June 11, 2004

Sean McMullen

I just finished Souls in the Great Machine and The Miocene Arrow by Sean McMullen. Both novels are set on Earth around 2000 years in the future. Giant orbital weapons platforms incinerate engine powered objects exceeding 9 meters in length and moving upwards of 200 klicks, as well as blasting electronic circuitry of any kind with an EMP pulse. Marine mammals send a Call across the landmasses every few days that causes all animals over 30 pounds to walk mindlessly towards the sea and into the waves.

Souls is set in Australia, and centers around the activities of the Librarians' Guild. Highliber Zarvora, the most feared pistol dueling champion in the mayorates, is a mathematical genius with a plan to duplicate the computing machines of the ancients using 'disappeared' petty criminals and kidnapped accountants. In her quest to free the world of the orbital platforms, she contends with the difficulty of finding a date when you work all the time, the treachery of the Mayors, and a Gentheist invasion led by a rogue Librarian.

Arrow is set in North America, where twenty years later, two groups of Australian infiltrators who are immune to the Call fight a cloak-and-dagger war over a continent erupting in chaos. The chivalric courts of the Airlords of the habitable former U.S. abandon ritualized air combat for total war at the instigation of technology theives making clever appeals to patriotism. Three of the late Highliber's former top advisors risk everything to prevent them from getting the tools they need to wipe out those who can't resist the Call.

McMullen's characters are quirky, flawed, and changeable; it isn't always clear who the heroes and villains are. He also has an endearing take on the geek personality type, which makes the book a lot more realistic for anyone who is or has worked with actual geeks.

Also, no matter how much fun he has with the technical aspects of the story (which is clearly a lot), the details never bog things down. It might even have been nice to have included the detail of a map somewhere at the beginning or end to better visualize the wars that frame much of the narrative, the place names have changed in 2000 years, but the story held up even to that omission. Not too hot, not too cold.

There's a third book in the series, Eyes of the Calculator, and based on the first two, I'm definintely reading it over break.

Posted by natasha at June 11, 2004 06:54 AM | Entertainment | Technorati links |