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Edda is a very good read with an interesting storyline that is well told and enjoyable.  I recommend it if you like exciting fantasy adventure stories, but, as it is the third in a series you may wish to read Epic and Saga by the same author, first.

In the opening chapter we meet Penelope, a woman who spends almost all her conscious life in the game world, Edda.  Both her emaciated physical body and her avatar are supported by an electronic intelligence, Lord Scanthax, who has been able to conquer Edda, but only with Penelope’s creative support in manufacturing game world weapons.  But he hasn’t stopped there, though.  Through a series of portals created by Penelope he has also conquered a chain of other gaming worlds.

Meanwhile, in Saga, a high-tech gaming world containing millions of electronic intelligences, we meet Erik, a human who appears via a female avatar named Cindella (sic).  Erik meets with Ghost, the queen of Saga to investigate the clandestine visits of soldiers who come through the portal and only seem interested in stealing weapons.  They join with a team of human avatars and electronic intelligences in order to go through the portal to investigate.  The humans soon find that, if they wish to protect Saga from being reduced to a wasteland, they must fight their way through armies of mindless soldiers, solving complex problems as they go.  They are accompanied by Ghost and the other electronic intelligences in their group, of course.  They also use items and high-tech weapons that they carry despite their pacifist beliefs towards conscious and intelligent entities, electronic or otherwise.

As stated above, this is a good story.  It is well told with an excellent pace and no distracting mistakes of grammar or spelling.  The gaming worlds are depicted deftly and the numerous fight scenes were exciting.  Also, the magical creatures were imaginative although not particularly innovative.

In the first chapter, Edda started extremely well, hinting at interesting questions around the concepts of game life, avatars and consciousness, but this excellent start almost immediately slipped back into a simple adventure story, with a handful of super powerful fighters meeting – and usually fighting – magical creatures and huge mindless armies.  So the really interesting approach soon disappeared and Edda became an excellent adventure story instead.

There were a couple of minor weaknesses in the writing.  For example, the main human characters were pacifists but they were carrying powerful weapons and fighting everything they believed to be less than fully intelligent – with only a token check that it wasn’t sentient – but this is probably being unnecessarily fussy.  It is an adventure story after all.

Also, it is told from the universal viewpoint with the usual issues caused by this style mainly because the character motivations are revealed too easily.  As a result the tensions and interactions between the heroic characters are fairly straightforward and there is no presentation of the complexities of human relationships.

There was also one other slightly frustrating point.  Towards the end there is a huge leap in the narrative where suddenly the characters have found their way to a key location through magic.  Without any further struggle, the characters were where they needed to be and I this left me feeling cheated and tricked.  It gives the impression that the author ran out of energy, imagination or time and just jumped to the next part of the story.

Yet again as in virtually all the fantasy stories I read, the main plot is based on “Overcoming the Monster” (see The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker).  This is probably almost guaranteed for a story based on a gaming world.

And now for the awards.  I give it the following positive awards, which the author and publisher will probably like.  Each award is out of five.

• Three bathrooms for a good clean pace but including at least some rest intervals for the human characters when, presumably, they attended to their personal needs.  It wasn’t very often, of course, but at least there was some consideration.
• Two poons (if you don’t know what a poon is and you like sci-fi you must read Snow Crash, now!) for interesting characters.
• Five replicants for creating empathy for the electronic intelligences.  They can die (as opposed to the humans who only leave the world when they die) and this creates genuine empathy for them as they risk their lives.

I also give it the following awards which the author and publisher may not appreciate quite so much.

• One white cat being stroked on an evil villain’s lap for creating a two dimensional baddie, who is supposed to be conscious and intelligent but shows no depth of character.  Since it is a gaming world it is hard not to have the key bad guy simplistic so I have decided to be generous and there is only one white cat.
• Four fairy godmothers for misuse of magic to bypass an impossible situation without requiring the characters to use their own efforts and ingenuity to solve the problem.
• Five sonic screwdrivers for using an impossible and cliched technical device to find a username and password.  It just doesn’t work like that.

To summarize, this is a good story, fast paced and exciting.  I recommend it but don’t expect anything too deep and thoughtful.

Edda by Conor Kostick
The O’Brien Press (Publisher)
Review by Wayne J. Harris

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