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Three big books

A lot of books read recently, so I'm going to post up a series of short reviews. The first batch of three follow...

Alastair Reynolds: Absolution Gap

The wrap up to the Inhibitors saga takes Reynold's take on the New Space Opera to a dark and threatening place. The end is nigh, as the Inhibitor machines begin to erase human civilisation. But there is some hope, in the slowly circling Cathedrals of Hela. Characters from the previous stories are en route to Hela, hoping that the mysteries wrapped up in a gas giant can open a way to ending the threat of the malignant machines. But choosing allies is a difficult thing, as Clavain knows only too well -and the price that is asked could well be too high...

An enjoyable romp through Reynold's Gothic imaginings, and a fitting end to the story. It will be interesting to see where Reynolds goes next, now that he's finished such a big project.

Tad Williams: The War of the Flowers

There is a world the other side of the hill. Faerie is real, and suffering a power crisis. The power stations can't give enough, and the lower caste faeries are suffering. Back in San Francisco Theo Vilmos is struggling to come to terms with his empty, listless life. Then a door opens, and he finds himself in Faerie. Living among the underclass he is the catalyst that will spark a revolution, and bring down the Flowers in their homes on the Hill.

This is a big book - but shorter than most of William's multi-volume fantasies! There's a certain rigour to William's writing that makes the unbelievable feel real, where trains carry the sidhe from one side of the land to the other, and big black cars take you to a secret rendezvous with a slumming fairy princess. Williams is having fun, and bringing us along for the ride. But it's a white-knuckle roller coaster that'll take 800 pages to the end...

David Weber (ed): Worlds of Honor - The Service of the Sword

The fourth volume of short stories and novellas exploring the world of Honor Harrington takes us to Grayson, those fanatical allies of Manticore. Shaped by its history, Grayson is slowly changing, reforging its ways as it shares blood with the Manticorans in their war against the People's Republic of Haven. Six stories, and six new views of the world Weber has been building in his sprawling saga of space navies at war.

At times Weber's collaborators find themselves struggling with their editor's world, while at others they take some creative spin, and deliver something true to Weber, but at the same time completely new. The best of the stories, Eric Flint's "Fanatic", looks at the war from the side of the Peeps, and at one man who carries the weight of empires - alone.

Weber's world is one of unconscious Confederate anglophilia, where Nelson and Trafalgar are keys to the future. It's a world where Kipling is the muse, and the rise of the British Empire a parallel for the American Empire that rules our world. Still, despite its pretensions, this is a decent set of space operas, and ideal reading for a long journey.