Trying to track down their friend and Lord Jadawin-Wolff, Kickaha and Anana find themselves in a changing, chaotic world, along with its creator, Urthona, Earth’s Lord, Red Orc, and one of Red Orc’s thugs. They must adapt quickly, while searching for an escape.
With this fifth book, Farmer demonstrates conclusively that he’s out of plot ideas, but can still work up an unusual setting. Happily, he’s largely given up on his awkward gating device, and made the myriad gates more easily operated. Unhappily, he offers nothing new to go with them. As with most of the prequels, the entire book continues to be a search for gates, which then must be checked for ubiquitous traps, and then never quite lead to where they should. In other words, it’s the same story over and over and over again.
Farmer has made an effort with the setting – literally based on a lavalite, with lumps splitting off a main mass and eventually re-merging. The science is barely there, and even the central characteristic of the word, its mutability, gets shunted aside in places. Aside from a nod to immortal ennui, there’s no attempt to explain just why anyone would create such a world – going to great lengths to design interesting, dangerous, and ultimately pointless creatures to inhabit it and make things hard on the humans the designer imported.
I found the book trying and dull. At one point, Farmer, perhaps irritated by criticism of shallow characters, or simply with a character sketch on hand, suddenly plunges needlessly into a chapter-long discussion of Kickaha’s upbringing, apropos of nothing at all. Anana, while much the more interesting character, continues to be a tag-along helpmeet, existing largely to motivate Kickaha’s machismo and coo at his cleverness.
I wish Farmer had done more with his setting, including populating it with more interesting and genuine characters, and that he’d made more of an effort in the way of plot.
02 January 2018 Science fiction | Philip Jose Farmer | World of Tiers |