Perhaps the Stars by Ada Palmer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
There is no easy way to review this or the other three books in this cycle without first distinguishing the whole lot from all other SF.
It is important to note that this one is smarter, denser, more deeply thoughtful, and planned out than most heavily world-built stories. If you took your extensive knowledge of history of Romantic periods: from Humanists, Utopians, divine rights of kings, gender explorers, anarcho-libertarians, and more, mix them all up with futuristic tech and then set them all up to tear their shared utopias apart over the span of the first three books, then you'll get Perhaps the Stars.
War. The third great World War, full of idealists that want to limit the damage as they fight for their ideals, the totally predictable slide into atrocities, plots within plots within plots, massive death tolls, and a huge cast of characters all following their values to their inevitable dooms.
From the first book, Too Like the Lightning, where the future world is rocked with massive betrayals to its utopia core -- to Seven Surrenders which seemed to have an ultimate winner in the wonderfully intricate values battle -- to Will to Battle, which proves that politics never really ends until all parties are safely dead -- to Perhaps the Stars, where we live the horrors of war and their aftermath, including setting one's hopes ever higher -- I have to say this series is one of the most intricately interesting pieces of fiction I've ever read.
The last book is a true capstone to the others.
One fair warning, however: because of the amount of love that had gone into these four books, I don't expect anyone to absorb all the goodies in these pages. It is rich, dense, and deserves multiple readings. It took me much longer to finish this simply because I had to absorb so much, and I'm generally a fairly fast reader.
Fortunately, it is ALL very much worth it. In a genre that generally attracts intellectuals and scientists and those who truly appreciate the imagination, this one rises to the very top of the intellectual chart.
In a world of SF that seems interchangeable with itself, the Terra Ignota series aims for the stars.
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