The Will to Battle

The Will to Battle

The Will to Battle —the third book of 2017 John W. Campbell Award winner Ada Palmer's Terra Ignota series—a political SF epic of extraordinary audacity“A cornucopia of dazzling, sharp ideas set in rich, wry prose that rewards rumination with layers of delight. Provocative, erudite, inventive, resplendent.” —Ken Liu, author of The Grace of KingsThe long years of near-utopi...

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Title:The Will to Battle
Author:Ada Palmer
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Will to Battle Reviews

  • Jo Walton

    It made me hyperventilate on a train. This series just gets better and better.

  • Sarah

    Ockham Prospero Saneer pleads Terra Ignota, I did the deed, but I do not myself know whether it was a crime. This sets the tone for the entire book.

    I know there are at least a few of you interested in this book and whether or not the end feels like we've only been given half a book. I'm happy to report that this does not feel like half a book. The wait for

    will still be long and torturous, but I intend to fill that time with back to back re-reads prior to release.

    These books ar

    Ockham Prospero Saneer pleads Terra Ignota, I did the deed, but I do not myself know whether it was a crime. This sets the tone for the entire book.

    I know there are at least a few of you interested in this book and whether or not the end feels like we've only been given half a book. I'm happy to report that this does not feel like half a book. The wait for

    will still be long and torturous, but I intend to fill that time with back to back re-reads prior to release.

    These books are, in their own special way, an art form. These pages are filled with quirky stylistic choices, narrative breaks taken to address the reader (you) who carries an ongoing dialogue both with the narrator, and ghosts of the narrators past and upbringing (primarily, philosopher Thomas Hobbes). Dual columns of text side by side are meant to tell you that multiple conversations are happening at the same time within the text. While MASON speaks, people around him object and these texts are given to you in tandem. Different sets of parenthetical are meant to indicate different languages. I'm sure this has been obvious to some of my fellow readers, but yes, I can be dense, and yes, it has taken me three books to crack the code.

    We continue our philosophical search for meaning through the eyes of the Alien, God of Another Universe, filtered through the eyes of a serial killer and a genius, Mycroft Canner. This was an interesting examination of Mycroft. We see a glimpse of Mycroft before this chronicle started. We spy him for a brief moment in that time between his capture and his judgement. His own story, a mirror image of the larger story at hand.

    We move away now from examinations of gender and utopia, to the meaning and purpose of war. Perhaps to the purpose of god and religion and its purpose within society. How does a peaceful society take those first few steps to war? Is war necessary to progress? How does society balance the rights of an individual against the greater good? What right does a government have to defend itself or its people against other governments and people? Is this a right we as citizens consent to? Or do we happily ignore it and pretend that peace and the right to live are god granted things that no government can take away regardless of that governments cause?

    This may be the last book I have time to read and review this year and with everything happening within my own government I suppose it couldn't have been more timely. It is highly relevant and highly recommended, and one of the few books I am already looking forward to re-reading because I know just how many things I must have missed.

  • Ruth

    The first book in the Terra Ignota series,

    , was magnificent. It left me deliciously bewildered at every turn, with revelation after revelation illuminating new aspects of the world to me, turning my assumptions on their heads with no warning. This being the third installment in the series, the world is now mostly laid out before the reader, but there are still shattering revelations to be had. Before beginning, I was concerned that my expectations for The Will to Battle we

    The first book in the Terra Ignota series,

    , was magnificent. It left me deliciously bewildered at every turn, with revelation after revelation illuminating new aspects of the world to me, turning my assumptions on their heads with no warning. This being the third installment in the series, the world is now mostly laid out before the reader, but there are still shattering revelations to be had. Before beginning, I was concerned that my expectations for The Will to Battle were too high, that I was bound to be disappointed. I should have known better, because Ada Palmer has delivered yet another exquisite and intricately crafted tale. The characters remain complex and fascinating, the action riveting, and the twists never cheap. I eagerly await the publication of both this book, so I can share it with customers, and the final installment,

    , so I can find out how this brilliant series concludes!

