Archive for Mixtec civilisation

a desolation called peace [book review]

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , , on March 5, 2022 by xi'an

This book by Arkady Martine is a sequel to the Hugo Awarded Memory called Empire, which I appreciated, pverall. I also did enjoy this one, no matter how different the settings are.

“The statistical chance of imago-integration failure leading to irreversible psychological and/or neurological damage is 0.3%”

Indeed, this second (and last?) volume is much more space-opera-esque in that most of the action takes place on a spatial fleet trying to fight an incomprehensible and invading alien force (whose mindset is rendered through an initially obscure chapter!). And subject to internal tensions, despite its military hierarchical structure. While the attempts at communicating with this unknown enemy are central to the story, they echo the main theme of the Teixcalaanli series (duology?), which is on how to reach the delicate balance between complete assimilation into a rich and fascinating culture and isolationism in order to preserve one’s original culture and way of life, doubled by the dilemmas caused by falling in love with someone from this other culture. (This may be the strongest aspect of the novel.) The related theme is the opposition between collective and individualistic societies, even though power competition is described in both the Teixcalaanli and the space station societies. (All three groups have achieved a way to operate as a collective. I actually wondered whether the “desolation” in the title was itself an intended collective, as in a murder of crows, esp. since a major character is nicknamed Swarm, but I could not find this collective ever being used.) It brought back some memories of Ender’s Game, in the sense of facing a radically different but still sapient species and backing away from complete annihilation. (The futuristic component of the book is as sketchy as in the previous one, with USB sticks being carried by spaceships as the only way to communicate, for no clear reason… But this is far from being of importance.) As an aside, the author linked her Teixcalaanli construct with the Mixtec civilisation, from Oaxaca.

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