Myst III, The Book of D’Ni

By Rand Miller and David Wingrove
Hyperion Books. © 1998
ISBN: 978-0786889426
Mass Market Paperback, 544 pages

Seventy years after the fall of D’Ni, Atrus and Catherine return with a team of enthusiastic assistants, intent on rebuilding. The devastation is overwhelming, unimaginable. The team hardly knows where to start. But Atrus feels certain some D’Ni could have escaped to other Ages. Their first task is to find them and bring them home.

The search begins with Books. Find and examine all that remain, even ancient texts so old their Maintainer’s Guild seals are faded almost into obscurity. Those survivors they find are reunited with their people and their fallen city, and the task of rebuilding begins even as the testing of Books continues.

But when a structural support in one of the buildings is deemed too damaged to repair and the floor is broken away, the survivors discover a crypt unknown to even the oldest D’Ni among them. Inside are Books more ancient than any even imagined, vaults sealed with the hardest of D’Ni stone, and a mysterious temptation Atrus cannot resist.

The Book of D’Ni is the third book in the Myst trilogy, and concludes the tale of young Atrus, who starts out Book I as a boy. Not every loose end is neatly tied, but then some things are better left to the reader’s imagination. Miller and Wingrove do a great job here in setting a scene, describing Terahnee, one of the new Ages. Beautiful and lush and prosperous, it sounds like paradise. I could see the buildings and gardens and waterways as I read. Characterizations also work here, though maybe not quite as well as in the Book of Ti’ana; while there are a number of characters, I had a little trouble picturing or feeling some of them, even though they appear numerous times in the story. Atrus seems, at times, a bit too good, too nice, too moral, but I think he represents an ideal. The antagonists in this story are somewhat stereotypical. They are also many; take one down and another takes his place. But I believe they too are symbols, exemplifying that which we ought to reject.

Of particular note is the lack of many truly strong female characters. If there is any serious flaw in the Myst books, this is it. Catherine and Ti’Ana both fill these shoes, but the writers didn’t take their roles far enough. Society in D’Ni falls back on male-only guilds and male heads of households. I suspect no malice in the writers’ lack therein; rather, I expect it was more a product of the times. Remember, these were written 20 or more years ago.

All that said, I still got lost in this book. It’s difficult to say much about it without spoiling the twist. Just as in the first two of the series, the authors weave a tale around ethics and compassion that could just as easily fit our own society, even almost twenty years later. I don’t think any reader will be able to miss these larger-than-life themes, even in a casual pass. The Book of D’Ni—indeed, the whole trilogy—is almost like a fairy-tale, a moral lesson on ethical behavior. Personally, I enjoyed it.

As I said with the other books, this series 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.

Yet you can enjoy the books without having played the games. Hyperion offers the entire trilogy in one volume, The Myst Reader, which is easily found online. If you enjoy fantasy, or a well-told tale, it’s an enjoyable, inspiring adventure.

Myst II: The Book of Ti’Ana

by Rand Miller and David Wingrove
Hyperion Books. ©1996
ISBN: 978-0786889204
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.

 

Myst I: The Book of Atrus

by Rand Miller, Robyn Miller and David Wingrove
Hyperion Books. ©1995
ISBN: 978-0786881888
Mass Market Paperback, 422 pages.

Anna is the only person young Atrus has ever known. His mother died in childbirth. His father, Gehn, abandoned Atrus immediately after, leaving him to his grandmother to raise or bury. Gehn didn’t really care which. Anna chooses the former, making a home with her grandson in a dormant volcano in the midst of the desert. Together they tease a garden from the reluctant earth, ration their precious water, and scavenge the surrounding area for anything they might sell to traders in exchange for salt, fabric, other necessities.

Through Anna’s lessons, Atrus learns what it takes to survive, even thrive. Her devotion seeds and tends his love and loyalty. Her stories hint at a past too fanciful to be real. Together, they eke a happy existence in the barren wasteland. Atrus begins to believe it will always be this way.

In his fourteenth year, his father returns, and Atrus’s world flips upside down. Now he must leave the desert, the only home he’s ever known, and his beloved grandmother for an unknown future with a strange, distant man. When Gehn leads Atrus up the face of the volcano and deep into its heart, Atrus begins to realize that his grandmother’s tales were true, that his own history is far more fantastic than he ever could have imagined.

The Book of Atrus is the first 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. Most fantasy writers in our own world create one, two, maybe three worlds at most in any given story. In The Book of Atrus, the Millers, together with Wingrove, have created a whole plethora of them. From the very beginning, their descriptions of Anna and Atrus’s home, the desert around them, and Atrus’s entire journey through the underground with Gehn, not to mention the various Ages, painted a clear and inviting picture that made me want to explore the D’ni tunnels for myself.