    (I read this book as an eARC through edelweiss)

  • Bradley

    Update, later the same day:

    I think I'm gonna nominate this one for Hugo. It keeps getting better on reflection. :)

    Original Review:

    I took my time and savored this one. It deserves it. And more.

    Ada Palmer has made a world worth luxuriating in, and far from resting on the Greek laurels she and her work deserve, she's delved deep into new philosophical questions while all the time fascinating us with complicated and rich characters. Never even mind the glorious world-building. The amount of thought

    Update, later the same day:

    I think I'm gonna nominate this one for Hugo. It keeps getting better on reflection. :)

    Original Review:

    I took my time and savored this one. It deserves it. And more.

    Ada Palmer has made a world worth luxuriating in, and far from resting on the Greek laurels she and her work deserve, she's delved deep into new philosophical questions while all the time fascinating us with complicated and rich characters. Never even mind the glorious world-building. The amount of thought and forethought in all of this is astounding.

    The title gives the main action away. It is not Battle. But the Will to Battle. This is a philosophical conundrum. A wrenching up. A decision to kill or be killed. What's most fascinating about this is the fact we began these books in a de-facto utopia.

    The first book throws all our perceptions and assumptions for a loop, especially when the great murderer is, in fact, a hero, but a hero for what? The second book dives deeper into the mysterious mass-assassinations and the purpose behind them, right down to the rights of kings and the greater ideological good of society. It also explores godhood as an observer and as a limited player and does it in such a way as to frame the rest of the book in a brilliant argument for and against the destruction of a whole society.

    This book is both a surprising and sophisticated exploration of nobility, goodness and idealistic (broad sense) response to the calling of war and perhaps a complete destruction of humanity. I'm talking eyes-wide-open exhaustive discussion of turning their utopias (and there are essentially eleven different kinds of utopias in this world) into mass death, destruction, and eventual barbarism. Everyone's aware of the pitfalls and only the truly war-like among us (including the original, actual Achilles) has the most wisdom to impart. Prepare well. Keep lines of communication open. Stock up. Draw battlefield lines. Prepare for the absolute worst. Go about all your days, preparing to die.

    What's most shocking about this book is the fact that it never feels contrived or absurd. At all. It's like being in reality, keeping a clear head, and carefully choosing to murder for the sake of your most deeply held beliefs... even while you live in heaven.

    Disturbing? Hell, yeah. Understandable? Yeah. In this case, all the events, all the subjects, all the people in it are treated with respect and honor even when it's about assassination, betrayal, grief, or the realization that everything is not only going to change, but nobody will win. And yet the Will to Battle persists. Remains. It is inevitable, but heroism now consists in postponing the tragedy or mitigating the worst effects.

    This is, after all, a highly advanced scientific and cultural utopia we have on Earth. Means to destroy are vast, and people's ire and mob mentalities are still very real. It's sick and fascinating.

    And I'm absolutely hooked.

    I should be perfectly candid about where I would place these books in my mind. These aren't simple tales full of action and pathos and they don't have clear-cut plotlines for easy public consumption. They are Considered. They are very thoughtful, very mindful, and rife with classics of both literature and philosophical thought. The latest one is a modern delving and interpretation of some of the best pre-game-theory classics. And it's also heart-wrenching, but mainly for the actual effects of these Big Ideas on all the characters I've grown to love and admire. And I mean all of them.

    I would place these books in my mind in the Classics category. Classic as in "This needs to be a cult favorite that gets pulled out fifty years from now with just much love and respect as I'm giving it now" kind of book.

    If there's any justice in this world, Big Ideas books that are written this well should ALWAYS have staying power. And that's what I wish for it. It needs to be known and savored. We need this discussion for all our thinking selves. Seriously and honestly.

    That's how this book affects me. How all of the books have affected me. Am I putting them on a very precise pedestal? Perhaps. But any winner of the Olympics ought to be respected for all the reasons behind the competition.

  • Pearl

    If you’ve made it this far into the 3rd act of this production, then I welcome you with open arms, my comrade.

    You’ll like what you find here:

    This time around, it all feels more comfortable to me, the world in which the characters live in, it all makes better sense; the actions and decisions some characters make, their beliefs (some questionable and irksome) but I don’t feel so on the

    with the overly dramatic tone (a character of its own) with these characters.

