Otherland: River of Blue Fire

Otherland: River of Blue Fire

By: Tad Williams


(Sci-fi with Cyberpunk tendencies?)

Before the novel even starts, Tad Williams explains how Otherland to him is just one very long novel, but out of necessity had to be broken into multiple volumes, which explains the abrupt cliff hangers. My estimation would put the whole story in the neighborhood of 2,500 pages, so I can understand why he had to break it up. I would also like to thank him so much for the synopsis at the beginning of the book! I hope every installment has one. With such a complex story it’s easy to forget a few important details, no matter how closely you pay attention.

Otherland is a dense series, and it can take a little time to work your way through it, but I think it’s worth it.  That being said, here is my advice:

Take your time with it.  Read slowly and let it absorb.  You really need to read and thoroughly comprehend each and every sentence. They are so loaded with information that without doing so you might become hopelessly lost.  No skimming here.

I find the “netfeeds” at the start of every chapter add depth to the story, and help you get to know the not so distantly futuristic world that spawns Otherland.  It gives subtle insights into the sociology of the society itself. Catherine Fisher’s Incarceron used a similar technique and it really adds to the story.

Otherland is a story of different people traveling through different worlds created on the internet.  Some worlds are more interesting than others, but that’s a matter of personal taste.  This book spent most of its time in Otherland, rather than the real world, compared to City of Golden Shadow which spent a lot of time in the real world, and I liked that more. What can I say?  Reality is overrated. Many of the worlds in Otherland come from classic stories. I’m a fan of re-imaginings and Tad Williams’ take on a twisted version of the Wizard of Oz has to be my favorite so far.

Being a slow moving story, and with so many different characters and plot lines, the development of those characters is slow moving as well. It took until the end of this book for me to feel much closer to them than I had before, especially Renie and !Xabbu, who have an undefinable relationship that made it difficult for me to connect with them.

As the story progresses we learn more about the man behind the Otherland network and the mentality of the people who contributed to its creation, as well as the connections between the many characters introduced so far, and a few new ones. I have to say, Paul Jonas and little Christabell continue to be my favorites, and Paul makes some great strides in his journey, while things get a little complicated for Christabell.  Martine’s back story is also intriguing.

The more I read it the more I like it, but it does require more effort than other books I’ve read.  Still, I think it’s worth the investment.  I look forward to Mountain of Black Glass.  With all that has happened so far I can’t imagine what will happen with the next two books of the series. Until then…

Happy Reading!


Memorable Quote: “…the stewed beets…seemed to find the whole thing wildly funny, and were shouting out useless, drunken advice indiscriminately to both boaters and predatory utensils.”

Memorable Typo: “Any anyway, we cannot spent time here talking, talking.”