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City Of Golden Shadow (1998)

City of Golden Shadow (1998)

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3.89 of 5 Votes: 4
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0886777631 (ISBN13: 9780886777630)
daw books

About book City Of Golden Shadow (1998)

I just finished re-reading Tad Williams' four book Otherland saga. This series is everything The Matrix films should have been, and better. It's just a stunningly awesome tale. It's deep on many levels. It's about the nature of reality, the nature of religion, the way humans perceive things, the nuances of the human psyche, all wrapped in a shell of epic science fiction with romance, adventure, and overtones of fantasy. It blows my mind that so few people have enjoyed this series, or even know what I'm talking about. The only reason someone might be off-put by Otherland is the density of the writing. Tad Williams is wordy. He's obviously a LotR fan, and he delights in fantastical descriptions. But you know what? He's good at it. His descriptions are masterful. I'm happy to sit there and let him describe the horror of being chased by a giant Egyptian god, or the wonder of stepping off a cliff and finding yourself able to fly. The first Otherland book was published in 1996, and it's a tiny bit dated in terms of technology. It was written during the end of the virtual reality craze. But it still holds up well! Otherland is about a near-future where people have integrated their daily lives with online lives. People wear virtual sims (avatars) to do their online shopping and business. Kids spend their free time in virtual worlds that sound a lot like World of Warcraft, although Tad Williams wrote this series before WoW or Everquest. People form close friendships with people in distant countries, whom they've never talked to or seen in real life. People take pride in making their virtual reality bodies look super-awesome or super-realistic, or both. Aside from the virtual reality factor, this is visionary stuff, considering that it was written in the early 1990s.In a virtual world where real people choose their own body/voice/identity, relationships get complicated. It's great. Two of the main characters are a teenage boy & girl (friends) who wear heroic male identities. When the boy finds out that his best friend is really a girl, he starts having protective feelings towards her, and worries that he's gay. For her part, the girl thought it was fun to be a guy, but she has to sort out the way people react and treat her differently when they discover that she was lying for years.There's a blind woman whose virtual body looks very generic--but she is a pivotal character and not at all generic in personality. And best of all, there's a man who wears the body of a baboon, which really complicates his love life. There's also a teenager who looks like a giant robot. That's always good.Enemies? This series has awesome antagonists. Felix Jongleur is a multi-trillionaire whose body resides in a vat of gels designed to keep him alive. He's over 200 years old, but he wants immortality, and he does some truly vile things in pursuit of that goal. I mean REALLY vile. I can't say it without giving away the ending of the series, but it involves incest and clones.My favorite character is Paul Jonas, the amnesiac wanderer and target of everyone. Paul is simply awesome. In the beginning of the series, he believes that he's a trench soldier fighting in WWI. He has no memories of being placed in a virtual simulation world. As the series progresses, Paul slowly figures out that 1) he belongs in the 21st century, and he must be in a virtual network more realistic than any he's ever encountered, 2) he's being hunted by scary figures with weird abilities, a la Agent Smith in The Matrix, and 3) he has no idea where his real body is, or why he can't disengage from the network.Paul's memories come back to him bit by bit, like puzzle pieces, as he flees from virtual world to virtual world. He hides in a post-apocalyptic version of London, and remembers 21st century London. He glimpses a princess in another virtual world, and recognizes her as someone he loved in real life. He talks to a swashbuckling hero and finally meets someone real, whom he's sure isn't just A.I. He interrogates an oracle in a Venetian underworld, and learns a few secrets that allow him to travel through the Otherland network more easily. But through all of this, Paul is lonely and terrified, unsure who to trust, or who is real. Paul isn't even 100% sure that he's real, himself. Paul eventually meets up with the rest of the ensemble cast, other real people stranded in the vast Otherland network, unable to unplug. Their real bodies are in comas. Some of them are in hospitals, or are cared for by family members. But there's a difference between Paul and everyone else: Paul did not plug himself into the network. As far as Paul remembers, he doesn't even have a neurocannular (a jack that allows him to plug into virtual reality). No one else is being hunted by the most powerful agents in the network; only Paul. And only Paul is visited by a strange angelic apparition who gives him riddles and advice, sort of like a brain-damaged game character. When Paul stumbles into a virtual simulation of Homer's Odyssey, he finds himself in the title role, assailed by sea monsters and goddesses. Since everyone who dies in Otherland winds up dead in real life, Paul is desperate to survive. He is very much an ordinary man who has to become a hero. I could rave on and on about how awesome this series is. Aside from the battle between the forces of narcissistic trillionaires and ordinary people trying to save their comatose family members, and aside from the question of who is real or not real, there is a central mystery that gets answered in a stunning reveal at the end of the series. The mystery: What is Otherland? Otherland is a collection of interconnected virtual worlds, but those worlds seems indistinguishable from reality, far beyond any technology known to mankind in this series. People trapped in Otherland can die there, or go blind, or feel as if they're being tortured. People trapped in Otherland can't unplug. Otherland seems more than the sum of its human-designed code. Strange figments roam the Otherland worlds, virtual children who have the traveling privileges of real people (users), but who have no memories of any other life. Then there's Paul's angel, the woman who appears to him in different guises and different worlds, but who seems drawn to him. The angel can only appear to him once in each world, and she follows game logic, a set of hard-code rules--she's unable to converse on a human level--yet she also embodies elements of a real person whom Paul once knew.I guess it takes a certain kind of patience to read this series. It is dense with words. Still, I can't believe it isn't more popular. I can't believe Hollywood hasn't made it into a trilogy of movies yet. The second time I read it was just as amazing as the first time. This is a work of genius, one of the few books/series I will ever speak of in such terms.I can be cynical and critical, but right now, I'm a raving fan girl!This review was originally published on my blog.

