The Fall of Yquatine
Fitz is great, he really is. Doomed to fall in love/lust and never quite get the all important break he needs to solidify a relationship. Maybe it's the fact that I feel so much in common with him that leads me to think this is a great novel, because although there's much to recommend it, the Fitz sections are undoubtedly the best.
Nick Walters has done a fine job of depicting a futuristic metropolis, with its beautiful scenery and pokey little bars full of oddly behaving foreigners - reading it felt like being on holiday, which coupled with Fitz's romantic endeavours induced a feeling of festival enjoyment. Make no mistake, Fall of Yquatine presents a real sense of place - the consistently high quality prose making it easy to believe in the people and events of the world.
And then it's destroyed, which is heart-breaking really, that something so brilliant should be brought to an end by universal indifference, a confluence of coincidences. This is the theme of the novel, that many of the things that happen to us happen not because of malice or good intent, or even fate. They just happen because they do, and the universe doesn't care about us one way or the other.
However, this doesn't mean we can't make a difference, as the Doctor, Compassion and Fitz all play a part in the resolution to the situation. Fitz is taken back in time to before Yquatine's destruction - taxi service provided by Compassion, who promptly leaves him there in an attempt to deal with her own issues. With the three leads separated, there's plenty of scope for them all to wonder if they've done the right thing. Fitz wrestles with his mind, unsure whether to alert the authorities to the impending disaster, Compassion wrestles with her body, somewhat in shock at the Doctor's 'rape' of her insides (he tries to install a randomisation circuit which goes wrong) and the Doctor wrestles with the aftermath of Yquatine's destruction.
There are two main supporting characters, Arielle (the love interest) and president Vargeld. Their stories are told effectively, and there's a genuine exploration of their thoughts and emotions. It appears that Walters has chosen to go for great characterisation on the five main characters and very little on the rest of the cast, but in my opinion that's no bad thing. I'd rather have five great characters than twenty average ones.
Criticisms include the (once again) cardinal sin of anthropomorphising earth species as alien races. Checklist features the tiger race, the insect race and the snake race. However the silicon race and crystal race are somewhat more interesting, despite one of them being called 'Adamantean'.
The other major failing is the ending, which seems a little forced. The main bad guy is superceded by a youngster of her own race, who just so happens not to believe in the 'old ways' any more despite the fact she's been raised on them and decides to sign a peace treaty. It just felt convenient, even if the reasoning was logical.
Thankfully, this doesn't detract from the novel too much, and we're left with a satisfying and at times exciting novel that pushes character to the fore.
Review by Tom Hey