This is a very interesting book, a sort of post-apocalyptic, post-cyberpunk tale that also weaves in a good dose of historic fantasy and mythology while told in a very confident voice dripping with poetic, imaginative prose.
Essentially the story goes that the human race almost wiped itself completely off the face of the earth with the Trillion Dollar war, the only hope of humanity rested with The Last City, Elysium. Ruled by a god-machine known as Kronos, the Guardian of Humanity; this sentient machine is ready to complete it's two thousand year old program that will remake the earth as a paradise.
While that may not sound too bad if you then consider that over the last few thousand years Kronos has been going slowly insane, his experiments have attracted the unwanted attention of a raging metal metavirus and one mans heaven is another mans hell then there is plenty to worry about.
The first thing that strikes you about this book is the quality of the prose, not only is it very confident but the author clearly commands an excellent grasp of the English language, using this skill to full effect within the pages of this book. At times this sounds almost poetic and the author shows no fear in his voice or reluctance to break the rules. The only comparison I could offer would be Leonid Korogodski and his Pink Noise novel, vastly different in scope and yet sharing a similar post-human feel. There is also nothing shy about the narrative in the slightest, if you want to read it you have to pay attention, understand the prose and keep up with the pace.
Unforgiving could be one way of describing this style, wafer thin short of brilliance could be another, there are a number of hard-scifi elements but then these are mixed in with mythological sounding names like "Devilfish", "Gharfos Nyl" and "Balraashi". The story is quite captivating however the pace is fairly slow in places, partly due to the flowery use of language but also the exposition used to build up this vision of the far future. As a result it takes longer to read than it would otherwise. I was often reminded of Peter Hamilton's work, along with Alastair Reynolds - that high tech artificial sentience that is used to great effect by those authors along with a sweeping space opera storyline and a hardcore building blocks of the universe angle.
I also loved how the bad guys (and machines) are portrayed, the author manages to create a real alien intelligence feeling that is quite powerful. There is also a rich theology, hard core religion angle which is faintly reminiscent to the Warhammer 40k gothic Emperor worship with high Technology being controlled by the priesthood (very much like the way the Adeptus Mechanicus hold the monopoly in technical knowledge).
I must admit that I was very impressed with this book, there are some fantastic ideas and the prose has a real eloquence that is both rare and rewarding. The vision of this post-human universe is lucid and vividly presented; all projected in a talented and confident voice.
Written on 7th October 2011 by Ant.
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