Tag Archives: Solaris

SR09 Review: Lord of Silence by Mark Chadbourn (Solaris)

LordofSilence.jpg

Lord of Silence by Mark Chadbourn
Published by Solaris and Out Now in UK (US release is 28th July)

I’m sure I’ve said it before but Mark Chadbourn via his heavily linked trilogies, Age of Misrule, The Dark Ages and Kingdom of the Serpent, is my favourite writer of modern fantasy. You’d this makes reviewing a work that isn’t linked to this series a little hard. And you’d be right.

Lord of Silence is and isn’t a departure for Chadbourn. Still here are the themes of anti-heroes, friendships, religion, symbology, and hidden knowledge but this time we’ve moved from modern day, multi-continent, multi-religion setting to a city-state surrounded by an almost impenetrable forest though the multi-religions remain.

Chadbourn has us follow two main threads starting with the murder of Idriss’s greatest hero. Vidar, the Lord of Silence has to take his place. The murder makes the start of events that are going to shake the foundations of both Idriss and Vidar. Vidar must solve the mystery of a three thousand year-old religion and its connection to the vampiric jewel imbedded in his chest.

And to be honest it’s quite an interesting mystery. Especially when you look at all the clues that are placed and the revelations throughout the story that gives a few twists in the tale. It’s not billed as the start of a series but you can see that by the end the possibilities for one are opened up.

As much as I enjoyed it by the end there is a strange sense of frustration in parts that I’m was missing something. The trouble is that Chadbourn is trying very hard to keep things from the reader and not to make things obvious. So it does get slightly confusing and the questions that come up don’t really have any satisfactory answers.

Like the nature of the forest and why it is surrounding Idriss – there is an answer of sorts but the greater sense of the place is left out. This partly because as it might spoil the sense of claustrophobia but also that there are more tales to tell and they might come to reveal more.

This holding back does make it a little tricky in the middle but we get back on track when Chadbourn reveals more evening bringing the question of science into this seemingly straight fantasy novel.

I feel that I’m treating Lord of Silence slightly too harshly as it is supposed to be less deep and more action than Chadbourn’s big series. The trouble is it seems that he’s fighting with himself not too go exploring more and delve deeper into the characters and the world with the action parts. The balance isn’t quite there.

The good thing is that if there are any more books he’s laid a good foundation with both characters and the world they inhabit – he’s definitely knocked down the walls of Idriss only to bring more enemies to the gate.

Overall a Chadbourn has made a worthy stab at traditional fantasy giving it his own twist. I’d just like to have seem more exploration of the world and people of Idriss but I was happy at the end and possibilities he’s left open.


Review: Infoquake by David Louis Edelman (Solaris)

Title: Infoquake
Author: David Louis Edelman
Publisher: Solaris
Published: 7 July 2008
Review Copy

What could high-tech business look like in the future? If Infoquake is anything to go by quite cutthroat. Dominated by bio/logics, a way of programming the body, the world that David Louis Edelman has created is packed full of technology and commentary on consumer society.

I must admit I was wary of Infoquake whilst reading the opening chapters. Who wants to read a book based on making a better way of seeing in the dark? But Edelman knocks it up a gear when we get to explore the past of Natch, a master of bio/logics and person loathed across the Data Sea.

And that is where I was hooked. Edelman creates a team of characters that you want to succeed. Not that Natch is the most likeable character but somehow I wanted him to climb up the business ladder because of Jara, Horvil and Merri.

The technology is fantastic as well as believable, at least in context.  You can project yourself anywhere whilst your physical body stays put.  Millions of people can gather in the same place at the same time.  And most impressive of all you can control your body by programming it.

Infoquake shows how a good sci-fi story can, and should, be. It shows the effect of technology on humanity and focuses on the humanity rather than the technology.

It’s not perfect. Natch isn’t an easy character to sympathise with on occasion but I think that makes him more interesting as you get to see his evolution. Some of the choices of scenes aren’t what I would have chosen. Especially the lack of tension at the end.There aren’t any aliens, any guns, explosions, space ships; just business and technology that’s going to affect millions.

And that makes it very refreshing. The drama is within the characters themselves. I’m looking forward to seeing how Eldelman expands his ideas in the next book of the Jump 225 Trilogy.

Review: Kethani by Eric Brown (Solaris)

Title: Kethani
Author: Eric Brown
Publisher: Solaris
Published: 6 May 2008
Review Copy

Synopsis

It takes an alien race to show us what humanitiy truly is. This is the irony faced by a group of friends whose lives are changed forever when the mysterious alien race known as the Kethani come to Earth bearing a dubious but amazing gift: immortality.

Analyse/Comments/Thoughts

Kethani is a reality based what if? Quite different for a sci-fi story.  Brown meditates, through a series of linked tales, on the affect on immortality on the human race, but its not just immortality we’re offered, it’s the chance to escape Earth and see the stars.

And what does humanity do with this gift? Sit in the pub. A lot.  And this is the conflict I’m having with this novel.  It’s a small-scale drama with a backdrop of something larger and life changing.  I can’t help feeling a little disappointed.

Here’s why. Brown presents a series of interesting voices and takes on the how, even with promise of resurrection on death, we still need routine and we make connections that we hold on to.  He examines our feelings around death. And all round does a good job.

But he leaves the aliens, well, alien. They’re almost as mysterious at the start as they are at the end. They have enemies but there is not explanation of who they might be or what the conflict is. They have amazing technology but we only get to see it from the surface.

Though the aliens aren’t the focus of this tale. We are. And Brown chooses a narrow focus with a reason so he can explore the wider implications for a group of friends of the aliens arrival. There is a doctor, a teacher, a priest, dry-stone-waller, in other words a mix of intelligent and insightful views to draw from. And there are some impressive insights about how we grow apart when we don’t try and how death can be a freedom as well as a devastation as well as how religion can or can’t transform to encompass new ideas.

On a technical level there is a couple of annoying traits. Everything seems to take place after a heavy snowfall and descriptions are sometimes repeated and some characters are more fleshed out than others. Some of these problems are routed in the fact that some of the sections have previously been short stories and could have been fixed I think with a little more polishing. This might seem picky but I did get drawn out of the story at a few times because of them.

Summary

I’m left with feeling that there was the potential to do a lot more with the alien material especially as it’s unlikely to have a sequel. But if it did it would have to be a different beast.

Putting aside my want to have more alien insight.  Brown shows a skill for examining the human condition and how we look at death in an unconventional sci-fi story. It’s an insightful take that’s well worth reading but it might leave you wanting more, which isn’t really a bad thing, is it?

7.5/10

Don’t just take my word for it

Fantasy Book Critic review
SCI FI Weekly review