Lady of Mazes
In a review at scifi.com, Paul Witcover described Lady of Mazes this way:
Far in the future, the vast ringworld of Teven Coronal—located in the Lethe Nebula, an enigmatic region of space beyond Jupiter—is home to millions of post-humans who occupy a spectrum of overlapping but distinct realities called manifolds. Each manifold is a culture unto itself, with a unique history, mythology and technology, its members the living expression of a particular Worldview determined hundreds of years ago by all-but-mythical founders. The manifolds are enabled by programmable matter and neural implants that give access to the virtual realities of "inscape," where human minds interface with AIs; software controls called "tech locks" either prevent the inhabitants of the various manifolds from physically or virtually interacting, or, conversely, under strictly controlled conditions, permit such interaction, all the while maintaining the integrity of the various Worldviews.
Some manifolds, like Westerhaven, are cosmopolitan, embracing social and technological complexity, including a self-confident curiosity about the cultures of "neighboring" manifolds, while others, like Raven, follow a more insular weltanschauung, eschewing overt technology in favor of an existence ostensibly closer to nature, not blinding themselves to the advanced technology that makes their lives possible but choosing to cast that technology and its effects in other terms.
One morning, Livia Kodaly, a young musician and singer of Westerhaven, is enticed into Raven by an adventurous older friend, Lucius Xavier, to investigate rumors of "Impossibles"—anomalies that somehow escape the censorship of the tech locks. There they witness the appearance of strangers who claim to be the mythical ancestors of Raven's people, returned bearing Impossible gifts. In the ensuing confusion, Lucius disappears, and a terrified Livia flees to Westerhaven.
It soon becomes clear that the ancestors are invaders, come to "bring your people out of their fantasy-land and back to reality." Somehow these outsiders, followers of something or someone called 3340, are able to dissolve not only manifolds but the tech locks themselves. Livia, her best friend, Aaron, and a Raven refugee named Qiingi launch themselves from the besieged coronal in an unlikely spaceship, hoping to find help. Instead, they find the Archipelago. Based on an inscape without tech locks, the Archipelago is made up of post-humans more or less like Livia, godlike beings who were once human but are no longer, powerful AIs representing the government and factions of the populace, and even more powerful AIs called anecliptics, remote and enigmatic denizens of the Lethe Nebula who may be responsible for it and the coronals floating there, including Teven Coronal.
Livia and the others are soon drawn in to the Byzantine politics of the Archipelago, where the invisible hand of the anecliptics assures a sterile peace and order. Only the Good Book, a role-playing system of subtle self-organizing potential, seems to offer humans a chance of escaping the anecliptics' benign control. But the Good Book is more than it seems, and discovery of its secret leads Livia back to Teven Coronal and an apocalyptic confrontation with 3340.
A Prequel to Ventus
If Ventus is the tale of the fallout from the death of a "god" (the rogue AI 3340), then Lady of Mazes is the story of 3340's birth. There is almost no other overlap between the two stories, because their events occur several centuries apart. They share thematic elements; but where the big ideas in Ventus involved nanotech AI in a low-tech world, Lady of Mazes is a tour de force of far-future science and technology. Among other things, you'll find:
- Vast orbiting ringworld structures with the surface area of Europe, but built using technology that's actually possible;
- A civilization so powerful it engages in the systematic dismantling of the sun for building materials;
- Three distinct visions of what the future of political institutions might look like;
- Swordfights, escapes and chases galore;
- A world of shifting realities where each citizen inhabits their own 'narrative', a customized virtual reality of solipsistic intensity;
- Livia Kodaly, a young woman with an extraordinary past that she wants only to live down, who is called upon to exceed even her own legend in order to save her people.
What the Critics Said
"A novel of high ambition executed with the talent and imagination to match."
"Head-snappingly cool SF."
"Lady of Mazes possesses the best elements of modern science fiction: deft characterization, engaging storytelling, and far-flung future possibilities that touch upon present-day issues. Most impressive of all, Schroeder accomplishes all of this in under 300 pages. I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading more of Schroeder's work."
“Bulging with complex ideas and extrapolations … amazing."
“The interrelationship between technology and philosophy that informs [Livia's] choice gives depth and breadth to a book that many will want to reread to get all the nuances.”
“Schroeder continues to improve his unique blend of hard SF and vivid, dreamlike prose and bids fair to become a major genre voice.”
“His lively writing style and cutting-edge visions combine to deliver a topnotch story.”
I basically wrote Lady of Mazes for Europe. I thought that of all people, Europeans would understand what I was getting at when I talked about a world of customizable realities and a technology of cultural preservation. Canadians too, I hasten to add; I was lamenting aloud about the death of the counterculture to a Quebecois friend of mine, and he said, "The counterculture isn't dead. It's other countries." (This statement will make perfect sense to the Quebecois, and to Europeans and pretty well anybody in the world--except Anglos and particularly mainstream Americans--because everywhere in the world must constantly compare their own cultural productions to those of America. It's not a bad thing, necessarily; it's just something we're all aware of all the time.)
So I'm delighted that thanks to the staff at the Factory of Ideas, and the hard work of my translator, Virginia Sanmartín López, Lady of Mazes is now available in Spanish, from a variety of booksellers includingcasadellibro.com and IberLibro.com. It's also getting good reviews--for instance this one in Literatura Prospectiva and this one by LiteRatos. (Both reviews acknowledge that it's a difficult read, and that, of course, was the case for many people with the English edition, too. I refused to dumb down this book.)
One thing that particularly delights me, for no reason, is that the round-trip translation through Google of Lady of Mazes, to La Senora de los Laberintos and back to English, is The Lady of the Labyrinths. Which, perhaps even better than my original, indicates just who it is I'm alluding to here.