Thursday, November 19, 2015

The Darkling Wind, by S.P. Somtow

This week I'm finishing the series referred to as The Chronicles of the High Inquest with the final book, The Darkling Wind. Again, as this is pretty soon after my review of the previous book, Utopia Hunters, it's because my friend foisted the last two upon me at once and I'd like to return these books in a timely manner. Largely because I hate people who borrow books for two years and then never read them. Anyway, this is the very last of a rather odd series of books which by the author's own admission is a five book trilogy contained in four novels.

I'll begin by saying that everything that happens in the previous three books definitely feels like it's been building up to the final book. And it opens very triumphantly with prologues and a dramatis personae of the seven Inquestors at the center of this story so it certainly feels like you're getting into an epic adventure. The problem I had was as you start getting into the novel it felt less like an epic adventure and more like a chore. The one thing I noticed about this book was that it dragged for so long. I think it ties back to that the ultimate fate is sort of known to the reader. We know the Inquest falls, mankind enters a ''dark age'' of sorts, and the facts about the Inquest become shrouded in myth and legend. We're told as much in the prologue, we know what the ultimate ending is going to be. It's not a matter of if the Inquest is going to fall, it's just a matter of how. Sort of like in the third of those movies which shall not be named. We already knew the Jedi were going to be wiped out and Anakin Skywalker was going to become Darth Vader, we just didn't know the how. And so while you've got characters walking around, fighting over the fate of the galaxy, I just couldn't get invested in the conflict because I knew how it was going to end. The fact that at one point one character explicitly says he doesn't care about the Inquest and their war made it even more difficult for me to care as a reader.

During this war there are also half-hearted attempts at arguing philosophy and the characters themselves even state they're bored with going over the same arguments again and again. No, literally, one character actually says that. So hearing them argue about philosophy when they themselves aren't even really interested is tedious at best. And you might even say it's not really an argument because one side wants to perpetuate the Inquest with their ''compassion'' and pretend wars, while the other wants to end the Inquest and doesn't really offer anything as a replacement. Granted, humanity doesn't really need the Inquest as far as I'm concerned because they don't accomplish anything useful, But I feel like the Shadow Inquest's arguments are underdeveloped to say the least. Mostly ''The Inquest is bad. We should stop them.'' So it sort of lurches along and eventually the Inquest just...self-destructs. And that's it. We're done. War's over. All the Inquestors are dead. Just like that. It feels very anti-climatic considering the pomp that went into launching the book.

The absolute final ending is a little interesting but also confusing. Well, the confusing part involves time-travel and people in stasis and I don't entirely understand it so let's not worry about it too much. But at the very end there are two short appendices which in a very weird way claim that the entire thing is mythological claptrap and in our enlightened future age we're not even sure that the Inquest exists or not. It's a little meta considering that Somtow himself is writing these stories, and then appendices to these stories, claiming that they're all made up. It's...interesting to say the least.

Basically when I was reading this book I just couldn't wait for it to be over, and I'm a little surprised I made it through the entire thing if I'm being honest. It just sort of ends and you're finally glad the ordeal is over more than anything else. Personally I feel kind of bad because these books mean a lot to my friend, but for whatever reason I'm just not getting the appeal.

- Kalpar

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