There are very few writers I have more time for than Ian McDonald, who is everything a science fiction writer should be: adventurous, nimble, playful, poetic and shamelessly sticky-fingered with the ideas and themes of the field, filing off their serial numbers and putting them to work in ways their creators never imagined.
Empress of the Sun continues the adventures of Everett Singh, a kid from London's Stoke-Newington who is skipping through the multiverse with a dimension-hopping device his father created. Everett's dad, Tejendra, was assaulted by a ruthless conspirator from an alternate Earth who was after his invention -- Tejendra was lost in the multiverse when he tried to save Everett from her, and Everett had to take the Infinidibulum and hop into another parallel universe to escape her.
McDonald's multiverse has everything: ancient, sentient godlike evolved dinosaurs; rakish airship pirates from an electropunk world where there was never any oil; ruthless, sentient alien nanotech that devours whole planets -- I mean, everything. The multiverse conceit gives McDonald's prodigious imagination free rein like none of his other projects has ever managed to, and McDonald takes the idea further than just about anyone.
But while you're whooping with wonder at the imaginative coaster-ride, there's never a moment when you forget that this is a story, full of pathos and suspense, full of romance and realistic teen problems that make you squirm with sympathy. There's never a moment when the plot lets up with its relentless action, stakes that only get higher and higher by the page, whole worlds and universes at stake and danger lurking behind danger. And there's never a moment when his characters are anything less than brilliantly flawed and complex, villains and heroes alike, and especially the female leads, who are smart and central to the story.
In Empress, the airship Everness has jumped to a diskworld constructed by a 65-million-year-old dinosaur civilization from the bones of all the solar system's planets, and its only the dinos' inability to stop warring with one another that has prevented them from taking over the galaxy. Believe it or not, things only get more exciting and more improbable and more voraciously readable from there!
Empress of the Sun [US]
Empress of the Sun [UK]
Published 6:21 am Wed, Jul 9, 2014
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