Tad Williams began his Otherland series with the massive City of Golden Shadow
and continues it with the equally hefty River of Blue Fire
. Williams says it will require four (big) books to tell his complex, multifaceted tale, and at the rate that the plot of this second novel moves, readers will see what he means. Not that the book is a slow read; in fact, River of Blue Fire
is as much a suspenseful page-turner as the first book.
As it opens, we join up again with the ragtag bunch of searchers trapped in an astoundingly detailed and frightfully dangerous virtual world known as Otherland. Lurking in disguise among the group is the brutally vicious serial killer Dread, trying to find information that will help him overthrow his Grail Brotherhood masters. The group follows a ubiquitous river through world after world, unable to go offline, and subject to the increasingly terrifying certainty that things in this supposedly virtual place are all too real. Meanwhile, Paul Jonas, an amnesiac (but somehow pivotal) character fleeing from two sinister beings, finds more and more of his memory as he does his own Huck Finn river trip. As in the first novel, each new world that the characters enter, from Palaeolithic Ice Age to something suspiciously like Oz, is fully realized and completely unpredictable.
Williams is a master at parcelling out information to the reader in dribs and drabs, which is frustrating yet tantalizing, like a particularly good computer game. When the group is split up and the adventure divides further, the reader senses the author as a puppet master, following some incredibly complex flows of information. The best course is just to hang on and enjoy Williams's deft characterizations, lush descriptions and wildly divergent plot. If you've ever been white-water rafting, you'll recognize the feeling. --Therese Littleton
True speculative grandeur (Time Out
A big colorful novel full of real-world conspiracy and virtual reality wonders, with characters worth caring about (LOCUS
Tad Williams proves himself as adept at writing science fiction as he is at writing fantasy. Best of all, however, are Williams's well-drawn sympathetic characters . . . (PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
Tad Williams made his name in fantasy with the immense "Memory, Sorrow and Thorn" trilogy (1988-93). His "Otherland" quartet, opening with City of Golden Shadow (1996), is mid-21st-century SF set in an ultra-sophisticated software universe containing cou (David Langford, AMAZON.CO.UK REVIEW