    It’s quite natural to me that Saladin will be licking away at Mycroft’s wounds and tears while some important shit is going down. It isn’t as shocking to me when Emperor Cornel Mason decides to savagely kick Mycroft in the ribs instead of the actual person who has made him enraged. This is all

    natural, I’ve had two whole acts to get used to these characters’ sociopathic tendencies and contradictions. They’re all still weird but everything about them is all so

    .

    I got some of my desires sated from this act and will be here waiting for the 4th and final act!

  • Scott

    Ada Palmer has the skills to pay the bills, and with her new book she's packing a full clip, has a 455 under the hood and a full tank of high-octane racing fuel.

    This is the third book in the

    trilogy, and damn, it’s good! Palmer keeps the tension running at eye-watering pace, the politics, bad blood and crimes of the previous two novels coming together in a story that has the intricacy of a Swiss watch.

    Mycroft Canner, Servicer, one-time sadistic multiple murderer and now servant to t

    Ada Palmer has the skills to pay the bills, and with her new book she's packing a full clip, has a 455 under the hood and a full tank of high-octane racing fuel.

    This is the third book in the

    trilogy, and damn, it’s good! Palmer keeps the tension running at eye-watering pace, the politics, bad blood and crimes of the previous two novels coming together in a story that has the intricacy of a Swiss watch.

    Mycroft Canner, Servicer, one-time sadistic multiple murderer and now servant to the most powerful people on Earth. returns as our narrator, showing us Jehovah Mason - visitor from another reality, Cornel MASON - Masonic emperor, Ojiro Sniper- Humanist olympian turned war leader and others as they deal with the revelations of murder and betrayal that arose in Palmer's two earlier novels.

    War is now inevitable. Centuries of peace are over. Shots haven’t been fired, but guns are loaded, arrows aimed, and fingers tremble with the effort of holding their position against triggers while we, readers get a ringside seat to the fascinating dance of power, fear and anger that is circling the world ever closer to the plughole.

    Like her previous novels action is not the heart of Palmer's timepiece (although there is action here- big action, bigger than in her prior books), rather the tiny gears of many conversations drive this machine, and what conversations they are! I found myself hanging on every sentence in conversations between the lords of Palmer’s world as they try to stop the war they all know is coming, while at the same time they begin building war machines that will tear their society down to rubble.

    There's some damn smart stuff in here. Palmer's books are refreshingly different, finding their tension in interesting places and exploring ancient ideas against the background of an advanced, generally harmonious future society. Palmer's background as an historian comes through, with Thomas Hobbes' theories (and even the man himself) blended into the narrative along with the enlightenment thought of Voltaire and others.

    Ancient Greek thought and culture is also projected onto the canvas of the future, with Achilles (yes, fleet-footed, Myrmidon-leading, Patroclus-loving Achilles himself) resurrected and trying to fit into the future. As the only man alive who has ever experienced war he must choose a side to take when conflict breaks out and his rare skills become indispensable.

    This dance of ideas, and the way they clash with each other and with the values of a futuristic society are is fascinating to watch, and skilfully done.

    I was initially a little unsure of her decision to resurrect Achilles as

    many authors have revisited the Trojan War (see Dan Simmons’

    for a particularly entertaining example) and I wondered if a classics academic such as Palmer simply couldn’t resist the urge to play with one of literature’s greatest characters, regardless of the wisdom of doing so.

    I need not have worried. Palmer doesn’t shoe-horn Achilles into a story where he doesn’t belong - rather she makes him an important and natural part of what happens, and his presence fits with the menage of bright future and classical philosophy that underpins her scenario.

    There is genuine pleasure to be taken here in Palmer's lavishly constructed world, and I found myself soaking up the detail, almost sightseeing as she takes her readers on a tour of her imagination.

    My

    reservation is that I thought

    was going to round the story off (instead of setting things up for a fourth novel) so I was a little disappointed that no resolution is reached. I’m veeeery careful about committing to reading such long series, but this one is pure reading pleasure so no regrets so far.

