The Broken God by David Zindell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
It's really hard to emphasize just how important this book is.
Or, indeed, just how important the book before it is. Or, if I'm reading this correctly, how important the following two books are.
I'm in awe.
This is very much a Neverness book, set in the far future, rich with history, languages, high-technologies, and settled into comfortable and sometimes fraught castes that are so very, very human. The icy landscape, filled with skaters and mathematical prodigies, resplendent and decadent societies, poet-assassins, mage-technologists that model (and manipulate) human minds, DNA crafters, alien guests, warring gods in far parts of the galaxy (and galaxies), far off nano-recreations of worlds, sprawling machine intelligences, and the oncoming death of the universe.
All of these are important, are discussed, worried over, and become major plot points, but at the very core of this particular novel, it's all about the Broken God. You might say it's the Manichean Heresy. You might even say, "Yeah, we know our reality is broken... isn't it obvious?"
But the truth is far more subtle and amazing.
This novel takes what might be a Coming of Age story of Danlo, the lost son of Mallory, as he finds his path in the shadow of his father, and turns it into a setup of friendship that becomes a tale of epic enemies. And all through it is woven the concept of what is memory, what is spirituality, what is the corruption of a new, popular religious movement, and what is the nature of a godhood.
Mallory's shadow extends far.
But this is, again, not the complete tale. Zindell explores everything.
From philosophy to psychology to linguistics and the nature of human thought to the strange paths a high-technology can create religious fever and fervor in the implantation of memories, the alteration of chemicals, and the kinds of social structures that hunt and feed on our deepest desires and credulity.
And the entire time, it's a book that made me shiver and cry with the pain of a great story that should have ended in a friendship that might have lasted forever. A love story that, while suffering a lot of difficulty, still had the will to survive. Or the beginnings of a philosophy, a deep understanding of human nature, that should have brought enlightenment to all.
From the worldbuilding to the carefully constructed characters to the amazingly gorgeous panorama of this far-future vision of humanity, I can find no fault. It is a head-and-shoulder above MOST SF, period.
This, and the book before it, and probably the two books after it, ought to be on the MUST READ list for anyone who reads SF. If only to see what the fuss is all about, or start asking others (LIKE PUBLISHERS) why it isn't given a huge push once more. This could, theoretically, still take off like Dune had taken off. It is RICH as hell.
This would be justice.
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