30 January 2011

Book Review - The Maker of Universes

I’m not sure why I waited so long to read this book. It is the first of the World of Tiers Series by Philip José Farmer. This book had great influence on Roger Zelazny as he created his Chronicles of Amber series. I became interested in the Amber series nearly twenty years ago when a diceless role-playing game was released set in the Amber universe.

On top of this, about five years ago I learned of the Wold Newton Universe that was a creation of Philip José Farmer. I loved the Wold Newton concept and began exploring Farmer’s other writings.

So now, finally, I’ve begun reading a series by one of my favorite authors which was the basis of another author’s creation that became one of the my favorite role-playing games. As I said earlier, I’m not sure why I waited so long to begin reading it.

I was not disappointed in it.

The tale begins in Arizona circa 1965. Robert Wolff, an old man facing retirement, discovers a portal to another world. A man named Kickaha in that world throws him a horn that can open the portal to that world. Later Wolff manages to re-open the portal and finds himself in a fantastic new world.

Over a period of days he encounters the peaceful and child-like natives. It is a world of plenty with little suffering; a paradise. During these early days Wolff begins to lose weight and becomes younger.

However paradise is not all it’s cracked up to be. Immortality and having all their need met have made the natives weak and unable to handle the simplest of challenges. Wolff meets and eventually falls in love with a strange woman named Chryseis. She claims to be the same Chryseis mentioned in the stories of the Trojan Wars.

Things begin to get interesting as strange misshapen creatures appear hunting the horn in Wolff’s possession. On top of this, these creatures have also kidnapped Kickaha and plan to take him to the Lord of the world. Additionally we find out why the series is called World of Tiers. This new world is a series of gigantic cylinders stacked atop each other. Thirty to sixty thousand foot climbs are required to get up or down to another tier of the world, an act that is forbidden by the Lord.

To make a long story short, and to avoid giving away any spoilers of the storyline, Wolff, Kickaha, Chryseis, and others make their way across all of the layers of the World of Tiers in an attempt to learn the secret of the Lord. They travel across the varied and interesting civilizations across the various tiers. The whole story captures the feel of the stories of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

Overall this book is very interesting, an easy read, and a perfect set up for a series. If you like interesting worlds, monsters, and civilizations it might be worth your while to give this book a shot.

While poking around looking at book review blogs and looking for ways to make my future book reviews less lame I came across the 100+ Reading Challenge at My Overstuffed Bookshelf blog. It is an attempt to get people to try to read a hundred or more books during the year.

I’ve gotten a slow start this year, but since audio books are included in the count I might have a shot. I think that in a normal year I read thirty to forty books, but it will be interesting and motivational to keep track of what I’m reading. Unfortunately it doesn’t include short stories, magazines, and internet articles that take up a chunk of my reading time.

At least I’ll get some extra mileage out of my library card this year.

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