Characterizations also evoked emotions in me. I fell in love with Anna and Atrus immediately, and despised Gehn from the start. After Gehn’s reappearance, we don’t see much of Anna; I missed her and sympathized with her as I watched Atrus grow up without her guidance. Atrus does develop as a character, even if somewhat predictably. Gehn grows more despicable with the turning of every page. Although I could somewhat predict the ending, it was no less enjoyable because… Well. I can’t tell you that, now can I?

This is a story of Atrus’s coming of age, how he grows to manhood in the care of his father. But it’s also more than that. It’s a provocative tale of ethics and morality, and the ever-present struggle between personal gain and compassion for others, one which holds some relevance to events unfolding in our own world, in our own time. More than once I found myself comparing events in this tale to contemporary headlines, political and social sagas playing out all around me even as I read.

The Book of Atrus is probably not up to the most discriminating standards where fiction-writing is concerned. As I read, I heard lessons from my own editor and experienced writers echoing in my head (“never do this!”). Nonetheless, such “shortcomings” did not diminish my enjoyment of the tale one whit. I found The Book of Atrus to be an enjoyable adventure set in a visual world with provocative ethical dilemmas.

One thing to keep in mind as you read is that the Myst trilogy was written to the fan base of the wildly popular computer games Myst (released 1993), Riven (1997), Exile (2001), Revelation (2004), and End of Ages (2005). The Book of Atrus describes events that lead up to the first game. If you played any or all of these games, but haven’t yet read the books, you’re missing out. If you haven’t played, there is still plenty to recommend about this novel, though I suspect reading it may make you curious about the game, which I can’t recommend enough.

The Miller brothers and Mr. Wingrove have done a great job bringing the Myst universe to life in these pages. If you like fantasy that takes you to another world, The Myst trilogy is for you. Start here, with The Book of Atrus.

Fingerprints of God: The Search for the Science of Spirituality

by Barbara Bradley Hagerty.
Riverhead, © 2009
ISBN 978-1594484629
Paperback, 336 pages. From $14.97

Lifelong Christian Science devotee Barbara Bradley Hagerty, inspired by a spiritual encounter she could not explain, spent years exploring the nature of God. Fingerprints documents her journey through the labyrinth of stories from people who’ve experienced a transcendent connection with something Other that changed them forever, and Hagerty’s quest to learn whether there is hard, documented science to explain these experiences. Through more than a decade of interviews with scientists, medical practitioners, and neurotheologians, she sought answers to questions like “Is spiritual experience real?” and “Is there a reality outside this one?” and “What do people really see during near-death or other out-of-the-body experiences?” From the MRI chamber to the all-night peyote ceremony, Hagerty followed every available lead, chased every clue, with surprising—and sometimes astounding–results. Along the way, she met extraordinary people with remarkable tales that cast credible doubts on the lines between “real” and “imaginary.”

Hagerty starts out as a Christian Scientist. Throughout the book, she compares her new findings to the belief system that has supported her throughout her lifetime. By the end of the book, she admits to having lost some of her long-held assumptions, but overall her research only informs what she believed all along. The big difference is that she no longer believes her own religion is the only right, true faith. She has come to understand that, as she says in the book, faith is like a spoked wheel. God is the hub. All spokes lead to God. It doesn’t matter which one you choose. And—she asserts this clearly—it is a choice. Science can’t prove there is a Divine, any more than they can prove there is not. The choice is up to us how we interpret these experiences, and how we allow them to inform our lives.

Now let me tell you right up front that this is not the first time I’ve read Fingerprints. Still, as a deeply spiritual woman with personal numinous experience, I am always inspired by this book. Hagerty asks hard questions and presents intriguing scientific data from documented experiments. She reminds me of mystical Truths I already knew but had forgotten in the day-to-day business of life. Each time I read it, I find myself reevaluating my own assumptions, adjusting my beliefs to fit new knowledge, and remembering that I am a part of, not apart from, the Whole. For me, it is a refresher course that never seems to disappoint.

Hagerty’s book will suit anyone who ever asked the Big Questions, anyone who ever had a mystical experience, or anyone who seeks connection with something beyond All This. Whether you maintain a particular religious faith, or consider yourself a Seeker, Fingerprints offers deep and satisfying food for thought.

