Book Reviews 2004 (27-29)

Another trio of books this time around to give my 1.8 cents on.
Wheel of the Infinite, by Martha Wells
Wizardry and Wild Romance: A Study of Epic Fantasy, by Michael Moorcock
Chasm City, by Alistair Reynolds

Wheel of the Infinite
Another of her singletons, WOTI takes place in a fantasy realm more influenced by India and South Asia than the typical Western tropes. The plot revolves around Maskelle, a quasi-Avatar to a powerful spirit called the Adversary, who with her swordsman lover Rian have to deal with a threat to the very fabric of their world.
I kept thinking of this story in terms of the Amber DRPG. The people of this shadow have a method of editing their shadow, and find out the consequences of that when someone else tries the same trick. The unusual nature of this realm is not perfectly carried off–perhaps a longer novel would have done it, but it is sufficiently different than most typical fantasy. And the characters, as always with Wells, are interesting.

Wizardry and Wild Romance : A Study of Epic Fantasy
A non fiction collection of a few critical essays on Fantasy, Moorcock vents his opinions in much the same way as, say, Norman Spinrad.
He takes no prisoners. I don’t agree with his excoriation of Tolkien–while JRRT is not a God…the Lord of the Rings is not “Epic Pooh”. I take issue with such a characterization.
On the other hand, he makes excellent points on many series, and how in many cases things like character are often shunted by the wayside in epic fantasy. And his historical perspectives on the genre are useful and informative.
But if you can’t stand the vitriol and the unrelenting opinions, you might be a happier soul if you don’t pick up the book.
Recommended with Reservations

Chasm City
Another novel in his Revelation Space universe, CS tells a braided story of a hunter seeking his quarry on the now dangerously chaotic planet of Yellowstone, as well as telling the story of one of the founders of his own homeworld of Sky’s Edge.
The conceit on why the backstory is told didn’t sit with me at first, it felt much like he was borrowing from Wolfe and the New Sun. The denouement and the explanations make some sense, although I am not completely satisfied.
On the other hand, Chasm City itself is an intriguing and varied place, a jungle and maze of places and locales that are far more detailed than the visit of it we see in RS. Thinking in Amber terms again, there are areas that can and will inspire me for Ways in Chaos, with unusual geography and terrain, often radically different in a small area.
Good Hard SF. There are some loose threads, perhaps picked up in later novels, but an entertaining read. I don’t think Revelation Space is strictly necessary to read this, either, it stands alone quite well.