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Lady of Mazes [Hardcover]

Karl Schroeder
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

July 2005
Karl Schroeder is one of the new stars of hard science fiction. His novels, "Ventus" and "Permanence", have established him as a new force in the field. Now he again extends his reach into Larry Niven territory, returning to the same distant future in which "Ventus" was set, but employing a broader canvas, to tell the story of Teven Coronal, a ringworld with a huge multiplicity of human civilizations. Brilliant but troubled Livia Kodaly is Teven's only hope against invaders both human and superhuman who would destroy its fragile ecologies and human diversity. Filled with action, ideas, and intellectual energy, "Lady of Mazes" is a brilliant hard science fiction novel.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 286 pages
  • Publisher: Tor Books (July 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765312190
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765312198
  • Product Dimensions: 25.1 x 16 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,238,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

"Lady of Mazes contains more cool ideas than Ventus and Permanence combined."--Peter Watts --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

KARL SCHROEDER lives in Toronto, Ontario --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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3 of 15 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting story but hard to follow 28 July 2006
By Robert
Format:Mass Market Paperback
If I have it right, and this was a difficult concelpt to grasp, an artificial world is peopled by humans who have some sort of software filters which control what they experience. Hence it is possible to have two populations existing in the same place but experiecning different realities.It get a bit too complex o follow after that.

But the story of an engineered solar sstem is pretty good. hint to author - keep it simple next time
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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  20 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Head-snappingly cool SF about living in intersecting VR 5 April 2006
By Richard R. Horton - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Karl Schroeder's new novel is the real thing -- head-snappingly cool SF, with big and clever ideas, almost believable transcendence, and a way to map human scale stories into a world where "post-human" powers exist. It's set in the fairly far future, in a Solar System populated by humans living in space habitats, by post-humans -- humans who have gained "god-like" computational powers, and possibly by aliens. Ultimately the story concerns people trying to live human scale lives, yet also lives with meaning -- and various solutions are suggested. This is ambitious stuff. Schroeder -- one of the most reliably ambitious young writers we have -- doesn't quite pull off everything he tries, but he makes a brave stab at it.

The protagonist is Livia Kodaly, a diplomat living in a human society, or "manifold", called Westerhaven. A "manifold" is a set of technological and social values adopted by a community, and enforced by implants and virtual reality. Thus in one manifold people live in what seems to be roughly a traditional Native American tribe; while in another flying machines and guns might be allowed, but not spaceships. And so on. As it happens, these manifolds coexist on a single space habitat, Teven Coronal -- something like one of Iain M. Banks's "orbitals", or a mini-Ringworld. VR mediates people's interactions so that people from different manifolds can be in the same place and not see each other. In some manifolds, like Westerhaven, people have "societies", groups of friends who can always be present (if usually as simulations, with conversations stored for the "original" to experience later if necessary).

This setup is pretty cool -- reminiscent in some ways of John C. Wright's Golden Age trilogy. But it turns out not to be the point of the book. For Westerhaven and its fellow manifolds are under attack by a mysterious entity called 3347, which seems determined to undermine the "tech locks" that maintain the identity of each manifold. Livia and her close friend Aaron Varese, along with a newly met man from another manifold, Raven, escape in a flying house. And soon we are introduced to the main stream (perhaps) of human society, a cluster of habitats from which Westerhaven has been isolated.

Here people also live lives mediated by VR, so that they might seem to be in almost any environment -- a cartoon world, an old city street, a Scottish manor, etc. -- while in "reality" (whatever that might mean) they are living in artificial space habitats broadly similar to Teven Coronal. Social life in these habitats is controlled by various means -- AIs called collectively the "Government," and composed of independent AI "votes," for one example. Or, for another crucial example, groups of people living according to the Good Book -- a set of rules for social interaction.

Best perhaps to let Schroeder tell his story from here. Livia and her friends continue to search for help in saving their home Coronal. But they are also seduced by the prospect of life in the "wider" world, as it were, with its less limited horizons. And there is also the lurking presence of post-humans, and of the mysterious "anecliptics," the beings who have among other things shielded Teven Coronal from interaction with the rest of the Solar System. Some people are looking for ways to become "gods" themselves.

Ultimately Lady of Mazes asks: "What does human life mean?" or "How can life be meaningful if 'reality' is an infinitely malleable construct, and nothing basic ever changes?" Or similar questions. Livia, not surprisingly, has a central role to play. At times the story bumps into a common problem of wild far future stories -- how can we believe or understand the technological wonders that seem to drip by fiat from the author's pen? But in the end I felt the book mostly worked. And the closing passage (before a slightly anticlimactic epilogue) is truly lovely.
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Far-future adventure 20 Nov 2005
By Elisabeth Carey - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Lady of Mazes is very loosely connected to Schroeder's earlier novel, Ventus, but the story is completely independent. Not having read the earlier book will not affect this one.

