Monday, August 20, 2012

not without some Pitiliness....

Jorge Luis Borges on maps:

On Exactitude in Science . . . In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.

Suarez Miranda,Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV,Cap. XLV, Lerida, 1658
From Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions, Translated by Andrew Hurley Copyright Penguin 1999 .

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

"Bitter Seeds" and "The Coldest War" by Ian Tregillis

If you love literature, get these books.  The second one is just out in hardcover and is totally worth the hardcover price.  If you like monsters
versus wizards, you will find that here, but be prepared for
spectacular prose.  Warning, there's a third volume that the publisher
has scheduled for mid-2013.  These are self-contained novels with
endings, though. Not like a lot of what one sees.

Speaking as a writer, I tell you that this is a writer who can handle
exquisitely everything that he assays here.  That's rare.  As a species we tend to put our best foot forward.  I'm not sure this guy has a less-best foot at all.

Imagine a 19th century literary novelist with the delicacy of a
Nabokov, the sledgehammer of a Jennifer Levin, and the effortless
style of a Chandler or a Salinger.  Maybe not so effortless.
He's so good that it's a bit effort intensive at least on my part
as a reader.  He will make you think.  He will make you question
what is right.

He's got the epic stage of World War II.  He's got a classic
British spy novel with a madman worthy of Mary Shelley.  He's got
the handful of dregs, the final generation, of English warlocks
forced out of hiding by a minor aristocrat whose grandfather was
a warlock.  They are all that stand between civlization and the
monsters.  They are a handful of old men.

Initially innocent evil supermen created (with suitable horror) as weapons
by the Nazis.  English warlocks who really should (and did) know
better than to....

The idea of the Enochian language is a favorite of mine and it is a
thread that Tregillis weaves through the books.  I first learned
of it when I was collecting unusual fonts.  Need I say "John Dee?"

Spoilers Below

He has situations such as: We took X course of action, which was
morally wrong, but appeared the lesser of two evils.  It may have
been the lesser, but it has failed, and the consequences have
come home. What do we do now?

And this: The enemy precognitive (seer) has defected to us.  We know
the enemy's been getting increasingly unhappy with this person.  What
do we do?  The precognition has been proved.  Can we take *any*
course of action, given that we know that the precog exists, that is
not a part of some unknowable plan on the part of the precog?  Is it,
ummm, *okay* that our actions appear to lead ultimately to something
that the hostile and possibly insane precog wants?  "Ah, damn it!.
This is where the precog *learns* fact Y from us and transmits it
back...."  So it's a full classical time-travel story, too.  I find
classical time travel stories are like intricate mechanical puzzles
where everything depends on everything else.  If you're honest and
know what you're doing.

I think you'll have a lot of fun with these books.