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Seven Surrenders: A Novel (Terra Ignota) Hardcover – March 7, 2017
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“A breathless and devious intellectual page-turner, Seven Surrenders veers expertly between love, murder, mayhem, parenthood, theology, and high politics. I haven't had this much fun with a book in a long time.” ―Max Gladstone on Seven Surrenders
"The Terra Ignota books are is the kind of science fiction that makes me excited all over again about what science fiction can do.” ―Jo Walton
“Excellent.” ―Craig Newmark
“Devastatingly accomplished…An arch and playful narrative that combines the conscious irreverence of the best of 18th-century philosophy with the high-octane heat of an epic science fiction thriller.” ―Liz Bourke, Tor.com on Too Like the Lightning
“Palmer proves that the boundaries of science fiction can be pushed and the history and the future can be married together.” ―Publishers Weekly on Too Like the Lightning
“Too Like the Lightning could end up one of the truly great works of speculative literature. Highly recommended.” ―SFRevu on Too Like the Lightning
About the Author
ADA PALMER is a professor in the history department of the University of Chicago, specializing in Renaissance history and the history of ideas. Her first nonfiction book, Reading Lucretius in the Renaissance, was published in 2014 by Harvard University Press. She is also a composer of folk and Renaissance-tinged a capella music, most of which she performs with the group Sassafrass. Her personal site is at adapalmer.com, and she writes about history for a popular audience at exurbe.com and about SF and fantasy-related matters at Tor.com.
The third book of her Terra Ignota series, The Will to Battle, will be released December 2017.
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Top Customer Reviews
Seven Surrenders is a demanding novel: it's going to make you confront that intellectual heritage, and you will appreciate it the most if you have some background in the history of ideas. It also demands even greater suspension of disbelief than most science fiction, having elements that are spiritual fantasy. Fortunately, you don't have to believe to enjoy and appreciate this intellectual adventure. Palmer often invites us to be skeptical, with near rhetorical winks.
If you're brave enough to not be scared off by the demands made, you'll find this a wonderfully engaging, exciting novel of ideas.
In Too Like the Lightning, Bridger, the miracle-working child whom protagonist Mycroft Canner has been caring for, reads Les Miserables, one of my favorite books. I couldn’t quite understand why the book was referenced at the time, but in Seven Surrenders, Mycroft describes his love for Bridger as:
“…not as others before me have loved a son, a brother, a savior, a master, but whom I–strange creature that I am –love in all these ways at once, all rolled together into a new kind of love, abject and irrevocable, that has as yet no name.”
This immediately recalled to me the following passage from Hugo’s book:
“Poor old Jean Valjean, of course, loved Cosette only as a father; but, as we noted earlier, into this fatherly love his lonely single status in life had introduced every other kind of love; he loved Cosette as his daughter, and he loved her as his mother, and he loved her as his sister; and, as he had never had either a lover or a wife, as nature is a creditor that does not accept nonpayment, that particular feeling, too, the most indestructible of all, had thrown itself in with the rest…”
And this passage from Hugo’s Ninety-Three:
“All the power of loving in Cimourdain had, so to speak, fallen on this child; the sweet, innocent being had become a sort of prey to this heart condemned to solitude. He loved him with all the tenderness at once of father, brother, friend and creator.”
And with those verbal/emotional echoes, it was easy to see a plot echo from Les Miserables–the convict who saves and adopts an innocent child, who becomes everything to him (Mycroft has, unlike Hugo’s protagonists, other loves–Saladin, Apollo Mojave, J.E.D.D. Mason–and other loyalties, but Bridger’s powers make him impossibly important). In the end, Palmer is an even crueler God of her created universe than Hugo is–Jean Valjean sees Cosette grown and married, and even reunites with her on his deathbed, and Cimourdain kills himself the instant his order to kill his beloved pupil is carried out.
Mycroft Canner, however, survives the suicide of his foster-son Bridger. The last words of the final chapter, excluding the epilogue, are as follows:
“….our limits in civilian life, the point at which we are too tired, too distraught, too weak to go on, are not really our limits. I rose and saluted.”
The warlike imagery is appropriate: the next book in the series is called The Will to Battle. Though Mycroft’s fictional “record” ends here, I hope we will continue to see his story in the next book, and that we will learn more about him, as there are still mysteries–though the motives for his crimes are revealed, he refers to himself near the end as a “parricide”, which leaves the possibility of still more skeletons in the closet. But I’m also interested in how this loss will affect him–his affections are, as I said, more widely spread than those of Hugo’s characters, but it must affect his character going forward. I can’t wait for The Will to Battle.
So when I started Seven Surrenders, I knew this would have to be something special to match that one. It is. It takes the incredibly detailed and complicated world of politics, intrigue, religion, philosophy, sex, and language Palmer introduced us to through Mycroft in the first book and explains why all of that matters. Really, book 1 was the setup and book 2 was the payoff, and does it ever pay off. Palmer explains the mystery that drove the plot of the first book, reveals (very early on) who is behind the conspiracy revealed at the end of it, and walks us through the "time of change" that Mycroft has referred to since the beginning of the story, all while giving us more of these incredible characters she's created and the even more incredible world they live in. The ending isn't the happy one I wanted so badly for it to be, but it's the RIGHT ending, and it fits everything that's come before, giving a nice wrap-up, but clearly setting the stage for the next book.
If you're at all interested in how the story from Too Like the Lightning turned out, this is well worth the read.