Thursday, September 6, 2007

Fan-Boy Speculation a'la Book Review

So, I've spent large chunks of the last couple days reading the latest S. M. Stirling book, The Sunrise Lands. And time well spent it was, too; it's not as though I do more house-cleaning than vacuum the carpets anyway, is it?

The author's official website has this to say about things:

" A trilogy set in the same world as the "Dies the Fire" trilogy.
It's Change Year 22, a generation after high-energy technology died in a catastrophe most of the human race didn't survive. The children born after the Change are now starting to take center stage—and Whoever or Whatever was behind the Change itself may be taking a hand in their rivalries. An expedition must travel to Nantucket across a strange and hostile continent to find some answers."

There are two further titles listed with tentative publication in 2008 and 2009 respectively. My question at this juncture is, just how much of a long-form writing project is our Stephen contemplating here?

I really don't think he's deliberately setting out to mimic Tolkein with this series. Reference to many of the elvish portions of his LOTR books are only inevitable, given the character backgrounds already developed in the preceding books. That said, I don't really expect any direct correlation between events in Tolkein's works and those yet to unfold in the coming books of this series. For one, Mr. Stirling has never been so predictable heretofore. For another, Stirling himself essentially ruled out any active participation by the aliens, even as indirect as those of the Sauron character, in the prologue to each of the two preceding trilogies. I simply don't see any other believable candidate for that role either. The newly elevated "Prophet of The Ascended Ones" might equate to the Sarumon character I suppose, but even that's a pretty bad fit, I think.

I'm not going to speculate on the contents of the upcoming books beyond saying that I hope the unanswered questions in Peshawar Lancers and Conquistador receive a much fuller treatment in this epic. Of concern at this point in the story is that very much more of the "magic" aspect already present in this series will push things right over into outright fantasy. Much of the fascination with these books arises from Stirling's melding of technology with the human propensity for faith/belief in the supernatural and the effect of both upon human behavior.

As ever, Stirling's writing has a certain "God's own perspective" impersonal quality to it. Either that distracts you from the full pleasure of his stories or it doesn't. There is, as they say, no accounting for taste, nor should a non-ghost writer attempt to guide his work to satisfy another's quirk(s). Stephen Stirling packs as much real (or at least realistic) detail as he can into his stories and, as always, has thoroughly developed characters to relate the events across the page. Sometimes, a detail-packed, well told story is preferable to a damp seat or troubled night's sleep.

YMMV of course.

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