Thursday, April 03, 2008

Implied Spaces by Walter Jon Williams

Singularity, schmingularity, says the rich, happy society of Walter Jon Williams's very entertaining eighteenth novel. They turned aside from ever-increasing AI power over a thousand years ago, and it's worked out very well for them.

The eleven semi-autonomous AIs they did allow run on individual matrioshka arrays in close solar orbit, providing enough energy and computing power to stabilize wormholes into the forty-eight pocket universes -- most of them Dyson spheres with a small internal sun -- in which much of the human race now lives. (Other groups headed out to the stars hundreds of years ago, but, since physics is taken seriously in this book, they don't impinge directly on the action.)

It's a plausible human society, it's rich and varied without being the moneyless utopia of Iain M. Banks's Culture, and, all in all, it's a place I would be more than happy to live. But, you ask, is there any room for adventure? Of course there is...

We begin with a man named Aristide, walking across a desert landscape on a low-tech world called Midgarth. It was created by an odd alliance of fantasy gamers and medieval reenactors, and is crammed full of orcs, bandits, flashing swords, and loot. (And everyone who dies comes back in a central location -- only having lost his experiences since his last back-up -- after a waiting period.) Aristide is a scholar of the implied spaces, he says: he studies the things that come up inadvertently in the space next to or behind the carefully designed thing. In Midgarth, he's interested in the desert between the cavern-filled mountains and the rich coastal plain -- and in what societies have sprung up.

OK, OK, that's the boring stuff. What you really want to know is that he also wields a sword named Tecmessa that banishes his enemies forever and is accompanied by the talking cat Bitsy, the avatar of the first of the AIs, Endora. Aristide himself is also much older, with much more history, than he first appears. And he soon runs into something unexpected, which will send him back out into the original universe to consult with an old flame and to learn that things are very seriously wrong with at least one of the AIs.

From an opening that reads like epic fantasy through a threat to the human race reminiscent of mid-90s John Barnes, Walter Jon Williams is back with a SF novel as full of adventure and ideas as his Aristoi or Metropolitan. Implied Spaces is a great new novel from one of the best SF writers out there today -- go and read it already!

6 comments:

Paul Weimer said...

I am awaiting release to, and delivery from, Amazon.com to do exactly that, Andrew! :)

Anonymous said...

Sounds a lot like his wonderful novella "Womb of Every World" in ALIEN CRIMES. Do you know how the two pieces (novella and novel) differ? Susan Loyal

Andrew Wheeler said...

Susan: Ellen Asher tells me that Implied Spaces is an expansion of that novella, so I guess that the novella is the first section.

(I haven't read the novella separately.)

Brad Holden said...

Alright, I will go read it!

Robert Hutchinson said...

I have been criminally lax in obtaining Williams' works, especially since reading the excellent Aristoi from the local library a couple of years ago. It goes on the Wish List right this minute.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for checking with Ellen Asher, Andrew. Clearly, I have to buy the novel. (Pretty editions of novellas I already own in some form are not in this year's budget, alas. Expansions, on the other hand, are necessary expenses.) Susan Loyal

Post a Comment