Monthly Archives: October 2015

Time’s Eye, by Arthur C. Clarke and Stephen Baxter

timeseyeI wonder what she’s thinking.
‘There goes the neighborhood.’
-Bisesa Dutt and Abdikadir Omar, UN Peacekeepers, 2037, upon first seeing Seeker and Grasper, pre-history

It wasn’t so long ago that I wrote a review for what I believed was the last Odyssey book, 3001:  The Final Odyssey.  Foolish me.  It seems that, having gone over one thousand years ahead in those books, we’re starting a new Odyssey:  but instead of chronicling space, we’re hitting the other half of the equation:  time.  With Stephen Baxter, Arthur C. Clarke brings us Time’s Eye, the first book of “A Time Odyssey.”

The simplest way to state the premise could be “something weird is going on”; Earth has changed (or perhaps been rebuilt?), with parts of the planet coming from all parts of the planet’s history-or perhaps only mankind’s history.  There are a number of points of view tacked by this book, and the simplest to relate to is probably the UN peacekeepers from the year 2037, running a mission in Afghanistan.  At about the same time period, there are a trio of cosmonauts making a departure from the International Space Station.  Both groups have the somewhat dubious honor of being caught in the discontinuity that cuts them both off from their own time-and puts them on the same footing as people from the distant past.  The UN mission falls in with a unit of British soldiers from 1885, while the cosmonauts (not nearly as lucky) become acquainted with a Mongol horde.

Watching above it all appears to be a number of alien artifacts.  No, they aren’t black monoliths-we’re in a Time Odyssey now, not a Space Odyssey.  What we have are a number of silvery globes, hovering in mid air.  Are they responsible for the sudden “toss in various spots and time and mix” situation, or are they simply recording something-or something else altogether?  The only signs of what could be considered more modern technology seems to be coming from the city of Babylon; the journey to reach it and learn the secrets there will bring in conflict two of the greatest military leaders in history:  Genghis Khan and Alexander the Great.  (No, I’m not spoiling anything here; you can read it on the front flap)

This book is quite different than the Space Odyssey books; I expect that in part, this is because it’s not looking at the future so much as the past (what we see of 2037 isn’t all that different than the present day).  It’s possibly also in part the writing style of Stephen Baxter.  The biggest difference is the introduction of conflict-the closest conflict that hit the Space Odyssey books was a bit of a fight on a luxury liner (well, physical conflict).  But in Time’s Eye, we have conflict between the cosmonauts and the Mongols (and I gotta tell you, the character of Sable is really unlikable; makes you wonder how she got in the space program), between the cosmonauts themselves, and of course, the big meeting between the forces of Alexander and the Khan.  This is no action novel, though-fans of previous Clarke works will find plenty to chew on, as the various characters begin to figure out what has happened, compare just when everyone came from; it’s also worth noting that the folks from further back the timeline adapt pretty well to meeting folks from the future.

I also should note that there is a companion CD-ROM that comes with the hardcover edition of this novel; I doubt it’ll be included with paperback versions, but you never know.  I haven’t really had a chance to peruse it yet, but (among other things) it includes the novel Manifold: Time by Stephen Baxter, which shows that this book isn’t the first book dealing with time that Baxter’s dealt with.

In the beginning of the book, the author’s note indicates that this is not a sequel to the Space Odyssey novels, but rather a part of a series that is kind of askew of it; there is indeed something behind all of this, and we only get short glimpses of it.  And while the conclusion seems to open up more questions than answers, it does succeed in making me curious as to where things will go from here (there are quite a number of loose ends that will undoubtedly be picked up in the next book).  I don’t know how many books will comprise this series, but Time’s Eye does a pretty nice job on setting the stage for future books.

Categories: A Time Odyssey | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

Planeshift, by J. Robert King

pshiftAs Yawgmoth will let you know, Dominaria is no easy world to invade.  I couldn’t have laid waste to every continent and killed every hero without the help of many colleagues and friends….
…And of course, I want to thank the fans, every last one of whom is now a subject of the dread lord Yawgmoth.  It’s been nice conquering you.
(I know some of you hope Urza and Gerrard can pull this thing off in the next book, but don’t count on it.  Yawgmoth and I go way back.)
-Author’s acknowledgments

Imagine living through an invasion by the next best thing to demons.  Imagine the elation you’d feel knowing that you’d helped beat back the forces of evil.  Then imagine what you’d feel if you discovered that it was only beginning; that another world in another plane was suddenly overlaid upon everything you know.

That’s probably what happened to Gerrard Capashen and company at the beginning of the second book of the Invasion cycle, Planeshift.  When we last left our heroes, they’d just finished a great battle, and were recuperating from considerable tragedies (the nature of which I’ll leave quiet for now, since this review is coming out at the same time as Invasion).  Unfortunately for our heroes, it turns out that it was only the opening gambit.  The plane of Rath, currently ruled by the Evincar Crovax, has begun a dimensional shift onto the lands of Dominaria.  That in itself wouldn’t be so bad, if not for the fact that the overlay brings with it the hordes of Phyrexians living on Rath.  To make matters worse, Crovax’s Stronghold comes with the rest of Rath.

Fortunately, the heroes of our story aren’t exactly twiddling their thumbs.  Urza Planeswalker leads a team of other planeswalkers for a massive assault on Phyrexia itself, hoping to take out the being known as Yawgmoth directly.  The elf-lord Eladamri goes to the lands of Keld, where the warriors are firmly convinced that they are facing Twilight (their version of the end of the world).  Agnate, leader of the metathran soldiers, makes common cause with the lich-lord Dralnu.  The dragon Rhammidarigaaz finds himself attempting to awaken long slumbering powers that will reassert the might of the dragon nations.  And Gerrard and the crew of the Weatherlight help out where they can, but work towards their goal of dealing with Crovax and the Stronghold.

As this is the next to last book, expect some resolutions in some long-running subplots.  I’ll spare the details, but expect casualties on all fronts, both physical and mental (and both!).  Urza continues to demonstrate his obsessions, which includes a truly chilling moment which demonstrates that Urza’s not particularly nice in the effort to destroy Phyrexia.  Of course, it also doesn’t escape his notice how Phyrexia is close to his own ideas of paradise….!  There’s also a nice moment featuring Tahngarth the Talruum minotaur, as he steps into his own in not just one but two important sections.

The ending is appropriately horrifying as well, although hope is still offered (in spite of the author’s acknowledgments); just what you’d expect out of the penultimate chapter of the Invasion cycle.  Planeshift does a nice job of continuing the plot, probably the result of having the same author writing both Invasion and Planeshift (and the forthcoming Apocalypse).  I’m still wondering how they’re going to get all this wrapped up, but I’m willing to wait for the next book before rendering judgment on the Invasion cycle (and by extension, the entire Weatherlight Saga).

Categories: Invasion Cycle, Magic the Gathering | Tags: , , , | Leave a comment

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