Otherland: City of Golden Shadow Bk. 1 Paperback – 5 Mar 1998
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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 countless worlds. This episode features a deadly nature reserve of giant insects, a poisoned Oz, a madcap cartoon reality, London as in The War of the Worlds, 16th-century Venice, Xanadu, ancient Egypt, the Odyssey's Ithaca and the Drones Club. Otherland is the playground of the monstrously rich and unscrupulous Grail Brotherhood, who hope for on-line immortality and are abducting children's souls into their VR system. Opposing them is the enigmatic "Circle", plus a handful of ordinary folk who've penetrated Otherland and are trapped there, floating from world to world on the digital river of the title. There's a spy in this group, though; Otherland's operating system is becoming unstable; the Nemesis program that hunts down software anomalies seems murderously out of control...
Williams writes fluently and evocatively, conjuring up a vivid succession of virtual realities as he manipulates numerous storylines inside and outside Otherland, climaxing with multiple cliffhangers. It's slightly frustrating, though, that halfway through the series we've learned little more--especially about the tantalizing suggestion that Otherland is a metaphysical threat to "real" reality--than emerged in book 1. Next volume: Mountain of Black Glass. --David Langford --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
True speculative grandeur (Time Out)
The ultimate virtual-reality saga, borrowing motifs from cyberpunk, mythology and world history (SAN FRANCISCO Chronicle)
On an epic scale . . . a big colourful new novel full of real-world conspiracy and virtual reality wonders, with characters worth caring about (LOCUS)
One of the best works of science fiction I've ever read (Katharine Kerr)
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Top Customer Reviews
Williams is really talented and the book is exceptionally well-written. The author takes great care to set up the characters and the background,while there are some great ideas in the book. Being a computer scientist, I am happy to say that this is one of the few books where even most of the wildest technology-related ideas manage not to sound silly and have an actual basis. Williams is perhaps a bit influenced by other SF books, but the result is a very original and gripping story that stands out from the usual SF stuff. Just one advice: be prepared that all four Otherland books should be considered as one book in four volumes, after finishing each one of them the story does not come to any kind of end, you must be ready to get the next one.
I've been systematically avoiding Tad Williams for fear of disappointment (not being a huge fan of the newer Fantasy / Sci-Fi novels) but this one blew me away - it's superbly written with plausible plots and characters (a rare combination) in addition to some truly horrific and breathtaking moments. I swam through the book in three days and loved every last word of it.
I can understand the technological criticisms some have levelled at it but, as a programmer, I cannot personally see much which is not conceivably achievable (besides, sci-fi ought to be, at least in part, fantastic :) It *is* cleverly done though - not once in the book did it seem, in any way, to be a detached experience.
Is it flawed? Absolutely... almost all books are. However, the flaws it does have in no way detract from the experience of reading it. Give it a try - personally I hate the idea that I might have never read this one.
It combines science fantasy and the computer gaming culture in an interesting way which keeps you on your toes trying to guess who is doing what, when and where. A great mental workout.
I have two complaints and they relate more to Mr Williams' editors than to the man himself: The whole series is way too long. Many of the lands we visit along the way are frankly boring and we spend too long in them. Interestingly it is the virtual reality worlds that have this problem more than the real-life ones. Paul Jonas' experiences in a World War I simulation go on forever, for instance. My second complaint relates to the use of "who" and "whom". Surely there is someone in Orbit Books can search through the text and correct these.
But, aside from these quibbles, I highly recommend this - but make sure you buy all four, because you will not want to stop before the end!
The second time I made it through all to the end. Otherland certainly is an intriguing story and has original and fascinating characters. Its major flaw is it is simply too long. Way, way too long. The entire story could –and should--- have been told in two volumes instead of four. Editing is an art in itself and, apparently, not one of Mr Williams's strengths. Making it to the end took quite an effort. The first volume is fascinating, but at the end of the second volume the storyline bogs down and hardly develops anymore. It becomes a neverending description of world after world, landscape after landscape, emotion after emotion, thought after thought. The characters think and talk a lot but act very little. Getting past the point where I gave up during the first reading and proceeding to the fourth volume was extremely annoying and took a huge effort. I was becoming increasingly irrritated again by the lack of development and the continuous postponement of the final confrontation and conclusion. I held on by sheer willpower. The series ending was a blessing but, up to a certain extent, also a letdown. Little wonder with a build-up that took three and a half 900+ page volumes. Just finishing it was bliss. Now I can read other books again. In retrospect I am glad I bought and read the Otherland series, and the overall experience was rewarding, but I will most certainly not read it again. Life is too short for that.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I was so pleased to be able to get this book I read it years ago and love how all the different threads of the story are interwoven. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Julia
Love this series of books and have read the series twice through. Would like to read again but books are a little on the large side to be handy. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Andrew Missen
Wonderful story telling, bought this to replace one that got damaged so knew I would like it - what more can I say - buy it, well worth the money!Published on 18 April 2014 by Zena H
One of the best books I have ever read, second time around this time. I wish it was available on Kindle though as I would like to get the complete set asrunning out of space!Published on 19 Sept. 2013 by Amazon Customer
This is a review of the tetralogy, rather than "City of Golden Shadow", as all four books need to be read to appreciate the full story. Read morePublished on 21 Jun. 2013 by Matteo
I read this book first and read the first, third and fourth in the series afterwards. This is my favourite. Read morePublished on 15 Nov. 2012 by Digital-Finger
Haveing read the Dragon Bone Chair I was very excited to have another Tad Williams
to look forward to. Unfortunateley it did not come close to my expectations. Read more