Audiobook from Penguin AudioNarrated by George NewbernLength: 28.75 hoursI hate to admit this, but I judged this book by the cover at first. I knew nothing about the book when I started listening, I hadn't even read the blurb in the description. I saw a fantastical-looking image on the cover and, knowing that Tad Williams typically writes fantasy novels/series, I just assumed it was a fantasy novel. I was wrong. This is actually a cyberpunk book, a quite good one at that. There was only one downside to the book, which I may as well get out of the way now: it's not a complete story. The book ends with no plot lines resolved and more questions than, if you read this book, be prepared to read at least the next book in the series (River of Blue Fire. I say "at least" because I have only just started that book (and it's 24.3 hours long!), and I have no idea if it resolves any of the story. There are 4 books in the Otherland series in total (City of Golden Shadow, River of Blue Fire, Mountain of Black Glass, and Sea of Silver Light, the first two of which are available in audio so far).The plot is intriguing. In a future-world setting (the book was written in 1996), virtual reality (VR) in the form of using an avatar to explore the "net," is fairly commonplace. Many people, instead of congregating/living in cities with malls and town centers and such, live good parts of their lives in the virtual world. At least, the younger people seem to do this. Main character Reny (a nickname for Irene) is a teacher of computer science/VR manipulation at a university. One day she comes home to find her little brother, Steven, comatose after spending some time in the VR world. Setting out to try to figure out what left him in the coma, she comes across a hint of a world called "Otherland," a world within the VR world. In parallel, a kid named Orlando is exposed to "Otherland" in a part of his online video game. They find themselves searching for answers on Otherland, enlisting the help of some others who have also found out about the mysterious world, all seeking answers for what it is and why it's harming kids. There is another story in the book, of a man named Paul. He may or may not have been a soldier in World War II, but somehow has found himself stuck in the world of Otherland without the ability to escape. There is also the story of those running Otherland, some with more nefarious reasons than others...The entire plot is engaging, if sometimes a little confusing to keep track of who is where (especially at first, as the world and characters are introduced). That said, the book drew me in more or less from the get-go, and I found excuses to listen more as I went about my days. Williams, unlike many authors I've read recently, is able to describe the world and the technology organically through the telling of the story. Where some people would spend time info-dumping, Williams is able to make the world comprehensible by explaining things to characters, or having the reader go along with the process of discovery with the characters. For a book written in 1996, Williams was somewhat a visionary of technology and how people use it. In the book, there are VR systems (think: Oculus Rift taken to the extreme), normal day-to-day use of the internet, tablets, videophony...things that are in the early years of widespread adoption now.The characters in this book are very interesting. I've read a lot of complaints, recently, from people who wish that there were more women and/or minorities in the books that they read, especially genre fiction. This book doesn't have that problem. Reny is a South African black woman, and one of her closest friends through the story is a native African. One of the main villains is Australian and there seem to be people from across the globe involved in either the world or trying to study the world. When Reny needs help, she turns to another woman (another professor in computer science-type fields) for aid, and though men are involved, they are on an equal footing with the women. While I normally don't fault a book for having weak female characters, it was refreshing to have such diversity in the book.George Newbern's narration was fantastic, if a little slow. I found that I had to bump up the playback speed slightly, otherwise it felt like the pauses were a little too long, the speech a little too slow. This made some of the characters or world aspects a little hard to understand at times (pronunciation-wise), but that didn't detract from the story. It was always easy to keep track of who was talking and what was going on, thanks to Newbern's voices for the characters and for the main narration. All in all, I really liked this book. I wish it had come to some form of closure, or at least given some more hints on the motives of the villains, but that's a minor complaint. I've already started the second book and can't wait to see where the story goes.

