Friday, October 17, 2008

Implied Spaces, by Walter Jon Williams

Implied Spaces
Walter Jon Williams
Night Shade Books: 2008

Opening as a fairly typical fantasy novel, Implied Spaces is anything but. Aristide is introduced to readers as a wanderer, a scholar and poet carrying a broadsword named Tecmessa. During the first three chapters Aristide battles bandits, trolls, magician-priests, and swings his magic sword. Implied Spaces is not a fantasy.

Technology has advanced so far that entire worlds can be created and are created for all sorts of purposes. The world of Midgarth is a pre-technological world that has developed into something of a fantasy-adventure-world. Aristide is, in fact, a scholar. He studies what he called the "implied spaces."

"The point is, the architect didn't say to himself, 'I think I'll put up four squinches.' What he said is, 'I want a dome, and the dome needs to be supported, so I'll support it with arches.' The squinches were an accident implied by the architect's other decisions. They were implied. pg 48

This is what is meant by "implied spaces". Aristide was on Midgarth to study what was unintentionally created, what was implied during the creation of Midgarth. The desert Aristide adventured in during the first three chapters of Implied Spaces was itself an implied space created because of the other designs of Midgarth.

The scholarly investigation of Midgarth is only the stepping off point for Implied Spaces as Walter Jon Williams expands his story and builds towards a war which could possibly mean the end of civilization. Implied Spaces contains pod-people, mind control, zombie viruses, interstellar war, artificial inteligences, worm-holes through space, philosophy, poetry, and more.

Outside of the "magic" sword, the opening fantasy section of Implied Spaces is not enough of a hook to grab readers and compel them to keep reading. However, once chapter four begins and the reader has the chance to get a grasp on what the real story of Implied Spaces is, the novel takes off.

Implied Spaces is, even in the science fiction elements of the story, an initially confusing novel. The deeper the reader gets, the more compelling the novel. What is most fascinating about Implied Spaces is the "world" itself, or perhaps the universe. The history of the humanity, the various plagues and wars, the still enslaved AIs which permit technology to advance the way it has, all of this together allows Williams to tell a story about unintended consequences.

Implied Spaces is not a perfect novel and at some level it fails to grip or engage at quite the level that the best science fiction does. Implied Spaces entertains and informs, it gives the reader something to think about with clear storytelling. It is a good novel. Implied Spaces falls more in the realm of science-fiction-fantasy with impossibilities, and happily does not overwhelm with too much hard science fiction, the kind that numbs the mind. Implied Spaces is not enough to compel me to seek out more from Walter Jon Williams, but it is still a good read.

Reading copy provided courtesy of Night Shade Books.

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