From 2017 John W. Campbell Award winner, Ada Palmer, the second book of Terra Ignota, a political science fiction 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 Kings
In a future of near-instantaneous global travel, of abundant provision for the needs of all, a future in which no one living can remember an actual war…a long era of stability threatens to come to an abrupt end.
For known only to a few, the leaders of the great Hives, nations without fixed locations, have long conspired to keep the world stable, at the cost of just a little blood. A few secret murders, mathematically planned. So that no faction can ever dominate, and the balance holds. And yet the balance is beginning to give way.
Mycroft Canner, convict, sentenced to wander the globe in service to all, knows more about this conspiracy than he can ever admit. Carlyle Foster, counselor, sensayer, has secrets as well, and they burden Carlyle beyond description. And both Mycroft and Carlyle are privy to the greatest secret of all: Bridger, the child who can bring inanimate objects to life.
Shot through with astonishing invention, Ada Palmer's Seven Surrenders is the next movement in one of the great science fiction epics of our time.
“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, author of Three Parts Dead
1. Too Like the Lightning
2. Seven Surrenders
3. The Will to Battle
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Terra Ignota, Book II
By Ada Palmer, Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Tom Doherty AssociatesCopyright © 2017 Ada Palmer
All rights reserved.
Nihil Obstat — 'Nothing prevents it' — was the old license-by-fiat which kings and inquisitors pronounced in stifled ages when no printing press could give its inky kiss to paper until Tyrant Church and Tyrant State had loosed censorship's universal gag. But 'nihil obstet' is something else when He appends it to our permissions page, Good Jehovah Mason. 'Obstet' is a prayer, one He made over and over to the many authorities who guard humanity: His Imperial father, the Cousin Chair, the King of Spain, the Sensayers' Conclave, the far-seeing Censor, Brill's wise Institute: 'Let nothing prevent it.' They feared as much for Him as for themselves, tried to sow doubt in Him, asked Him by His many names: Are You sure You want to do this, J.E.D.D. Mason? Tribune? Porphyrogene? Prince? Tenth Director? Tai-Kun? Xiao Hei Wang? Jed? Jagmohan? Micromegas? Jehovah Epicurus Donatien D'Arouet Mason? Are You sure You want this snarling, wounded Earth to learn so much of You? But Madame D'Arouet, who raised [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] Jehovah in that strange bash'-out-of-time she cultured in the gold-drenched heart of Paris, also taught Him numbers: one and many, less and more. So, the same grim calculus that compelled Cicero and Seneca to give their lives for bleeding Rome compels Jehovah now to end the desperation-pain of the ten billion who cry for answers, even at the cost of worse pain to those dearest to Him, and Himself. For your sake, reader, He prayed, to one, to many. And for His sake I pray too, to That One Power — absent from our permissions page — Which could still stop us, as It stopped firebrand Apollo. The many mouths of Providence have swallowed up a thousand histories, and could swallow one more. So I pray: Let nothing obstruct this book and the Good it aims at. If there is benevolence in You, strange Creator, nihil obstet.CHAPTER 2
RESTRICTION: THIS SECTION MUST BE EXCISED BEFORE THIS DOCUMENT MAY BE PUBLISHED OR DISTRIBUTED. PRIVATE ACCESS MAY BE GRANTED BY JUDICIAL ORDER.
Restriction ordered by: The Conclave of Sensayers of the Universal Free Alliance.
Reason: Libelous attribution of criminal acts to a licensed sensayer.
Restriction ordered by: Cousins' Legal Commission.
Reason: Potential harm to the public peace, potential harm to minors herein discussed.
Restriction ordered by: Ordo Quiritum Imperatorisque Masonicorum.
Reason: Instigation of violence against a Familiaris Regni.
Restriction ordered by: Universal Free Alliance Commissioner General Ektor Carlyle Papadelias.
Reason: Strong evidence that substantial parts of this document are an alteration or forgery with destructive intent.
DURATION OF RESTRICTION: Five years, renewable pending review.
