|Tad Williams is almost totally, an author of fantasy novels. All save four of his books fall into the realms of fantasy, sword and sorcery. These four, make up the Otherland series. Otherland marks quite a diversion for this author, as Otherland is from a genre known as Cyberpunk. Good cyberpunk novels are renowned as being both the most frequent source of inspiration for developers of modern VR systems, and for having predicted a great many technological breakthroughs which have either come true, or parallel modern lab research precisely.
The Otherland series is epic. Each of the four tomes weighs in at 750 pages or more, and whilst each is capable of standing as a novel in it?s own right, full enjoyment can only be gleamed from reading all, in order. The series is well worth the time and trouble to read it, as it is engrossing, absorbing and compelling, all the while working to juggle a dozen or more different threads which branch off and coalesce back into a whole that never fails to stimulate the imagination. It?s a shame these are the author?s only VR works.
Otherland Book 1: City of Golden Shadow
The first book in the Otherland Saga, City of Golden Shadow introduces the basics of total immersion VR technologies that are expanded upon in later books. It showcases many different applications from gaming to shopping, to relaxation, social nooks and crannies. The darker, legal side of things, and the sinister aspects that flow as an undercurrent, giving meat to the scientific, absorbing saga begin here, as the political and socio-economic climate of the parent world is defined. Many lesser VR situations, still decades ahead of our current tech, are explored in detail, in the build-up to finding Otherland, that ultimate alternative reality. Otherland, the pinnacle of what VR can be, that is birthed by the best minds of two generations. Otherland, shrouded in secrecy. Otherland, that appears to be eating children.
Otherland Book 2: River of Blue Fire
The main characters of the first book, in the most part, have finally arrived in Otherland, that ultimate in alternate reality systems. Most of this book, aside from opening up new plotlines, and setting events in motion for the confrontations of the next, deals with the discoveries about Otherland, interacting with the people there, the situations, the simulations, the stream of worlds, and of course the ever-present river of blue fire, the thread that binds the worlds like the thread of a pearl necklace. River of Blue Fire is filled with mind-opening concepts about everything from the nature of AI, the concept of reality and world-view to mind uploading, virtual consciousness and an instantaneous interface.
Otherland Book 3: Mountain of Black Glass
In the third book, the darkness that has been gathering and strengthening all through books one and two, hits full force. Building straight on from the cliff-hanger at the end of the second. Mountain of Black Glass deals with the secrets of the Brotherhood, the secretive organisation behind Otherland, the ones perhaps, just perhaps, responsible for the fates of the missing children. The Brotherhood are the guardians of the ultimate secrets, and capabilities of this ultimate alternative reality environment. Otherland's greatest, and darkest secret, an entity known only as the Other, an entity all too easily extrapolated from current research, and just a pinch of imagination, awaits discovery by the intrepid heroes as they begin to cross unfinished Otherland landscapes, approaching it's very core.
Otherland Book 4: Sea of Silver Light
The final book of a long, and beautiful saga, swiftly approaching 3000 pages in its four book length. Sea of Silver Light serves to wrap up the thousands of loose ends generated in the proceeding three books. It delves deep into the nature of consciousness, the concepts of AI, further into the workings of uploaded minds, morality, and the criminal mindset. It explodes into glorious, fast paced action as it nears it's conclusion, about mid book, then takes a sharp turn to the left, just as it is reaching that, and opens a horrendous can of memes. Not just concluding the series' plot, Sea of Silver Light looks right into the heart of Otherland, right into the heart of the paradigm of virtual reality, then, is looks at what lays beyond. Over and above, through and past virtual reality, with a stunning mix of ideas and concepts that will make your head throb and split.