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|The Traveler: Book 1
by Peter Krausche
Published by Musterion Press, 2005
Recommended by: Greg Slade
This volume comprises the first in a series, each to include interspersed instalments of storylines set in present-day Earth, another planet called Piral about 4500 years ago, and a third location and time which has yet to be specified. The present-day storyline begins with a man encountering a woman with a mysterious past and apparently magical abilities. The second storyline begins with a man walking into a pub in a village which appears not to have discovered gunpowder, and in which the compound bow is an exotic technology. However, it soon becomes clear that the man is not from that planet, and probably not even from that time.
I would go further into the setting, except that, at this point in the story, I'm not at all sure which details are crucial to understanding the plot, which are set dressing, and which are red herrings. Suffice it to say that all is not well on Piral. Terrorist atrocities are troubling settlements which had enjoyed a long period of peace, and the government seems unable to act effectively because it is caught up in particularly nasty and complicated court intrigue. In fact, it may well be that the people perpetrating the atrocities are the very people who are supposed to be defending the people against them.
On the positive side, I should say that Krausche is a good writer. His characters and their motivations are complex, and the story is blessedly free of the cardboard "being evil just for the sake of being evil" villains so beloved of lazy writers. In fact, at this point in the story, it's hard to tell who the "bad guys" really are. Krausche seems to hold to one of the principles I hold, which is that nobody does evil simply for the sake of being evil, but rather, even the most evil acts are committed in the pursuit of some good. (That is not to say that there are no "bad guys", but only that the "bad guys" are misguided or dysfunctional in their pursuit of something which they perceive to be good.)
What negatives I find in the work are more a matter of personal preference than absolute "wrongs." First, even though the backstory is apparently science fiction, the level of technology on the planet Piral is such that the bulk of the story reads as if it were fantasy, which happens not to be my personal preference in genre. Second, Krausche is writing one of those sprawling epics with a large cast of characters, many of whom don't even meet one another or even come close in the first volume, so there are multiple, apparently unrelated, plotlines in the first volume, which, presumably, will come together later in the story. Again, this happens not to be my personal preference in stories. Third, none of the story arcs come to any sort of conclusion in this volume. Instead it sets the stage for what is to come later: introducing the characters and the setting, and moving the characters to where they need to be for the next part of the story. Again, this is not at all unusual, especially in "fat fantasy" series, but I personally find it annoying. (In that, I have been spoiled by the works of Lois McMaster Bujold, who manages to have each of her books stand on its own, while at the same time having thematic arcs which span multiple volumes.)
In short, if you are into sprawling, multi-volume, fantasy epics, you may find that this work suits your taste, even if you aren't normally into science fiction. (April, 2006)
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