Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Review of Empress of the Sun by Ian McDonald

If you’ve come this far in the series, then there is no need for me to be coy introducing the third and final book in the Everness trilogy, Empress of the Sun (2013).  Picking up precisely where Be My Enemy left off, it’s a well-paced, exciting, and to some degree personal, conclusion that almost, but not quite wraps up the series.

A trend forming, Empress of the Sun sees Everett and the crew of the Everness dropped randomly into yet another parallel world.  Not a planet this time ‘round, however, the crew find themselves on a massive disc capable of containing millions of Earths.  But its inhabitants prove to be anything but human.  A lizard-esque race calling themselves the jiju, the crew have a bizarre run in with one of the them and subsequently get caught up in jiju Darwinian power struggles.  Meanwhile, the Villiers have used the tracking device planted on the Everness to track the airship.  Learning the airship is on the jiju world, they grow pale with fear.  The worlds colliding in spectacular fashion, Everett’s quest to find his lost father grows ever more complicated.

In the other main storyline of Empress of the Sun, alter-Everett is attempting to adjust to normal teenage life while filling in the shoes of the real Everett.  From coming up with excuses to cover discrepancies in his story to preventing the bit of nahn that he brought back from Be My Enemy from breaking loose, he finds a new perspective on life.  This new perspective becomes particularly acute when one of the girls in his class takes a liking to him—if creating a facebook page called “Everett’s cute Ass” can be called flirting.  His big secret hanging like a black cloud over his daily life at school and hanging out with the real Everett’s friends, his new world is anything but concise.

Where earlier novels in the Everness series have given hints (sometimes strong hints) that McDonald is in some way paying homage to Dr. Who, Empress of the Sun I daresay confirms it, albeit indirectly.  While Everett hops between parallel worlds and the doctor travels in time, what’s waiting on the other end is the same: alien—in the broadest sense of the word—encounters that are handled in frantic, relatively light-hearted fashion.  The tv series is naturally more episodic while McDonald strives for an overarching narrative, but besides this difference, the imagination invested in each is quite analogous.

Many readers will thus revel in the wonderfully imaginative build-up and climax of Empress of the Sun (the fireworks too good to pass up), but I found alter-Everett the most intriguing aspect of the book and series.  McDonald really digging into him in Empress of the Sun, it becomes entirely possible to view and understand the series through his eyes.  In fact the version of Everett living in the ‘real-world’ dealing with real world teenage problems, both at school and home, he does so while the “normal Everett” is off in parallel worlds having exotic adventures with airships and aliens. Or, alter-Everett is the one who grounds the overall narrative, preventing it from floating away in pulp fluff.  It’s almost impossible not to empathize with his situations; when to be honest, when to lie, when to pursue the girl and when not, when loyalty to family is most important—McDonald does a good job injecting the exegiences of being a teenager into the novel.

In the end, Empress of the Sun caps off the Everness trilogy in unswerving, consistent style.  Where a lot of trilogies go out with a whimper rather than bang, McDonald maintains the reliability of the series to date all the while managing to up the stakes, culminating in a bang that simultaneously resolves the Earths, Everett and his alter-ego’s personal issues.  But it doesn’t resolve everything.  The door left ajar for sequels, McDonald may just yet go further down the Dr. Who road…

No comments:

Post a Comment