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Was it ever revealed or hinted at which of the 1000 Gentian shatterlings was the original Abigail Gentian?

I know Purslane found something that looked like Palatial in the secret stasis chamber on her ship that she did not remember putting there:

I had no conscious recollection of doing such a thing. "I built it?" -- There's no question, Purslane. I may only have known you for a fraction of your existence, but I recognise your handiwork.

But this may well have been just a replica, since all the Gentian shatterlings would have the same memories of Palatial:

It was Palatial, or at least a clever replica of that ancient game. I must have brought it with me all the way from the Golden Hour, across six million years.

Does this mean Purslane was Abigail? Was it the original Palatial she found or just a replica?

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  • @DVK: What was wrong with the sci-fi tag?
    – Ingmar
    Apr 3, 2012 at 22:46
  • +1 from me just for sporting a book by Alastair Reynolds. (I haven't read the book yet, so I will not even look at the question.)
    – sbi
    Apr 8, 2012 at 20:27

2 Answers 2

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I think the implication is there that Purslane might be Abigail, but it's never for sure as Abigail was very careful about all clones being equal. The reason she can't remember the name of the little boy is, I believe, because it relates to the Line's memory erasure of the First Machines. The flashbacks to Abigail's time in Palatial aren't for nothing, they're a parable about the First Machines. The First Machines were curious but they lacked creativity and they were fundamentally flawed, all possessing a core weakness the Lines exploited. This is analagous to the Ghost Soldiers in Palatial also having the same universal flaw that the Princess's magician exploits. Purslane's memory of Abigail's time in Palatial could be historically accurate, or her way of hiding the truth from deletion. She wouldn't be able to hide a name, but a fantasy story that parallels real events?

Whether the first machines arose from Palatial's programming or from the remnants of the little boy's mind after he was plugged back in for good I'm not sure. Given the fact that the little boy's name was deleted but not the name of "Palatial" is probably a good indicator for his mind becoming the First Machines. But either way, memories of Abigail's involvement with their origins would have been scrubbed to cover their crime/tragedy.

I do think that Valmik is separate from the little boy and Abigail's past, the author details his history pretty well, and it isn't contradicted elsewhere to show it might be fake. Valmik says he remembers all his past, even if those memories are buried, and if he truly was the little boy I think the author would have shown that connection explicitly.

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I believe Abigail was supposed to be Purslane, also that 'the spirit of the air/hesperus/Valnick' was the boy she used to play with as a girl. If you recall, Reynolds more than once makes a point of saying that Abigail does not recall the name of the boy. He eventually gets trapped into Palatial, and fused with the game. Over the time span it is not out of the question that he evolves into the spirit of the air; especially as his family has a background in robotics. If this is the case, it makes the actions of Hesperus towards the end of the book more understandable. I don't think you can argue that the boy 'loves' her, but I think he has become attached and is regretful of the way he has treated her in the past.

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  • 1
    I like this interpretation, it closes loops and makes the ending much more satisfying.
    – eighteyes
    Aug 15, 2022 at 15:58

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