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River Of Blue Fire (1999)

River of Blue Fire (1999)

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3.99 of 5 Votes: 1
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0886778441 (ISBN13: 9780886778446)
daw books

About book River Of Blue Fire (1999)

When last we left Our Heroes, they were caught in the Otherland - an immense virtual reality program built by people with more money than God - with no idea where to go and no idea what to do. They were lost, confused and had no way out.Oh yes - back before Neo got his clock punched by Agent Smith, Renie, !Xabbu, Orlando, Fredericks and all the other Otherland explorers discover that they are in more danger than they realize - if they die on the network, then they'll die in real life. And, almost right out of the gate, people start dying. Whether they're tiny biologists living among the ants or a lifetime gamer warring against the different factions of a twisted Oz, they die in unpleasant and, ultimately real ways. And it's up to our heroes to not only avoid death themselves, but also to figure out what the hell they're supposed to be doing in there.One of the things I like about this series is that Tad Williams openly admits to stealing - er, paying homage to the great writers of the past. At the end of book one, when all the main characters have been gathered together and are being told about the great dangers they will face, and how they are part of a plan to defeat the Grail Brotherhood and their Nefarious Scheme, most of the people there want nothing to do with it. It's up to Orlando Gardiner, our young barbarian warrior-slash-progeriac teenager to say, "Hey, this the the Council of Elrond! We have a mission here!"Unfortunately, while the Fellowship of the Ring gets a clear mission before leaving Rivendell, the Otherland explorers are scattered before they know what to do, and their main goal is to run for their lives. As this book progresses, they start to learn more about the vast Otherland network, what its nature is and why it was made. They also learn that it is unstable, and possibly a living thing in its own right.Almost immediately, the group gets split up. That is, as all ensemble writers know, the best way to really build a meaty story, and it works really well here. Unfortunately, while there are three groups, the strongest and most interesting characters get put into two of them. Orlando and Fredericks get sent off into a world more bizarre than any online gaming ever prepared them for; Renie and !Xabbu end up in a horribly twisted version of The Wizard of OZ, if Oz had invaded Kansas, taken over, and started a three-way fight between the Scarecrow, the Lion and the Tin Man.This leaves us with the third and largest group being somewhat less interesting than the others. Not completely, of course - we have a blind woman who can sense the information flow of the simulation, a teenage net-freak who only speaks in online slang, a campy death-clown named Sweet William, a Chinese grandmother and an abrasive German woman. They're not bad characters by any means, and each one is special in his or her own right. It's just that most of them were introduced later in the first book, and so we've had less time to get to know them. Putting a more familiar character in that group might have made them more interesting, or it might have overshadowed them. Who knows?One thing that the third group has, however, is a secret - one of them is not who he or she appears to be. One of them has been co-opted by the sociopathic assassin, Dread. The only one with the freedom to go on and offline at will, he has nearly godlike power at his fingertips. And he intends to use it.I can imagine that Tad Williams had a great deal of fun working out these novels, mainly because he created a concept that allowed for incredible freedom in world-building. After all, on a super-powerful VR platform, any conceivable simulation can be created. So whether it is the mythical land of Xanadu, a cartoon kitchen where the groceries come to life at night, a world where people fly like birds, or the legendary land of Ithaca, the settings in these books are only limited to what Williams can think up and work with. What's really interesting is that he seems to take great pleasure in reminding us that we are, in fact, reading a story - he goes so far as to have one character reflect on exactly what kind of character he is. People are reminding themselves that they're not in a story, even though they are, and at the same time recognizing that the entire structure of their virtual universe is patterned on the rules of fiction. It's a strange type of meta-fiction that rewards the careful reader.So, as the book comes to a close, we have some new threads to follow. The Otherland explorers begin to find their purpose and learn about their situation. We've met a strange type of character which exists in many worlds at once - the beautiful, birdlike woman who tries to help Paul Jonas and Orlando Gardiner find their way; the horrible Twins, whose only job is to pursue Paul Jonas wherever he may go. These people can be found around any corner, and the outcome of meeting them is always uncertain.Offline, real-world investigations into the mysterious comas that afflict children begin to bear fruit - a young lawyer named Catur Ramsey is trying to help the parents of Orlando and Fredericks find out what happened to their children, and the search leads him to a strange woman, Olga Pirofski, who may have a vital clue. Renie's father involves himself with some very dangerous people indeed. The police in Sydney find themselves working on a five year-old murder case that will eventually lead them to the malicious assassin/hacker Dread. A mysterious group called The Circle makes itself known to a select few, and reveals its mission - to oppose the Lords of the Otherland and their relentless pursuit of immortality. All through this, those Lords of the Otherland struggle amongst themselves to see who will ultimately control it.The tale becomes stranger with the telling, but I can guarantee - you'll be good and ready to jump right into book three....

