I have read Otherland: City of Golden Shadow so many times that the binding on the book is starting to fall apart. Granted, it is a paperback novel and I am none to gentle with my books, but it takes a special novel for me to read it enough for it to fall apart on me. Tad Williams is one of my favorite authors; which one is my #1 favorite changes depending on who is actually publishing right now (not very scientific, i know)
Rather than write my own summary, here is what the author has on his website:
Otherland. Shrouded by secrecy, it is home to the wildest dreams and darkest nightmares. Incredible amounts of money have been lavished on it. The best minds of two generations have labored to build it. And somehow, bit by bit, it is claiming the Earth’s most valuable resource – its children.
Only a few have become aware of the danger. Fewer still are willing or able to take up the challenge of this perilous and seductive realm. But every age has its heroes, and unusual times call for unusual champions.
Renie Sulaweyo, a teacher and the backbone of her family, proud of her African heritage, has fought all her life simply to get by. She has never wanted to be a hero. But when her young brother is struck down by a bizarre and mysterious illness, Renie swears to save him. When people around her begin to die, she realizes she has stumbled onto something she is not meant to know, a terrifying secret from which there is no turning back….
!Xabbu is a Bushman, come to the city to learn skills which may save the spirit of his tribe. With the heart of a poet and the soul of a shaman, he will journey with Renie on this quest into the very heart of darkness….
Paul Jonas is lost, seemingly adrift in space and time. As he flees from the bloody battlefields of World War I to a castle in the sky, and onward to lands beyond imagining, he must not only evade his terrifying pursuers, but solve the terrible riddle of his own identity….
Fourteen-year-old Orlando is also the invincible barbarian Thargor, but only in his imagination. However, youth and frailty are not enough to get you excused from saving the world….
And Mister Sellers, a strange old man on a military base, a prisoner of both the government and his own body, may be the greatest mystery of all. Is he part of The Grail Brotherhood? Does he oppose them? Or, as he sits like a spider at the center of a vast web, does he have ambitions of his own?
The answers will only be found in Otherland…
I cannot decided if this novel is science fiction or fantasy. It has the high tech computers and virtual reality that would make it a SF novel, and yet the characters travel to fantasy worlds, interacting like the Fellowship of the Ring. I guess it will have to be filed under both for my purposes.
The novel is very well written, with full use of the English language (meaning that there were a few words that even I had to look up). Tad Williams does not pander to the lowering standards of literacy that America is falling to, but writes in full and descriptive sentences. He even uses ::gasp:: semi-colons! The characters are very well developed by the end of the first novel, and the challenge/quest is clearly described.
Unfortunately, this book is not one that you can read without having the next one ready when the first is finished. Tad obviously wrote these books with a single train of thought; this is great for a consistent story without false endings between books, but inconvenient if you do not have the next book handy. Hence, I recommend purchasing all 4 of the books in this series at the same time and get ready to stay up late for a week at least!