Monday, October 08, 2007

Bright of the Sky, by Kay Kenyon

Bright of the Sky
Kay Kenyon
Pyr: 2007

With Bright of the Sky I had no idea what to expect out of Kay Kenyon. I am not familiar with her work, but Kenyon has published six prior SF novels so clearly she is no novice. She couldn't be, with the ambition promised in Bright of the Sky. From the first chapter Kenyon introduces us to a horrible event of a ship's AI unraveling and a horrible event about to take place. So, this is the set up, but then Kenyon pulls us way to a more prosaic setting: Earth. Not out era, clearly, but a business man attempting to contact Titus Quinn, a former pilot who believes that he was once imprisoned in some alternate universe and that his wife and daughter are still there.

Here is a better description from Kenyon's website:
A Quick Summary of BRIGHT OF THE SKY
In a land-locked galaxy that tunnels through our own, the Entire is a bizarre an seductive mix of human and alien beings gathered under a sky of fire, called the bright. A landof wonders, the Entire is sustained by monumental storm walls and a never-ending river. Over all, the elegant and cruel Tarig rule supreme.

Into this rich milieu is thrust Titus Quinn, former star pilot, bereft of his beloved wife and daughter who are assumed dead by everyone on earth except Quinn. Believing them trapped in a parallel universe—one where he himself may have been imprisoned—he returns to the Entire to steal back what was his. Thus begins a tale of high adventure and vast concept, replete with alien cultures, an exotic Mandarin bureaucracy, and a man with nothing left to lose. He may not find what he seeks in the Entire, but he’ll be offered a view of the multiverse, the power of princes, an unthinkable revenge—and unexpectedly, love.

In this, her first series, Kay Kenyon has created high-concept SF written on the scale of Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld, Roger Zelazny’s Amber Chronicles, and Dan Simmons’s Hyperion.

Sound good? I haven't read Farmer or Zelazny, but I have read Dan Simmons and Hyperion and that is a grand comparison. I am not sure it is possible to live up to a Hyperion comparison. Kenyon's work here is good, but it just simply cannot be that good.

My first comment is halfway a complaint. Bright of the Sky begins very slowly. After that first chapter where there is a bit of action and excitement we are left with chapter after chapter of very little action and very little truly happening. We know from the jacket copy that there is such a thing as The Entire and so Titus must be telling the truth about what happened, or what he remembers to have happened. Until Titus Quinn can get back to The Entire, this Alternate Universe, Bright of the Sky cannot truly begin. Every page that passes without actively getting Titus to The Entire was not serving the reader, though perhaps it is serving the story Kenyon is telling. I understand that these pages are well thought out and considered, but Kenyon is too deliberate early in the novel. She needed to get to the meat.

Once Kenyon gets Titus to The Entire things sloooowly begin to pick up. Bright of the Sky is well written from start to finish, please do not get me wrong, but that first hundred pages or so is a bit of a well written struggle.

As the novel progresses so did my interest. I was able to sit and read more than a chapter at a time because Kenyon began to reveal more and more of The Entire and Titus Quinn and it started to matter what was happening. There were stakes and a serious threat to Quinn staying alive. That world was a harsh place and Quinn's quest a nearly impossible one.

Even during the slow parts I was impressed with Kenyon's writing, but I was never truly in love with Bright of the Sky. When the story progressed I was more engaged with what Kenyon was doing, but still somewhat detached at the same time. By the end of the novel, however, I was interested enough to want to know what happened next. The last third to quarter of Bright of the Sky was quite strong, but getting to that point requires a significant investment of time and effort and I am not quite certain that had this not been a review copy if I would have taken on that investment and effort. The payoff was mostly there, but the novel just moved so slowly so early on and that is the time that the author should be hooking the reader and I was waiting for the hook.

The bottom line is this: Bright of the Sky is a well written novel, ambitious at times in scope, but ultimately a lot of effort in reading for not quite enough reward. If this was a book I purchased I might be a bit disappointed and as the first book in a series it would not be enough to get me to buy Book #2. A mostly solid effort by Kenyon, but the novel would have been served by getting to the point a bit quicker.

Reading copy provided courtesy of Pyr.

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