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The rule for solving a maze is this: put your shoulder to a wall and walk. This works less well for a maze with doors in it, but Aldous knows better than to try mapmaking. The rooms here don’t play fair.

The library, for instance, is stalking her. She keeps smelling it behind her, dust and wood acid and the cruel alchemy of glue. She doesn’t trust it, but it must be trying to tell her something.

She enters, finally, and pulls a book down expecting blank pages. Instead it’s full of handwritten names: Cording, Cordovan, Corey, Corinna, Corinne, Corwin, Cosette.


“There is nothing outside the hypertext?” says Corwin dubiously.

“See, you’re underlining my point–”

“Har har.”

“–by using a multiply referential statement in everyday conversation,” says Burnside. “That sentence could have footnotes. And what’s HTML? A footnote automation device.”

“No, it’s a device for pouring Google juice into spambots.”

“You’re not even a little excited by this paradigm? All text is hyper! Great books of the future could be theme-tagged and intertextual, not just cheaply linked and shuffled–”

“I already bought version 1.0 of this browser,” says Corwin, “and it cost fifty thousand dollars and four years of my life.”