The Spiral Labyrinth: Tales of Henghis Hapthorn, Book Two: Tale of Henghis Hapthorn Hardcover – 20 Sep 2007
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It was bad enough when Henghis Hapthorn, Old Earth's foremost discriminator and die-hard empiricist, had to accept that the cosmos was shortly to rewrite its basic operating system, replacing rational cause-and-effect with detestable magic. Now he finds himself cast forward several centuries, stranded in a primitive world of contending wizards and hungry dragons, and without his magic-savvy alter ego. Worse, some entity with a will powerful enough to bend space and time is searching for him through the Nine Planes, bellowing "Bring me Apthorn!" in a voice loud enough to frighten demons.
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In the Spiral Labyrinth, we continue the adventures of Henghis Hapthorn, previously seen in a couple of short stories as well as Majestrum. As a freelance discriminator (private investigator) he is a late-age-of-Earth Sherlock Holmes, with a number of twists. Thanks to the results of previous adventures, his integrator, a semi-sentient computer, has been transformed from a device to a fruit-craving unique creature. Also, his sense of intuition, an invaluable compliment to his finely honed sense of reason and logic, is in fact now a full fledged sub personality within his brain that he can converse with, named Osk Rievor. Even with these handicaps (although he would insist they are advantages), Henghis is the foremost discriminator on Old Earth.
In the Spiral Labyrinth Henghis once again gets plunged into situations far beyond his ken, surviving by applications of luck, verve, reason and intuition. Hughes likes to put his characters through the wringer. The keystone event of Spiral Labyrinth, for example, has Henghis, thanks to the titular device, accidentally transported several centuries into the future--and past the point where the rules of the universe finally change from science and magic. Worse, he has been transported here without Osk Rievor (who knows a little theory of magic), and so he must survive on reason alone, in a land without reason.How does Henghis survive in a world of dragons and spells, and how he manages to get home are the meat and potatoes of the book.
And, like previous novels and stories, Spiral Labyrinth stands alone, but continues to build the life, career and nature of its main character. You certainly can start here, Hughes does a good job enfolding previous events into the narrative in an organic way. However, this does not mean the stories are episodic. I have no doubt that the adventures of this book, and their impact on Hapthorn, will continue to resonate through the next
If you are a Jack Vance fan, or simply enjoy picaresque adventures in a baroque series of settings with an engaging main character, the Henghis Hapthorn stories of Matthew Hughes, including the Spiral Labyrinth, are definitely for you.
The spoiler-free version is that this sequel to Majestrum continues following our discriminator (did I get that right?) Mr. Hapthorn and his alter ego and organic integrator as they become drawn into an affair dealing with magic.
You are warned!!
The author manages to integrate both the sci-fi setting of the previous novel and the 'dying earth' magical setting and rules Vance created (and Gary Gygax borrowed/used for the D&D magical system). Much of the novel takes place in a magical environment, and the related patterns/rules on spell memorization/casting/naming apply here as well.
We are treated to a great deal of sarcastic, dry wit, a game of chance, a parade of rather nasty antagonistic sorcerors, with their varied whims and characteristics, and some personal sorrow and loss to boot (something rarely in any vance novel - this book has a sad ending :(
it is possible some readers will feel I am emphasizing the Vance-style issue excessively, but I would offer that the author has explicitly stated that "... I write the kind of story I like to read, and what I like to read is a Jack Vance story." He has also stated that the hapthorn stories are set in the penultimate age of earth, one eon before the time of the Dying Earth of Vance.
(This review was posted for another Hengis Hapthorn book, Majestrum, but it applies equally to this one).