The Target

by David Baldacci
Grand Central Publishing
Hachette Book Group, © 2014
ISBN 978-1-4555-2123-4
Mass Market Paperback, 432 pages, $10.00

When faced with the opportunity of a lifetime—the chance to take down a global threat—U.S. President Cassion weighs the risks and reluctantly gives the order. The mission must succeed. Failure means certain retaliation, probable impeachment, and possible world war. Only five people know the deal: the President, the CIA director, the national security advisor, and the CIA’s two top agents, WILL ROBIE and JESSICA REEL. Operation commencement sets inexorable wheels in motion for everyone involved, especially when all does not go as planned.

On the other side of the world, North Korea plots against a traitor for scheming with the evil West, and imprisons his family in a notorious camp from which few ever escape. But “impossible” isn’t in the U.S. vocabulary, and when Cassion sends Robie and Reel to liberate the prisoners, North Korea must retaliate to save face. In the aftermath, their best agent conspires with well-placed contacts in the U.S. This time, the stakes are higher than ever, and none of them expect to come out of it alive.

David Baldacci spins a good thriller. Even with numerous characters, the reader knows they’ll all tie together somehow. Part of the fun in this kind of read is trying to figure out the connections before they’re made clear. It’s a given that intrigue and personal drama each play their own role, almost becoming characters in their own right. When a reader picks up a thriller, they have certain expectations of the plot and every character. Robie and Reel were predictable good guys. I knew what they’d do in almost every scene, though they did surprise me from time to time. On the other hand, I admit to being most captivated by the antagonist, CHUNG-CHA, and found myself trying to see the world through her eyes, impossible though that would be.

I’m not certain if it’s a concrete part of his style, or whether this novel was different, but The Target is mostly narrated from an almost omnicscient perspective. Between that and his prominent use of passive verbs, I found it a little more difficult to connect with the characters. Of course, as an up-and-coming writer, this got my attention, since books and classes on the craft of writing always say this is unwise. Now I see why. Still, Baldacci’s long list of titles, many of which became best sellers, speaks to his storytelling ability. Clearly, many love his novels. This was my first Baldacci experience, so my comments here are based on a narrow range of his work, and on what my teachers say. (Of course, they also say once you’re a bestselling author, you can break all the “rules” you want.)

That small detail aside, I enjoyed this book enough that I’ll likely read other Baldacci novels. If you’re looking for an entertaining read, The Target might be for you.

The Seventh Victim

by Mary Burton
Kensington Publishing, Inc. © 2013
ISBN 978-1-4201-2505-4
Mass Market Paperback, 362 pages, $7.99

When Texas Ranger JAMES BECK arrives at the crime scene, the details—victim clad in a home-made white dress, blonde hair fanned out around her head, and a penny clutched in one hand—seem familiar somehow. It’s only after Beck begins to investigate that he suspects the Seattle Strangler, who was never caught but who has been MIA with no further attacks for seven years, is once again on the prowl.

Questions abound: the Strangler? In Austin? Why now, after so long a silence? The biggest unknowns surround the Strangler’s last Seattle victim, LARA CHURCH, the only one who survived. Beck knows the key to catching the killer is to find out why the Strangler left her alive and why, after six prior victims, the Strangler’s modus operandi changed. Surely she carries some clue that might stop the killer from striking again, and now that Lara’s living in Austin, Beck’s determined to find out what she knows.

The problem is that Lara can’t remember a thing. Oh she’s tried; Seattle police, certain she could be pressured into recalling details that would help them catch the killer, put her through the wringer again and again until she finally says, “No more.” Seattle detective MIKE RAINES, the lead investigator in the series of murders, didn’t believe her then. And he doesn’t believe her now. He’s as determined as Beck to find out what she remembers and to catch the murderer. But Lara’s just starting to build a new life. She wants nothing to do with the police or their investigation, and she’s not about to allow them to order her around, even if it is for her own good.

Author Mary Burton weaves a good tale, drawing the reader into the minds of her characters, then taking them along for the ride. Palpable tension hangs on every word in the exchanges between Raines, who travels to Austin to help solve the crimes, and Beck, who bristles at the outsider’s intrusion into “his” investigation. Lara’s interactions with Beck aren’t exactly friendly either—at least, not at first. She’s no shrinking violet; I’ve always liked strong female characters, and I think I would like Lara Church in real life.

Burton also does a decent job of writing young women and characters who haven’t had the easiest life and are a bit jaded as a result. One young female character, DANNI, plays a key role, especially later in the book at about the same time the last plot twist is taking shape. It’s her action that turns the tide in the end.

I have to point out that in my opinion, The Seventh Victim is tried-and-true formula. I figured out both the killer’s identity and the final twist long before the end; but that did not stop it from being an entertaining read, and sometimes that’s just what I’m looking for. Burton’s got a plethora of other mystery titles. I’m sure I’ll be checking those out too.

