Bewildering Stories

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Book Review:
Karl Schroeder, Lady of Mazes

by Jerry Wright

Lady of Mazes
Author: Karl Schroeder
Publisher: Tor Science Fiction
Paperback: 384 pages
ISBN: 0765350785
Price: $6.99
I first ran into Karl Schroeder with the publication of Permanence which I reviewed back in Issue 38. By the way, I apologize for the green text on black background. We're slowly fixing that stuff.

Anyway, in looking up that link, I saw that Danielle has alreadly reviewed Lady Of Mazes in Issue 186. I'd forgotten that. Hmmph. Okay, Danielle says that the science in Lady Of Mazes is indistinguishable from magic. Here's the scary part... This story takes place just a few hundred years from now in the vicinity of Jupiter, and much of the technowhiz stuff is literally just around the corner. Ray Kurzwiel seems to think so, at least.

This would NOT be a book to give to someone just starting to read SF. It is hard science, and incredibly dense with ideas. The main characters, Livia, Aaron, and Quiingi are more than two dimensional, but in some ways not really three-dee. They don't jump off the page as do some characters. None-the-less, they are quite realistic, and Quiingi, in the manner of the Red Queen, can hold many contradictory thoughts, and before breakfast, too.

If you've read Danielle's review, you get the basic picture of the plot of this book, but along with Teven Coronal and the Archipelago, we have the lurking presence of god-like post-humans, and of the mysterious "anecliptics," the beings who shield Teven Coronal from interaction with the rest of the Solar System. Then there is the eschatus machine, capable of turning people into these post-human "gods".

In the end Lady of Mazes asks the famous question "What is the meaning of Life?" or "How can life be meaningful if 'reality' isn't real, but an infinitely malleable construct, and nothing basic ever changes?" Or similar questions. We do get some pretty good answers, but perhaps even an experienced SF reader might be put off by the magic technology. In some ways this is the epitome of deus ex machina. I really do recommend this book, and to quote Rich Horton: "And the closing passage (before a slightly anticlimactic epilogue) is truly lovely."

Copyright © 2006 Jerry Wright and Bewildering Stories

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