September 11, 2002

Hammerfall by C.J. Cherryh

This is the story of an ordeal--a tale in which physical endurance against the harsh elements and wild beasts is key. Man against his environment. And the thing about ordeal stories is that it takes endurance to read them. I've always liked Cherryh's books, but I've always had to be in the right mood.

The main character, Marak Trin Tain, is a great warrior. His world, a desert planet settled by humans in the distant past, is but sparsely populated. There are the tribes, nomads who live in the deep desert; the villages, each centered around its spring; and the holy city of Oburan, where dwells the Ila and her ministers amid riches of water. The Ila, somehow, is immortal; she is apparently one of the "first descended" to this planet, and she has made it and its people in her image.

Until recently, Marak Trin Tain has been leading his father's men in rebellion against the Ila. The rebellion failed, and to buy peace his father has sold him to the Ila. He is taken to Oburan with one thought in his heart: to kill the Ila. He doesn't manage it, of course; it would be a short book if he did. Instead, she sends him to seek out the source of the Madness that has come upon many of the people of the Ila's world--a madness that has come upon Marak himself, and which draws him to the east.

And then the ordeal begins.

Cherryh has crafted an interesting world with a unique history, and a unique premise--at least, I've not encountered it before. A culture which possesses the secrets of both nanotechnology and genetics may well use them to make war. And the fiercest battles may not take place across nations or continents, but instead within the confines of a single human body.

I was in the right mood; I liked it. And it's the beginning of a series (though it stands alone perfectly well), so I'm looking forward to the next book.

Posted by Will Duquette at September 11, 2002 09:28 PM