- Paperback: 320 pages
- Publisher: Gollancz; New edition edition (14 Sept. 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1857989813
- ISBN-13: 978-1857989816
- Product Dimensions: 11.1 x 2 x 17.6 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3 customer reviews
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,271,431 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Shrine Of Stars (Confluence) Paperback – 14 Sep 2000
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your mobile phone number.
The final volume of McAuley¿s critically acclaimed series
The final volume of this lusciously scenic quest for the past, which blends exoticism with dogmatic bureaucracy in a world crowded with wonders. Ten million years in the future, humans have evolved into the God-like Preservers and have fled the Universe, but are still worshipped by those servant races they raised to intelligence and gifted the vast artificial world of Confluence. Yama, the Child of the River, has stumbled into the middle of a civil war. While the dispossessed peoples of Confluence hope that Yama may renew their world, he must discover the strength to fight not only his enemies without, but the enemy within.See all Product description
Top customer reviews
There was a problem filtering reviews right now. Please try again later.
It’s a particularly knotty ending, with McAuley having to use multiple uroboric time loops in order to tie up the plot, (and even then he draws the readers attention to one unexplained loose thread), though the final revelations of what Confluence is, and who Yama’s parents are make it worthwhile. Due to this complexity this is one trilogy I’d recommend on reading in one go if you wish to avoid confusion.
A cerebral pleasure rather than an engaging emotional experience, the Confluence series nevertheless contains enough diverse ideas and settings to be recommended for science fiction fans, and Shrine of Stars makes for an assured closing chapter.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
The first part deals with Yama's imprisonment with the heretics and it gets 2-3 stars from me. It's a little bit too gory and bloody, like a B-movie.
I agree with the reviewers who have remarked that the bad guys don't stay dead at all and keep showing themselves, it gets irritating after a while.
Another aspect which bothered me were the overdetailed descriptions. It seemed like the author had a painting in front of him, with every little thing precisely shown, and wanted to accomplish the same descriptive level. But it was a little tiresome and boring. Also, since we now know that the 10000 bloodlines come from Earth's animals, it would be nice if they were identifiable... I suspect the author tried to do this -- Tamora was a fox? Pandaras a rodent? -- but it seems he didn't succeed.
That being said, we get to the finale, which in my opinion it was beautiful. (Note: I haven't read the Heinlein story referred to by one of he reviewers, so perhaps I was more inclined to feel that the concepts are original and intriguing.) True, a lot of information and concepts are crammed in, the pace changes, the ending is not quite what the reader expected... but this is acceptable in my opinion. It's even better that the story does not end in a classical way and that the hero doesn't quite find what he was looking for. I was also suspecting from the beggining that we wouldn't find out more about the Preservers and that not all questions will be answered.
I liked the cyclicity of everything, with every end representing a beginning.
What I didn't like was the character development throughout the entire series. The bad guys are one sided, and the good guys don't seem to evolve at all. Even Yama, all his revelations are external, he stays linear. You don't quite catch his depth.
There are influences not only from Gene Wolfe -- although I think any book that deals with characters in an artificial environment which have devolved from the knowledge on their forefathers will invariably be compared to his works -- but also from David Brin's uplift saga, the concept of species "raised" to sentience.
For all its shortcomings, the book was quite captivating and interesting.
This puts the author in an awkward position of having to wrap everything up in a way that a) nobody can really see coming and b) trumps the ultimate awesome version that exists in all our heads. Oh, and explain everything of course because nobody really wants any lingering mysteries.
Paul McAuley, I do not envy you one bit.
