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The Armies of Memory (Giraut Series #4)
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The Armies of Memory (Giraut Series #4)

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by John Barnes
 

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PRAISE FOR JOHN BARNES

"A master of the genre." —Arthur C. Clarke

"John Barnes knows how to make readers care...Barnes combines philosophical speculation, high-speed action, and character development in a way that is the hallmark of a master." —Los Angeles Reader on A Million Open Doors

"Masterful." —Publishers Weekly on Earth

Overview

PRAISE FOR JOHN BARNES

"A master of the genre." —Arthur C. Clarke

"John Barnes knows how to make readers care...Barnes combines philosophical speculation, high-speed action, and character development in a way that is the hallmark of a master." —Los Angeles Reader on A Million Open Doors

"Masterful." —Publishers Weekly on Earth Made of Glass

"First-rate." —Library Journal on Earth Made of Glass

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Splendidly wrapping up the far-future cloak-and-psychological-dagger series that began with A Million Open Doors (1992), this last grand adventure of master spy and latter-day troubadour Giraut Leones covertly steers the Thousand Cultures of near-immortal humanity between "the box," total withdrawal into virtual reality, and interstellar war involving the "aintellects" Giraut loathes for wanting to enslave their human masters. Giraut and his team fend off assassination attempts, while his songs change the hearts of beings around him-and ultimately his own. Rich with glowing resonances of medieval Languedoc, the inspiration for Barnes's convincing Nou Occitan milieu and language, this final chorale of a long and brilliant SF symphony reprises some of his most intriguing characters via the "psypyx," the consciousness-recording device that allows individuals to die physically and be reborn in new bodies. As Giraut loses one love after another, he discovers that the artist must grow beauty around the wounds in his own heart, an echo of Proven al courtly love that drives him through "insane glorious dangers" into a final Cyrano-sweep of a plumed hat at death: quel geste! (Apr.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Special agent Giraut Leones of the Thousand Cultures' Office of Special Plans shares his political focus with a musical career as a brilliant lutist and vocal composer but also risks assassination at his performances by any of the possible enemies he has made through the years. When his performance of the controversial Ix Cycle sets off a flurry of reactions among Ixian cultural radicals and members of his own agency, Giraut becomes an even greater target, as well as a suspect. Soon his survival depends on rethinking his long-held views on cultural assimilation, ethnic identity, and the rights of artificially intelligent beings. Set in the same far-future universe as A Million Open Doors and A Sky So Big and Black, Barnes's novel concludes the adventures of one of the genre's most distinctive "special agents," the cultured, talented, and deadly Giraut Leones. At the same time, the author depicts a future in which the coexistence of divergent human cultures remains a major force in the development of human society. A superb blending of adventure and scientific speculation, this title belongs in most libraries. Highly recommended. Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Another adventure for troubadour-spy Giraut Leones of the Thousand Culture's Office of Special Plans-whose mission is to steer humanity down a path between war on the one hand and solipsistic retreat into virtual reality on the other. In an age where travel to distant planets takes place instantly, via springer, and both old age and death have been conquered, Giraut is 50 and looking it-since he has sworn to be true to his Occitan cultural heritage. His father, now occupying the body of an eight-year-old, is part of his team; his boss is his ex-wife, Margaret. He's also a famous musician, now developing a new song cycle based on the life and teachings of Ix, a philosopher he met during a previous adventure, now a saint with a considerable following. Giraut's chief problem, however, is that somebody's trying to kill him. The attempts continue, until it becomes clear that the object is not Giraut's demise but to nudge him toward a particular course of action. In time, a representative of the illegal extraterritorial colonies contacts Giraut; he learns that the illegals are more numerous and more advanced, scientifically and culturally, than the Thousand Cultures, treating their "aintellects" as equals-which the Thousand Cultures, following an unsuccessful aintellect revolt, certainly do not. Even more disturbingly, Giraut learns that official Thousand Cultures history is full of evasions, mysteries, denials and cover-ups. Despite all this, the extraterritorials desperately want friendship and an alliance. What, Giraut must discover, do they fear so much?Still top-heavy with cultural referents, but thoughtful, well plotted and intriguingly populated-the best so far in a worthwhile series.
From the Publisher
"A master of the genre." —Arthur C. Clarke on John Barnes

