The site is full of 'spoilers' for the book

Living Labyrinth

by Ian Stewart and Tim Poston

If you can't read St Matthew's Gospel because St Mark gave away the resurrection, don't explore further.

I like background on books:
let me in, and do not warn me again

or Go to where I can get the book.


The Living Labyrinth gives glimpses of one war on Qish, that developed by accident and ended by disruption. Deliberate strategic warfare is rather different.

Large low areas are insanely vulnerable to neighbours, like Poland or the flatter parts of Britain. (Conquered by Claudius, then the Angles and Saxons, then William the Bastard, while the mountainous parts stayed Celtic.) Unlike Old Earth's cycle of 'invade, conquer, settle in the lowlands, rule from a low capital, get hit by the next lot of warriors', conquerors from the heights can rule from their mountain fastnesses. They are very tough to dislodge, either by insurrection or invaders. (Even for invaders with a higher mountain base, and thus higher muzzle velocity, mountains are tough territory. The Raj had better weapons than the Afghans, so did the Russians, so did the US, but the tribes are unconquered.)

So high central authorities are typical, though not quite universal (Bansh is a low-lying water empire, and tough to penetrate, due to its walls). Territories and administrative units are not necessarily connected in external space, though often occupying a connected range in height or ecological type. (If you hold rice paddies, you can make better use of more riceland than you can of forest land, so you're more likely to grab for it. Within an empire, it's simpler to have a viceroy for ricelands, another for cattle country, etc., than to organise by distance.) Control zones often interpenetrate: the League of Metalworkers is linked by workshop-to-workshop syntei, stairs and hoists. These are not penetrable to outsiders, but give smiths access throughout Samdal and much of Wevory and Lamynt. The Mastery of Syndepts is even more ubiquitous, resists governmental interference, and protects syntei rather than territory. Similarly with other trades, so that 'governing' is often like a mediaeval European king dealing with nobles whose holdings span England and France. In Shaaluy, however, the trade organisations are as fully penetrated by the Church (and its secret police) as workers' unions were by Old Earth communist regimes.

'Frontiers' as such are not defensible unless Maginot-heavy all around the territory, and thus do not happen as structures: Qish has neither the technology nor the economies for a vast concrete industry, and even the Great Wall was a tiny fraction of the edge of China. A coast is easier, as sea monsters prevent small boats slipping in synteheads, but you also need insanely tough internal policing and denial of general syntrade. Only Shaaluy and Bansh isolate themselves enough for this. However, the early difficulty of establishing overseas synteheads has led to a tendency to expand into contiguous land first, so ocean-spanning holdings are rarer than they would be if Qish had been colonised 15,000 years ago. Set up a colony at great effort and cost in empty territory, and your malcontents slip off and find their own mountains. With a local grip on local conditions, in a few generations they will expel colonial administrators.

Criminal organisations (which only Old Earth would ever separate in its libraries from 'states') do not have geographical turf, but do have defended lines of business - drugs, gambling, etc. - which they sometimes fight over.