Livia Kodaly lives in a space-based habitat, in a culture that to some degree neighbors and to some degree overlaps in physical territory with other cultures that are separated from each other by software horizons that prevent members of one culture from using or even perceiving the technology and artifacts appropriate to other cultures. Livia herself is part of a small group that can perceive and interact with other culture, and who act as cultural ambassadors and take on the task of deciding when declining cultures have been sufficiently abandoned that their resources can be reallocated to thriving existing or new cultures. This is a contentious enough task that Livia's life is hardly stress-free even before Qiingi, a man from a more nature-oriented neighboring/overlapping culture tells her that the Ancestors-the people Livia's culture calls the Founders-have returned and are behaving very strangely. In short order the horizons separating the many cultures of the habitat are under full-scale attack and falling rapidly, while Livia, Qiingi, and Aaron, an old friend of Livia's, are fleeing for their lives, knowing nothing about their enemy except that it's apparently called 3340, and it hates the horizons that let the cultures maintain themselves intact.

Up to this point, they at least know what the rules are supposed to be. Once they make a truly insane escape from the habitat and their unlikely vehicle gets picked up, things get much stranger. Livia, her friends, and the people they meet in what, from their perspective, might as well be Wonderland, all have to completely rewrite the way they think the world works, and why. The question of who or what among the contending parties might be the bad guy, if there is one, becomes amazingly, and amazingly satisfyingly, confused. After the first third of the book, there's really nothing that can be said about it that wouldn't simultaneously be both a spoiler, and completely misleading.

Highly recommended.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fine and imaginative 15 July 2005
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This is a very well written piece of science fiction that combines hard science fiction (Niven) with more imaginative work (Dick). I am astounded to find that I am the first to write a review. This is a very good book. The premise is that people live in various artificial communities/satellites, and also in various artificial mental constructs. What happens when these constructs are challenged? Very, very unusual and fine story. I highly recommend it if you enjoy this genre.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent - a complete, plausible and frightening future 29 Oct 2012
By The_Tela - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is one of the best books I've read in a long time, sci-fi or otherwise. I originally borrowed this book from the library after reading Permanence by Karl Schroeder. He has specific themes and ideas that you can see develop in his stories. It's very plausible physics, very believable evolution of the human species, and very frightening scenarios of how humanity can lose itself with the technology and opportunities that advanced technology provide. And all of this comes through with very rich, endearing and flawed characters that keep you rooting for the hero, and guessing who the enemies really are. I'm reading this book for the second time and still uncovering themes and concepts, so I'll probably be reading it another 2-3 times.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Corundum hard SF 18 Sep 2005
By John Joseph Adams - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Lady of Mazes is a novel full of big hard SF ideas, but here the emphasis was on hard, rather than big, as in Hard to Read. When I saw the publisher's description, I wondered if it was so Hard to Read that the jacket copy writer couldn't figure out how to synopsize it (in fact, the book jacket has some other copy, but it's provided in the form of quotes from Charles Stross and Charles Harness). Schroeder comes up with some delightful futuristic, post-human scenarios, but he does it so convincingly that at times it's a struggle just to keep up with what's going on since I'm just a regular non-post-human human.

This novel is by no means entry level SF, which is fine--not all SF is written for the novice reader (nor would I want it to be). However, this book was chosen as part of the Tor/SCI FI Channel cross-promotion program called "SCI FI Essentials" (in which a science fiction novel is chosen each month to be featured as the "Pick of the Month" and will be featured on SCIFI.com and possibly in SCI FI Magazine), and such a complex and difficult read would, I think, do more to turn off new readers than bring in new ones. People who think cutting edge science fiction can be found on the SCI FI Channel (or on TV in general) aren't ready for this sort of thing.

Moh's Hardness Scale is a "a crude but practical method of comparing hardness or scratch resistance of minerals" (see below). I tend to categorize hard SF novels by how hard they actually are. Ben Bova writes hard SF, but what he writes is very accessible, entry-level type stuff. What he writes could be considered say, gypsum hard SF. On the other end of the spectrum is Charles Stross who writes ambitious, yet incredibly dense and challenging SF, or diamond hard SF. This novel isn't quite a diamond, but comes close, as corundum hard SF.

So if you're a hardcore SF geek, this book is sure to entertain, though the effort of reading it might turn your brain to goo. Don't say I didn't warn ya.
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