"John Barnes knows how to make readers care...Barnes combines philosophical speculation, high-speed action, and character development in a way that is the hallmark of a master." —Los Angeles Reader on A Million Open Doors

"Masterful." —Publishers Weekly on Earth Made of Glass

"First-rate." —Library Journal on Earth Made of Glass

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780765342249
Publisher:
Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
04/03/2007
Series:
Giraut Series , #4
Edition description:
First Edition
Pages:
432
Product dimensions:
4.17(w) x 6.71(h) x 1.16(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Armies of Memory


By John Barnes, Patrick Nielsen Hayden

Tom Doherty Associates

Copyright © 2006 John Barnes
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-4299-1050-7



CHAPTER 1

Laprada was fussing, lifting my tapi from each shoulder till it hung parallel to the floor, and tugging at the fastening. It made me nervous — as her instructor at hand-to-hand fighting, I knew how she loved chokeholds. "Oh, cheer up, you ancient monster of ego," she said. "Something good could happen tonight. For example, maybe they'll finally send a competent sniper. Then we won't have to listen to you complain."

"Then you won't," Raimbaut said. "I'd have him in my head. And after that, we'd both have to listen to him complain about being physically four years old."

"No one has any respect for the dignity of the artist." I checked myself in the mirror again. People wear their actual ages in only about thirty of the Thousand Cultures, so my mostly-gray hair surrounding my mostly-bald crown was an oddity, and the wrinkles and crow's-feet odder still. But I looked good, for a freak — not unlike an actor in an Industrial-Age flatscreen movie. Since Laprada was on her second body, physically in her late teens, she might have been cast as my younger daughter, the one who was always running to her wise old dad with her boyfriend problems.

Unfortunately, during my earlier years I had presented myself to my niche market as "authentically Occitan," declaring, on record and often, that aging naturally was integral to my performing persona. Fans have long memories for those sorts of things; I was trapped until someone killed me. Which, as Laprada had just pointed out, could well be tonight.

I returned my attention to smoothing my clothes. I could have substituted smart fabrics, but that too seemed like cheating. The clothes were real, and the body was real, and I sang, present in my real body, not lip-synched and not holo'd, at every concert.

Martial arts had kept me supple, fussy eating had held my paunch to a little roll under my navel, and important work had kept my glance sharp, focused, and interested. Giraut Leones, I thought, you are a good-looking fifty-year-old man.

Fully equivalent to being an orangutan with great hair.

Paxa Prytanis appeared in the mirror behind me as her hand lighted on my shoulder. "He's admiring himself in the mirror again."

"Caught," I said. "I go to the mirror to see whether I look fit for my public, take one good look, and — deu sait, I don't mean to — but I am at once caught up in contemplating fifty stanyears of absolute perfection — "

"Don't hit him in the head," Laprada said. "I just got his hair under control."

"Well, if you don't like my mirror-fascination now, think what I'll be like admiring a smooth teenaged face, if you people let me get killed."

"You'll be even worse — if that's possible — when you first get out of the psypyx," an apparent eight-year-old boy said from the corner, where he had been quietly reading Ovid and making little pencil notes in the margins. "You were a very beautiful child and this time around you'd know it. Rebirth from the psypyx is a splendid experience but don't hurry."

"Dad," I said, "I promise not to step in front of any bullets just to get a new body for free."

Dad, Paxa, Laprada, and Raimbaut comprised the Office of Special Projects team that I commanded. At least the OSP thought I commanded them. Actually I filled out the paperwork and did the apologizing after the team accomplished a mission. As for giving orders and having them followed, I'd have had better luck trying to organize an all-ferret marching band.

We were five people of around ten ages. Raimbaut and I had been born in the same stanyear, so like me he was fifty on the clock, but he had spent thirteen stanyears in storage in the psypyx, so was only thirty-seven in experience, and since he had been grafted onto a new body only fourteen stanyears ago, physically he was about seventeen. Laprada, restarted from her psypyx at the same time, was forty in chronology and experience, seventeen in appearance. Dad was eighty- one in experience, eighty-three by the clock (he was Q-4, a rare mind- brain type, and so it had taken two stanyears for the placement agency to find a host), but physically an eight-year-old boy. Paxa was forty- three on the clock and in experience, but as a Hedon who believed in getting anti-aging treatments and keeping them up to date, she was physically about thirty.

