Flights of Fantasy

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

City of Golden Shadow (Otherland Vol I) - Tad Williams

coverCategory: Fantasy

This is the first book in a series from an author who's work I have enjoyed before. However it came as quite a surprise when I started reading to discover that, unlike his other books that I have read, this one is science fiction set in a theoretical future. That's what I get for only reading the minimalist teaser on the back of the book and not reading the review snippets underneath. The teaser gives away nothing of the sci-fi nature of the book. This revelation did not disappoint me it simply meant that I spent the first few pages of the book making a mental adjustment from what I had expected, to what I had got.

So, to the story, and a very convoluted and confusing tale it is. It is set in a future in which access to the net is via direct interface, some more sophisticated than others. The poorest users still have to use terminals akin to current computers whereas greater means allows the use of equipment similar to VR headsets or suits; there is also mention of direct neural interfacing via implanted ‘sockets’. The story follows the experiences of several, seemingly unconnected, people, but the main character of the book is an African woman called Renie who’s younger brother falls into a coma one day with no apparent medical cause. After becoming frustrated with the hospital for not getting anywhere, she decides to investigate herself. With the help of some friends she finds a connection with the net and finds herself getting into dangerous waters. It’s a difficult story to explain without giving too much away, and I really hate reviews that do that!

I found the story quite hard to follow initially, it’s very detailed and the technological aspect can be tricky to grasp. I found myself re-reading some passages to be sure I had an understanding of what was going on. This initial care paid off later on in the book when I was able to let the story flow more. The characters themselves are well described and through the story you come to know them quite well.

As well as the main plot there is a subtext about the destruction of ‘minority’ cultures in the future. In this case a people based on the Australian Aborigine. This is quite deliberate and the author explains it in the foreword. It certainly made me think about what is sacrificed in the name of progress, and it comes across well without being too strong and overpowering the main storyline of the book.

If you have read other books by this author and have enjoyed them then I see no reason why you should not enjoy this too.

Rating: 5/10

The Otherland Series:
1. City of Golden Shadow
2. River of Blue Fire
3. Mountain of Black Glass
4. Sea of Silver Light
River of Blue Fire - Tad WilliamsMountin of Black Glass - Tad WilliamsSea of Silver Light - Tad Williams


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