* * *
Howdy, fans and foes! This is your very own Sniper. First, let me assure you that I'm alive and well. The fugitive lifestyle suits me fine, my wounds are healed, I have plenty of allies, and I will kill Jehovah Mason for you, that I swear, today, tomorrow, a year from now, however long it takes. They can't guard the little prince forever. Tyrants and assassins have a great symbiosis. Assassins are always evil and despised (even when our effects are good, we're still a bad means to a good end) until tyrants crop up. Then suddenly assassins are heroes, lifelines; suddenly we alone have the power to save the world without a revolution and the destruction revolutions bring. You admit you need us. But, between tyrants, you forget that assassins will only be here, ready, when you want us if we've been here, ready, the whole time. You feel dirty keeping such a weapon in the house, but somebody has to keep one or it won't be there when the bad wolf comes to huff and puff. My office is no less a pillar of this age than Censor or Anonymous. I serve with no less pride.
Second, I should say I'm only writing this one chapter, and Mycroft will take over again when I've had my say. Mycroft went to great lengths to contact me so I could describe this event, which did come next in sequence. I agreed to relate it only on condition that they promise not to touch a word of what I wrote. It's a privilege I intend to abuse to the utmost, and I'll have my say about Jehovah Mason before I'm done. But I'll start first with the part that will make your usual narrator squirm the most: correcting their willful omission and giving you a proper physical description of Mycroft Canner.
Mycroft is average height, shorter because they stoop, and swimming in their oversized uniform, like a statue wrapped in sacking, waiting to be restored. Their hair is curly in that classical Greek way, off-black, closer to a grayish tint than brown, and overgrown around the sides and forehead, as if they imagine so marvelous a creature could hide itself beneath a few stray locks. Modern science has kept their face as fresh at thirty-one as it was at seventeen, when all it took was a glance from Mycroft Canner to make the strongest shudder, but now those devil eyes lock tamely on the floor. They're brown eyes if you get a look at them, bright brown and antique feeling, like the brown tint which makes old wine richer than new. There's a scarring on their upper lip where violence has split it once too often, which gives a sense of hidden fangs. But the real prize comes when you strip away their uniform and bare the skin beneath, a tapestry of scars, all shapes, all vintages: the crumpled edges of old cuts and bites, the roughness of burns, strap-sores around the wrists and ankles, the ley lines of surgery, bullet holes round like little kisses, all layered on top of one another like a graffiti wall which tempts you to add your own mark. There's a story behind every scar, and I've spent many lucky hours tracing that skin and asking about each; Mycroft answers about one-third of the time.
The Mycroft you remember from the news was lean, all muscle like a starving scavenger. That hasn't changed. The wildest stray goes soft after a year of warm laps and petting, but not Mycroft. I don't believe Mycroft starves themself only as self-punishment. It could be that they don't want to taint such a body with whatever unhealthy slop Servicers' patrons tend to offer, but I suspect it's just that our predator finds common food hard to choke down after what they've tasted. Their famous hat (and even I was surprised to learn it came from Dominic Seneschal) is round, brown, something like a newsboy cap, though more patches than cloth at this point, with only the remnants of what might have been a brim. Mycroft lied to you, you know. They said there was no Beggar King to command the Servicers, but the sight of that hat makes the others snap to attention as surely as a crown. It's not for the crimes that the other Servicers idolize Mycroft, it's what Mycroft's done since. Even in Hell they're stunned to find an angel among them, willing to be as much a guardian as a fallen angel can.
Today's Mycroft genuinely is as obsequious in person as they are in print, a self-styled slave in this world which has none. But if you sit with them awhile, and talk, and coax, the formality fades, the hunch which hides the still-strong shoulders loosens, the hands begin to splay like claws, and eventually the beast I call True Mycroft pokes its nose above the surface. It's not a prisoner in there, not fighting to break free, just resting inside Slave Mycroft like a ship in harbor, saving itself for something. Slave Mycroft has only one expression: apology. As for True Mycroft, their expressions are unreadable, or rather you're wrong if you try to read them, like when the shape of a dog's face makes it seem to smile or frown where really you're just projecting human expressions onto an inhuman thing.