At fifty — clock, experience, and body — today, I was thoroughly fifty, which was fitting because I was here for my birthday concert in Trois-Orleans, home of my most loyal and passionate audience.

"Two minutes till places," Laprada said.

Paxa plucked her computer from her jacket pocket, shook it out, smoothed it onto a makeup counter, and re-re-checked every operative, movement of active known enemies, and weapons diagnostic — a lethal version of "did I leave the oven on?" Of course everything was fine. She folded her computer in a napkin-tuck and slipped it back into her right front pocket, one corner protruding.

Laprada and Raimbaut stretched together, pulling each other's arms, stroking each other's necks, rubbing backs and muscles, preparing for jobs that could quickly become athletic. Besides, they enjoyed rubbing each other.

Since unknown people had started trying to kill me three stanyears before, all the attempts had happened at heavily publicized concerts. Hoping to get some useful clue, the OSP had kept me out on tour and watched me as a cat watches a mousehole. I just hoped the mouse wouldn't come out right after the cat got bored and wandered off for a nap.

Even if my would-be assassins stood me up, this could be the night that the Lost Legion, who had been sending delicate little feelers for more than a stanyear, would finally make real contact. (Assuming they were not the people who were trying to kill me; they might be.)

Or maybe tonight the Ixists would do something other than attend in great numbers, listening intently and breathing quietly in meditative unison, as if they were in a worship service (something their faith didn't officially have).

Or something might come out of nowhere.

So here I was: bait for the malevolent, magnet for the odd, connection to the poorly understood, the only physically old man most of these people had ever seen. Just a day in the life of your average lutist-composer, if the lutist-composer happens to publicly work for a covert ops organization. It was a strange job, but somebody had to do it, so I suppose it might as well be somebody strange.

The door opened behind me; I heard a sigh. "Happy birthday, you overgrown teenager," Margaret said.

I turned.

She was grinning; so was I. "My god, you're still beautiful," she said. "In a grandfatherly sort of way."

Careless of my costume, I embraced my ex-wife.

I had met Margaret and fallen in love with her on my first mission, almost thirty years before. We had been married just over twelve years, ending in a divorce I hadn't wanted, just before the fates had entertained themselves by promoting her to chief of my section of the OSP. (She always shrugged and said that I was a lousy husband and a good spy, so she would no more let me transfer out of her section than she would keep me in her house.)

I held her close, then took a half step back. I had seen her only on com screens for the past couple of stanyears. Margaret was still wearing her born body, but a genetic heritage with too much Euro had been kinder to her than to me. Margaret's age showed more in her attitude than in her skin or her body, still firm in my arms.

At my expectant look, she laughed. "No, there's no last-minute special mission, my desperately romantic tostemz-toszet. I bought a ticket. I'm going to be out in the seats, enjoying the show. So — happy birthday, Giraut, and I'll see you after. Be brilliant." Then she looked around the rest of the room and said, "You can all be brilliant too."

How fine a team did I have? Even while busy preparing to guard my life, they still remembered to laugh at my boss's jokes.


Laprada placed her hand between my shoulder blades and firmly shoved me into the light. The traditional disembodied voice said, "Ladies and gentlemen" (Terstad, nearly everyone's first language)

"Mesdames et messieurs —" (French, the culture language for Trois-Orléans)

"Donzhelas e donzi e midons —" (Occitan, my own culture language)

"We are pleased to present, on the occasion of his fiftieth birthday, Giraut Leones!"

I always loathed that first long walk from the wings to my stool, and this was an extra-long walk, across the stage of the largest of all the Fareman Halls in human space. The lights were so bright (did they change something after light check?), the stool was farther away than I thought (did they move it?), and I couldn't feel the songs in my fingers, the way I could just a moment ago (changes? did I make them?).

Was this my lute? How did we all forget I don't play the lute? Where was my banjo?

Why was I not laughing internally at my own jokes, as I normally did?

Could people tell I did that?

If they could tell, would it spoil the show for them?

Do they all hate me?

