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The River Wall (1986)

The River Wall (1986)

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4.24 of 5 Votes: 4
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0553255657 (ISBN13: 9780553255652)

About book The River Wall (1986)

And so it ends.The Gandalara Cycle was a touchstone of my adolescence, coming around at a time when I first really began exploring fantasy and science fiction as independent genres as opposed to just the more exciting brand of book. I was bowled over by it, I thought and thought and thought about it, creating imaginary sequels or paralell journeys within it. *Inside my head, mind you. I was appalled when I learned about the existence of fan fiction. People wrote that down? For a second I thought I had lost something in never capturing my imaginative piggy-backing on paper. Only a second though. World -- you're welcome.*Without an overburdened imagination to help me along this time, things got a little rough. The first three books came out fine, a little hokey, but fun. Then they kept going on and characters gallavanted across the small face of their world back and forth three times - for nothing! And the author decided to keep trying to force emotion into these characters, and worse, explain that emotion. We're not Vulcans, lady. I think we could have connected the dots by how they were acting...but back to the story.The Ra'ira so much effort has been spent chasing has been a fake all along! Tarani and Rikardon figure out the identity of an evil mastermind in Raithskar and must stop him at all costs. On the way an earthquake shakes up the poisonous gases of the Well of Darkness, a volcanic crater, which settles on and threatens to exterminate the breeding grounds of the sha'um. One world travesty, or two or three for that matter, are never enough. So things are stalled while Rikardon rallies the Sharith to save as many sha'um as possible from their poisoned valley.Eventually there's a big face-off between the corrupt power-mad despot who's taken over Raithskar and our heroes, so they can get the Ra'ira back and complete the arch-quest. The whole civilization of Ganadalara is in dire peril and only the unique qualities of our heroes can come up with a plan to save everybody!See, The River Wall has the payoff that the whole series was building up to, sometimes not so subtley, but payoff is payoff. Throughout the series Rikardon, an amalgam of Ricardo Carillo of our time (say, early '70s American) and Markasset a strapping young man of Gandalara, who were cosmically mashed together to accomplish some destiny, has been speculating on what the land of Gandalara is. The big payoff [serial spoiler here]: (view spoiler)[It's noted, often, that Rikardon can't see the stars through the constant cloudcover and that there are some odd coincidences in biology between Gandalara and Earth. (Any geologist out there who thinks you could figure out the big secret of Gandalara from this information, please correct me of my scorn) The shape of the map reminded Tarani/Antonia, (Antonia is essentially only the memories of an Italian woman who was similarly cosmically mashed with a Gandalaran, with less positive results) of something:Furthermore Rikardon kept adding together the constricted boundaries of the world, essentially two desert valleys bounded by mountains so high the low-tech Gandalarans cannot climb over them; the high salt-content of the deserts; large copper and tin desposits in the Eastern rock; marble quarries in the center dividing mountains; and tiny, tiny iron deposits in the far West. Also, the beginings of volcanic activity near that central mountain chain.Eureka! He's got it!Gandalara is actually the bed of the Mediterranean Sea 50 million years ago when Africa and Europe collided and blocked that area from the ocean for a time. The waters receded and the flora and fauna of Gandalara developed with all of its mind powers and tusks. When the continents parted, the ocean flooded back in and washed away the entire civilization built of stone and salt and wood, and left no traces behind.Come on, Ricardo was a linguist! How did he know that? The city of Eddarta (upper right) is supposed to be at the mouth of the Nile, and the clusters of mountains in the lower left with the pass through them are Corsica and Sardinia....I don't know, pretty sneaky sis.So the grand destiny of Rikardon and Tarani turns out to be not only getting the Ra'ira and stopping all the big baddies in the whole world, but to also psychically project a master plan to migrate all of the people over a couple generations up the slopes of the River Wall to our 'surface' level and thus escape the waters about to flood back into the Mediterranean. (hide spoiler)]

This seventh book finally wraps up everything, mysteries are revealed, the earth moves, the real Ra'ira is found, the last known baddies are defeated, and there's at least a chance that all will live happily ever after.It's a more exciting book than its predecessors. Up to now we've been stepping through the long and complicated plot, not slowly but at a measured pace, and now things really start to happen.This has to be the best of the series since the first one, which was good in a different way: it had the novelty of Ricardo's arrival in a new and surprising world, and I suppose that Randall Garrett made a more substantial contribution to it before he was incapacitated. Whereas I guess that books 2 to 7 were largely written by Vicki Ann Heydron, with Randall Garrett contributing mainly to the initial outline.The weakness of this book is that, all along, people (and even sha'um) are too easily persuaded by Rikardon and Tarani. It's pleasant, in a way, that goodness prevails in this world, but it seems too easy: it's unconvincing.The baddies are not usually persuaded; they have to be defeated. However, in the real world, well-meaning goodies have to struggle with the great mass of people who are not particularly bad nor particularly good, but uncommitted, unpersuaded, and uncooperative. And it's these in-between people who aren't properly represented in this book.The series as a whole is well conceived. The scenario was a good idea and the details of the environment feel right. The plot was carefully planned. It could have been a classic series, but some magic ingredient in the writing is missing, and so Garrett's Lord Darcy stories remain more enjoyable and therefore better known than this very different exercise in fiction.I find the central character of Ricardo/Rikardon rather annoying. He's mostly presented as wise, good, and able. His tendency to self-doubt should be endearing. But it's coupled with intermittent attacks of bad behaviour, stupidity, and foot-in-mouth disease. Perhaps Randall Garrett had this kind of dual personality himself, but it's not easy to live with, even in fiction.Although some explanation and justification is attempted, it remains hard to believe that the sha'um (great cats) of this world are willing to place themselves in the service of men for very intangible rewards, and to tolerate considerable hardships, when they could easily live free (as most of them continue to do).

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