April 22, 2003

Northworld Trilogy, by David Drake

The Northworld Trilogy is a really weird retelling of ancient Norse myth, mostly drawn from the Elder Eddas. Though I'm not familiar with the Elder Eddas myself--it sounds like something from the pages of H.P. Lovecraft--I'm savvy enough to recognize the most obvious elements (Chief God with one eye, Valhalla, Valkyries, and so on and so forth). And indeed, I spotted the Valkyries and a few other things. But I didn't really catch on that it was a retelling of Norse myth until I read the afterword at the end of the first of the three tales.

The trick is, the trilogy bills itself as science fiction rather than fantasy. The framing story is straightforward: Northworld is a potential colony world. A number of expeditions have been sent to explore it and tame it; all have disappeared. The last expedition reported that the planet itself had disappeared; and then that expedition disappeared. So the Powers That Be tapped one Nils Hansen, top cop and extremely successful troubleshooter, to go to where Northworld is supposed to be and found out what happened to it. The trilogy is ostensibly about his mission.

Except that it isn't, of course; it's about the various myths that Drake's trying to retell, and that's the problem. He's bent over backward to cloak the world of Norse myth with science-fictional garments, and while the result is interesting, it's predictably contorted.

It's an ambitious and valiant effort, but Drake doesn't quite bring it off.

The battle suits are cool, though. And I'd sure like to have Nils Hansen at my back during a fight.

Posted by Will Duquette at April 22, 2003 07:04 PM