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by: Tad Williams
Review by Ciara Grey

In Tad Williams’ latest offering, Otherland, he has taken a different direction. This novel runs in the Science Fiction vein. I have read his other novels. His world building skills are excellent and his characters are solid and believable. Rather than nit-pick the usual things I want to focus on the style he uses in the first of three novels, Otherland: The City of Golden Shadow. For those writers who have the problem of too many characters, maybe this will give you some insight on how to handle the situation.

Otherland doesn’t plunge into conflict or any action right away. The way this story is set up makes it difficult to get an idea of where the author is headed. He starts with four sub-plots. As I counted it, there are twenty-one characters that have relevant bearing on the main plot. It takes a lot of work as a writer to deal with that many main characters, and it gives the reader a cluttered impression. The story would have been better without many of them. In my opinion, the number of sub-plots and subsequent characters make the story drag.

Several chapters in, and you begin to see the main story line emerge. He periodically bounces back and forth to the earlier sub-plots and then back to the main. I felt this to be very distracting. Instead of coming right out and revealing the villainous characters and their agenda he holds back on that information. While it’s acceptable that a character in the story not know what is coming, as the reader I would prefer to know. Would it hurt the reader to know everything? No.

Amid all the plots and characters he borrows plot lines from “Jack in the Beanstalk” and snippets from “Alice in Wonderland”. I would have preferred a fresher approach. The story is about an alternate computer reality so why not invent something else? The use of computer slang was limited and not difficult to understand.

Towards the end of the book he begins to tie all the sub-plots to the main story. He begins to bring the many characters together into one group. It becomes more difficult to read with most of the characters all in one place. I have begun to read the second novel to see how he moves the story along with this ponderous group.

I have to wonder if anyone who hasn’t published one novel could get away with taking this sort of direction? The answer is, no. The majority of readers out there are not drawn to a new style of writing all that much. They like their stories straight forward. After all, the name of the game is ‘escapism’. It isn’t a real escape if you have to work at figuring out what the author is trying to do.

I give this book a rating of
* * *

Rating Scale:
* * * * * = Un-put-downable, excellent reading!
* * * * = Good value, interesting reading.
* * * = Had potential, but could have been better.
* * = Slow, difficult to read, could have been improved.
* = Imminently forgettable.



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