Book Reviews 2004 (6-9)

And now its time for another installment of Book reviews, Jvstin Style.
Today I am going to review:
The False House, James Stoddard
Dreamer, Steven Harper
Chase the Morning, Michael Scott Rohan
Psychohistorical Crisis, Donald Kingsbury

The False House, by James Stoddard
Sequel to The High House, the book continues the story of Evermere, the House that makes up worlds, and its Lord, Carter Anderson.
Whereas the first book both showed the growth of Carter into the role of Lord, and gave us an overview of the weird world of the House, this second book presents him in the full of his power.
Not quite knowing what to do with this, we are presented with a kidnapping of the Lord’s soon to be bride’s sister, and a trip to a strange, twisted, growing replica of the original House. If you might guess that his powers, gained at cost in the first book do not work well once he reaches this second, false House, well you would be right.
This book itself feels like the False House to the real one does. Instead of the wonder and magic of the first book, this one feels darker and tastes fouller. There is extensive reference to Wuthering Heights, a novel which I have not read. Characterization is strangely stilted and nowhere near as smooth and interesting as the first. The alienness and creepiness of the more powerful beings, Lady Order, the Lord of Chaos, and Jormungandr are diminished here.
The whole book feels like an unnecessary exercise which diminishes the first.
Definitely not recommended.

Dreamer, by Steven Harper
Players in my games and acquainted with my RPG characters know that dreams are a theme I enjoy. Dreamer is unusual in that it is a melding of space opera and these themes and many of the ideas that I employ in my games are coincidentally mirrored here. All sentient minds are connected to a plane of existence called the Dream, and a few individuals can access this plane for communication, and sometimes more.
The plot revolves around twin axes…the story of a young powerful dream sought by various sides, and a blight on the Dream itself. Interesting characterization and intriguing characters add to the unusual locales, both in and out of the Dream. In our time of tumult about such things, I was pleasantly surprised at the tenderness of a same-sex relationship as depicted in the book.
There are problems with pacing, its clearly the first book in a series, and some of the action of the book feels padded, and the ending clearly is ready to ramp up to sequels. These structural difficulties, while noticeable, do not greatly impact the enjoyment of the novel. The ideas, worlds and milieu carry the novel successfully.

Chase the Morning, by Michael Scott Rohan
Steve is a Import/Export executive in a nameless British city. His impulsiveness, curiosity, and good turn to a stranger lead him to learn of a greater and more magical world just around the corner from our own. Our world, the Core is the center point of a seemingly limitless sea of lands of magic and adventure.
Voodoo, strange magic, demigods, and sea adventure a la Horatio Hornblower are the order of the day, as Steve, at first unwillingly, learns more about this strange secret outer world.
Hollow inside, Steve grows and learns what it is to be a man and take responsibility through his adventures with his odd, new companions. Certainly, the book at its main is the trope of “modern man thrown into a fantasy world” but the intersection of those worlds, their dependence on each other, and the vividness of the descriptions (especially the battle scenes) make the novel work. I know now why my friend Scott seeks out novels from this British author, even though they can prove difficult and expensive to obtain here in the states.

Psychohistorical Crisis, by Donald Kingsbury
A few years ago, the Asimov estate authorized three Foundation novels, by Gregory Benford, Greg Bear and David Brin. I stopped reading that series after the first, when I realized Benford rehashed and imported large portions of two novellas of his to make up the bulk of that book.
Psychohistorical Crisis is a different kettle of fish. Not an authorized sequel or officially set in the Asimov universe, it nevertheless is understood to take place in a world very much like that. Names are changed. Earth is Rith, Trantor is Splendid Wisdom. But the universe is here. The time is the Second Empire, the one set up after the Interrgenum by the psychohistorians. We get a look at the galaxy under their rule.
Although jumping a few viewpoints and characters and time frames, the story focuses around a psychohistorian, Eron Osa, and the consequences of his crime that he cannot remember. But there is much more at work. We see his life history, and many points of major characters connected to him. As psychohistory is a fusion of history and mathematics, there are helpings of both in this book.
Dense is a good way to describe the book. It moves patiently and slowly, and I get the feeling the book itself has been cut, since some viewpoint characters have oddly truncated end-games. But the journey there is immersive, and Kingsbury makes you feel the age of the Empire. And his central thesis about psychohistory is fascinating.
Its not light reading by any means, but nevertheless its recommended. A caveat: reading or being familiar with Asimov’s Foundation universe will make the experience richer and worthwhile. I wouldn’t read this book without having at least sampled the original ur-text.

One thought on “Book Reviews 2004 (6-9)”

  1. Dreamer’s on my to-read pile — I keep not grabbing it because other things trump it. Maybe I’ll move it up.
    And yeah, I bought it for the title.

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