Philosophical Science Fiction: The Will to Battle by Ada Palmer

The Will to Battle is the third book in Ada Palmer’s Terra Ignota series. I enjoyed Too Like the Lightning, the first book, for the glittering possibilities of its worldbuilding and its (apparently) utterly unreliable narrator; for the sense that it was setting up a great thematic argument between fate and free will in a technologically-driven society. I liked Seven Surrenders less, and felt did not live up to the promise of its predecessor.

Now The Will to Battle has clarified a number of things for me about Palmer’s work—not least of which is that Palmer has not actually written a series of novels, but instead, an extended philosophical commentary couched in science fictional language and using science fictional furniture.

The Will to Battle is part political manifesto; part theological tractatus (I use the Latin advisedly); part constructed dialogue between Thomas Hobbes, the book’s narrator, and ...