TAD WILLIAMS - THE "OTHERLAND" SERIES
Had I been asked to make a list of top authors of the century, it would have contained names of well-seasoned authors whom I've read in the past 25 years or so. Adams would probably be in it, Tolkien, Donaldson, Pratchett, and one or two others. However, the list would also have included an author that I have discovered really recently but that has already nested himself in my consciousness as A Great Author.
The author's name, of course, is Tad Williams. I have rarely been so totally swept off my feet by a single book. "Otherland" is a four-part series of which so far I've been able to read Volume One, "City of Golden Shadow". Now it is likely due to my limited exposure to a wide variety of authors and the fact that I wouldn't actually find the "well-read" adjective particularly fitting in front of my name, but I recognise greatness when I see or read it. Tad Williams creates an extremely well balanced crossover between cyberpunk (says he who never read Gibson), science fiction (says he who never read Asimov) and fantasy (says he who did read quite a bit of that). Where other authors would base entire multi-ologies on a concept or two, Tad Williams uses them as sidelines, ready to be discarded. The man in a veritable spring welling up with brilliant ideas and concepts such as I do not recall having read before. Not only has he concocted a future that is credulous and rich in detail, he also develops a multi-faceted world of virtual reality in which many of the happenings in the story take place. What we have here is a tale epic in scale (cliche but true) with many-dimensional characters that aren't exactly run-of-the-mill. There's a black South African woman, a bushman, a kid with a terminal disease and a World War I soldier, for example, of whom I have yet to fit in the last one myself. They are involved in a terrible, well, conspiracy involving incredibly powerful people who are taking ruthless advantage of earth's most valuable resource - its children.
I have quite a few books waiting to be read/reviewed so it may take a little while until Volume Two will be reviewed here, but I've already purchased it so it is, in the words of the cool prog metal band, only a matter of time.
Written January 2000
And here I find myself, close to three years later. I wouldn't be able to explain properly why it took such a long time, other than that there was a delay of about two years of my waiting for the final volume to actually become available in paperback. My life has had its ups and downs during that time as well. I read part 2 or 3 on my honeymoon, I think, and now I am divorced and a totally different person. I have in the mean time read the remaining three volumes, which have continued to impress me no end.
There is no way I can do justice to the multi-faceted story and inter-linked intricacies of "Otherland". The story exists on multiple levels. At first sight it appears to be a science fiction cyberspace story with generous spoonfulls of fantasy thrown in, but deeper down these four volumes - well over 4000 pages worth of fiction - seem to work up to a very human crescendo. In the end, to me, the story is one of love, of hope against hopelessness, of small people doing big things. It's incredibly well-written and it is so frothingly brimming with imagination and new ideas that it will boggle your mind at nearly every page you turn.
Quite a few years back I used to run around saying "If you haven't seen 'Terminator 2' you haven't lived." I meant it at the time, although in retrospect it was just a piece of late-adolescent verbal flatulence. Having changed and having grown since, I think I can now say that you will not have lived if you haven't read Tad Williams' "Otherland" series. And this, I can assure you, is not mere verbal flatulence.
Thanks, Mr. Williams, for sweeping me on this wonderful journey. This is the kind of experience that makes you want to thank whatever mysterious force there may be for the invention of books.
Now go and buy these books, or else not live.
Volume I, "City of Golden Shadow": Released 1996, ISBN 0-88677-763-1 - Click here to buy or check out this book
Volume II, "River of Blue Fire": Released 1998, ISBN 1-85723-764-1 - Click here to buy or check out this book
Volume III, "Mountain of Black Glass": Released 1999, ISBN 1-85723-990-3 - Click here to buy or check out this book
Volume IV, "Sea of Silver Light": Released 2001, ISBN 1-84149-064-4 - Click here to buy or check out this book
Written December 2002
Back to the Main Menu