Review -- Otherland I -- City of Golden Shadow

Posted on Mar 31, 2003

Reading books based on recommendation always seems like a dangerous thing. If you fervently dislike something that someone else has raved about and recommended (and lent), what do you say?

Happily, in this case it's not a problem. A colleague (Hello Heiner!) lent me the fourth book in the Otherland series, but after about 50 pages it was obvious that it really was necessary to read the earlier three books first. A trip to Waterstones and I'm all set with volumes I and II.

The books, being set in the near future, contain a whole host of recognisable technologies, some of which are easily imaginable as extrapolations of what we have today (phones are integrated with video, computing, etc.). Others seem further out (direct interface with the brain) and yet more are interesting oddities that I've not seen before, like 'squeezers', which are an input mechanism involving a device held in each hand. Reading between the lines, squeezers might be some form of next-generation keyboard device.

The book itself is long and, at times, irritatingly slow. It's also not a book for people who are interested in the details of technology - as Heiner said “Greg Egan makes you think, Williams just writes good stories”. The story is good and it can pull you through the slower parts of the book easily. You want to know what happens next and there are a variety of interesting twists and turns.

After reading the last page, it's obvious that even this, the first in the series, doesn't stand on its own. In the introduction to the second book ( River of Blue Fire) Williams acknowledges this and it's not unreasonable - the four volumes in one covering would be impossible to manage.

Well worth a read, but be prepared to buy all four books if you enjoy the first one.