April 5, 2020

Review: Empress of the Sun by Ian McDonald

Out on February 4th!

Ever wonder just how many alternate realities are out there? Are there universes were JFK was never assassinated, or strange dystopian worlds where Justin Bieber is President of the United States? Though strange (and terrifying) to contemplate, it sure does explain the bizarre goings on in this here plane of reality, such as why the Biebe’s a celebrity in this one…

Yes, alt-history and timeline science fiction is an old standby trope. But a great new series has given it new life and new possibilities. We’re talking about this week’s review, entitled Empress of the Sun by Ian McDonald. This is the third book in Everness dimension-spanning series. Fans of this space and the saga will remember our reviews of book one: Planesrunner and book two, Be My Enemy also out from Pyr Books… and who could forget Mr. McDonald’s vision of a futuristic Turkey (the nation that is) in The Dervish House?

Empress of the Sun follows the further adventures of Everett Singh and friends as they fight to defend the Earth and human civilization in all of its various dimensional spanning iterations. Everett holds the key to the multitude of worlds and realities, known as the Infundibulum, a sort of computerized indexing that also gives them the key to return home.

But it’s on one of these jumps through the Heisenberg Gate that they land in a realm that is at once incredible and frightening… a long flat plain seeming to extend in all directions. They soon realize that the inhabitants of this alternate plane have constructed an enormous Alderson disk about the Sun, a flat world resembling a CD that extends from the orbit of (the planet formerly known as) Mercury out to Jupiter. As fantastic as this sounds, Alderson Disks are a real idea, along the lines of such mega-engineering projects as a Dyson sphere or Larry Niven’s Ringworld.

And just who possessed such advanced technology in a parallel timeline? Everett in crew are about to meet the Jiju, a race of intelligent dinosaurs whose ancestors weren’t wiped out by an asteroid 65 million years ago. But when Everett and his friends find themselves thrust headlong into a battle between warring factions, they find protection at the hands of the mysterious Empress Aswiu as their only hope. But what is her price and the  consequences that Everett and crew must pay?

We really love how book three continues to weave the saga of the familiar and the mundane with the wonderful and the strange. Mr. McDonald has a knack for explaining an alternate world in meticulous detail, whether it’s an alternate world where steam and coal is the primary power source, or one ruled by intelligent dinosaurs. This is no mean feat, when you think about it, as the author isn’t just creating one alternate world, but a multitude of them!

Be sure to read Empress of the Sun for some non-stop dimension hopping action!

Next week: we look at Ben Bova’s latest, with Mars, Inc: The Billionaire’s Club.



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