Essays about game development, thinking and books

About the book "Piranesi" en ru

Cover of the book "Piranesi"

Cover of the book "Piranesi"

"Piranesi" is both a continuation of the magical stories of Susanna Clarke and an independent book.

The book has no direct connection with the world of English magic [ru] from "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell". If desired, one can find a connection and even say that the worlds are the same, only at different times: the events of "Piranesi" take place in the early 2000s. However, the author did not give any hints on this. Therefore, I consider the worlds to be different for now.

Susanna continues to persistently and effectively dig not even in the direction of animism as the basis of world perception but in the direction of extremely holistic view of the world, in contrast to the currently dominant reductionism.

The latter blows my mind. As an engineer, I'm an intuitive reductionist due to professional deformation. Reading "Jonathan Strange" and "Piranesi", I felt how Clarke, like Peter the Great, cuts a window in my brain to another picture of the world, a different world perception. And it's wonderful.

By the way, don't confuse holism with, say, an engineering view of the world, a-la systems engineering [ru] or even science. The latter is about decomposing reality into isolated parts with clear boundaries and synthesizing "pure" models of the world [ru], while in holism, the parts have no clear boundaries and penetrate each other.

So, "Piranesi"


I am against retelling the plots of literary works, especially good ones. Therefore, I will limit myself to an abstract description with the help of information from the first chapters.

"Piranesi" is an old-science detective story (just like "Jonathan Strange" is an old-science drama) in a world bearing traces of magic.

The main character — Piranesi — has forgotten his past but not his values and habits. They push him towards systematically studying the world in which he lives, towards finding himself in it and himself in himself. He explores it mainly through observations, notes, logic, and intuition but not through experiments.

That's why I use the term old-science — science before the advent of the experimental method [ru], before the fragmentation of the world into isolated areas. When the most important thing was to write down, catalog, memorize. And logic was considered able to connect everything together based on natural observations.

As the book progresses, the reader will travel not only along Piranesi's path but also along the path of their own hypotheses about who Piranesi is, whether he is human, in which world he exists, how this world is connected to ours, and even whether there is magic in the world.

In the review of "Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell" [ru] I gave the following description of the world of English magic:

English magic is a natural continuation of reality that eludes a close look.

That's why wizards and, even more so, magical creatures in this world walk on the edge of madness — to perform magic, you have to stop seeing the boundaries of reality.

In "Piranesi", Susanna Clarke stays true to herself. Magic in Piranesi's world is an undistinguishable part of it, as in the world of English magic, and it requires the exact change of consciousness from its inhabitants.

Also, the pace of narration is still the same measured, so get ready to enjoy the process — do not rush :-) Although I read the book on two flights.