8th September 2014

Shadow of Worlds by JD Lovil

This is quite an ambitious undertaking in many respects. The idea of shifting between parallel worlds (loosely based on ideas from Quantum Mechanics) is not a new one; but the epic style in which this book is written is something new, at least to me.

Although written as a first person narrative, from the point of view of Rafe, a ‘walker’ (who can travel between worlds), the narrative is more often in the style of a mythological epic. The story moves from one strange world to another; the characters are themselves epic (many being ‘gods’) and the events, particularly those of the finale, occur on a meta-cosmic scale. The scenes are often painted with very broad brushstrokes, with little detail. Occasionally there are ‘closeups’, so to speak, of Rafe, and his interactions with his fellow travellers and others. But even many of these have a larger than life feel to them.

The story itself is somewhat conventional: the world or, in this case, the worlds are threatened by some nasty kind of something from the outer edges of reality, which is doing something a bit nasty to the more human-like bits of reality, and will probably end in the destruction of everything. The details are left vague. The good guys are summoned together to confront this threat. There are a few interesting little glimpses of other worlds and some of the characters’ back stories along the way, but these are subsumed beneath the larger narrative.

For the most part, the other worlds through which the main group of travellers pass—the more or less human (and lupine) contingent—are very sketchily outlined. Too much detail of too many such worlds would have become tedious, and no doubt cracks would have shown in the natural, political and social laws of these worlds with too much scrutiny. This is, therefore, quite a wise decision on the part of the author. Nevertheless, something on a smaller time/place scale would have been welcome. Because everything is so epic, and the story moves so quickly towards the denouement, the characters never become very real. This includes the narrator. I had no sense of connection with them. They were never placed in any jeopardy that made sense on a simply human scale. The destruction of everything everywhere for all time is not the kind of threat that I, as a human being stuck in one reality, can really identify with. I didn’t really much care whether the good guys won or lost. I would have cared more if I had known two or three of them more intimately, and they had faced a more intimate and personal threat along the way.

While I admire the scope of this book, and the free run that it allows the author’s imagination, I would have preferred that the focus be on the non-epic, with the epic as the backdrop against which this more intimate story was told. The best SF and fantasy works precisely in this way. As regards the author’s imagination, in some ways the freedom he allows himself is excessive. He has created a setting in which pretty much anything goes. I would prefer a little more discipline and structure, within which his imagination could operate. It is also difficult to take seriously any potential threat to the main protagonist when he can (apparently) go anywhere, or shape reality in any way he chooses. The author runs the risk of making the characters and their circumstances so far removed from the lives and concerns of the readers that they have no interest in them and no way of identifying with them.

On a more technical note, there are places where the author loses control of his grammar, particularly in his use of the tenses of verbs, and when marrying verb with subject. I would recommend more thorough copy editing/proofreading in subsequent volumes in the series.

I give this three and a half stars, but round up to four for sites without half stars.