by Rand Miller and David Wingrove
Hyperion Books. ©1996
Mass Market Paperback, 592 pages.
Anna lives with her father, conducting geological surveys in the desert. When his death leaves her alone, Anna sets off for the nearest town, but decides to make one last exploration of tunnels in the extinct volcano, discovered by her father just days before his death.
Deep beneath the surface of the caldera, the civilization of D’ni has thrived for thousands upon thousands of years. At the moment, its citizens once again engage in a long-standing debate: whether or not to venture to the surface and possibly make contact with its inhabitants. One faction says yes; as long as we’re cautious, we ought to know what other lifeforms inhabit our world. The other says no; in a society as rich with tradition and as steeped in study and honor as the D’ni, what could surface dwellers have to offer? Surely they would be little more than animals, not burdened with higher reasoning or any sort of intelligence.
When Anna gets lost in her exploration of the tunnels, two worlds collide. Anna’s encounter with the D’ni guardians set off a chain of events that shakes the ancient civilization to its very foundations.
The Book of Ti’Ana is the second volume in a trilogy that covers the story of the D’ni, a subterranean race of builders, excavators, scientists and artisans who also happen to hold the amazing talent of Writing, that is, the art and science of writing Books that link to strange and fascinating Ages, worlds where anything can—and sometimes does—happen. In the Book of Atrus, we saw the city of D’ni after its great Fall, with buildings abandoned and collapsed, no living residents remaining. Here, we see it thriving in the last years of its prime. Great guildhouses and homes cling to the walls of a cavern miles wide and so tall one cannot see the ceiling. As in The Book of Atrus, the writers give us vivid and colorful descriptions of Ages both beautiful and horrific. The main setting, the great underground city of D’ni, is as complex and detailed as you might expect in any major fantasy novel. Social conventions and traditions are a bit dated (remember when this was published), but believably told.
Characterizations are well-done, though there are a great many more characters in this story than there were in the first book, with a complex web of interactions between them. Neither Atrius nor Anna (later Ti’Ana), the protagonists, are perfect, which I liked. Nor is the antagonist purely evil. In fact, it isn’t clear in the beginning just who the antagonist will be; unless you read the first book (The Book of Atrus), you might not know him at first glance. But even those who know his name may be fooled in the beginning, for his character starts out good and develops through time and bitterness into a formidable enemy. I found the twist of this character’s nature entirely believable.
The Book of Ti’Ana could easily be read first, before The Book of Atrus, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Even though it’s backstory, I agree with the authors’ decision to place this second in the trilogy. Just as with part one, this is a good story on many levels. The Book of Ti’Ana is a fantasy about the conflict between exclusivity and inclusivity, between tradition and evolution, where hostility and suspicion holds the power to destroy it all, for both sides. It’s also a tale that is relevant to our own world, our own time, for the very same reasons. The inhabitants of D’ni face the same sorts of questions we do: whether inalienable rights extend to all or only a privileged few, whether purity of blood is essential to one’s relevance in society, and whether someone who is not “like us” deserves compassion and fair treatment.
As I said of The Book of Atrus, The Book of Ti’Ana is probably not up to the most discriminating standards where fiction-writing is concerned. Nevertheless, it was easy to lose myself in the story. I found myself rooting for Ti’Ana and Atrius throughout, sharing their joys and sorrows from beginning to end.
The Myst trilogy, of which this is the second volume, was written specifically to the fan base of the wildly popular computer games Myst (released 1993), Riven (1997), Exile (2001), Revelation (2004), and End of Ages (2005). If you played any or all of these games, but haven’t yet read the books, you’re missing out. Still, even if you didn’t play the computer games, give them a try. The Myst trilogy is recommended fantasy for anyone who enjoys a good tale well-told.