Sunday, April 4, 2010

Review: The Grand Conjunction by Sean Williams

Adelaide author Sean Williams delivers, via The Grand Conjunction, the final piece of the Astropolis puzzle - a vast, many chambered volume that actually manages to surpass its predecessors Saturn Returns, Cenotaxis and Earth Ascendant.

With such a statement, I do not wish to inflict any spoilers here, for The Grand Conjunction falls into a category that is in and of itself. A continuation of those novels? Yes. The same philosophical and cordial prose we have come to love? Yes. But what lies at this novel heart is more layered in its transparency. Like a Russian Doll, the revelations slide away in a manner that the author himself probably found unexpected and even humorous.

Imre Bergamasc - now, I'm guessing, a somewhat classic protagonist in science fiction's pantheon, has come full circle. After taking up the mantle of ruler of the galaxy in Earth Ascendant, the end of that novel saw him shackle off the responsibility and head out into the abyss in search of his other murderous self - a being who may have converted into the galaxies most notorious intelligence: a Fort. The scene was set for an epic face-off, an accumulation of everything that's gone before , and Sean could have very well stuck to a tried and tested formula - had he not been utterly original.

The prologue in The Grand Conjunction is a gentle reminder of those previous advents you may have forgotten, things that ping on the edge of consciousness and make you smile. But it's the first part of the novel that will really blow you away; a dark, pulpy private-eye wonderland that will be keep you guessing and reading just to see where it all fits in. 

It's disconcerting how lost our main guy (or girl) can be here: the cysts of memory; the amnesiac, schizophrenic quality of advents. And finally the gargantuan amount of years that transpire between them. It all adds up to mind-dislocating factors , which, I guess, is what science fiction is all about. Like previously, the poetic language is apparent. You read, sometimes with veiled comprehension, but reading nevertheless, knowing that understanding will dawn after careful deliberation.

The second half of the book is like a family reunion, and all the major players come back to play: Render, Emlee Copas and Al Freer. These guys have been busy continuing the merry fight - a campaign that sees the now- ruler and Imre's offspring Ra MacPhedron doing battle with them. The parasite known as the Veil has not gone away. Quite the contrary: most of humanity now lies swindled in its embrace. And there are other eye-openers this scrounger from Dussehra will teach them before all is said and done. But, most important of all, The Luminous have finally dealt their hand and revealed themselves to be creators of a sort - in a realm where humanity itself is like the artificial intelligence. They are the Gods of the future vying for who sits on top of the food chain, past and present -

But the basic premise for Imre never really changed: Avenge the Forts. Find Himself.

And, in the final twenty pages: The War has begun -

Sean Williams, over the years, has proven himself to be quite the master fabulist. A reputation that started off subtle but, with a series like Astropolis, has now demonstrated he is in a league of his own …

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