27 April, 2009

Review: Bright of the Sky, by Kay Kenyon


The Bright of the Sky, by Kay Kenyon is the first book of her Entire and the Rose tetralogy, is published by Pyr (Feb 2008), and is blessed with some truly beautiful cover art.

The Setup

     A semi-sentient super-computer destroys a space station trying to answer a question posed to it by a research physicist. The answer turns out to be, drumroll, a world that exists beyond our own, replete with fascinating aliens and cultures. Of course, Titus Quinn has been there before, but no one wanted to believe him. Now the opportunity presents itself for  him to go back to the Entire and save his wife and daughter. 
    The Entire offers a safe means of space travel far exceeding the current Kardachev tunnels, and is itself a feudalistic world controlled by remorseless alien rulers. Quinn must subdue the ambitions of the mega-corporation that sends him back to the Entire while avoiding the alien overlords who want him dead. Enter Anzi, Quinn's willing guide, a beautiful native of the Entire and niece to the ruler of a powerful province. Will her shrouded past and murky pledge of loyalty see Quinn safely reunited with his family or will his own lost memories prove his undoing?

My Take in Brief

    I need to say first off that I came into this with high expectation given some of the respected blog reviews of The Bright of the Sky that I read, specifically those on MentatJack, SFSignal, and Pat's Fantasy Hotlist. I was hooked by the first chapter, and that got me through the rest of the book, but just barely.  
    To say that it was a let down would be an understatement; I struggled to finish the book. I felt like I was stuck on one of those terribly slow Amtrak trains --- you know exactly where its going to stop but your just not getting there quick enough. There were some high points to be sure, but all in all these failed to compensate for what was invariably a dull ride. If Kay Kenyon had kept the energy and unpredictability of the first chapter going this would have been an amazing read. Unfortunately that was not the case.
    The Bright of the Sky subtly incorporates hard science fiction with earthy fantasy in a convincing way, but if you are looking for that kind of mix, then maybe fall back on someone who leaves you wanting to come back for more, such as Peter F. Hamilton in his Void trilogy

The Characters

    Titus Quinn and especially his daughter Sydney are compelling, believable, and colorful. They lead vivid if somewhat restrained internal lives, and are for the most part endearing.
Without exception I found everyone else to be flat, monochromatic, and strikingly unconvincing. 
    I had to stop reading a few times when, for example, the scholar Su Bei, after an interminable internal monologue in which he swears to himself that he will not give anyway any secrets to Quinn, promptly does exactly that. 
    Anzi, Quinn's guide for most of the novel is so bland I almost sprayed the book with ketchup. Although to be fair she is a fitting representation of her culture as a whole. Kenyon is exceedingly proficient at drawing out cultural stereotypes and personifying them as characters in her work.

Highlights
  • The first chapter was a hard science fiction work of art.
  • The rich, almost poetic textures of the world just beyond our own.
  • The blind riders of the Inyx and their symbiotic telepathic relationship.
  • The colorfully unique if sometimes brutal mores of the peoples of the Entire.
  • A compelling and imaginative story.
The Setup
  • Exceedingly poor and glossed description of a future earth.
  • Inconsistent and monochromatic secondary characters.
  • Poor transitions between chapters and even paragraphs.
  • A generally confusing sense of perspective; you are left wandering who is talking.
  • The brutal linearity of the story.
  • An ending that seems never to end... like subway doors that refuse to open.
  • I could go on but I like to think of myself as a nice person.
Your Take

    Someone please tell me why I am wrong here. I honestly don't get what others saw in this beyond the general beauty of the Entire and its peoples. I'll even repost your comments here just to give a balanced view.

Ratings

Amazon: 4.75/5
B&N: 5/5
SFSignal: 4/5
SFReviews: 3.5/5
My Rating: 2.75/5

Piqued Your Interest?

     If I haven't scared you off already or you just want to go ahead and prove me wrong. Go ahead and check out Bright of the Sky

6 comments:

ediFanoB said...

That was an interesting read. Normally I don't read SF but like you I read some other reviews. So I added the book to my list. After reading your review I have to think about the book again. After reading your review I'm indecisive.

bloggeratf said...

Heh, at least I sparked some interest. Sorry to make you confused...

alain said...

At last a negative review, I was doubting my own reading of this confusing novel !
Thanks

bloggeratf said...

Yea I've gotten quite a few D's on twitter saying the same thing! Hope you enjoyed the review.

Yvette Davis said...

I really enjoyed the beginning of this book - the chapter with Quinn and his family, and even the Chinese lord - but when it came time for the section break, it was as if --- the editor suddenly intruded into the work. It seemed like the flavor or voice changed, and became flatter. I assume that is due to editing.

I've enjoyed many of Kenyon's other books -- Seeds of Time, Maximum Ice are two of my favorites - but I didn't make it through BOTS.

I will do my best to pick up the rest of her novels and see about reading them, then maybe come back and read the 2nd in the trilogy and see if it makes more sense.

bloggeratf said...

Hey Yvette, I like your comments about the editor, they seem spot on. There is a definite tension in the work between the poetic and the concrete.

Admittedly, my exposure to Kay Kenyon is limited to this book. If you really do go through with your plan to compare her works, I would be delighted to post your write up.

Thanks for being so politic even after having met the author!