What We Thought: I didn’t know quite what to make of this novel at first as it’s rather different from the other books by Jim Williams I’ve read. But then all Williams’ books are different, both from each other and from just about any other book you care to mention. It’s also some time since I read any Sci Fi (Asimov half a lifetime ago) and I generally avoid fantasy altogether (despite loving the fantastical when it’s couched in reality).
As I read on I found myself entering into a dream world, a barren land of strange creatures and bold yet vulnerable characters. This is a world of long Great Years where the sun barely rises above the horizon for generations at a time and people are either old to the point of immortality or rarely live beyond thirty. It is a disorientating world with hints of myth and legend, and a sense of some greater truth hidden beneath it all.
Destructive angels mingle with self-styled gods, evil sultans, mad emperors – devils in disguise. Opposing them are our heroes (and heroines) – novice priests of a mysterious Order which violently opposes those claiming to be descended from monkeys, filthy horsewomen who keep their men veiled, an ancient Mapmaker who travels the globe like the Wandering Jew, a half mythical princess of an icy land. A Game is being played but no one quite knows what the rules are or what the outcome might be.
A battle is fought against the Slavers, a rough bunch who round up anyone they can put to work and who curse in various bastard languages. Our heroes haven’t a hope of winning – and yet...
This is often a very funny book and one that conjures strange images. The animals, though having familiar names – horses, bears etc – have wheels and tentacles. They emit gases through anal vents and often sound vaguely motorised. The Monkey (the last perhaps of its kind) has green fur that glows and it witters through its anal vent. It made me think of a Furby.
The effect of all this is the disorientation of the mind (well, the mind of this reader anyway) – a disorientation that leads to a dreamlike state where anything can happen, and often does.
This is the first book in a series in which Williams intends to explore the implications for space travel by creatures with a human lifespan faced with the vast distances between planets.
I look forward to reading more of the adventures of this odd band of fellow travellers and having my mind bent further. My straining to find the meaning behind it all may just turn out to be the koan that flips me into enlightenment.
You’ll enjoy this if you like: Mysterious dreamlike novels full of strangeness.
Avoid if you dislike: Anything that doesn’t strictly conform to genre standards.
Ideal accompaniments: Swirling electronic music mixed with a Bach fugue.
Genre: Sci –Fi, Fantasy, Literary
Available from Amazon