    Overall I

    this book, and I sucked up its pages like a nineties Britpop band roaring through an ounce of blow.

    To continue my drug analogy, if I was hooked by

    and

    then

    has made me a slavering addict, greedily eyeing up publishers' lists for my next hit of Palmer's

    . I very

    rarely order books on spec, but I'll be dropping my hard-earned on Palmer's next book the moment pre-orders open.

    4.5 stars.

  • Odo

    4.5/5.0

  • Kane

    After the constitutive excellent of the first two of the series, I felt this novel falls a little flat. While in the previous iterations, the plot has felt honed and in a momentous direction, here the story seems to meander around, with only occasional larger events stitching it all together. While Lightning had the Ockham-Saneer bash, and Surrenders had Madame's, the global scope of this book overwhelms when it is thrust upon the reader every chapter, instead of breaking up otherwise familiar l

    After the constitutive excellent of the first two of the series, I felt this novel falls a little flat. While in the previous iterations, the plot has felt honed and in a momentous direction, here the story seems to meander around, with only occasional larger events stitching it all together. While Lightning had the Ockham-Saneer bash, and Surrenders had Madame's, the global scope of this book overwhelms when it is thrust upon the reader every chapter, instead of breaking up otherwise familiar locations as in the other two books.

    Introducing the Arctic and Atlantis, both seemingly for major plot points, was a little odd seeing as neither has been mentioned before, unlike the Blacklaw capital which was a rewarding treat. Sniper disappears, then reappears? Granted there is mystery here, but for what stakes?

    Overall this is a solid book, and respect continuing for Palmer for its creation. The Vatican chapter was a delight, as was the thrilling Prison chapter towards the end. Achilles also was an enjoyable addition, excising the admittedly somewhat duller chapters of Bridger from the other books. But other than this, I can't help but feel the fourth instalment will have to pickup the slack of the series left by Battle, or else run the risk of petering out what was an incredibly strong start.

  • Bjørnar Tuftin

    This is a magnificent series! It has glorious prose, spectacular world-building, amazing intrigue and ... It's so good that I feel bad for not liking it. But fact is just don't. Yes, it's glorious and intricate and imaginative, to me this book was still a slog.

    I'm not even sure what kept me going. Pure stubbornness and five-nines record of finishing books? (Not actually true, it's two nines and a smidgen.) A hope that it would eventually be worth it?

    It definitely wasn't a desire to know what wo

    This is a magnificent series! It has glorious prose, spectacular world-building, amazing intrigue and ... It's so good that I feel bad for not liking it. But fact is just don't. Yes, it's glorious and intricate and imaginative, to me this book was still a slog.

    I'm not even sure what kept me going. Pure stubbornness and five-nines record of finishing books? (Not actually true, it's two nines and a smidgen.) A hope that it would eventually be worth it?

    It definitely wasn't a desire to know what would happen to the characters from the first two books. They never seemed real to me, and I never cared for them. When they popped back into the story in this book, for shorter or longer, I never thought "Ah, I was wondering what happened to them." and at the end of the book I'm not thinking "I wonder what will happen in the next." Perhaps with one exception, but they barely appear in the book.

    Only one thing, I think, could get me to read the next one, and that's a faint hope some or, highly unlikely, all of the mystery will be exposed.

    If you really enjoyed the first two books, I wouldn't be surprised if you enjoy this one as well, but if you never truly related to the characters, found those to go on for too long about ... well, everything, and/or got annoyed with the sheer ornateness of it all, you should get out now.

    When I'm giving it an "OK" instead of "didn't like it", it's based on it feeling less of a slog for the last 25% of the book, but there's a non-zero chance that this, at least in part, was induced by the end being in sight.

  • Sherwood Smith

    I’ve been thinking about how to review this book for a couple of days, and have come to the conclusion that I can’t review its events without massive spoilers, and even then, those won’t convey the impact to someone who hasn’t read the two previous books.

    So I’m going to talk about it by talking around it.

    In the last few days, it so happens that I’ve been either watching or reading stories that focus on the problems of power and human nature. The fuzziest of these stories was my viewing of

    I’ve been thinking about how to review this book for a couple of days, and have come to the conclusion that I can’t review its events without massive spoilers, and even then, those won’t convey the impact to someone who hasn’t read the two previous books.

