EMPRESS OF FOREVER by Max Gladstone

EMPRESS OF FOREVER

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Gladstone shifts gears from an almost scientific brand of fantasy (The Ruin of Angels, 2017, etc.) to fantastical space opera.

Billionaire tech genius Vivian Liao has dangerously annoyed the political powers that be through her aggressively public liberal activism. So she breaks into a secure facility with the intention of hacking into the global computing network, which would allow her to counter her enemies and would, incidentally, give her world dominion. Not only does Viv manage to trip an alarm, though, but a glowing green figure brutally transports her several millennia into the future. That future is controlled by the same green personage, the Empress, who monitors everything through the Cloud (a far more evolved version of our own digital atmosphere), looting and then squashing any civilization reaching a certain level of technological sophistication to prevent it from attracting the deadly attention of a devouring species called the Bleed. Thrust immediately into danger, Viv collects a motley group of companions as she struggles to understand what’s happened to her (readers will figure out Viv’s link to the Empress before she does), find a way home, and attempt to break the Empress’ stranglehold on the galaxy. Adventure breathlessly follows on adventure, crisis on crisis, so quickly one is hard put to recall each step of the journey; the main purpose is to bond a disparate team of heroes. The power of love and/or friendship overcoming a single adversary is of course an overused trope, but Gladstone actually has a valid reason for using it here: He's illustrating the danger of allowing one person to decide that she knows best and simply grab control of everything—even if that person is stratospherically intelligent and (at least initially) has good intentions. He also seems to be commenting on the dangers of the current Silicon Valley cult(ure), in which a company is driven by the quirks of one brilliant entrepreneur.

An interesting and intellectually fertile enterprise.

Pub Date: June 18th, 2019
ISBN: 978-0-7653-9581-8
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Tor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2019




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