The Monster Baru Cormorant
November 3, 2018 3:34 PM - by Seth Dickinson - Subscribe

The traitor Baru Cormorant is now the cryptarch Agonist―a secret lord of Falcrest, the authoritarian Empire of Masks she's vowed to destroy.

Her fellow cryptarchs mistrust her, as Baru ordered the execution of her lover instead of allowing her to live as the Masquerade's hostage to its interests. A faction of Falcrest's admirals, believing Baru an organizational threat, hunt her in the Ashen Sea, wielding sabers and artillery. Meanwhile, northern Stakhiezci armies, defiant Aurdwynni rebels and the thousand-year-old Oriati confederation prepare for a war with Falcrest that could topple the Empire and kill millions worldwide. Is the death of one-sixth of humanity a price Baru is willing to pay?
posted by infinitewindow (17 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
It’s out! Let me run to the bookstore, I will be back sometime next week .
posted by ActingTheGoat at 4:11 PM on November 3, 2018


The first book really blew me away, but I've heard some mixed reports about this one - the original manuscript was apparently split into two, and it shows.
posted by smoke at 4:53 PM on November 3, 2018


Sorry. Modern media has corrupted me. You say cryptarch, I think about someone in the Last City talking about cryptography breaking your heart...
posted by Samizdata at 5:40 PM on November 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the first book was one of my favorite novels of the last few years, but I'm about 40% through this one and I'm having trouble with it. That shouldn't discourage anyone from starting it, because my sense is that it's gathering momentum. But, yeah, I was super-excited about this book and I've been a bit disappointed.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 1:46 AM on November 5, 2018 [2 favorites]


please let me know what you think when you finish Ivan.
posted by smoke at 2:05 AM on November 5, 2018 [1 favorite]


You say cryptarch, I think about someone in the Last City talking about cryptography breaking your heart...

Guess which video game Seth Dickinson has contributed a significant amount of writing to? (I think the cryptarch thing is a coincidence, though.)
posted by Sokka shot first at 1:36 PM on November 5, 2018


Well, I just finished.

It has a bad case of middle-book syndrome. The first half is incohesive, anyway, and in combination with it being the middle book, it ends up a slog.

It does begin to cohere much more and move at about to 2/3 point. I don't regret I read it because the final book will hopefully make it worth it. He's created a fascinating world.

The biggest problem with the book is Baru. As the protagonist, she was rightly the prime mover of the first book. Here, she's always reacting and almost always on her back foot. There's good story reasons for this, and these could be (but haven't quite in this book been) justified on character, but it's not any fun to read.

Finally, there's so much going on and while I do think I suffered from not recalling many details of the first book, I think it's also true that it's a problem, regardless. Nothing is what it seems and while that can be quite enjoyable when done well, in this case I felt like I was in a fog. Not unlike Baru, herself, in my opinion, which, if intentional, would be a noble attempt by the author that doesn't succeed but rather frustrates.

I choose an offered star rating when I finish a book on my Kindle, but I'm the type who puts most stuff at three stars, expressing notable disappointment with two and strong dislike with one, happier-than-usual with four, and maybe two or three five stars out of every sixty books. I gave this three; but were it possible, two-and-a-half would have been about right by my standards. Don't regret reading it, though.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:46 AM on November 6, 2018


Thanks very much for letting me know, ivan. FYI of you're interested in reading another very singular, debut (with a better sequel), try Senlin Ascends. It's a very different book to this one, but both kinda stood out to me because of their singularity.
posted by smoke at 11:53 AM on November 6, 2018


A Mask Without a Face: The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
The how of it—how she’ll turn her hard-earned influence back on the Masquerade—is a mystery for us and Baru both for the entire opening act of The Monster, and unless you’ve read or reread The Traitor recently, or spent some time studying this rather excellent refresher, that missing link is likely to turn the first section of the text into a test. Here we have a host of new characters to keep track of, not to mention a few familiar faces, each with motivations and machinations of their own; here’s a huge world in motion from the get-go, positively throbbing with peoples and politics and particulars; here’s a healthy handful of things that have either happened or are happening, all with a presumed role to play in the whole; and here too is Baru, without the slightest clue what to do. “She lived now in a thick fog, and the lights of her hopes seemed very far away.”
What You Need to Know Before Reading Seth Dickinson’s The Monster Baru Cormorant

