Salamander's Fire and Chimera's Cradle:
the second and third books of Genesys
by Brian Stableford
(Legend, paperback, £6.99 and Legend, hardback, £16.99)
Salamander's Fire: the second book of Genesys
On a distant, nameless world, far in the future, humans are facing a time of turmoil. This is not unexpected; distant ancestors prophesied such a time (The Lore of Genesys) and, some still believe, prepared the way for humanities triumph by creating the marvellous Garden of Idun where the fabled Pool of Life awaits intrepid adventurers.
The humans of this world certainly need a few marvels; ancient knowledge has receded into myth, their technology and politics are medieval, and the world is awash with decay; anything organic rots, anything mineral or metallic corrodes.
Salamander's Fire traces the central section of the journey to the Garden of Idun. The travellers are a contentious group; exiled royalty, poison-brewing witches, merchant adventurers, professional thieves and soldiers, humanoid Serpents and insectoid Dragomites.
Stableford's intention here seems to be to gradually strew clues before the reader as to the underlying nature of this bizarre world, and of the ancient Genesys plan by which it might be tamed. In aid of this he drags his protagonists through several different ecosystems and conflicts. Though there is action there is regrettably little tension, pace is slow, and there is, strikingly, very little sense of a mystery unfolding as any sensible reader will make much better guesses than the characters as to what it all means.
Chimera's Cradle: the third book of Genesys
The final book in the Genesys trilogy brings its varied protagonists back together in (what should be) a climactic reunion at the Garden of Idun. The original group of adventurers have been winnowed by their journey, reached diverse conclusions as to the solution to their problems, have encountered a plethora of strange, chimerical lifeforms and suffered a wide variety of unpleasant invasive infections.
Stableford has gone to a considerable degree of trouble to develop his themes of alternate evolution and assimilation, but throughout most of the trilogy has failed to evoke any sense of mystery, or said mysteries gradual revelation. In addition his handling of character is flat, relying on a declamatory style that robs the reader of any sense of intimacy with the protagonists.
That being said, the latter half of Chimera's Cradle contains the trilogy's best material, with a full exploration of intriguing evolutionary and biological ideas. Surprisingly though, the very best writing of all lies in the epilogue, where it has deep, startling, almost mythic resonance.
In sum, Stableford has written a competent trilogy, but a slow one with a distinctly uninspiring style; readable, but not rousing.
Review by Simeon Shoul.
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© Simeon Shoul 14 July 2001