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The Will to Battle

by Ada Palmer

Series: Terra Ignota (3)

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4391857,213 (4.21)26
"The long years of near-utopia have come to an abrupt end. Peace and order are now figments of the past. Corruption, deception, and insurgency hum within the once steadfast leadership of the Hives, nations without fixed location. The heartbreaking truth is that for decades, even centuries, the leaders of the great Hives bought the world's stability with a trickle of secret murders, mathematically planned. So that no faction could ever dominate. So that the balance held. The Hives' façade of solidity is the only hope they have for maintaining a semblance of order, for preventing the public from succumbing to the savagery and bloodlust of wars past. But as the great secret becomes more and more widely known, that façade is slipping away. Just days earlier, the world was a pinnacle of human civilization. Now everyone--Hives and hiveless, Utopians and sensayers, emperors and the downtrodden, warriors and saints--scrambles to prepare for the seemingly inevitable war"--… (more)
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» See also 26 mentions

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I think I really summed it up when I explained: "it reads like assigned reading for an undergrad philosophy course. The really cool one, with the professor everyone adores, but still."

Palmer has always been clearly been using her work as a vehicle for important cultural conversations, but that was paired with awe-inspiring world-building in Too Like the Lightning and a careful deconstruction of all of the holes in her world in Seven Surrenders. In The Will to Battle, nearly 300 or 350 pages are devoted entirely to dialogue, about half of which is between the narrator and either (a) the reader, (b) Hobbes or (c) other dead people as imagined by the narrator. It's important work about what it means to be a civilization, how to balance improving this world versus dreaming of bigger ones and what we as citizens in a global society owe each other. I think it may also be doing work holding up either end of the quartet in which it's placed (time will tell), but it's not really functional as a stand-alone novel. ( )
  settingshadow | Aug 19, 2023 |
This series has become a struggle or me.

I liked the complete worldbuilding of the first one, the social and philosophical and sociological questions/commentary/imagining... up to a certain point. So I gave it four stars. Is it believable that in ~350 years gender will have been (all but) banished from the world? Religion (in any real sense) as well? Amongst other things, the suspension of disbelief began to crumble for me during the second book. Three stars. In the fourth book, it just doesn't make sense anymore. Two stars.

Same thing with the highly stylized, verbose, melodramatic prose/description/"acting." It was "period" in the first book, a bit grating in the second, and for the third, I am just forcing myself to slog through it, chapter by chapter.

Same with JEDD/Jehova/etc. vs. The Peer/God/etc. And so on. ( )
  dcunning11235 | Aug 12, 2023 |
See my review in 1st book of series. ( )
  easytarget | Jul 3, 2023 |
There was less discontinuity between the second and third volumes of Terra Ignota than I had expected. Narrator Mycroft Canner's exposition is less polished, more raw (and unreliable) for reasons that become evident near the end of The Will to Battle. The book's title references a quote from Hobbes' Leviathan XIII which is supplied as an epigram, observing that war is in effect when that will exists, not merely when it is expressed through actual combat. As the previous volumes established that this one would be, it is concerned with the re-invention of war after multiple human generations of global peace.

There's a blurb from Cory Doctorow on the cover of The Will to Battle that touts the plausibility of Too Like the Lightning, which I would not really number among Terra Ignota's virtues. But I would agree with his other adjectives: "intricate" and "significant." You can tell Palmer is a professional historian, because her 25th-century future doesn't start today: it starts in antiquity, and the characters think about the 18th century far more often than they do the 20th or 21st.

In this third book, Palmer's references to literature and history are as manifold as ever, but Leviathan and Homer's Illiad stand out for the extent to which they are presumed and explicitly referenced by the text. Each contributes an actual character into the mix. Palmer's Achilles Mojave is (in some still mysterious but actual sense) the ancient Achaean, and a spectral Thomas Hobbes joins "the reader" in the frame conversation with Mycroft that occasionally obtrudes on the narrative.

This chronicle--more "secret" than the one of the prior books--affords some more empirical precision regarding not only the dates of the events chronicled, but the dates at which Canner is supposed to have written about them, along with the in-world composition of the first two books. (Curiously, The Will to Battle begins punctually on the 550th anniversary of the reception of Liber Legis.) Palmer pulls a breathtaking stunt with narrative voice at the beginning of the final chapter that I can't help but remark yet refuse to spoil.

Because of its complexity and hectic pace, I think too long a hiatus between volumes can pose a problem for readers of Terra Ignota. I was honestly a little worried after just a few weeks when I came back to The Will to Battle. But I was happily impressed by the "Seven-Ten List for Our Changing World" in the front matter as an excellent refresher on characters and plot as they had been left at the end of Seven Surrenders. I will charge on to Perhaps the Stars before the month is over.
1 vote paradoxosalpha | Feb 17, 2023 |
This is a 6,400 words analysis of The Will to Battle. The conceptual questions I voiced in my analysis of Seven Surrenders are not resolved in this next book, and there isn’t that much new information on these matters to analyze. Still, there’s enough to build upon what I wrote.

In my analysis, I will limit myself to two things. First a further discussion of the epistemic nature of the text and its relation to the metaphysics of Palmer’s future world. I’ve also changed my opinion a bit on the science fantasy matter, mainly because of an essay Palmer wrote online.

The second thing I’ll look at more closely is J.E.D.D.’s motivation for his involvement in the coming war: it is linked to utilitarianism and the trolley problem – things I wrote about in my text on 7S as well. J.E.D.D.’s motivations are problematic to say the least – not wholly out of character.

Before I’ll get to the analytic part, I’ll do a quick assessment of the novel without spoilers – that could be of interest to those that have read none or one or two of the first books.

Just to be clear: I liked The Will to Battle a lot, probably a bit more even than Seven Surrenders. It was a bit less exuberant, less cartoonish, and it dwelled less on the problematic sides of 7S.

(...)

Full analysis on Weighing A Pig Doesn't Fatten It ( )
  bormgans | Jul 18, 2022 |
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For Warre, consisteth not in Battell onely, or the act of fighting; but in a tract of time, wherein the Will to contend by Battell is sufficiently known: and therefore the notion of Time, is to be considered in the nature of Warre; as it is in the nature of Weather.

—Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan XIII
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Hubris it is, reader, to call one's self the most anything in history: the most powerful, the most mistreated, the most alone.
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"The long years of near-utopia have come to an abrupt end. Peace and order are now figments of the past. Corruption, deception, and insurgency hum within the once steadfast leadership of the Hives, nations without fixed location. The heartbreaking truth is that for decades, even centuries, the leaders of the great Hives bought the world's stability with a trickle of secret murders, mathematically planned. So that no faction could ever dominate. So that the balance held. The Hives' façade of solidity is the only hope they have for maintaining a semblance of order, for preventing the public from succumbing to the savagery and bloodlust of wars past. But as the great secret becomes more and more widely known, that façade is slipping away. Just days earlier, the world was a pinnacle of human civilization. Now everyone--Hives and hiveless, Utopians and sensayers, emperors and the downtrodden, warriors and saints--scrambles to prepare for the seemingly inevitable war"--

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