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

To Hold Infinity

By John Meaney

Rating: 4 stars

I’d never read John Meaney until he was guest of honour at Satellite 4 (the 2014 Eastercon), where I attended a few panels/talks/interview that he did and was very impressed with the man. I found several of his books, including this one (which he very kindly signed for me in the bar, later), cheap in the dealers’ room and it was the first out of the (newly enlarged) book pile after the con.

This was quite a fun space opera, with interesting stuff about transhumanism and what augmentation means, especially if it can be applied to a society unequally. Tetsuo Sunadomari is an immigrant to the planet Fulgar from Earth, and is struggling to keep up with the cybernetically enhanced upper class of the world, the Luculentae. He discovers something that he doesn’t quite understand and suddenly finds himself on the run, into the unterraformed wastes of the planet, accused of murder. Meanwhile, his mother, Yoshiko, is coming to Fulgar to try and meet her son, while still grieving over the death of her husband. She gets thrown into the search for her son, as well as local politics and a plot that could affect Fulgar society forever.

That plot summary barely covers the bones of the book. Yoshiko is a great protagonist — much moreso, in my opinion, than her son — and it’s rare these days to find an older woman to be the focus of a book in this way. She’s also interesting for her effect on other people, the ability to get people working with her and on her side, but without manipulating them in any way.

The technology of the Luculentae is interesting, as they implant neural connections to their world-wide information network (the ‘Skein’), but the focus is on what this means for the human condition, and the sharp divide between the upper-class Luculentae, who have access to this technology, and the rest of the inhabitants. The way that this elite can communicate, sharing not just text and voice, but building multimedia messages in the most basic sense of the word: messages that include senses of smell, touch and taste as much as sight and sound.

In the midst of all this, there is Yoshiko, trying to understand this world she’s fallen into while also trying to find out what happened to her son, and dodge the maniacal serial killer who is currently stalking Luculentae society.

A very strong first novel, and I look forward to reading the other Meaney books that I picked up at the same time.

Book details

ISBN: 9781591024897
Publisher: Pyr
Year of publication: 1998

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