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464 pages, Kindle Edition
First published October 30, 2018
Who says you have a duty to a nation? Who says you cannot reject an unjust duty? Who says you can decide which evil is small enough to tolerate, and which is too great to allow? Who says you should allow anyone to hold such power over you, the power to use your work for purposes you do not understand?
Baru thought it very important that she care anyway: for if she lost that, the ability to care for a stranger, what human credential did she have left?
"Surely she could justify any sacrifice. To stop now would be to betray those lives she’d already spent … and the more lives she spent, the more reason she had to sacrifice even more …”
"It hurt like—how had she thought of it at Sieroch? Like glass powder in her cup. Like glimmering motes in the flesh of her throat, in the sponge of her lungs, pumped into her blood so glass lodged in the small joints of her fingers and the lobes of her ears. It hurt. But if Baru could just find a problem to tackle, a maneuver to plot, a precision to execute with all her life and work at stake, then she’d be too full of cleverness to grieve.”
"Banking was the most powerful weapon in the world, because people stored their wealth in banks, and the banks could loan that wealth out to fund great labors. You could tax your people dead to fund your armies, and they would hate you for it. But give them a bank and a fair interest rate and they would give you everything they had and let you do what you pleased with it and ask only to have it back when you were done.”
"If they learn what we do on distant shores to secure their safety and prosperity, I am certain they would hang us all. Not for the crime of what we did, mind! But for the crime of allowing them to know."
"Make enough death, and like any other currency it loses its value."
"Baru thought: What I see of other people is the output of a hashing function.
I’ll never know anyone’s true self, will I? Their thoughts and memories, the selfness of someone, the me-ness of me: that’s like a true name, a person in all their formless awesome grandeur. But we do not see that grandeur. We see each other only in the shapes we are forced to assume. Words constrain us, and also our laws, and our fears and hopes, and the wind, and the rain, and the dog that barks while we’re trying to speak, all these things constrain us.
We all force our true selves into little hashes and show them like passwords. A smile is a hashing function, and a word, and a cry. The cry is not the grief, the word is not the meaning, the smile is not the joy: we cannot run the hash in reverse, we cannot get from the sign to the absolute truth. Maybe the smile is false. Maybe the grief is a lie.
But we can compare the hash to a list, and guess at the meaning."
"Was goodness still good if you hewed to it out of tactical necessity? Was there, Baru wondered, any difference between being good and pretending to be good for your own gain, if you took the same actions in the end? Was there any difference between telling the truth unconditionally, and deploying the truth in service of your agenda, if you told the same truth?
Maybe the Oriati thought so.
Maybe the difference between truth-for-itself and tactical truth was the only difference that mattered. Maybe the most crucial and subtle distinction in life was the difference between someone who was truly good and someone playing at goodness to gain power.
Could she distinguish those two tendencies in herself?"