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Resonance: Ragnarok: Volume 3 Kindle Edition
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If you have read them, you'll pretty much know what to expect.
If you haven't, this is an ambitious trilogy, spanning the time period between the 8th century and the 6000th, describing the infiltration of our Galaxy by a darkness and the efforts of humanity, and various alien species, to resist it. There are many, many characters, often related to each other - sometimes the links are clear, sometimes only hinted at - and themes, such as Norse mythology and the concept of Ragnarrok that runs throughout. It is well written, incredibly diverse, and generally compulsive reading. I'd urge you to go and read the first two books now, and in fact to read the three books one after another because the downside of all that detail is that there's a lot to forget if you leave too long between them. DON'T read any more of this review because it may become slightly spoilery for the first two books.
If you are still with me, as I said above, this book is very similar in format to the others - separate sections narrating the stories of Roger Blackstone, the young Pilot; of Ulfr, the 8th century Viking warrior; of Gavriella, Lucas her grandson, and so on. We also hear more of the World, whose story finally (but only just!) links up with the main narrative, of how the Schenk family came to embrace the darkness, of the origins of the Pilots, the Ragnarok Council and the nature of Kenna. And much more - a number of new characters crop up, nicely bridging the lengthy periods that separate the different viewpoints. Meaney also takes the story into new places, such as Le Carré-esque scenes set in postwar Berlin or a tender friendship between Gavriella and her old colleague Rupert. So while the book is similar to the others, it is extending its scope, right to the end.
Which is perhaps a slight problem. Meaney's scope was already vast, in space (both mu and real), time (those 600,000 years!) and theme. Inevitably, therefore, many of the strands can only be briefly addressed before he has to hurry on to the next, and while they are all resolved, I did feel the pace was somewhat rushed. We didn't, for example, get as much detail or identification with any of the characters or situations as we do with Roger in "Absorption". In many places, there are three or four page chapters here that could have been whole books in themselves. Crucially, that includes some key actors or themes - such as the darkness itself. Yes, it's a threat, yes, identified somehow with dark matter (as the blurb makes clear) - but what is it trying to achieve, and why?
The positive way to put that might be to say that the book makes demands of its reader, to understand and join up the themes over the millennia, to spot the clues, to see the pattern.
It's perhaps a delicate balance and for me, didn't quite come off - but it may for others.
That shouldn't be taken as criticism: as I said above, this is a very ambitious trilogy. It is so ambitious that one can hardly complain if it doesn't quite get there - it is still impressive in what it does achieve.
Gone is the break-neck pace, elegant prose and satisfyingly smooth narrative flow of the previous volumes to be replaced with grammatically convoluted, overlong sentences (see quote below from page 240 by way of a sadly typical example), pace killing narrative threads which take umpteen chapters to actually progress the plot and a confusing morass of shallow characters and locations.
“He was in the centre of the lab chamber, surrounded by a plethora of holovolumes: sheaves of number; intricate, shifting phase spaces rendered in a thousand hues where every nuance of colour held meaning; and many dimensioned emergenic maps, which tracked the generation of properties emergent from complex substrates, always checking and attempting to predict the emergence of order from chaos.”
Perhaps more generous readers might consider such gibberish challenging (they’d probably really enjoy Rajaniemi’s Quantum Thief), but I just found page after page of this waffle annoying padding. Despite being only a few pages longer than ‘Transmission’ it took me over twice the time to read this volume. It could be me, but I completely failed to get drawn in and ended up skip-reading the last 100 or so pages just to get to the not unexpectedly confusing and rushed finale. It seems to me a typical example of ambition overreaching ability but I don’t understand what went wrong; the first two instalments were excellent and I really enjoyed Meaney’s Tristopolis novels. Shame; a disappointing end to a potentially superb trilogy.
John Meaney has succeeded in wrapping up the Ragnarok trilogy via this satisfying finale. I was engrossed, reading into the early hours to see what happened. But now I've read it there is a sad hole in my life: where are the other contemporary works of quality SF to brighten my evenings?
Those who are new to Mr Meaney had better start with the earlier works - Paradox, Context and Resolution in the Nulapeiron sequence and Absorption and Transmission, the preceding parts of the Ragnarok trilogy. (The two trilogies take place in the same universe, and elements from the earlier Nulapeiron opus appear in Ragnarok.)
If I were to be picky, I'd have liked to have heard a little more self-disclosure from the Darkness, or Admiral Schenck, perhaps during an attempted diplomacy by the pilots or Kenna, and it would also have been in the pilots' interest to make more effort to forge an alliance with the Zajinets.
If you've enjoyed Meaney's works then you might also enjoy The Quantum Thief and Ancillary Justice.
Very exciting but also very demanding of the reader, sometimes too much so.
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I loved the links to past events and the multiple timelines