Never say never, huh?Upd.: My first book of 2012. Can't believe it took me a week to wade through it. Tad Williams is nothing if not long-winded.I'm giving River of Blue Fire nondescript three stars. Not very helpful, I know, but I can't seem to make up my mind about the book. It's certainly worse than City of Golden Shadow, the previous and the first part of ... what is it that you call a four book series? Tetralogy? Quadrilogy? Well, whatever it's called, the second installment of Otherland series takes a swift turn downward. For starters, Renie Sulaweyo, a character who initially drew me into the story and whose narration I used to enjoy, is being slowly mutilated by hideous, unneeded, and absolutely unrealistic romance. The fact that her intended love-interest is quite probably the most boring character in the book only adds insult to the injury. I'm not sure what Tad Williams was trying to do with !Xabbu (the aforementioned love-interest), but I can attest that he has succeed in creating one of the most annoying, most patronizing and most useless characters I have ever read. I ended up skipping huge chunks of text just to avoid his morbid stories. Then there is an ever growing crowd of narrators I could have done without. True some of them turned out to be very enjoyable (like Dulcinea (Dulcie) Anwin who is my new favorite character as well as my new purpose for reading the next book in the series, or Decatur (Catur) Ramsey, a lawyer who with his dry humor and depressive moods appears to be Otherland's version of a noir detective. Others, however... let's say I've never skipped so many pages in the book (unless you count War and Peace, but that's a special case). And then there are minor characters who don't get to tell their story from their own POV, but just sort of hang on with the main group, so that Tad Williams could kill them off whenever he needs something dramatic to happen. I would be okay with that, really, if only he has been a little more subtle about it, because the trick gets old very fast.Now, onto the positive things.I can't gush enough about Dulcie Anwin and John Dread. Dulcie becomes what Renie was to me in City of Golden Shadow. I usually find it difficult to identify with a character. Relate to - problem not, but identify with? Aside from Otherland series, I can name two books, perhaps three, but even that would be stretching it. Tad Williams, however, managed to completely sway me from my feet by inventing not one but two heroines with whom I fall in two step so easily, so naturally as if they have always been there. He has also managed to screw up one of them during the second book, and he is so going to kill off/ mutilate another one, but - damn - it's so worth it. And the most wonderful thing about this is that both heroines are pretty generic, you can meet thousands of Renies and Dulcies stumbling through fantasy and sci-fi, and yet, the way they think, the way they act, their choices, their emotions - it's just so natural, so realist you can't help but be caught up in their struggles.Dread is one the baddies. The crazy one, to be precise. Not that sanity is very popular among Otherland's inhabitants. He is sadistic, ruthless and remorseless, not very original when it comes to blood-thirsty psychos, but there is also something childish about him which makes him both scary and entertaining. He is petulant, sometimes almost whiny, but also arrogant and self-absorbed. Tad Williams is negotiating a precarious balance here: one can't quite pity Dread because of his unfortunate childhood, but one can't completely despise him either, not when you occasionally get to see the world from his POV. Dread is a human equivalent of a train-wreck: it makes you sick, but you can't look away. I guess, fascination is the right word.I'm also still in love with Orlando and Fredericks. The imaginary slang is my new favorite thing about them (... problem not, fenfen, utterly scanny, scan-master and so on). Well that, and Beezle the Bug.All in all, River of Blue Fire is much slower than City of Golden Shadow due to the fact that it's more focused on world-building (or should I say world-exploring?)than on the plot.

Do You like book River Of Blue Fire (1999)?

The Good, the Bad, and the UglyThe Good -if you read my review for book one in the series, you know that one major flaw in an otherwise excellent presentation, was excessive editing errors. This book fixes that problem, and is what you would expect of high caliber literature.The Bad -5 stars; 4.8 stars; 4.3 stars - the rating continues to drop (modestly; it’s still a very good book)…Mr. Williams has a very fertile imagination, and it is exciting to see what he can think up. However, traveling the river solely as an exercise in imagination, frequenting simulations with NO correlation to plot advancement gets, well, let me quote the character Paul about a third of the way through the book:“His first thought, as he struggled toward the surface of yet another river, was; I could get tired of this very quickly.”The Ugly -There is an Indian Reservation in close proximity to the town where I live. The Native American population is integrated into general society, and one of their pet peeves is the perpetuation of a stereotyped 1950’s Hollywood Western Indian. They are very proactive in promoting a realistic picture of their culture, both historic and current. Because of that I am sensitive to the way they are portrayed in the cartoon section of the river journey. What Mr. Williams did here was no different than using the “N” word if writing about Blacks. It made me very uncomfortable. He could have kept the cartoon format without degrading racial perception of a particular culture.

This is now my second book, not counting novellas, by Tad Williams and while I finished it, I will in fact not be continuing on with the series. Book 1 in the Otherland series was just interesting enough to continue and finally the ending ramps things up and I was actually entertained. I get that this series is one long book to the author, but it's so absolutely boring I need something to happen and I start to expect it to at least be at the end of the book. Spoiler alert: (view spoiler)[the ending was barely less boring (hide spoiler)]

I think I'll try to write a review for every book I read from now on. I know not many read this probably, but it's good to put my thoughts somewhere. I will also keep every review as spoiler free as possible, so don't worry about anything major being said here. With all this said: here is my first daily review, Otherland: River of Blue FirePROS: Similar to the first book, Otherland has managed to make me use my imagination is ways that I never have before. The idea of the Net has allowed Williams to create a sort of surreal environment. The stakes are higher in the this book, there's more action, and the story CONS: So far, I've been pretty disappointed with the antagonists. For two whole books, all we've really gotten is the same old "rich and powerful want to take over the world" kinda of scenario. And quite frankly, I'm getting a bit tired of this. Sure, we have a couple people who we're supposed to hate like Dread, and maybe Osiris. It also seems like Nemesis is going to play a big role. Still, I haven't developed the level of "hate" yet for these people that I normally feel for your typical villains. Hopefully in the next two novels we'll get something deeper than "rich and power are bad."Another problem I have with this novel is the lack of story progression. I loved tumbling through the various simluations with the characters. While this was all fun, I felt it didn't exactly end up anywhere. Overall: 4/5

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