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  • TITLE: The Modern World
  • AUTHOR: Steph Swainston

    Some readers say this is a stand-alone. I'm coming into it five years after publication and at least another year after that since I read No Present Like Time. Fortunately, I can re-read my reviews, including The Year of Our War. I'd definitely recommend reading this trilogy in order. It is so engrossing you'll want to do that anyway.

    In this last installment(1), the Insects have managed a population explosion that becomes the largest threat to the Fourlands and the biggest test of the Circle's power, abilities, and fortitude. It is also the story of conflict between 1440-year old Lightening and his rebellious daughter, Cyan. Our protagonist, Jant, or the messenger Comet, is dispatched to bring the runaway teenager back to the fold.

    As throughout this trilogy, the theme of immortality is approached on many levels. Author Swainston's thoughts on the subject are profound and subtly strewn through the plot, characters, and dialogue. It seems as if its the first wish you'd make with the genie in the bottle, yet living forever--in terms of modern conceptions in religious Afterlife with personality intact--is shown to be decidedly un-human. Further, the very understandable longings for eternal consciousness sours and distracts one from life. Maybe Jant says it best:


    Immortals are those who prize success and fame over happiness. They gain what little happiness they ever have from success. Their thirst for perfection and fear of being beaten drives them on.



    This is a very discerning work---both recondite and sagacious---and very unique even for speculative fiction. Some of its finer points are turning outlandishness into subtly, and expanding genre cliches in new directions. This assessment, of course, applies to all her work. This is why I have added the whole Fourlands Trilogy to my Best Of list as of 2012.

    1) Ms. Swainston's later novel, Above the Snowline, c.2010, is a pre-quel, and, alas, her stated last work.


    © copyright 09/30/2012 by Larry Crawford

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