Bright of the Sky Paperback – Feb 28 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. At the start of this riveting launch of a new far-future SF series from Kenyon (Tropic of Creation), a disastrous mishap during interstellar space travel catapults pilot Titus Quinn with his wife, Johanna Arlis, and nine-year-old daughter, Sydney, into a parallel universe called the Entire. Titus makes it back to this dimension, his hair turned white, his memory gone, his family presumed dead and his reputation ruined with the corporation that employed him. The corporation (in search of radical space travel methods) sends Titus (in search of Johanna and Sydney) back through the space-time warp. There, he gradually, painfully regains knowledge of its rulers, the cruel, alien Tarig; its subordinate, Chinese-inspired humanoid population, the Chalin; and his daughter's enslavement. Titus's transformative odyssey to reclaim Sydney reveals a Tarig plan whose ramifications will be felt far beyond his immediate family. Kenyon's deft prose, high-stakes suspense and skilled, thorough world building will have readers anxious for the next installment. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
In the future conjured by the first book of the Entire and the Rose, megacorporations control Earth, and only the best and brightest get company jobs. Titus Quinn was on his way, though, until he piloted a Minerva corporation colony ship through a network of black holes. The ship disappeared. Believed dead, Quinn showed up six months later on a distant planet that no transport had visited in years, with disjointed memories of a parallel universe in which the sky is fire. There he lost his wife and daughter, also the ship. In hope that the place will provide a safer alternative for interstellar travel, Minerva sends him back. Once there again, Quinn becomes embroiled in strange politics and faces terrible choices and the emerging, awful memory of what he did during his last stay in the Entire. In a fascinating and gratifying feat of world building, Kenyon unfolds the wonders and the dangers of the Entire and an almost-Chinese culture that should remain engaging throughout what promises to be a grand epic, indeed. Regina Schroeder
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Kenyon's characters are so vivid that I found myself attached to even minor characters, wondering what happens to them after they leave the stage. There are only a handful of writers whose characters I've actually had dreams about, writing further adventures for them in my head, after I finish a book. Kenyon is one of those writers, and I can't wait to read the subsequent installments in the series.
The characters are the stars for me here, but I must mention how fascinating the world is that Kenyon has created. The two parallel worlds are revealed gradually to the reader throughout the course of the book, but even from the first scenes they feel solidly real. They make sense because Kenyon adds the kind of telling details that bring them alive most subtly and completely for me. Both worlds come complete with nuanced social and political stresses: corporate greed and executive dogfights, difficult family dynamics, political power struggles, clashes between cultures, xenophobia, and lots more. It sounds like a lot for one book, but the strands are so skillfully built and intertwined that the reader's knowledge builds in an apparently natural way. From the first, wrenching scene in the Rose (future Earth) universe--where we encounter an entire ship at the mercy of technology so complex that only one person on board is capable of fully understanding, much less controlling it--to the first scenes in the Entire universe--where we witness a summary execution by one of the powerful and terrifying Tarig--Kenyon sets up fascinating and illuminating parallels between the two parallel worlds.
The plot is complex and surprising also. The pace is never dull, yet events are allowed the proper time to build believably and achieve resonance for the reader. Kenyon doesn't pull any punches, and the consequences of the characters' decisions are sometimes brutal, adding increasing depth to the plot and characterization as the book progresses.
Entirely enjoyable. Highly recommended for those who enjoy both SF and Fantasy worldbuilding and want something complex and engrossing.
Bright of the Sky: 3/5
The Good: Absolutely unique world-building that combines science fiction and fantasy elements and continues to grow throughtout the entire series; Carefully plotted narrative that spans and evolves over four volumes; The world is exceptionally well integrated into the narrative rather than being adjacent to it.
The Bad: Early volumes have problems with jarring perspective changes; Worldbuilding often uses infodumping rather than in-narrative elements; The story isn't well segmented into individual novels, leaving readers with an all-or-none decision.