Just Fall, by Nina Sadowsky

Ballantine Books, © 2016
ISBN 978055394863
304 pages, $26.00

Looks can be deceiving. That’s what ELLIE LARRABEE finds out moments after saying “I do” when the man of her dreams reveals in one shocking sentence a truth that shakes her world. Everything she has taken for granted is built on shifting sands and suddenly her vision of a happy future is in grave peril.

The book opens in an idyllic scene: beautiful blonde in a swank hotel on an island paradise. Behind her on the bed is a man, one drunken hand thrown over his forehead, sheet drawn over his naked torso. From there, the reader is drawn deeper and deeper into this twisted tale of betrayal and violence, secrets and intrigue, as Ellie attempts to salvage her dreams—as well as her life and her husband’s—and finds herself wondering just how far she will go to have her happily-ever-after.

Just Fall is a mesmerizing thriller woven between present-day scenes and flashbacks, meting out clues in just the right measure. At first I found the flashbacks confusing, since they don’t appear in chronological order; but their seemingly random revelation is cleverly done. I was quickly captivated by Sadowksi’s method, which made it less predictable, though not one whit less captivating.

With every twist, I found myself more mystified as to what was actually going on. It doesn’t take long to figure out who the bad guys are (or so I thought), but everything here is not as it seems. When the big reveal came near the end, I was unprepared. This masterful plot, deliciously executed, kept me riveted, turning the pages through to the last.

Settings and scenery come to life in Sadowksy’s descriptive turns of phrase. I could feel the ocean breeze, see the colorful island buildings, smell the salt air. Every character felt real: Ellie’s trusting vulnerability, Rob’s reticence, Lucien’s integrity. As the true extent of Ellie’s dilemma is slowly revealed, it grew easier to believe her actions matched her persona, for who among us knows what we might be capable of under such dire circumstances? There is no absolute in this story. Every ethical decision is a shade of grey, and Ellie’s choices will keep you thinking long after you finish the book.

Though Sadowsky has worked as an entertainment lawyer, a producer, a screenwriter, and a director, Just Fall is her debut novel, a real treat for anyone who loves good suspense. I am definitely hooked on her style, and will be on the lookout for her next literary contribution!

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

by Stephen King
Pocket Books © 1999, 2002
ISBN 9780743455961
Mass Market Paperback, 320 pages, $11.19

The “King” of horror fiction got his start just like most other writers: trial and error and a lot of persistence. Growing up in Maine, surviving high school, thriving in college, then working a day job, raising a family, and writing in his office-slash-laundry room, he nonetheless found time to pen and submit numerous tales. For years, he worked limited success until Carrie stormed the wall of rejections and came away victorious. Since then, he has made quite a name for himself and, after decades of roaring success, he has a few tips to offer up-and-coming writers.

King’s own writing process is almost pure “pantser”. He eschews plotting. In fact, he feels plotting interferes with the creative process and kills the excitement a writer feels for the story when it’s fresh and new in her mind. Oddly, reading this bit struck home for me. About a month before reading On Writing, I’d had a great idea for a literary tale of an old, old man, shortly before his death, remembering his life in a full-circle way. But I wanted to make it as realistic as possible, so I spent a whole month creating his family tree, lining up his ancestors and where they all lived and what life was like there, so that the “history” could ring true even for people who today live in that small town. By the time I read King’s book, my enthusiasm for the old man’s tale had waned somewhat. I’ll still write it, but I’m wishing now I’d done it when it was still a bright flame in my imagination.

There is so much to recommend this book I can’t begin to share it all. If you’ve ever read anything by King, you know his style is distinct. Personally I find it comfortable, accessible, believable, and this one is no exception. There is a clear theme throughout the narrative, which is full of applicable anecdotes. My favorite bit was perhaps his treatment of rejections. As a young writer, he put a nail in the wall of his bedroom, onto which he impaled each “no thanks” form letter. So many accumulated over time that the nail would no longer support their weight, and he had to move the whole setup to his desktop. I loved the idea so much I may adopt it for myself!

King does make a handful of very helpful suggestions, but for the most part he does not tell the writer “how to do it.” Instead, he encourages her to find her own process. I found this very refreshing, especially since I’ve tried others’ processes and find that they don’t always work as I’d hoped. Of his few “mandates,” one is that an aspiring writer must use (or at least know and understand) proper grammar. He even recommends excellent sources for reference.

