Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Thu Jan 16 18:22:37 EST 1992

Raymond's Reviews #149

%T Black Sun Rising
%A C. S. Friedman
%D September 1991
%O clothbound, US$18.95
%P 489
%G ISBN 0-88677-485-3

After C. S. Friedman's remarkable debut in In Conquest Born, I was quite disappointed by her sprawling, unfocused second novel Madness Season. This third is quite a bit better, but still suffers from being flabby and luridly overwritten in spots.

I'm beginning to develop a suspicion that Friedman is one of those writers that needs a strong editorial hand to trim the excesses of her talent. My guess is she had it in Conquest, but the remarkable success of that novel got her too free a hand in Season. This, fortunately, is a more disciplined and much superior work.

On the planet Erna, floating amidst jewel-bright stars near the galactic core, human beings have lived for 1200 years. Very early after landing they discovered the fearsome power of the fae, native organisms who respond to, feed on, and sometimes amplify the power of human thought impulses.

Sacrifice is powerful. Humans made an uneasy accommodation with Erna through the Great Sacrifice, surrendering technology and most of their links to Earth and instead delving deeper into the mysteries of the fae.

Damien Vryce is a priest of the One Church, a faith that rejects fae magic and dreams of regaining science and the stars -- a church haunted by the fall of its Prophet into evil and madness. He begins to fall in love with the adept Ciani, a pagan. When her memories and adepthood are stolen by demons out of the alien rakhlands, he swears revenge. And finds an unlikely ally; the Hunter, a vampire being of terror and darkness who is bound to the woman by his honor, his last remaining link to humanity.

Nothing on Erna is quite what it seems -- for Damien, Ciani, or even the Hunter. And at the heart of the rakhlands waits a revelation that will shatter all the certainties of their world.

This is the premise of Stasheff's Warlock series played seriously, rather than for laughs. Damned impressively, too; Friedman blends SF and fantasy motifs with consummate skill, and creates a world both intricate and surprising. The only fly in the ointment is her tendency to slip into melodrama and excessively purple prose.

Well, one of two flies, actually. You get no clue that this book is the first of a multi-volume epic until very, very near the end, and no confirmation until the author's bio at the back. At least Friedman resolves her plot properly, no cliffhanger ending here.

I will look forward to the next volume of the Coldfire trilogy, albeit with some reservations. I'm not sure I can recommend this at hardcover prices, but don't miss the paperback.


Stranger Suns by George Zebrowski (Bantam). Tom Easton said it all in Analog.

Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Thu Jan 16 18:22:37 EST 1992

Eric S. Raymond <esr@snark.thyrsus.com>