Monday, November 23, 2009

The Quest

Well the trip went fine. Las Vegas seems to be much the same as always; the crowds a little thinner than I've seen before though, probably due to the economy. I had quite a bit of time to read though and completed both books I brought along. The first was The Quest, by Wilbur Smith. As I mentioned before, this is the fourth and perhaps final volume of his ancient Egyptian series, which began with the excellent The River God followed by The Seventh Scroll and Warlock. Many folks have commented on the declining quality of this series and I see that, as well, to some extent. The first book was just so outstanding (it's in my top 10 list of all time great reads) that some deterioration was inevitable. This book seems to have received some brutal reviews though.

The book continues the story of Taita, a "long-liver" sage who sets off to solve and set right a series of plagues that are hitting the Nile Valley. Turns out the source is the evil "God" Eos. The cat and mouse confrontation between these two form the basis of the novel. Another major plot thread is the reincarnation of Taita's true love from the first book in the series. Since Taita is an enoch from way back, the author finds a way to have his manhood regrown through a process akin to using stem cells. I'll admit to this whole sub plot being extremely convenient for the main characters, a bit too contrived for my taste.

I think many people have problems with this book because it is not what they are expecting. This entire series is billed as "historical fiction" and the first book certainly seemed to be so but that moniker has long since worn off. The series has transposed into fantasy, pure and simple. The title itself is indicative of the genre and there are numerous examples of true magic throughout the book: pillars turning into faces that give directions, Taita turning invisible at will or mind travelling over great distances to give messages to others. Whatever historical accuracy might exist here is beside the point. Also, this is a fairly erotic novel with numerous sexual innuendos and some downright graphic sex scenes in it. This is my 6th Wilbur Smith book and although he does put in quite a few erotic encounters I think this is his rawest novel so far of the ones I've read.

I've pointed out some of the negative aspects of this novel, but there are positive points also, particularly if you don't mind the fantasy aspects. The story itself flows well and urges the reader to keep turning pages to see what happens next. The author has a way of allowing the reader in to his characters' minds making it realistic despite the very nature of the fantasy involved. And it's a downright fun book to read. A grand adventure full of danger, excitement, pitfalls, triumphs, and a good, satisfying ending. There is a definite end but should the author wish to continue the series, there is room for it to keep going. If he does, I will continue along with him.

More tomorrow on the second book from my trip.


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  • "The Killer Angels" by Michael Shaara
  • "The Dark Elf Trilogy" by RA Salvatore
  • "Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss
  • "River God" by Wilbur Smith
  • "Mortalis" by RA Salvatore
  • "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card
  • "Centennial" by James A Michener
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  • "Prairie" by Anna Lee Waldo
  • "The Wild Blue" by W. Boyne & S Thompson
  • "Unsolicited" series by Julie Kaewert
  • "Freedom" by William Safire