Part memoire and part craft book, this is King’s own story. From childhood all the way through the auto-pedestrian accident that nearly took his life, he talks about the obstacles he overcame, the weak points he had to work through, and how writing enriched his life. To get a peek inside this creative master’s mindset on writing, to see where his ideas came from or what sparked breakthroughs during writer’s block or even how he edits his own work was truly inspiring. I first read On Writing as a library loan. Long before I finished it, I knew I wanted—no, needed—my own copy; I purchased it before the loan even ran out.

This is a book I will read again and again, not just because I enjoy King’s style, but because as an aspiring writer, it will serve as an excellent learning tool.

The Invisible Library, by Genevieve Cogman

Pan Publishing © 2014
ISBN 1101988649
Mass Market Paperback, 354 pages,
$36.99 hardcover

Imagine a reality where librarians live forever (or near enough), a truly magical place that intersects with other worlds and other timelines through hidden doors and a secret language. This is the world of The Library, an enormous secret world where agents collect books from all the other worlds—stealing them, where necessary—in order to preserve their knowledge. The Library is top secret, a place that must be protected from outsiders lest their treasury of the written word be spoilt or the secrets hidden within the tomes used to evil purposes.

Enter Irene, a secret-agent type librarian, who is sent on what seems to be a boringly routine job, until someone else beats her to the book she’s after, and unknown enemies begin trying to kill her and her assistant. Irene must dig deep to find the resources for survival as the job goes more and more wrong.

The Invisible Library is the first in a series, and features magic, fairies, werewolves, vampires and more in a twisty, fast-paced fantasy. Cogman does a good job with the tale. Irene’s adventure is anything but boring, with plot twists ‘round every corner.

Although I believe Cogman intended the tale for adults, I felt it was rather more suited to the YA crowd. There’s plenty to attract a younger reader—interpersonal drama between competing librarians, repartee, possible love interest with a mystery guy, and the kind of ever-present fluctuation between self-doubt and bravado that goes along with approaching adulthood. It’s a good, clean, inspiring read.

Personally, I prefer my fiction a little more mature; however, I’m not sorry I read The Invisible Library. If you enjoy a quick, light read, or if a young adult in your life does, I recommend this book.

Too Like the Lightning, by Ada Palmer

Tor Books, © May 2016
ISBN 9780765378002
Hardcover, 432 pages, $11.42

Several hundred years in the future, Earth—and human civilization—is completely unrecognizable. Religion has been outlawed. Gender pronouns are eradicated, as is a binary gender system. Select criminals are no longer imprisoned. Instead, they are put to work as Servicers in whatever capacity best benefits society. Cars fly. In fact so many cars fly at breakneck speed through Earth’s skies that they have to be controlled by overarching tracker systems to eliminate the crashes; but this technology allows humans to live in one land and work in another even halfway around the world, and commute every day. Countries and nationalities are gone, replaced by Hives. People’s homes are communal. In this global culture, royalty has returned, and politics reign supreme.

But there’s one individual in this setting that doesn’t fit the mold, a young child who possesses the ability to bring things to life—toys, pictures, the dead. His very presence holds the potential to upset the precarious balance of culture and society. Only a few know of his existence, and they intend to keep it that way for as long as possible.

The worldbuilding in Lightning is extraordinary, the prose outstanding, the characterizations compelling. Palmer has woven a mighty, complex web here and absolutely deserves the Hugo nomination her tale received.

However, I did not finish the book. There are a number of issues that confused me as a reader (such as the fact that the narrator adds back in gender associations in random fashion, even though the rest of the story does not use them). But I think it was the political convolutions that did me in on the plot. Which is weird. I adored Dune and all the books that followed in that saga (at least the eight or ten I read). However, I couldn’t follow Lightning’s Gordian thread. At 51% of the way through the novel, I still had no clue what the heck was going on. I wanted to understand it. I tried to understand it. But in the end, I have a very limited amount of time to dedicate to reading, and this just wasn’t worth it to me—especially when I read in another review (trying to find out if was just me) that this is book one in The Terra Ignota series, and that nothing really gets resolved in Lightning. It’s all set-up.

So at slightly more than half-way through, I set it aside and moved on to something else. I am clearly not a member of its intended audience, but that takes nothing away from its merit.

Now. All that said, please please don’t give this book a pass based solely on my opinion. Look at other reviews before you decide (here’s one; here’s another) or, better yet, borrow it from the library and try it out yourself. Plenty of other readers rave about this story, although not one I’ve seen will say it’s an easy read. It’s work. This is a heavy story, laden with meaning that is building to something massive. Hence the weighty narrative. And if that’s your thing, Lightning might be right up your alley.