Chill by Elizabeth Bear (2010)
A funky mix of medieval knights questing through an incredible artificial space-faring habitat.
I had no idea what to expect – this is one of many ‘second book in the series’ that I’ve received as gifts. They normally sit on the shelf until I’ve found the first one. However, our book stacks are getting ridiculous and my current system is just reading the next book on the heap.
I didn’t feel I was missing much though, the characters are suffering from their extended histories and the disasters of the first book. This is fixing it afterwards and preventing further chaos.
It’s a beautiful world that Bear has created, full of nanotechnology and weird whimsy. It reminded me powerfully of Brian Aldiss‘ ‘Hothouse’, one of my favourite books about the far future and the bizarre fruits of evolution.
All the characters were fun, and I feel I’d like to know them better so I may still seek out the first volume ‘Dust’. Bear’s use of Angels as the AIs and the complex multitude of personalities and histories wrapped in all the characters made for great intrigue and depth. Basilisks – yes. Mammoths – yes. Intelligent carnivorous plants – yes.
Since it is primarily a quest tale there is a lot of waking and thinking with most of the real action right at the end. That gives it a slightly odd pace but it worked perfectly for me and I was delighted throughout.
Mirrorscape by Mike Wilks (2009)
I loved the premises in this book – first that ‘Pleasures’ (fine foods, music, colours etc. according to the five senses) are aggressively taxed, forcing the poor to live bleak monotone lives and naturally creating a disgustingly rich elite who hoard it all for their benefit. That’s not at all a familiar state, nuh uh. That’s a fun tyrannical bureaucracy to play with in a story. Add to that the kind of related idea that there’s a world created by the imagination of artists which can be entered and explored by those in the know (the Mirrorscape itself), and that’s a whole bunch of world building coolness.
With all that brilliant set up it’s a bit of a shame that the story is the very familiar poor kid in a poor family shows talent and gets taken up to be an apprentice in the big city, in this case as an artist. There are really good sections of this book, but everything gets resolved far too easily which takes away a lot of the wonder. I did like the characters, but there are a lot if stereotypes jammed in quickly and we don’t get to know the big movers and shakers of this world until they’re gone.
I’ll be seeking out the sequel Mirrorstorm, and hoping we’ll find out more about the magical world that I enjoyed. I also really wish this was the cover of the book that I got – I’d probably have read it sooner. There’s an illustrated version out there somewhere too, which looks awesome.
Both reviews previously posted on Goodreads. Wanna be a pal on Goodreads? Click here.