Friday, March 14, 2008

Lisa's Take: Otherland Book 2 - River of Blue Fire (Tad Williams)

River of Blue Fire. Let me ‘splain.... no, there is too much. Let me sum up.

…Oh wait, there’s too much for that, too. This book is so huge, it’s ridiculous. Just to name a few of the worlds/genres that are touched upon in this particular installment of Otherland: there’s Oz, War of the Worlds era London, Xanadu, Venice during the Renaissance, near-future sci-fi, hard fantasy, ancient Egypt, and a cartoon kitchen-land populated with characters from various brands of food and cleaning supplies.

You see why I can’t sum up. Instead, let me gush a little. Good gods does Tad Williams ever have an imagination in him. This series of books defines “multi-genre” in a way I can’t even express. It’s really damn impressive, and consistently entertaining. Perhaps even more impressively: he has these really incredible worlds that (incidentally) also have really engaging characters in them. I know! Imagine! He probably has a core cast of 12-15 major characters, and they’re all distinct, colorful, well-defined, solid, and any other adjective you can use to describe excellent characterization.

At first I wasn’t sure I would enjoy this second book in the series – I waited a year before starting it, because I was feeling wishy-washy – but it was definitely worth it. I would recommend spacing the books out a bit, so you don’t burn yourself out. Luckily the author provides a very good 10-page summary at the start of each book, highlighting the big important events (and some events you didn’t necessarily realize were important) so you can take some time off but still be drawn back in.

My single, solitary gripe is that none of the big reveals in River of Blue Fire really caught me by surprise. There was one plot point in particular where Mr. Williams was leading the reader reeeeal hard down one pathway of thinking, and that in itself clued me in that I should be suspicious.

Still, the Otherland books are definitely worth reading. I look forward to the 3rd book – after a nice healthy break for some candy and/or strict fantasy.


Anonymous said...

I ended up reading them as they came out, late in high school and then in college. I loved the books but found the wait a mixed blessing. They're definitely more overwhelming than I'd want to read in one swoop, but after 12-18 months I found myself losing important details, even with the synopsis.

And because the series is really one 3000 page novel, Tad Williams has some of the most EVIL cliffhangers ever devised by the mind of man!

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