March 31, 2007

The Greatwinter Trilogy

I purchased the hardcover edition of Souls in the Great Machine, by Sean McMullen, back near its initial release. The promise of sequels was there, but I didn't get around to reading them until just now. The Greatwinter Triology is finished off with The Miocene Arrow and Eyes of the Calculor, but I felt both of these books lesser works than the first.

Souls in the Great Machine takes a very interesting premise about where things might end up if advances in electrical engineering were stunted by an artificial force, and how in such a situation the ownership of a calculator (i.e. calculor in Greatwinter) would be a force to reckon with. There is a lot of interesting character development and world development in this novel, as well as lots of ideas to play with. The book consists of two parts, where characters and ideas are developed in the first half, and the climax and revelations are revealed in the second. This is not a seminal work, but it's very enjoyable to read.

Unfortunately, The Miocene Arrow was not as interesting to me. Perhaps the biggest obstacle was how closely it resembled the manga Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind. The miasma became the callscour. There are warring factions where combat is primarily conducted through airplanes (although I wonder just how much research McMullen put into aerial combat). The idea of female flyers is unique and romantic. There's even reference to the Dorok people.

There is also much less character development in this novel, and a much greater focus on play-by-play narration of combat. I can't really recall any interesting or new ideas, either. Regardless, after reading about half way through, I found myself wanting to find out what happens next.

Eyes of the Calculor brings things to a conclusion, and the lands of Australica and North America are brought together. (Mexhaven appears to be ignored, despite claims of a large population. And apparently no humans survived on any other large land areas, even though one would imagine the Call being less fatal over Asia.) It reads much like The Miocene Arrow, and also suffers from a lack of character development. The interplay between Martyne and Velesti is interesting for a time, but the radical change in character of Serjon was somewhat unbelievable and the complete dismissal of Bronlar was disappointing. The relationship between Samondel and Martyne pales in comparison to the one between Glasken and Lemorel in the first novel, or even the lesser one between Darien and Ilyire.

I also found it somewhat interesting that in all three novels, McMullen presents at one female character as insane. In Souls in the Great Machine, it was Lemorel. In The Miocene Arrow it was Bronlar. And in Eyes of the Calculor, there is Jemli. In all three cases, these women were normal and endearing characters to begin with. Only to suddenly become vindictive, petty, and cruel. I really don't know what to make of this particular aspect of McMullen's trilogy.

Posted by josuah at March 31, 2007 7:32 AM UTC+00:00

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