The Review: Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Rarely is this truer than in Kay Kenyon's science fiction/fantasy hybrid quadrilogy. An undeniable triumph of world building split into four books, The Entire and the Rose is 1700 pages of complex characters and intricate narrative. The events of the series revolve around Titus Quinn, the first denizen of the Rose (our universe) to cross through into The Entire, a complex infinite world constructed by the harsh, alien Tarig and inhabited by a number of races of their creation. Several years before the series begins, Quinn and his wife and daughter were pulled into the Entire when the ship he was piloting broke apart mid-wormhole jump. Quinn returns months later in our time with no family and little recollection of what happened despite living in the Entire for over a decade. When science proves that his ravings about a second reality may in fact be true, Quinn returns to the Entire in search of his missing wife and daughter and to explore what, if any, benefit The Entire may offer Earth. As Quinn quickly becomes embroiled in the politics of the world he left behind, it becomes obvious that much more is at stake than the fate of his family. The plot only gets more complex from there, the majority of which takes place in the profoundly strange world of the Entire, although the story does take place in both universes.
To provide any more detail than that would ruin the game-changing revelations that occur frequently throughout the series, shifting plots and loyalties in unexpected but exciting ways. There are several power players on both sides of the divide and rarely is there any way of knowing who is playing who. If the Earth universe is referred to as the Rose, the other universe labeled as the Entire might be better known as the Onion. From the start of the series to the final pages, Kenyon slowly peels back layer after layer of world building, unveiling an amazingly concocted world. Religion, politics, cultural divides, a forever war, teenage cults, complex transit systems: the facets of the Entire go on and on. Kenyon details aspect after aspect of her created universe and she does an unbelievable job of unobtrusively bringing the elements she has previously cultivated back into the main plot.
It's a rare occurence but if anything there is almost too much world building. The Entire is inhabited by a number of races and species all of which are fairly unique when compared to the genre standards. However, a few of these races are almost superfluous, with not a single primary or secondary character coming from their ranks. Kenyon could have either edited them out or integrated them into the story as well as she did the primary species of Humans, Chalin, Tarig, Inyx, Hirrin, and Paion. The cultural depth of these imagined races is continually capitalized upon by Kenyon and as a result the few species that don't get starring roles ultimately fall to the wayside.
While the extraneous elements could have been handled better, the world of the Entire and the thoroughly constructed characters that inhabit it are the main attractions of the series. Kenyon's writing, on the other hand, leaves a little bit to be desired especially in the early volumes. Kenyon writes from an extremely tight third person perspective and she has an unfortunate tendency to jump perspectives mid-scene without warning, generating confusion and necessitating rereading just to confirm which character was thinking what. Kenyon gets better at this as the books go on but early on these jarring transitions occur disappointingly often especially considering a small change symbol (which is often used to switch perspectives between scenes) could have easily been used to remedy this problem. As the books progress, Kenyon does manage to reduce the frequency with which these occur. The third and fourth volumes are much stronger than the first in this regard.
Kenyon also has a propensity to take a "tell not show" approach to her worldbuilding and while the world is interesting enough, there is no in-narrative reason for the characters to lecture the way they do. Consequently, the books of The Entire and The Rose read somewhat slowly. While not a bad thing in and of itself, these are not necessarily beach reads and due to the complex nature of the world and plot, it should be read in its entirety for full effect, commanding a significant time investment on the part of the reader.
Additionally, it is important to bear in mind that this epic series would be best described as science fantasy. While Kenyon maintains the premise that all of the places and structures of her world are science-based, the science satisfies Clarke's axiom and is indistinguishable from magic. Anyone who goes into this series expecting to understand the physics underpinning the world will be sorely disappointed. Despite the trappings of science that frame the Entire, at its core it's a fantasy world; it exists and behaves the way it does because the story dictates the way it does. But it works and it works well.
Here is a review of the individual volume.
