I ran across a translation of Andreas Eschbach’s The Carpet Makers some years back, and thought it excellent – original, interesting, and well told. When I found Lord of All Things for sale, I jumped on it, forgetting even to check for a version in the original German. Though Lord of All Things lacks the creativity of The Carpet Makers, it’s a fun, enjoyable read.
Eschbach starts slow, introducing the characters as children, and describing their first meeting. It’s immediately warm and engaging, and there’s a pleasant suspense in wondering where the story will go. Unfortunately, it’s a section that also plants the seeds of some disappointment – Eschbach describes Charlotte’s unusual power, which crops up occasionally throughout the book, but turns out to be more of a flourish than a core plot point.
This is a near-future story with some high tech. However, the really speculative elements of the book are, if not superfluous, at least peripheral. The real story is about the characters. Given that, the central relationship between Hiroshi and Charlotte is treated from a surprisingly distant, almost clinical perspective. It’s interesting, but never really moving.
Eschbach introduces a number of intriguing leads, but lets most of them lie. Much as we’d like to, we never learn much about them.
All in all, a good but flawed read, without the balance of The Carpet Makers, and with more of the feel of a very good draft than a complete story. Nonetheless, I recommend this for readers looking for a story more about people than gadgets.
Note: the translation is good, but with a slightly folksy tone that doesn’t match most German writing. I haven’t read the original, so it’s possible the translation is 100% faithful, but it didn’t match my expectations.