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Far-future space opera involving hyper-intelligence, aliens and artificial evolution, from the author of Null-A Continuum (2008, etc.).

In the 23rd century, on an Earth exhausted by wars, climate change and other ills, young mathematical genius Menelaus Montrose grows up in Texas and becomes a duelist to support his mother and siblings. Meanwhile, a robot starship now 50 light-years distant and orbiting a star made of antimatter—potentially an inexhaustible source of energy—reports a monument carved with symbols that appears to be a gift of enormously advanced knowledge. So a second starship, this time with Menelaus and other geniuses aboard, travels for a closer look. Secretly, however, Menelaus has used part of the monument's wisdom to prepare a serum which, so he hopes, will boost his brain into super-genius mode. It has the desired effect, but unfortunately he goes insane. Years pass as if in a dream. Menelaus wakes to find he's back on Earth. His old crewmate "Blackie" Del Azarchel has declared himself dictator, using deadly antimatter beams to enforce his will, and now intends to construct a super-intelligent artificial brain, the Iron Ghost, patterned after his own mind. Blackie drugs Menelaus back into genius mode to finish the job. But even Blackie fears the mysterious Princess, apparently born on the starship even though no women were aboard. Menelaus begins to realize that almost everything Blackie has told him is a lie. And what if the monument is actually a trap? Spectacularly clever, sometimes, in weaving together cutting edge speculation along the outer fringes of known science, but more often grindingly didactic, with no narrative flow and three genius protagonists all unpleasantly cold and unsympathetic: a case of everybody knowing everything but nobody knowing anything. Highly impressive but indigestible: something like a vastly promising first draft that needed a lot more work.  

 

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-7653-2927-1

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Tor

Review Posted Online: Oct. 11, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 2011

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A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

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THE PRIORY OF THE ORANGE TREE

After 1,000 years of peace, whispers that “the Nameless One will return” ignite the spark that sets the world order aflame.

No, the Nameless One is not a new nickname for Voldemort. Here, evil takes the shape of fire-breathing dragons—beasts that feed off chaos and imbalance—set on destroying humankind. The leader of these creatures, the Nameless One, has been trapped in the Abyss for ages after having been severely wounded by the sword Ascalon wielded by Galian Berethnet. These events brought about the current order: Virtudom, the kingdom set up by Berethnet, is a pious society that considers all dragons evil. In the East, dragons are worshiped as gods—but not the fire-breathing type. These dragons channel the power of water and are said to be born of stars. They forge a connection with humans by taking riders. In the South, an entirely different way of thinking exists. There, a society of female mages called the Priory worships the Mother. They don’t believe that the Berethnet line, continued by generations of queens, is the sacred key to keeping the Nameless One at bay. This means he could return—and soon. “Do you not see? It is a cycle.” The one thing uniting all corners of the world is fear. Representatives of each belief system—Queen Sabran the Ninth of Virtudom, hopeful dragon rider Tané of the East, and Ead Duryan, mage of the Priory from the South—are linked by the common goal of keeping the Nameless One trapped at any cost. This world of female warriors and leaders feels natural, and while there is a “chosen one” aspect to the tale, it’s far from the main point. Shannon’s depth of imagination and worldbuilding are impressive, as this 800-pager is filled not only with legend, but also with satisfying twists that turn legend on its head. Shannon isn’t new to this game of complex storytelling. Her Bone Season novels (The Song Rising, 2017, etc.) navigate a multilayered society of clairvoyants. Here, Shannon chooses a more traditional view of magic, where light fights against dark, earth against sky, and fire against water. Through these classic pairings, an entirely fresh and addicting tale is born. Shannon may favor detailed explication over keeping a steady pace, but the epic converging of plotlines at the end is enough to forgive.

A celebration of fantasy that melds modern ideology with classic tropes. More of these dragons, please.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63557-029-8

Page Count: 848

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2019

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With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and...

DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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