes (edition 2006)

by Karl Schroeder

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3801328,382 (3.73)6
Title:Lady of Mazes
Authors:Karl Schroeder
Info:Tor Science Fiction (2006), Mass Market Paperback, 384 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:science fiction

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Lady of Mazes by Karl Schroeder


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Schroeder is a fairly recent discovery for me. (Why is it that I tend to love Canadian SF authors? Do I have some sort of deep-seated genetic affinity?) I haven't read everything by him yet, but I've liked everything I've read so far. 'Lady of Mazes; is admittedly not my favorite selection by him so far, but I still quite liked it. It reminded me of Elizabeth Bear's Jacob's Ladder books - but better.

It took a while for me to get into it. The multi-layered virtual reality these characters live in is challenging to understand - and the reader gets dumped right in.However, once the spray from the splashdown settles, the plot picks up - and there are plenty of plots. Unravelling the various motivations and mysteries, as this virtual world unravels, is a lot of fun. ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
From Jo Walton's list of books that made her excited about scifi. I suppose I see why LoM ended on her list -- the exploration of the end stage of augmented reality/VR is good. For example, Schroeder has the wonderful concept of the 'cliff test'. You take people and change their subjective reality so it seems they are falling off a cliff. If you've been raised in customized VR, you assume it's an illusion. A normal human freaks out and has an adrenaline response. LoM envisages a society where, essentially, everyone would fail the cliff test. But despite much, much ingeniousness of similar quality, the basic story elements and characterization didn't grab me. As it became clear that it was trending towards a post-human deity vs. post-human deity slugfest I lost interest. ( )
  ben_a | Dec 31, 2013 |
Livia Kodaly lives in a ring world on the edge of the solar system in a far future in which 'reality' consists of a virtual reality that is superimposed on the physical world. The physics are a little sketchy, but that's beside the point; the conceit takes the notion that for each of us, our sense of reality is socially and culturally constructed, and makes it true on the level of the senses, not just on the level of mind. Livia's world comes under attack by a force that wants everyone to share the same reality; she and a few others escape and go looking for a way to fight back.

The various conflicts that drive the plot are built around competing answers to a set of philosophical questions: is it better to be content or free? In a post-Singularity universe - that is, after the development of beings transcendently greater than human beings - how can humans meaningfully exercise autonomy? If you voluntarily carry out assigned functions as part of a larger institution whose motives or methods you do not understand, have you sacrificed your own independent worth? These are mostly interesting questions. The story fudges on the ending - in fact, I couldn't see how the story's ending was even possible given the logic of the setting constructed through the rest of the book - but apart from that, the philosophic tensions are handled nicely.

On the other hand, the book has a hard time taking death - permanent death - seriously. The initial invasion of Livia's world and especially the end of the book are bloodbaths. One can imagine a future in which people can be readily brought back to life, or replaced with genetic clones and downloaded memories, but that doesn't seem to be the case here. Instead, many, many people die violently, and clearly aren't going to be brought back to life. Yet, the protagonists don't really seem as traumatized as one might expect. That disconnect, and a certain plasticity to the main character -- she's always feeling what the story needs her to feel, rather than what this character actually would feel -- keep the story from feeling as fully satisfying as it could. ( )
  bezoar44 | Apr 7, 2013 |
Well, Schroeder finally breaks the streak. This could have been really cool, with its ideas about virtual realities and government-through-emergent-behavior.
Unfortunately, the 3 main characters were all dull and whiny. ( )
  JenneB | Apr 2, 2013 |
Lady of Mazes is an ambitious book--dense, challenging, and packed with ideas. Unfortunately, in my opinion, the storytelling is inadequate to cope with the richness and complexity of the ideas.

In the far future, on a ringworld named Teven Coronal, a young woman named Livia Kodaly--one of two survivors of an inexplicable apocalypse--learns about an insidious conspiracy to subvert the cultures of her isolated world and of the larger Archipelago of human societies. Gradually, she makes her way to the Archipelago and into the confusing push and pull of the powers-that-be. There, she discovers the secret that can save her people--and possibly destroy them too.

That's the capsule review. You'll notice that it's fairly content-free. That's because, sadly, I had tremendous difficulty following the story. Through the second half of the book, I honestly had little idea what was going on. I enjoyed the characters, I cared about their struggle, and I was very impressed with the universe Schroeder had created. But I was simply unable to sort out the narrative.

This is unfortunate, because Lady of Mazes is filled with important ideas about the cultural role of technology and of institutions. The inhabitants of Teven Coronal have chosen to live in heavily mediated virtual realities, each with its own culture, and yet occupying the same physical space while the inhabitants remain invisible to each other. Each reality ("manifold" in the book's usage) is governed by a narrative, and many have placed strict limits on admissible technologies so as to prevent disruption of the narrative. People can move freely from one manifold to another, but many choose not to. The disruption that Livia must deal with involves the breakdown of the barriers between manifolds, which results in the destruction of these unique cultures.

This contrasts with the Archipelago, which has a more-or-less unified culture but an entirely ad-hoc system of governance. When groups of humans organize themselves for a task, an AI spontaneously coalesces to coordinate their actions and to represent their interests to other groups. The open-source rules that govern the development of these entities and the interactions in society are constantly being tinkered with and refined--and one attempt at formulating new rules may be responsible for the breakdown of Teven's worlds.

These are deep and fascinating ideas. I greatly appreciated being made to think about how society organizes itself around particular values and narratives, and how future technologies might alter this process. But, in the end, that's not enough to make a good novel. You also need a coherent and compelling story. And, I'm sorry to say, Schroeder seemed unable to guide me through the narrative in such a way that I could keep track of everything. By the end of the book, I understood little of what was happening, and less about why it was happening.

I badly wanted to like this book, and I was disappointed. It gets three stars from me for the beauty and strength of its ideas and speculation. But as a story, it simply didn't work. ( )
1 vote brianeisley | May 25, 2011 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Karl Schroederprimary authorall editionscalculated
Martiniere,StephanCover artsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Different ideas of social and political life entail different technologies for their realization.

    -- Langdon Winner, Autonomous Technology, 1977
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Livia Kodaly opened her eyes to gray predawn light.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0765350785, Mass Market Paperback)

Karl Schroeder is one of the new stars of hard SF. His novels, Ventus and Permanence, have established him as a new force in the field. Now he extends his reach into Larry Niven territory, returning to the same distant future in which Ventus was set, but employing a broader canvas. Lady of Mazes is the story of Teven Coronal, a ringworld with a huge multiplicity of human civilizations. It's the story of what happens when the delicate balance of coexisting worlds is completely destroyed, when the fabric of reality itself is torn.

Brilliant but troubled Livia Kodaly is Teven's only hope against invaders both human and superhuman who threaten the fragile ecologies and human diversity. Filled with action, ideas, and intellectual energy, Lady of Mazes is the hard SF novel of the year.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:27 -0400)

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When the human civilization of Teven Coronal is threatened by powerful invaders, brilliant but troubled Livia Kodaly attempts to safeguard the ringworld's fragile.

(summary from another edition)

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