Excerpt: The Monster Baru Cormorant by Seth Dickinson
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:40 PM on November 7, 2018 [2 favorites]


previously: The Traitor Baru Cormorant
posted by the man of twists and turns at 4:24 PM on November 7, 2018


Stuff that worked: Tain Shir, Baru back on her shit, scared and appalled Apparitor, Iraji for the most part, Tau’s youth, “I’M THIRSTY,” the expanded canvas of the larger world.

Stuff that didn’t: Baru being mainly reactive, space chess a la Greg Nog’s sendup of The Player of Games, inscrutable Navy politics, sentient hive consciousness through cancer, lack of Clarified payoff, characters rendered insane by events from the previous novel, Itinerant vs. Hesychast, Island spymaster.

Still looking forward to whatever noun Baru Cormorant will be given as epithet next. But I really want to see what Purity Cartone and Iscend Comprine will become as they shatter their own incrastic worldview.
posted by infinitewindow at 2:11 AM on November 8, 2018 [1 favorite]


I really liked the image of Iscend muttering and then smiling to herself.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 4:04 AM on November 8, 2018


For those of you not familiar with Greg Nog’s sendup of The Player of Games, it is linked here. Major spoilers for the novel.
posted by infinitewindow at 7:03 AM on November 11, 2018 [1 favorite]


I agree with Ivan Fyodorovich and most of the other comments. Middle book syndrome, but I would have given it four stars.

Dickinson needs to work on making his character's voices more distinct. Especially, in the beginning I was having an hard time keeping character straight, because they all talked in a similar manner. It improved later in the book.

Reading the acknowledgements was interesting his has been working with a lot of interesting authors like Leckie and Hurley. And he implies that he has the end of Baru's story written, if anyone was worried he was going to pull a RR Martin.
posted by KaizenSoze at 6:57 AM on November 24, 2018


Agreed with most of what was said above. I read this immediately after Scalzi's latest (The Consuming Fire), which is also a middle novel of an intrigue-heavy trilogy, and the contrast was quite interesting. The world of the Masquerade is much more intriguing and believable than that of the Interdependency. Same with the characters (Scalzi, as usual for him, is suffering from Niven Syndrome).

That said, Scalzi seemed to have a much better grip on the plot, which often seemed to get away from Dickinson this time. And his characters, while often bland, acted in consistent ways. Several times, Dickinson's characters were all over the place within a single scene, and not in ways that were explicable by multiple layers of intriguing.

Not bad, but a letdown after the first volume. Truthfully, I would have been happy if we were in a universe where a successful novel could be left as a standalone. Baru pulls off this masterful plan, levels her gaze at Falcrest, and...the curtain falls. I'm not sure we really needed anything after that.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:30 PM on November 25, 2018




This book wasn't quite the slap in the face that Traitor was, but I think that's largely because the novelty of Seth Dickinson's revelatory writing is by necessity less novel. I, for one, loved it.

The Cancrioth: fuckin, VERY creepy.

The digression about cryptographic hashing was wonderful and I loved it.

The climax was hideous, but very much not in the way that I'd braced myself for, so that was exciting.

The setup of the whole crashing-the-economy subplot was great. He started out with that Bullshit Author Trick where you glibly describe an outrageous outcome without giving all the steps that led to it. And I was perfectly ready to just be like, "Okay, Seth, you've earned this one handwave," but no—there's a scene break, and he breaks down exactly how Baru came ashore with a handful of financial instruments and destroyed an economy in a day, and it's totally thrilling and really impressive.

Tain Shir's coda at the end was appropriately chilling; I can't help but question, a bit, her Invincible Killing Machine schtick, but she was so scary every time she showed up that I ended up on board just for the effect she had on other characters, and have to admit I trust Dickinson to know where he's going with that kind of thing.

I think maybe these books might not have a super happy ending, but one way or another I'm on board until the end, now.
posted by Sokka shot first at 8:16 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]


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