I have not read this book but I loved this episode for just a couple of reasons (forgive my "as usual" half-formed thoughts....I don't re-read and revise these posts and I usually write on this forum after a long workday and a couple gin and tonics).
First, I just want to echo one of the themes of the episode. I think MANY speculative fiction fans can relate to novels and stories sparking "real world" interest. Swamp thing and environmental awareness....Snow Crash and computer programming and social media.....Alistair Reynolds and physics (or politics), or even something more simple and ridiculous, like Conan the Barbarian and weightlifting (maybe thats more from the movie). I'm speaking generally here, not just for myself specifically.
I do have a question though, which feels maybe more appropriate for the AGNUS forum but came up in this episode. It was mentioned that the period of the middle ages which the novel mimics (around 1000 - 1300 CE) formed the foundation of much of what we think of in terms of modern institutions (libraries, hospitals, governmental agencies I suppose). I think it was even posited that the modern age in many ways starts there.
My first thought was, what about the Roman Empire that preceded all of that? I'm no historian, but as a lay person I've always thought of the middle ages as a period of re-discovery rather than innovation. Did the Romans not tackle these same issues of statehood and citizenship and the meaning of a nation? Didn't they go through the same process of redefining how government should function as the had to administer greater and more varied territory? Did the middle ages really form the foundation of the modern world or does may lay-view of that period as a "re-do" have validity?
Interesting thoughts. Anyway, I look forward to reading this book one day based on the review and discussion. Great episode!