Review of A WORLD TOO NEAR by Kay Kenyon (see her website)
BOOK TWO OF THE ENTIRE AND THE ROSE
Pyr, March 2008
Titus Quinn has learned the secret of the "Entire," an artificial universe created by a mysterious race of aliens--and that secret terrifies him. The Tarig intend to consume the entire human universe, something they call the "Rose" as fuel to keep their beautiful but unstable creation functioning. Back on earth, scientists create a nano-eater which will, they hope, consume the machinery being used to destroy the universe. Equiped with this ultimate weapon, Quinn returns to the Entire. There, his daughter wages her own war against the Tarig, and his wife, long-believed dead, serves as a spy deep in Tarig confidence.
Quinn cannot return to the Entire alone, however. The ambitious Helice Maki wangles her way into joining him. Once on the Entire, she tells Quinn that the nano-eater is defective, that it will not stop with destruction of the machinery but will continue eating until the Entire is reduced to dust. As Helice is a known liar, Quinn is torn. But Helice escapes his custody and joins his daughter, poisoning her against Quinn.
Fortunately, Quinn can count on a number of allies, including the beautiful Anzi, and a Tarig willing to betray the Entire to save the Rose.
Author Kay Kenyon (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Kenyon) creates a wonderful universe in the Entire, as well as a convincingly dystopic Earth (where ordinary people, called 'dreds' for their 100 IQ, simply consume, with no function not better performed by machinery). Using bits from legend, religious doctrine, and songs, Kenyon makes the Entire feel extremely real and three-dimensional. In a lot of ways, THE ROSE AND THE ENTIRE is like a SHOGUN in space--a European enters a strange, beautiful, and deadly world controlled by powers he cannot fully understand, playing for stakes that our protagonist doesn't really see.
A WORLD TOO NEAR is strangely beautiful but far from perfect. Perhaps some of what appear to be logic breakdowns will be explained in later books, but they left me feeling like Kenyon simply hadn't thought everything through. Why, for example, does it matter whether the nano-eater will stop or consume the Entire if the destruction of the machinery will quickly doom it anyway? And if the nano-eater is defective, having Quinn get through the deadly mazes is pointless--releasing the eater anywhere will have the same effect. The Tarig-lord's wish to have his involvement remain a secret doesn't seem consistent with his willingness to expose himself, on multiple occasions. Sydney's plot to overthrow the Tarig by nightmare is clever, but I found the nature of those nightmares narrow-minded (the Tarig are different from us--hate-hate). I also found the characters generally unsympathetic. Quinn is self-absorbed, Johanna a fanatic, and Sydney (Quinn's daughter) a dupe. Helice has potential, but she comes off as a one-dimensional badguy. Finally, with multiple universes on which to draw, the Tarig seem to have selected Earth as the model for much of the Entire. Are we really that special? Or did Kenyon slack on her world-building just a bit?
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