Like most of us, I first laid eyes on Mycroft Canner on the news just after the capture, as the police wheeled them past row on row of emergency forces. Mycroft was so serene then, basking in the procession as if that transparent coffin-cage was a triumphal chariot. We'd already heard Mycroft's reasons for the Mardi killings from the recorded speeches they left beside the later bodies. This was the supreme act of violence of this century, done not by a government, not a Church, not a tribe, not an army, but by an individual. Ever since villagers first wielded sharpened sticks in their chief's name, the State had held a monopoly on supreme violence, but the Hive system ended that. Mycroft called their killings a demonstration of a liberty our era had not realized we possessed, proof of history's progress if seventeen deaths were enough to shock the world; historically, seventeen deaths is a good day. Philosophers had long speculated about Savage Man, whether the conscience is innate or implanted by society, and whether the human mind is actually capable of willing evil for the sake of evil — even the most heinous killers still tend to imagine some goal (revenge, profit, personal pleasure, some mad command). It's an important question, fundamental really — can we choose actions that purely make the world worse without any perverse perceived benefit? — but we couldn't discover whether the true Human Beast could exist back when the Beast was like a craftsman in an age of mass production, negligible beside the infinitely greater evils: Democide and War. There before the cameras Mycroft preached that, in these days of peace when we choose our Hive and values for ourselves, human individuals finally have the chance to be the worst thing in the world, and the right to be proud of our choice if we are not. That was the first time I fell in love with anyone outside my bash'.
It was a month after the arrest that Eureka told me Mycroft Canner wasn't executed after all. We had to make them ours, that was clear. My crush aside, I always say a killer can smell a killer, and with yours truly on the news every five minutes, Mycroft had surely scented me by now. Eureka tracked Mycroft down among the Servicers, and Ockham paid the visit. It took moments for each to recognize what other was. Laconic Ockham delivered simply, "Come," which Mycroft matched with an instant, "Yes, M???er Saneer," in Mycroft's signature vague diction which lets you think they're saying 'Member' but underneath it's really 'Master' leaking out. Lesley and I had spent weeks concocting blackmail enough to collar the beast (and keep them silent, which was Ockham's concern), and were a little pissed to find our schemes superfluous. We'd sent the trapper after a wolf and caught a fawning puppy; there was no choice but to adopt it. It was supposed to be my puppy, but Thisbe set their sights on it, and when Thisbe stirs even O.S. trembles. I still got Mycroft as a playmate, storyteller, sparring partner, but only Thisbe got them at night, and (as I've learned now) never touched them. Just as well; as one learns from the obituaries of the wealthy perverts Mycroft used to prostitute themself to, raising money to help other Servicers, if you sleep with Mycroft Canner you don't live long (and thanks to reading the first half of this history, I now know to call that phenomenon Saladin).
Enough authorial abuse for now. My kidnapping on March twenty-seventh, that's what I'm supposed to talk about. It happened at six A.M.by my schedule. I'd just endured a nasty (but deserved) chewing out from my fencing coach (obnoxious but worth putting up with, since it's so hard to find a coach who won't fall in love with me). I'd removed my tracker for a shower when an odorless and fast-acting drug knocked me cold.
It's hard to say when I awoke, since the world I woke to was so like a dream. I couldn't see; I couldn't move; I couldn't speak. I wasn't bound or gagged. It was my hands, my arms, my legs, they all lay limp, and when I tried to call for help, not only would the sound not rise but even my lips refused to form the words. I could feel, and recognized at once that I was lying in the molded contours of a Lifedoll box; I know the shape, since fans often ask me to have myself delivered in the packaging so they can have the pleasure of unwrapping me. My first thought was that I might be one of my dolls come to life (no, at the time I did not know about Bridger's power to bring toys to life, it's just that my profession made me think hard about these things), but my tongue could move, enough to keep me from choking, and I found the notch on the inside of my top left molar which no doll has, which I had etched there for just such eventualities (I told you, I thought hard about these things). Clearly, then, I was no doll. I was breathing. I could swallow (with difficulty), could blink and move my eyes (though the packaging strap across my eyes was as solid as a blindfold), and I could control my bladder and anus enough to keep from soiling the box. A few other muscles did tense slightly as I strained — my jaw, some spots on my belly, one spot in my neck — so I set to exercising them, to see if I could get my blood pumping a bit and so flush chemicals from my system faster, if chemicals were the cause. With concentration I detected spots of soreness scattered around my body which I guessed were remnants of however this paralysis had been achieved. Fear? I didn't feel much fear. I thought about trying to induce panic to get my heart rate up, but better to keep myself sharp, and ready.
The first words I heard were muffled, both by the box and by a voice distorter, which left the syllables gritty and robotic. « Now, let's see this surprise that was worth dragging me out here. » I do not speak French, but I hear it often, and Spanish gives me enough of a start to piece the simple stuff together.
