Tuesday, September 28, 2010

World of Tiers - Part One

The World of Tiers 1The World of Tiers 1 by Philip José Farmer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The World of Tiers is a step-pyramid of mind-boggling size, each tier populated with people plucked from various points in the earth's history as well as monsters created by the super science of the Lord. As with other three in one volumes, I'll be reviewing these as I read them.

The Maker of Universes: The Maker of Universes starts out with Robert Wolff, a hen-pecked retiree, hearing the sounds of a horn being blown inside the basement closet of a house he and his wife are thinking of buying. Wolff opens the door and discovers a gateway to another world. Upon entering the gateway, Wolff finds himself on a paradysical beach, the lowest tier. Without giving too much of the plot away, Wolff ends up on a journey to the Lord's house on the highest level, along with the trickster Kickaha and Chryseis, a gorgeous woman from ancient Greece.

Farmer's writing reminds me a lot of Roger Zelazny's. His books are full of ideas but short and to the point. Why take a thousand pages to say something that can be said in one-hundred and fifty? The story is gripping. It doesn't fall into the trap most quest stories fall into, aka the boring middle of the journey syndrome. It's essentially a planetary romance. On a side note, The Maker of the Universe is one of the books that inspired Roger Zelazny to write the Amber series.

The Gates of Creation: Wolff is awakened in the middle of the night by a flying hexaclum sent by his father, Urizen, telling him he's kidnapped Chryseis and wants Wolff to try to get her back. He touches the hexaclum and is transported to a water world where his siblings have likewise been trapped. The siblings travel across multiple pocket dimensions, some dying along the way, until arriving at Urizen's citadel. Unfortunately, things aren't completely as they seem...

I thought the writing was better in Gates of Creation than in The Maker of Universes. The story was good and although I half-suspected one of the twists, it was still surprising. On the other hand, it suffered from a lack of Kickaha. I'm looking forward to the third story.

A Private Cosmos: Kickaha leaves the Bear People and heads for Talanac and stumbles upon an otherworldly invasion by the body-stealing Black Bellers in the process. In the process of combatting the invasion, he jumps to all leveles of the Tiers and even to the moon, developing a relationship with a Lord, Anana, Wolff's sister.

A Private Cosmos was probably the fastest-paced book in this volume. Kickaha goes from the frying pan into the fire many times but his escapes are fairly believable. The relationship between Kickaha and Anana didn't seem forced. I loved that Wolff turned the moon into a copy of Barsoom for Kickaha's amusement.

The first World of Tiers is a great addition to the collection of any reader of science fantasy. It's like Edgar Rice Burroughs but with better science and better writing. It should also appeal to fans of Roger Zelazny's Amber series, of which it is an ancestor of sorts.

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