Cold Iron & Rowan-Wood

May 3, 2010

Adam Roberts – On

Filed under: review,sf — Tags: , , , — Sam @ 12:11 pm

I liked this, but with reservations. It’s a worldbuilding-mystery novel, with the Big Looming Mystery being the big looming worldwall on which everyone lives, and I’m usually keen on those if done right.

This one basically is, but the explanation of the Mystery comes from a pop-up character (even referred to in the text as a Wizard) who performs that particular kind of infodump where the reader understands it completely but the character to whom it’s addressed doesn’t. Obviously, it’s a perfectly valid authorial decision, and it underlines the themes of precariousness and insignificance that run through the entire book (Tighe, the viewpoint character, has his life turned casually upside down several times over), but it grates on my reading protocol. I have a feeling that that’s because it’s unambiguous—once you get given an explanation like that, the Wizard Has Spoken, and the intriguing mystery gets collapsed into something definite enough to have come from a RPG sourcebook, without the inherent crevices and ambiguities of real historical explanations.

This is one of the same reasons I don’t get on with far-postapocalyptic or magical-future fiction, viz. Robert Jordan’s occasional hints of our own history. I would bring in the Shannara books here too, but it’s been fifteen years since I read any of them, I think, and I don’t miss them.

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