I always take each step toward that too-distant stool with an awkward heavy thud. How can a lifetime martial artist walk so off- balance? Surely they see that I walk like the Frankenstein monster? Don't trip and stumble — deu here comes the stool — how do people get their buttocks onto these things? I don't remember! Deu deu deu please don't let me fall down in front of all these people! Is my tapi straight? Oh, gratz'deu, I'm here.

Solid applause from the sold-out house I bowed, sat, brought my lute into position, and played.

Now I was in the joyous void in which I did my best work, letting each song take me, not thinking of anything but giving them the best I could, letting the energy of the eager listener flow toward the great songs, and the energy of the song back into the listener, back and forth through me, the madly whirling vortex or the sharply focused lens or whatever metaphor you want for the thing in the middle that lives by what flows through it, and is best when it most completely erases itself.

At a concert like this one, everyone wants nostalgia. For my first set I had chosen traditional Occitan material from my first recording, Cansos de Trobadors. Three of the songs from that collection had been unexpected hits, launching my performing career while I was off on my first diplomatic mission (it had been a pleasant surprise to discover that I had a large pile of money waiting for me when I returned from my first advanced training at the OSP facility in Manila, on Earth).

The first song from Cansos de Trobadors was "The Wild Robbers of Serras Verz." I had learned it at the age of twelve, and had been performing that song for so long that the Serras Verz really were green mountains now — the trees that I had planted on volunteer service with my youth group were tall and flourishing. (They still had no wild robbers.)

Culture histories were like that: never the true past of a culture, but the bold, confident, and heroic past that the culture felt it ought to have had. In all of the Thousand Cultures' made-up histories, not one culture chose to imagine that they were descended from unambitious muddlers-through, and only one — Hedonia, Paxa's home culture — officially celebrated their actual ancestors: ninety- some human nannies fresh from suspended animation, a few millions robots, a large electronic library, and a million frozen embryos.

The song took me. I boasted of the sharpness of my steel and my pitiless vengeance on the lackeys of the brutal king.

I had known several kings of Nou Occitan, mostly quiet professors or genial artists. Dad had worked for some of them, during his career as an economist in his born body, so I suppose he was a "lackey." The only thing he had brutalized was data.

As I sang, the passions of my fictitious forebears, magicked by elves to the planet Wilson, blazed in my breast. Via my performance, their imagined spirit infected the sons and daughters of a just-as- fictionalized Second Empire, in which a spaceship built by de Lesseps, Poincaré, and Pierre Curie, and captained by Jules Verne, had brought the True Heir — a child descended from a marriage of a Bourbon to a Bonaparte — to the planet Roosevelt. (It was silent, as culture histories usually are, about the other ninety-one cultures on the planet. Presumably all other cultures on Roosevelt were immigrants on sufferance.)

Up on the stage, the son of Mad Guilhem recounted Guilhem's final adventure, set upon by forty of the King's Marshals and fighting on as he bled to death, while Bold Agnes escaped with Guilhem's newborn son.

Out in the house, the daughters of Camille sighed and fluttered.

Wonderful fun, utterly bogus, and wonderful fun because it was utterly bogus.

I sang more cansos of love and battle, despair and devotion, merce and enseingnamen, fine spring days on the road and blizzard nights by the fire, the songs that defined a trobador, a few from Old Earth, most from our centuries in Nou Occitan. My own compositions were for later. I finished out the first set with a traditional burial song, "Canso de Fis de Jovent," my first real hit. I had long since stopped trying to make it mean anything; I did my best to stay out of its way and let people enjoy an assemblage of pleasant sounds with finely tuned emotions through me, not from me. After every concert, fans wrote to tell me that they never grew tired of it, I suppose because they feared I might. My aintellect replied with a warm, friendly letter over my signature that said I never got tired of it, either.

I bowed with a flourish in the thunder of applause. In my dressing room, I drank a little tepid water, washed my face, did a brief First Lesser Kata of ki hara do to work the kinks out, and lay down for exactly twelve minutes of wonderful sleep.


A warm wet cloth dragged from my chin up over my eyes, rising like a curtain on Paxa Prytanis bending close. She smiled, kissed me with the light tenderness that says we are lovers but not now, and said, "Better than ever, Giraut." She kissed me again and left, talking to her com, repositioning operatives, making sure security was tight for the second set.

