Friday, 12 June 2009

Lonely Planets

Another positive feature of a series (as opposed to a stand-alone novel) is that it sometimes gives the author the chance to take you deeper into their imaginary universe and give you a guided tour of a key location. Two good examples are Chasm City (Alastair Reynolds) and Look To Windward (Iain M. Banks).

Reynolds' novel continues in the same vein as Revelation Space - trust nothing you read. Chasm City is a multilayered society with extremes of poverty and avarice, and a criminal Layer Cake that leaves no sector untouched, and the mysteries and betrayals are equally multilayered. The architecture of the city itself relates to its past as you will discover, with structures at a certain altitude distorted by a nanoplague.

Ma'saaq Orbital, the setting for Look To Windward, is a Culture ringworld, and the population have expanded around the ring to find the space to explore their imaginative and eccentric Culture lifestyles. The plot takes the reader around the ring. Ma'saaq is governed by one of Banks' superintelligent ship AIs, and this AI, it's history and the significance of it's ruling task are explored in depth.

Both locations and their populations are fleshed out into complex and plausible human societies - this is travel fiction at its best. Curiously both locations feature an eccentric cable-car network - Reynolds' cars traverse the height of an overgrown city sector by leaping from vine to vine; Banks are clockwork and deliberately maintained in a state of disrepair for artistic reasons.

1 comment:

Sharon E. Dreyer said...

This article is so correct! With a series of books an author can expand the visions created by their imaginations. In years gone by I'm certain that numerous stand alone novels could have and should have been expanded into a series of books. Thanks for pointing out two more series that I'll have to read! Sometime in the future, I plan to do a second book to my recently released novel, Long Journey to Rneadal; a romantic action adventure in space. This book is more about the characters than the technology.