Tuesday, 28 July 2009

From My Bookshelf... ‘Otherland’ – Tad Williams

Tad Williams is one of those authors where I will go out and buy anything that he has written. I’m such a big fan in fact that if he was to release a series of shopping lists and reminder notes that he has written then I would probably already have it on advance order from Amazon... My face has gone red just typing this but it’s true.

It wasn’t always like this though. It was about ten years ago and I had pretty much everything that Tad had written fantasy wise, I wasn’t sure whether to get started on the new ‘Otherland’ series that I had noticed in the bookshop. I was on a real fantasy fix back then and this science fiction series was a little too far outside my zone, it was seven pounds for the first (admittedly very thick) book and my budget couldn’t stretch that far! Thank the Book Gods for birthdays, that’s all I have to say. I ended up with a copy of ‘City of Golden Shadow’ and was too busy getting into a tale of two worlds to have time to wish that I’d picked this book up sooner...

Renie Sulaweyo is drawn into a mystery spanning continents and lands across two worlds when her little brother falls into a coma while online. Rumour of a golden city draws her ever onwards and she comes across several others who have also fallen under the spell of the same vision. Someone wants these people to find ‘Otherland’, a virtual world created by the world’s elite. What will Renie and her friends do though when they realise that they are stuck in Otherland and cannot leave? And who is the mysterious Paul Jonas...?

Whether you’re a fan of Tad Williams, or not, you won’t be able to escape the validity of the accusation that once again he’s written a series that sometimes almost drowns under the weight of excessive padding. Otherland is made up of countless smaller worlds and Williams doesn’t want to leave any of them until he has told you everything he can about them. What you get as a result is a series where the balance shifts away from the plot and towards the world building, almost to the point of no return. If you’re not a fan of the minutiae of world building then you may want to steer clear of these books!

I’m a fan though and I loved it.

Williams really pours himself into each of these worlds and this ‘personal feel’ is evident in both the background and the characters moving through it. Personally, I was sad to leave each world (the world of ‘The Looking Glass’ and the one with the giant insects have always been my favourites, Felix Jongleur’s Egyptian world gave me the shivers...) but this was tempered by the fact that I was about to go somewhere new and discover a whole load of great stuff.

You have to dig for it but there is a story here as well and Williams does very well to keep everything going for as long as he does (considering all the strands he had to weave), I wasn’t too convinced by the ending but the journey there was more than worth it! The ‘Otherland’ series is chock full of ordinary people doing very brave things in a world that’s more dangerous than they first realised. Jongleur is a very dangerous individual but Dread is far worse.
I was gripped, by the story, the whole way through and definitely begrudged the time I had to spend waiting for the next chapter!

I came to the ‘Otherland’ series as I was a fan of Tad Williams; I stayed because of the story itself. If you’re after a series with plenty to chew on then you could do a lot worse than check this out...

The ‘Otherland’ series comprises...

‘City of Golden Shadow’
‘River of Blue Fire’
‘Mountain of Black Glass’
‘Sea of Silver Light’


Anonymous said...

I was impressed when I read this series. Unfortunately I later read Gibson's Neuromancer, and looking back it seems that the 4000+ pages of Otherworld didn't actually offer a whole lot more.

Originally I was willing to wade through the padding for all the interesting twists and developments. However too many of these just seemed to be pulled from Neuromancer - where they are presented much more succinctly and elegantly. In hindsight I feel like Otherworld cheated me out of far too many reading hours for me to recommend it.

Anonymous said...

I'm almost done with River of blue fire. First book was better IMO. guess it has to do with the fact that I just don't care about 80% of the characters.

Renai LeMay said...

Otherland is fantastic, but I haven't been able to stomach any of Williams' other stuff. I think it was his masterpiece.


broken serenity said...

ive read the first book and got around 2/3 through the second but lost interest in the characters and couldnt get back into it, havent read any of his other works but hope he writes more interesting characters than the ones in otherland.

anrake said...

This is the worst series I have ever read. It made me re-examine my policy of finishing any series I start. It wasted 3 months of my valuable book reading time. By the end of the 4th book, it wouldn't have mattered if every character died. They all annoyed me to no end. The plot is not full of twists and turns. It pointlessly goes on and on and on like a second grader's single run-on sentence describing his whole day. No offense Graeme, normally I love your posts and agree with you but not this time.

ediFanoB said...

After reading the comments it seems that you either love or hate the oeuvre of Tad Williams.
I read Otherland tetralogy and liked it. I think it is necessary to get connected to the main characters.

Anonymous said...

I tried to start it 3 times, the last several years ago, It just didn't click with me, I liked the idea but I could never build up enough enthusiasm to pick it back up.

I am however conscious of the fact that the first 100-150 pages of dragonbone chair dragged but that turned out to be a brilliant book (based on memory from 15+ years ago).

I will try again....soon