Friday, June 18, 2010

Seventy-two Letters - Ted Chiang

Novella

Number of words : 17700
Percent of complex words : 16.0
Average syllables per word : 1.7
Average words per sentence : 14.4


READABILITY INDICES

Fog : 12.2
Flesch : 52.7
Flesch-Kincaid : 9.5





PEOPLE

Robert Stratton

A maker of automata through new methods.

Victoria

The queen.

Master Trevalyn

Robert's teacher.

Langdale, Thorburn, Halliwell

Fellow pupils.

Lionel

Robert's friend.

Harold Willoughby

Master Sculptor First-Degree.

Davies

In the employ of Lord Fieldhurst.

Edward Maitland

Lord Fieldhurst, third earl of Fieldhurst and a noted zoologist and comparative anatomist.

Nicholas Ashbourne

A lecturer at Trinity when Stratton was studying there.

Dubuisson and Gille

Parisian naturalists.

Holcombe, Milburn, and Parker

Leading nomenclators.

Benjamin Roth

A kabbalist.


ORGANISATIONS

Chartists

A guild.

Brotherhood of Sculptors

A guild.

Royal Society

English scientific group.

Académie des Sciences

French scientific group.

Trinity College

At Cambridge University.


TECHNOLOGY

Dolls

Robert's favorite clay toy as a kid.

Megafoetus

Grown automata, that can be used for labour.

Homunculi

Can be grown from foetuses.

Doctor Sedgewick’s Polarising Tablets!

Snake oil medicine.



CONCEPTS

Doctrine of names

As all things are reflections of God, so are all names reflections of the divine name.

True name

That name which reflects the divine name in the same manner as the object reflects God.

Nomenclature

The science of naming.

Namenmeister

German nocmenclature practitioner.

Catastrophists

Hold that violent upheavals caused species to become extinct.

Euonym

One of several true names.

Ontogenic

Developmental, of an organism.




PLACES

British Museum

Where Robert met Lionel.

Lambeth

Where Coade Manufactory was located.

Darrington Hall

Fieldhurst's home.

Coade Manufactory

Where automata are created.

Crimea

A republic of the Ukraine.


MEDIA

A Boy's Guide to Nomenclature

A tome for the young.

Sefer Yezirah, Eleazar of Worms’ Sodei Razayya, Abulafia’s Hayyei ha-Olam ha-Ba

Kabbalistic tomes.

Llull’s Ars Magna, Agrippa’s De Occulta Philosophia, Dee’s Monas Hieroglyphica

Alphabetical manipulation tomes.

Der Zauberlehrling

The ballad where the broomsticks carry water buckets and run amuck.


RACES

Lapps

People from Lapland.

Hottentots

Khoikhoi Africans.


PLOT

In this work where naming science rules, Robert has made a breakthrough in the creation of automata from megafoetal methods. His work brings him to attention of an earl and a group of sciences working on the problem that humans are nearing the end of their genetic life. Within a few generations they will no longer be able to reproduce, without a breakthrough. They need his help.

His work with labor saving creations doesn't please the unions. An assassin is sent after him one night, but Davies saves him from this fate. A kabbalist is killed prior, and Robert has a realisation that he can combine some of his concepts with his own work to make names that will be passed on via human reproduction, and people will be able to control their own. Something that will not please his current conservative colleagues.


3.5 out of 5

http://web.archive.org/web/20010802144026/http://www.tor.com/72ltrs.html

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