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by Tad Williams

classifications: Science-Fiction / Cyberpunk / Dramatic

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If I were a betting man, I would stake quite a bit of money on the Otherland series becoming the definitive work by which any other cyberspace based tale is judged. The sheer breadth of imagination displayed across the four volumes rivals anything else ever written.

Tad Williams' epic (please note, I will be overusing that word during this review) will take you from the battle fields of Troy to the surface of Mars, from the snowfields of the last Ice Age to the deserts of Ancient Egypt. Each location within Otherland is beautifully rendered and fleshed out, Williams doing a superb job of breathing life into his creations. From psychopathic Australian aborigines to inscrutable African bushmen, Williams draws from a wide range of cultures and beliefs, around which his world is built.

If you have read Tad Williams' previous fantasy epic Memory, Sorrow and Thorn (and I encourage you to do so if not), then you'll already be familiar with his masterful ability to interlace a large number of storylines together. I can recall at least ten separate plotlines that Williams intertwines during the course of this epic journey. He winds them in and out of each other, a dizzying ride of highs and lows that drags you along with it. Sometimes they'll merge, tangle together, then break away on their own way once more. Depsite this, you never lose track of who is where, such is Williams' skill at describing his characters and worlds.

Otherland is not perfect, of course. The final denouement requires major sections of plot to simply appear, leaving you wondering where the hell it all came from. These events really should have been part of the story previously, even if only mentioned in passing. If they were only small pieces of the puzzle, it would not be so bad, but since they form a major part of the whole series' point, the effect is quite jarring.

Despite this, Otherland is immensely enjoyable. Though in science-fiction the "why" is often the raison d'etre, in Otherland, it is the "how" that provides the enjoyment. The journey, not the destination. You do not mind the disappointing end so much, therefore, as everything prior to it was so amazing. The only words that can express the immensity of the experience and story are bound in four volumes and sitting on my shelf. Apart from maybe "epic" :P

I made it to the third book

BlacklightResponsive (July 21st, 2003, 9:54 pm)

I read up to somewhere near the middle of the third book in the series, got bored, and never finished it.

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