01/03/2010. Contributed by Pauline Morgan
pub: TOR/Forge. 493 page small enlarged paperback. Price: $19.95 (US), $25.50 (CAN). ISBN: 978-0-7653-2119-0).
check out website: www.tor-forge.com
Although politics is the engine of society, very few people have a full grasp of it. Those who are interested are usually the politicians themselves. Although politics is often in the background of many novels, including Science Fiction, most are not prepared to tackle the subject head on. Yet it is politics that shapes societies and determines the parameters that govern the lives of the characters. 'The Fall Revolution Quartet' takes political systems as a starting point and postulates what the world would be like if particular ideologies held sway. In the first volume, 'Star Fractions', a number of states in Britain survived in adjacent compounds. Divided, they eventually fell to the revolutionary ANR. On New Mars, in 'The Stone Canal', the principle tenet was anarchy although within that there was a loose judicial system.
'Divisions' contains both the final two volumes in 'The Fall Revolution Sequence', 'The Casini Division' (1998) and 'The Sky Road' (1999). In 'The Stone Canal', we learnt about the 'fast people' whose speed of thought processes far out-stripped the average human. These post-humans are currently inhabiting the atmosphere of Jupiter and nasty viruses are periodically thrown out by their colonies. These have lead to a drastic change in the culture on Earth which has developed without electronics in fear of an outbreak of a destructive virus. The outbreaks are watched for by members of the Casini Division, a space-faring military organisation. They also watch for anything returning through the wormhole in the orbit of Jupiter. At the end of 'The Stone Canal', the mental templates of Jonathan Wilde and his companion Meg, along with samples of DNA sufficient to clone new bodies for them, were sent back through the wormhole from New Mars into the solar system. Resurrected, these two are now celebrities on Earth. Ellen May Ngwethu is a member of the Casini Division. Nanotechnology means that she has a long life and her body can repair itself quickly. Her clothing is made of smart material which can mould itself into what ever is needed from a space suit to a cocktail dress.
The Casini Division have sent her to find a way to get through to New Mars. Since Wilde won't help, she goes looking for the only other person that might. Dr Isambard Kingdom Malley, whose mathematics was the basis of developing the wormhole that took the colonists to the distant planet, is teaching in the hinterlands of London. They want his help to get them there again. Unfortunately, Ngwethu is not the only person looking for Malley. This novel has everything a Science Fiction reader could want - spaceships, cross country chases, murder and mayhem, high-tech and just a little sex thrown into the mixture.
'The Sky Road' follows a similar pattern to 'The Stone Canal'. Part of the novel is set in the distant future with passages from a past (for them) narrative interspersed in it. The future narrative concerns Clovis colha Gree, a history student researching into a woman called the Deliverer, is spending his summer riveting the panels onto a spaceship. He meets and falls for Merrial, a tinker girl. This is a culture that does not have electronic equipment but the tinkers are the equivalent of roaming scientists. They have longevity and a method of storing information in crystals. Merrial persuades Clovis that it would be a good idea to go to the university archives to get stored files kept there and relating to the Deliverer.
The other part of this novel is the story of Myra Godwin-Davidora. She was once the lover of both Jon Wilde and David Reid, characters encounters in other novels in the sequence. After Wilde was killed and Reid departed into space, she continued to play with politics. She is now the leader of a small country run as a workers collective. What sets it apart from the rest of the world is that it has a store of nuclear weapons. Other countries hire their potential as a deterrent against their adversaries. Their exact whereabouts is not known but Myra discovers that some are in orbit, others are at a LaGrange point. Her part of the story relates the events up to the point where she became the deliverer and had statues of herself erected posthumously to commemorate her achievements.
Considering these are the first four books of a then new writer, they show a high degree of complexity and sophistication, both in plot and conception. If anything, they are better than his more recent books.
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Stephen Hunt's novels - USA