Sunday, April 4, 2010

Cenotaxis by Sean Williams

A novella that fits nice and snug in between the first two books of Astropolis, Cenotaxis bridges Saturn Returns and Earth Ascendant to a form a short yet complicated piece focusing on a variety of elements.

From the first, it felt good to be back in familiar territory. Just hearing the proverbial terms used in the Astropolis universe was like a homecoming. There are the Frags, Fort components resembling Primes or Singletons but possessing little true individuality. There's the 'Slow Wave' itself - a cataclysmic event that destroyed the Continuum and Forts and sent humanity reeling backwards throughout the galaxy. It had been awhile since Saturn Returns permeated my senses, but stepping back into the setting was like stepping into old shoes. The painting on the cover is highly imaginative and seems to sum up the intricate webbing that is the Continuum and the characters whom inhabit it.

But Cenotaxis is also a stand alone novella in itself, and, although it does take place during the same time-line, the action occurs far off on the long abandoned and scarred planet of Earth. It is here a divine human has arisen, in the form of Jasper, the leader of a resistance and the only thing stopping Imre Bergamasc from taking the Earth into the cradle of his burgeoning empire and false religion. As the clash for Earth erupts into all out war around them, Imre and Jasper face off against each other.

There are many concepts to like in Cenotaxis. Firstly, Williams has made a similar creation to the Forts with 'the Apparatus’, a seemingly artificial intelligence who is Jasper's advisor. It eventually intrigues Imre enough he changes tactics to find it. The fact that Jasper believes himself an incarnation of God is utterly fascinating in itself; it gives Williams the opportunity to postulate how religions and creed play such an important role in shaping humanity's future.

Probably the most interesting facet of Cenotaxis is Jasper's uncanny, superhuman abilities. He has an 'anachronistic' way of experiencing time, jumping through it in ways suggesting he is the product of something that is at least omniscient in nature. Through this prescience, Jasper escapes many traps laid out by Imre - which leads our false prophet to question the origins of his prisoner in more ways than one.

As always, Sean Williams gives us a tasty afterward detailing the origin of the title, and the many influences that brought the novella into being. Fans of Saturn Returns have much to applaud here, as Sean Williams has given us another riveting chapter celebrating his imaginative genius.