    So I’m going to talk about it by talking around it.

    In the last few days, it so happens that I’ve been either watching or reading stories that focus on the problems of power and human nature. The fuzziest of these stories was my viewing of

    in which the conflicted history of the Jedi is touched on.

    I find these issues handled much more effectively in a Chinese drama I’ve been rewatching (

    , and to a lesser extent, so far, its sequel), but the most detailed scrutiny is Ada Palmer’s

    , the third of the

    series.

    In this one, we find out what ‘terra ignota’ means in the context of this fascinating, highly stylized, deeply complex and rapidly fracturing future Utopia as secrets emerge to devastating effect.

    A story this layered is going to read differently to different readers. In talking it over with various people, I’ve been fascinated by the diverging reactions, so far with a meetpoint of awe at the sheer scope, the enthusiasm (and the familiarity with) ancient as well as modern thinkers.

    One reader finds the future Utopia, with its Hive and bash’ (stemming from the Japanese

    , what I understand to be a term for a made family), implausible in the sense of how we got there from here; another reader looks askance at the mix of science fiction and fantasy; a third is ravished by the unreliable narrator, who, admitting freely to disintegrating sanity, claims to be telling the absolute truth, which puts a spin on perceptions of miracles and madness.

    As I was reading this third book in the series, during which the Utopians deal with the fact that they are on the brink of total war for the first time in three centuries, I kept reflecting on our own phenomenally uneasy times.

    No matter how Byzantine Palmer’s future world is, how incomprehensible or even unbelievable this or that element seems, I can’t help but wonder how we—right now, January 2018—ended up with a handful of oligarchs doing their best to divide the world between them. And how we, here, in our two hundred year old republic, managed to saddle ourselves with so venal, ignorant, narcissistic, and incompetent a dictator-wannabe as President, something I never would have believed possible in the half-century I’ve been reading history as well as current events.

    If today’s situation had been posited in a science fiction book, say, in 1984, I would have stuck it back on the bookrack, my eyes rolling out of my head.

    Tying that to

    , I am beginning to think that those very elements that seem so far-fetched to many readers make it possible to—in the guise of a highly entertaining story—pose some searching questions about human nature on the personal and global levels. Questions such as why we always seem to opt for war, and how we manage to surrender insane amounts of power to kings. (Whatever they call themselves.)

    Reflect on the title for a moment. The

    to battle. This is not a story about an Evil Sith Lord coming to attack our doughty underdog heroes who must then band together to fight back. This is a story about people who have the freedom to move anywhere in the world, even up to the city on the moon, who can be or do pretty much anything, who are permitted to believe anything, who first in hidden groups then more and more flagrantly, as their numbers grow, effectively lick their lips in anticipation of destruction and annihilation. Some out of anger, some out of conviction, and some—the most chilling of all—consider themselves motivated by benevolence.

    And, creatures of contradiction that we are, we watch in fascination.

    In this book, as in the previous, we’re largely in the gods-eye view as intelligent and powerful people discuss ideas of war, and humanitarians think about supplies and hospitals, and those who are lethally trained . . . do what they do best, sometimes with minds brilliant at calculating the statistical balance-point of action and consequence behind them. This book does not overlook the potency of statistics.

    An imagined world, however byzantine, only works if there is resonance with the reader in the now. The glimpses of crowd movement—what sparks individuals to form into crowd, then follow the flashpoint emotion into action—strike with chilling verisimilitude. Palmer’s familiarity with history echoes through all three books.

    There’s also an insightful, thoughtful, benevolently adamantine examination of the conflicts in human nature, reflected in the action and accelerating tension in this book. Characters (and readers) are fascinated by the darker impulses in humans—mirrored in our longest-lasting literature and philosophy, drama and social patterns—even when yearning toward the light. (However one defines that.)

    I love these books, beginning with the beguiling narrative pyrotechnics. What resonates strongest for me is the love for humanity, even in its most profound folly, that breathes through the pages, beckoning toward human excellence, however rocky a path to get there.

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