What we've been introduced to over the past three novels is a world of unparalleled detail that manages to have the heft and weight of Arrakis from "Dune" without needing a degree in ecology or astrophysics for it to feel real. Every instance interlocks, the river goes through everything and McAuley avoids the novice mistake of having a world with only one culture . . . there's ten thousand bloodlines and every one feels different, possessed of its own internal logic and rules. Each time we've exited a book and gone back into another one, McAuley has effected a minor paradigm shift, not rewriting the rules of the planet so much as refining them, getting Yama one step closer to what it all means. The second book's cliffhanger threatened to upend the whole deal, with Yama captured by the people who were looking for him and getting caught in a mess of alliances, none of whom had his best interests at heart. It takes everything away from him so he can get it back and thus learn more about what the heck is going on.
What McAuley has succeeded at is crafting a saga that feels both cosmic and chamber-operaesque, taking place in a universe that seems endless but really only focusing on a small sliver of it. It seems to span the width of time and yet it all happens in a relatively narrow slice of moments, even as the history of it seems to extend both forever forwards and backwards. It dabbles in myth even when the story itself is grounded in fantastic and gritty reality.
But the meaning of it all hovers just outside our reach, like one of the unseen giant feral machines that watch the world, waiting for a chance to come back. Yama apparently has a destiny, like every character in a long epic novel, but what is it? The Preservers are invoked often but are ill-defined, like one of the endless stories that are told as myth but probably have a certain truth to how the world really operates, if we only knew how to look at it properly.
And how to end it? That's the problem. McAuley zips us through scenarios fast enough to give everyone whiplash as the narrative speeds up, perhaps sensing that it's reaching the finale. He leaps from place to place to place, sometimes with his faithful squire, sometimes with a machine in his head, sometimes with nobody at all. More than one person has compared this series to Gene Wolfe and while he could have gone the Wolfe route to make everything metaphorical, McAuley's not out to directly copy anyone and instead goes for a mixture of philosophical and concrete that on the one hand turns into a semi-disappointing closed loops while at the same time rejecting that loop and saying, "Well we can do it differently now, it doesn't have to be like this." By the time you get to the actual ending, as quiet as that somber and nearly out of place scene that closed out the original "Dune" series, you've got more SF frequent flier miles than you'd expect.
This comes at the expense of some characterization, with events happening so quickly that you barely have time to let them sink in and while McAuley does his best to develop them, some bits (like the ship toward the end) remain oddly elusive and out of step with everything that has come before. It was necessary to go there in order to end things properly, because he had to be taken away from the world, but it still feels jarring. So it's not perfect, some threads are necessarily left undone and the big mysteries aren't really explained but did you really expect that? I didn't. Because his version would have paled next to me, let me tell you.
What we have in the end though is a trilogy that really hasn't gotten its due. In terms of richness and scope and sheer writing power (McAuley's eye for detail rivals Dan Simmons, my previous benchmark) there's little else like it and his mixing of SF trappings with fantasy conventions and his own ideas give it an overall aura that is like nothing else on the shelves, then or now. With over ten years past since this books were published (and apparently out of print now) perhaps it's time for a re-evaluation, as no one is really doing this type of thing anymore (or if they are, doing it poorly) so maybe a little more light needs to be shed on the guy who, completely under the radar, managed to get it more than right.
McAuley seems to compress far too much in Shrine of Stars, rather than let the story build it's way to a finale, he jams so many scenarios and near misses that the reader becomes a little jaded towards the end. Time after time the antagonist(s) reappear after you think they have been eliminated. The effect is that you're never surprised that another antagonist shows up again (in fact the question becomes: which one will appear next?).
But most importantly McAuley lets the reader down. After almost three books where Yama looks for his human bloodline, the results are disappointing and not really worthy of the buildup the author coaxes the reader to expect.
One wants to know more about humanity: what happened, why and so on. Instead the meeting becomes another mini-adventure in a trilogy of mini-adventures that ends in disaster for humans. And still there's no really fulfilling explaination of the past. After three novels what a disappointment! The ultimate end is of an unsatisfying "loop of time" variety.
There is a part in Shrine of Stars where Dimas tells Yama that he can tell him all about the history of humanity, why Confluence exists and what exactly happened. Yama's reply is that he doesn't want to know.
Yama might not want to know, but the reader does.