« It might have been dangerous bringing it to Your Holiness's office. I tried to decorate this place to make you feel at home. »
« It's perfect. All my favorite posters, and the rug's so cushy. »
« I am a professional. »
« Mmm. That you are. »
The two paused and, from the sound of it, made out. There were two voices, both veiled by distorters. I'm not going to use names. The police promised (in writing) not to use this testimony as evidence against anyone, but the police aren't so good with that sort of promise. You know which sensayer was promised Sniper in return for handing over the Cousin Carlyle Foster to a certain Blacklaw. If I omit the names then I maintain reasonable doubt.
« Is this the surprise I hope it is? » Hands made the packaging flex.
« If you've guessed, it isn't a surprise. »
I felt clean air on my chest as the box opened. « Oh! Gorgeous ... » Hands explored my chest. « It's real? The real Sniper? »
« I pay my debts, Your Holiness. » Another hand guided the first to test my pulse.
« The real Sniper. That's really the real Sniper? »
« I'll give my oath on it, if you doubt. »
« Did you get them to consent? »
« Of course not. I knew you'd want to do that part yourself. »
« Mmm. How did you snatch them? Did you take the Canner Device for a spin? »
« And draw a swarm of Moonmen down upon my head? No, no. Stealth and patience, Your Holiness, stealth and patience. »
Hands lifted my arm, the touch delicate but not gentle. « They're limp. Are they unconscious? »
« That would be no fun. It's conscious, just frozen like a doll. It can hear us, and when you unwrap the eyes it'll be able to see, so make sure your mask stays in place. »
Hands played with my fingers, bending them to test resistance. « How did you do this? »
« The paralysis? A very delicate application of this and that. It's not my invention; Madame's had this sort of special request before. It's not permanent, it needs to be refreshed every few hours, but I can arrange another round if need be. »
« Oh, you've outdone yourself! You can have Carlyle! You can have any pawn you want! »
The other laughed. « You deserved a prize today. That imaginary friend you identified from the boy's drawings was just what I needed, trick worked like a charm. »
« That child you asked advice about, you broke them successfully? »
« Am breaking. No need to rush. I've three of his little friends hostage, and you wouldn't believe what treasures are already flocking to the bait. »
« Little friends? I hope you're not breaking any Black Laws, harming minors? »
« Nothing of the sort. Besides, I'll hardly need such bait once I have little Carlyle to finish things for me. »
« And God? The common God, I mean, are you making progress? You dropped such taunting hints. »
Another hush for kisses.
« God's almost mine. »
« How long? »
A chuckle. « Patience is a virtue, Your Holiness. Think of it as a balance for today's delicious vice. Your doll awaits. »
"Mmm." Practiced hands gripped me under the arms and eased my torso forward until I flopped into an embrace. Some long hair caught in my lips as my face fell against bare skin, and I felt breasts against my chest. "Oops! Careful!" They switched to English to address me, laughing as they adjusted my head so my cheek could rest on their shoulder. "What a fragile thing you are, Sniper, and so light! I always imagined the real thing would be heavier than the dolls."
« Careful you don't strain its neck. Actually, better put this neck brace on it. I didn't want the brace to spoil the effect when you opened the box, but there's real danger of straining something, like with babies. »
Excerpted from Seven Surrenders by Ada Palmer, Patrick Nielsen Hayden. Copyright © 2017 Ada Palmer. 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.
Table of Contents
Persons Appearing in this History,
Chapter the First: Nihil Obstet,
Chapter the Second: Sniper's Chapter,
Chapter the Third: O.S.,
Chapter the Fourth: Providence,
Chapter the Fifth: If Anybody in the World Can,
Chapter the Sixth: The Room Where Mycroft Canner Died,
Chapter the Seventh: Treason,
Chapter the Eighth: No Rest for the Virtuous,
Chapter the Ninth: The Visitation,
Chapter the Tenth: Stalin in One Weekend,
Chapter the Eleventh: Providence Chooses Left,
Chapter the Twelfth: Snakes and Ladders,
Chapter the Thirteenth: Rose-Tinted Daydream,
Chapter the Fourteenth: The Suicide of Cato Weeksbooth,
Chapter the Fifteenth: The Most Important Person in the World,
Chapter the Sixteenth: Deo Erexit Deus,
Chapter the Seventeenth: The Rape of Apollo,
Chapter the Eighteenth: Aristotle and Alexander,
Chapter the Nineteenth: Seven Surrenders,
Chapter the Twentieth: I Was Wrong.,
Chapter the Twenty-First: Hero,
Chapter the Twenty-Second: Last Prayer,
Author's Note and Acknowledgments,
Also by Ada Palmer,
About the Author,