A lampoon; a satire. At the opposite end of the city from the statue mentioned above, there was an ancient statue of Mars, called by the people Marforio; and gibes and jeers pasted upon Pasquin were answered by similar effusions on the part of Marforio. By this system of thrust and parry the most serious matters were disclosed, and the most distinguished persons attacked and defended.
Asher's universe might be summed up by the following:
There is no necessity for anything, but that there is something is better than nothing. Everything though can sometimes overwhelm even the most advanced AI or stubborn human. Musn't grumble, and in the far-flung corners of the universe an essentially cheerful and laconic Billericayan stoicism retains its grip on reality. The good guys tend to win, what goes round comes round, simplicity collapses into complexity, and complexity evolves into simplicity. One might say it is just one thing after another.
What Asher's universe has in spades is coherence, and it shares this attribute with other fictional constructs:
- George Herriman's Coconino County
- Sterling E. Lanier's Metz Republic
- J.R.R. Tolkein's Middle Earth
- William Faulkner's Yokonapatawpha County
What is coherence? Here is a quote from the glossary at the back of Simon Bell's Elements of Visual Design in the Landscape (second edition), Spon Press, London, 2004, p.182:
Coherence - a term used by the environmental psychologists Stephen and Rachel Kaplan to describe one of the cognitive variables that define an attractive landscape. It means the fact that the scene makes sense and that all the parts fit together. It can be related to the design concept of unity.
Perhaps it is no coincidence that the stories in Asher's universe concern the sudden upcroppings of complexities where these might be least expected, disrupters intent on the vigilant dexterity of their self-interest, which threaten hard-fought for coherence. Hard space opera then - ginglymusiferous, enthralling, at times hallucinogenic, quite possibly addictive, and not to be missed for the world.
Hmmm ... I do make a habit of claiming descent from my Italian forebears - my name is Derek Pasquill btw - after Pasquills who settled sometime ago in Lancashire (my grandfather was a bricklayer hence an interest in George Herriman's brick-throwing mouse, Ignatz, and also Menzel who spent some time depicting bricklayers, and other workers, in his paintings and drawings) - I'm probably the first Pasquill to bring some literary self-awareness to this line of descent though.
From my wikipedia entry (which, after an unsurprisingly short space of time, ended up in the wikibin):
Of ephemeral interest, the origin of the family name "Pasquill" may be traced to Pasquino (Lat. Pasquillus), one of the talking statues of Rome, and subsequent literary history of the word as a synonym and designator for an anonymous lampoon or squib. See Thomas Nashe and the Marprelate Controversy for an example of pasquil usage in sixteenth-century England.
The name 'Derek' is, of course, contained in the Dutch term for rhetorician, Rederijker, and, as pasquils were often proclaimed at late medieval Rederijkerskamers (Chamber of rhetoric), insertion of the imaginary nickname 'Red' into "Derek 'Red' Pasquill" produces a macaronic language device accentuating this historical connection.(1)
(1) Veldman, Ilja M. Maarten van Heemskerck and Dutch humanism in the sixteenth century. Amsterdam, Meulenhoff, 1977.
But ... to return to the review - I have been reading the Polity World series for the past few weeks, and the sentiment at the end - not to be missed for the world - even though there is some play on universe/world - is one that I do not think can be argued with. In particular:
--- Mr Crane - I can see why your readers find him so popular - he is a compelling character;
--- The Gabbleducks;
--- The use of Edward Lear to name the runcible, quince etc;
--- U-space, U-tech, U-continuum;
and so on. The metaphysics at the beginning of the review - anything, something, nothing, everything - it's just one thing after another - well this is based on other readings which perhaps mistakenly I have tried to shoehorn into your universe. And I'm still puzzling over Gotthard Gunther's
Parts of the Universe have a higher reflective power than the whole of it, which may be connected in some way.