Bright of the Sky: Arguably the weakest book in the series, Kenyon's series debut suffers from exposition overload. Kenyon essentially sets up the story three times; first in the future Earth universe, than in the future Entire world, and then revealing Quinn's backstory and what occurred during his first trip to the Entire. With three full histories to explain in additional to all of the characters she introduces, it doesn't feel like a whole lot happens. The last fifty or so pages feel rushed when compared to the whole and while the end of the book comes at a natural stopping point it doesn't really resolve any of the threads introduced. With such a To-Be-Continued ending, it produces contradictory emotions - on one hand there was too little payoff after the slower prose associated with complex world building; on the other hand, A World Too Near beckoned from the shelf immediately. Bright of the Sky is also the book that suffers the most from those aforementioned perspective shifts.
Ultimately, The Entire and The Rose is more than a sum of its composite volumes, so much so that it was too difficult to reach a conclusion on one book before reading the others. The story flows through the pages like one of the arms of the Nigh (a river of exotic matter from the story), bearing strongly motivated characters through alternating periods of slow progress and torrential action. The narrative twists and turns unexpectedly, creating new letters to place between points A and B. At the core of Kenyon's series is her imagined Entire, rivaling any fantasy world for its complexity and surpassing the vast majority for sheer inventiveness. Despite some missteps in presentation, Kay Kenyon's The Entire and The Rose has created a unique science fantasy series that is worth reading, well, in its entirety.
The problem is that it really is poorly written:
-- Awful, jarring switches between character and perspective - errors of style and flow that are taught in freshman composition.
-- A hero who is really a jerk, but every horrible decision and character flaw is forgiven because the poor, angsty man has just suffered SO MUCH...sob. He treats everyone around him like crap - but feels completely justified in his own distrust and anger at others.
-- The human villains are cartoonishly evil - making unsubtle threats that make no sense for someone with their supposed power and influence and position to make. And the attempts to humanize them are laughable, as well.
Again, the story isn't bad! I'd love to know how the it ends...just not enough to sit through another book (or, rather, three more books) of the author's atrocious writing!
What disappoints me about this book isn't that it is devoid of ideas but rather the opposite: it's devoid of execution in simply every way. The main character isn't likable in any sense of the word and I found myself more and more irritated by him throughout the entire series. Sometimes that's the intent but in fact all of the characters were generally shaped from two-week old deflating balloons. Only three characters took on a bit of shape and they were minor supporting characters. I slogged on through three books not really finding a place to give a tinker's damn about any of them.
The series never has any excitement to it; no suspense; no feeling of danger; no feeling of...well, no feeling: the world is painted in muted colors from beginning to end. The books slog along at a singular pace never seeming to speed up or slow down or do anything but slog along mechanically. Now, I don't fault a book for being slow -- I've loved a number of books that took many, many pages to do a thing -- but I do fault it for being uninteresting in the process. The slowness isn't due to character study; it isn't due to character moments; it isn't due to literary device; it's just due to Kay Kenyon.
And, for all that, in three books, the ending still felt contrived and hurried -- an odd feeling in a series that is paced so slowly.
The previous book of hers I've read is Maximum Ice. It was heart-breakingly slow and filled with uninteresting characters doing things in contrived ways. This was a story pushed to conclusion rather than a story told. I hated myself for having purchased Bright of the Sky b/c I knew I'd be stubborn enough to read the entire thing on the off-chance that her writing would improve with use. I tried reading The Braided World (some kind of weird follow-on-ish to Maximum Ice) but after a 3rd of the book I was dreading picking it up. The characters were her most boring yet -- I couldn't even remember their names, they were so dull.
I read through the authors and reviewers saying how great a writer Kay is and I can't help but wonder how much they got paid for them, for I fully believe none have read her books. She needs a course on how to breathe life into plastic; and her editor needs a job that doesn't involve editing books. Kay can come up with some stories with potential outlines but the delivery...well...it isn't there.