I rose, gargled with warm saline, urinated, drank another cup of tepid water. Laprada came in silently, carrying my freshly-pressed tapi. She combed my hair, straightened my collar, made the soft folds of my breeches fall properly over my boot tops. She held up my tapi and I turned my back to her and fastened it around my neck again. I spent about a minute nervously tugging things into place. She squeezed my shoulder and whispered, "brilliant, you ancient monster of ego."

The door closed behind Laprada. The clock showed four and a half minutes till the exactly two minutes late I intended. I refilled my water glass and drank slowly, reviewing in my own mind what it was that I needed to do and be on the stage in this next set.

When I was very small, my parents say, my favorite toy was an image globe. I haven't had reason to shop for toys in years, so I don't know if they still make them. An image globe was a viewing sphere, which, if you held it at its south pole, displayed a holo of tiny, shimmering dots that might be anything — galaxies or atoms or molecules. Drag your finger up toward the equator and the dots combined into strings and rings, shapes and cells, structures and pieces, until at the equator you were looking at any number of possible familiar objects — a tree, a dog, a house. Drag your finger north from the equator and the object shrank away in an aerial view, and then into a spaceborne view, and the individual star faded away into a white mist, until, again, at the north pole, the view was just what it had been at the south: scattered twinkling lights in the dark. It wasn't meant to be representative; after all, atoms can't be seen by visible light, and if they could they wouldn't look like galaxy clusters. Much of the fun was in seeing what different pathways did; run your finger around the equator and the thousands of pictures morphed into each other so swiftly that it was a mere swirl of color; spiral from pole to pole and the universe was made of countless changes.

I had been tinkering with a song about my image globe. It felt as if that was my life. Start at any micropoint and somehow the bigger you got, the more it kept returning to the micropoint. Like the way that a verse within a canso, no matter whether it is part of the beginning, middle, or end, has its own beginning, middle, and end. And the beginning, middle, end of the canso reflects the beginning, middle, and end of the whole trobador tradition, which in turn is like a two-century microcosm of prespaceflight Western art, which in turn was like one small model of what had happened a thousand times over in the six hundred years of the Thousand Cultures ... or going down the other way, each word and phrase and note of each verse has that structure.

Like nested dolls, like a camera pointed at its own monitor through a distorting mirror ... my little square of existence fit into the bigger square of my performing and my team and my friends and family, and all of them into the bigger square of my life ... nesting dolls, image globe, rescaling pictures, lines in verses in poems in collections in traditions in languages in families —


(Continues...)

Excerpted from The Armies of Memory by John Barnes, Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Copyright © 2006 John Barnes. Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

John Barnes is the award-winning author of many SF novels, including Orbital Resonance, A Million Open Doors, and The Sky So Big and Black. With Buzz Aldrin, he wrote Encounter with Tiber and The Return. He lives in Colorado.

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Armies of Memory (Giraut Series #4) 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Office of Special Plans espionage agent troubadour Giraut Leones works the thin line between total withdrawal into the virtual reality box and the war with the ¿aintellect¿ insurgents. At fifty Giraut intellectually prefers hiding inside the box to escape his growing melancholy, but must do his duty to the Thousand Cultures.----- Though he is a target for assassination, Giraut continues to play songs that touch the hearts of those who come into contact with him. Still he wonders about his own heart¿s healing as he sadly recalls those he lost to death but revisited through the 'psypyx' that enables individuals to die yet live seemingly forever. Between the psypyx and his own music, Giraut seeks solace as he begins to learn that love and beauty heal hurts. He returns home to Nou Occitan with a deeper understanding of the universe only to find treachery, betrayal, and violence. Will he virtually flee into his music making him an easy target for his prey but also enabling him to escape the horrors that engulf him or will Giraut try to save humanity from its worst enemy, itself?------ THE ARMIES OF MEMORY, the climax of John Barnes¿ Thousand Cultures saga, may prove to be the best science fiction tale of the year. As always the characters make the exhilarating story line a one sitting reading experience The heroic Giraut feels his age as he is tired and ready to retire, but also realizes that if he wants to live he must remain on the job until he stops those who want him dead. He also concludes that humanity needs him at a critical moment, but he fears he has nothing left except his music and that may no longer be enough. Mr. Barnes is at his best with this stupendous science fiction story.------ Harriet Klausner