I'm ambivalent about this series. It's exciting, creative, and well-written. My issue is Palmer's obsession with European history from 1550-1800, and her warped view of the Enlightenment as not having been about democracy, free speech, or thought, but just about eliminating religion and "cultural constructs". It's too surreal for an allegedly SF story set in the year 2454 to be based so much on Renaissance and Enlightenment Europe. The book is full of literary and historical references to Europe, all from before 1800. The characters regularly talk about history before 1800, and explain things by comparison with characters from literature and mythology before 1800. Almost nothing that happened between 1800 and 2400 is ever mentioned; I think there's one reference to Darwin or some other scientist. The world government / alliance is feudalistic; politics is based largely on marriage and the exchange of children. Nothing of any cultural significance has happened in this world since 1800. The plot involves science fiction elements, but the political machinations are very 16th-century.
The world is presented as progressive because there is no gender and no racial distinctions. Yet everyone lives in a strict, hierarchical, feudal system, ruled by a noble class that intermarries and sees itself as separate from the masses, much like medieval Europe. People who aren't part of Palmer's nobility have no free will, no agency, no importance; world history is determined by the actions of a few great leaders, who each have effectively superhuman capabilities. The narrator is quite over-the-top as having a mind superior to everyone else in the world in nearly every way and at every task, as well as having unexplained superhuman speed in combat (that appears in the first book). Non-white cultures have been nearly eliminated; there's just 1 of 7 hives, Mitsubishi, which appears ethnically non-white. The other hives might have people of different skin colors, but they all otherwise have late-medieval European values. They praise the Enlightenment often, yet have strict censorship and forbid philosophy and religion except under state supervision.
All this makes the series doubly creepy: it posits a future in which the elites of the West have gathered to themselves absolute power over the entire world, and total European cultural hegemony, under the cover of a phony multi-culturalism in the name of a phony anti-racism, a debilitating suppression of sexuality and human vigor in the name of gender liberation, and a suppression of Enlightenment values and free speech in the name of progress. And this seems so close to what's happening today that it's creepy. Palmer is aware of some of this; there is a theme about gender roles having a social purpose; but it takes for granted the woke doctrine that gender is purely cultural, and not at all biological; and presents gender roles as being regrettably necessary until we're able to replace them with some other social construct.
Palmer's misunderstanding of science is also a problem for me, particular as this book is marketed as science fiction. She sees scientists as professors in the humanities do: as self-absorbed, socially inept misanthropes lacking culture or humanity, working on utopian plans instead of dealing with Earth's present problems. Reality is just the opposite: it is professors in the humanities who work on destructive Utopian plans, while only those in the sciences deal effectively with Earth's present problems.
The narrator was good, but I was irritated that he apparently didn't listen to the narration of the previous book, because he changed some of the voices in ways that changed their characters.
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