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462 pages, Paperback
First published March 26, 2019
“The problem with sending messages was that people responded to them, which meant one had to write more messages in reply.”
“‘I am Six Helicopter,’ said the man—Mahit stared at him, and wondered when he’d learned to say his name with not only a straight face but with that degree of smugness”
“Histories are always worse by the time they get written down.”
“Better to take action than to be paralyzed by the thousands of shifting possibilities.”
“That was the problem. Empire was empire—the part that seduced and the part that clamped down, jaws like a vise, and shook a planet until its neck was broken and it died.”
“You do devour. Isn’t that what we’re talking about? A war of annexation.”
“It’s not—devour would be if we were xenophobes or genocides, if we didn’t bring new territories into the Empire.”
Into the world. Shift the pronunciation of the verb, and Three Seagrass could have been saying if we didn’t make new territories real, but Mahit knew what she meant: all the ways that being part of Teixcalaan gave a planet or a station prosperity. Economic, cultural— take a Teixcalaanli name, be a citizen. Speak poetry.”
“Yskandr liked Teixcalaan. But you, Ambassador Dzmare, if you weren’t an ambassador you’d apply for citizenship.”
“It made her jealous in a way she recognized as childish: the dumb longing of a noncitizen to be acknowledged as a citizen.”
“Somewhere in the middle of the second oration, an acrostic ode that simultaneously spelled out the name of the poet’s hypothetical lost beloved via the opening letters of each line and told a heart-wrenching story of his self-sacrifice to save his shipmates from a vacuum breach, Mahit had the sudden realization that she was standing in the Teixcalaanli court, hearing a Teixcalaanli poetry contest, while holding an alcoholic drink and accompanied by a witty Teixcalaanli friend. Everything she had ever wanted when she was fifteen. Right here.”
“Their laughter covered how she wanted to squirm, wanted to be grateful for being not a barbarian enough that citizenship would have been a possibility and hating herself for wanting to be grateful, all at once.“
“Are we ourselves? One of them is asking. One of them thinks this is a rhetorical question: there’s continuity of memory, and that makes a self. A self is whoever remembers being that self.“
“Mahit thought of the fundamental assumption of Teixcalaanli society: that collapse between world and Empire and City—and how if there was such a collapse, importation was uneasy, foreign was dangerous, even if that importation was just from a distant part of the Empire.“
I would like to be known there as 3.1415926 Pie. Just because.
“Perhaps she was old enough for poetry now: she had three lives inside her, and a death.“
She had the imago-machine, safe inside her shirt, but what she didn’t have was the mail.
An algorithm’s only as perfect as the person designing it.
“the jaws of the empire opening up again, akimbo, bloody-toothed -- the endless self-justifying desire that was teixcalaan, and teixcalaanli ways of thinking of the universe. the empire, the world. one and the same. and if they were not yet so: make them so, for this is the right and correct will of the stars.”
“this book is dedicated to anyone who has ever fallen in love with a culture that was devouring their own.”and that instantly brings me to the themes of this story.
“the city was alien in the dark. not so much silent as haunted: the boulevards and deep-sunk flower pools were vaster without the sun, the shape of all the buildings uncannily organic, like they might breathe or bloom.”it was a joy to see a culture inspired by the aztec empire in modern sci-fi, including many callbacks to the architecture and irrigation systems of tenochtitlan, and a nahuatl-based teixcalaanli language. language plays a great role in general, because in teixcalaan poetry is used for coded ciphers as well as simple news messages!
2019 Nebula Award Finalists
2020 Hugo Award Finalists