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I got to p76. "Otherland" by Tad Williams starts with assorted quilt squares I didn't have the patience to wait for assembly. WW1 mud-soaked Paul explodes, climbs a cloud high tree-stem to a trapped bird-woman, chased by a Giant to awaken back in the trenches. South African college tutor Renie guides bushman !Xabbu through basic virtual reality scenarios, rescues her 11-year old brother from a dangerous sim club, then loses him to a coma, three weeks after her drunk father kicks the boy out to live with a schoolmate. Mercenary from tavern suddenly killed, suprising his gamer alter-ego.
—An Odd1

Tad Williams has been one of those authors I'd never really gotten around to even though he's a pillar of fantasy literature. Technically, I did read his story contained in Songs of the Dying Earth (which was excellent), but never one of his mainstays such as Otherland and his epic, Memory, Sorry, and Thorn series.Apparently that day has come and I've officially read Tad Williams. And what did I think? I hate to say this, but mostly meh.That's not to say I didn't enjoy City of Golden Shadow, but for the ending we get (i.e., the status of the characters at the end), there's not really a whole lot to show for it. It's a long book, and not really all that much happens. There are tons of mysteries, but I found myself not really caring about some of the main characters and that made it difficult to say the least.At the same time, I feel compelled to go on. Though I was disappointed with where we got in the end of the book, I wasn't so much disappointed in the ending itself. It was exciting to finally see things moving along, to see progress. I was finally sucked in by the end, but how did it take just under 800 pages to do that?I won't go into the story, I feel like I'm one of the last to finally discover Williams so it's weird describing it, but it's interesting and mysterious and I guess that's what kept my interest for so long.Additionally, I listened to this on audio and I really wonder if I would have pushed through had I been reading this page by page. It's so long and slow-moving, I honestly think I might have given up. I'm glad I listened to it because I'm excited to see what happens now that the story can finally begin. But that's one long intro. And I have to say that the narrator, George Newbern, did an excellent job. That certainly helped as well. His accents for the different characters, including Indian, Spanish, and Bushman (!Xabbu) were always impressive. He switched through them effortlessly as well and though some sounded similar, it was also distinct. Overall, I'm glad I finally read City of Golden Shadow and after doing so (to completion I might add) I'm convinced that Williams deserves the praise he gets. I was bored at times, but interested and even captivated at other times. I enjoyed it in the end, but I don't know if it's worth the slog for everyone because it really was a slog at times. I'll have to read more in the series for more incite.3 out of 5 Stars (for a slow start but eventual payoff - recommended)

I love this series. I read it years ago, picking it up only because of the cool cover. It's not the type of book I usually read. I'm not a fan of cyberpunk lit. But then again, Otherland is far from typical. Heck the main characters are black South Africans (unlike in District 9, Tad's rendering is realistic and free of prejudice).*Smile*, little did I know that years later, my novel would be bought by the very editor who worked on this awesome series.I'm on page 268 and I'm enjoying it in the same way that I enjoyed it back in the late 90s. I LOVE !Xabbu. Back in when I first read it, I was totally in love with his character. Like he seemed like The perfect guy. He still does. I totally relate to Renee on many levels. Long Joseph is a great character. When Tad is with Christabel, Mr. Sellars and Orlando, I'm happy. But whenever Tad's with the Grail Brotherhood or Dread or Paul, I'm totally bored- that's when I start skimming. Paul never interested me because he was always confused and in the dark (often literally) and his plot felt too traditionally fantasy (which bores me). The Grail Brotherhood...ugh, wholly uninteresting- all the Egyptian persona and such seem silly. Dread...he's just a bad guy, ya know? Heh. Also, I've always had a hard time with novels that jump from point of view to point of view too often. I get frustrated because I get really into one story and then we're off to another story and I have to work to get interested all over again. This is especially frustrating when I read on the Stairmaster (which I do a LOT). Nevertheless, I am enjoying rereading this series and will happily continue...Ok, finally done. Loved it. I'm tempted to move right on to part two but I've got Under the Dome to contend with first. :-)

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