Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Book Review: 'Convergent Paradox' by Stewart Sanders

UK author Stewart Sanders has a remarkably and refreshingly rich imagination. In this second installment in his projected series THE PARADOX CONSECUTION he demonstrates his keen sense of time travel, time shifting, shape shifting and science fiction in general all glued together with a strange sense of fantasy building. The subtitle `4 lives lived in parallel (or `4llIP' - you'll get used to such things!) offers the reader the gist of this second installment and for a series, Stewart continues a fairly high standard to which he must adhere to make this project sail.

Before Stewart opens his Book 2 he offers a refrain he calls Moments Before Paralysis Paradox Prologue: ‘The lab was unlike anywhere I had worked before. Rather than a few spheres working around a subject, or on apparatus, there were thousands of us all darting around the one large complex. It was hard to make out the walls from the inside; some were completely transparent, others opaque. Two metres thick and formed from amiduranium crystal, impenetrable even to a neutron burst. A supernova could blow the planet away, yet each one of the massive crystals that had grown out from the planetary core and existed four thousand miles deep would survive. The Secret Sentient Complex existed within a single crystal, rising thousands of stories up into the liquid outer core. A city that had been grown and then hollowed for our use. Physically impenetrable without using quantum-temporal technology— a technology that the enemy would never possess. (Not that the enemy even knew we still existed. To them, we would be myth by now.) It was the same tech that we used to criss-cross the galaxy. The planet core housed a stable civilisation of two trillion, all working away on numerous projects. All hidden away since our near extinction at the battle of Torrendior. Although since being here, I had only met the few hundred who worked in this crystal. And only one of them paid me any attention. It was my Alpha, so to be fair, it was obliged to. I yearned to be free of this lab, as I had spent the last four hundred planetary spins looking at the galaxy through the project’s quantum-entangled telescope, yet not being allowed outside. Technology like this made it very hard for anything to remain hidden from us for long. Today could be the day that I escape. My mission in the sentient project had been a failure. But then how had any of the Alphas expected a researcher who specialised in longevity materials to help with finding sentient life? My very existence here was being questioned. I was not meant to know this, but I could tell. At best I was treated like a tiresome irritant. My fellows discussed amino acids, behaviours, and evolution. Conversations that were alien to me. At a push I could inform them on fossilization, but still this was life that was long dead. Ultimately inert, inactive matter.’

That sets in motion more of the four lives in this volume: ‘In the fifth aeon of the Earth, upon the final epoch of humanity, I live my four lives, converging ever closer, but still ignorant of my mission…I’ve seen airships and spheres clash high above a cataclysmic sky, Smelt aniseed and sulphur, foul betrayers of medieval corruption, Heard the songs and screams of ancestral monkeys’ cry, And tasted the poison of Fair Rosamund’s destruction. Return to the story of my four lives lived in parallel; four lives spread across time and space. Lives that unravel between a covert sentient project hidden deep within a planet’s core, to a time of intrigue between agents of the Secret Service Bureau, investigating the vagrancy of Her Majesty’s first airship. But is this reality or an anaesthetised simulation, designed to lead a young girl to an impending ritual? And for what end?’

Challenging, fantasy bound, and full of science and stranger fields, Stewart continues to prove that he is able to make this series work. Another strong episode! Grady Harp, June 16

Editor's note: This review has been published with the permission of Grady Harp. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.