By John Meaney

Rating: 3 stars

The world of Nulapeiron has been isolated from the rest of Human society for some time, living in its own subterranean world, in a feudal society, with the closer strata to the surface being the more opulent and powerful, while those lower down are vassals of their Lord or Lady. Tom Corcorigan, a poor boy living in one of the lower strata, is writing poetry one day, when a chance encounter with a fabled Pilot changes his life forever. She doesn’t survive, but the gift that she gives him will change not just Tom, but the whole world.

There’s a lot to like in this book, set, I think, in the same universe as Meaney’s debut, To Hold Infinity. Tom is an interesting, textured protagonist, the world is interesting, although there are frustrating omissions: why is Nulapeiron’s society subterranean? There’s a segment set on the surface, so it’s not uninhabitable. Why has the world isolated itself from the rest of Human society? What is the agenda of the Pilots skulking around the lower strata? These questions are never answered in this volume, but perhaps future Nulapeiron books may answer them.

I did have problems with the book. Firstly, the overall structure feels odd. Each segment (or ‘scene’) is very short and there’s a lot of chopping between scenes, which can be widely dispersed in space and time. It makes you quite breathless and although it imparts an energy to the prose, it can get tiring after a while. To use an unkind analogy, at times it felt like a Michael Bay film (not as bad, I hasten to add). Then there was a point, about two thirds the way through when I almost gave up, as it seemed to be turning into a revenge story, which isn’t hugely interesting to me. Thankfully, I ploughed through and it changed again, turning into something more interesting.

I’ve got the other two books in the sequence (I picked them up for cheap at this year’s Eastercon, where Meaney was Guest of Honour) but although I enjoyed this, I won’t be jumping at the bit to read the others.

Book details

ISBN: 9781591023081
Publisher: Pyr
Year of publication: 2001

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