February 20, 2005

There Will Be Dragons, by John Ringo

This is an interesting book--a little slow to get started, but an interesting book, and a remarkable achievement. Ringo has created a fantasy realm with all of the usual trappings--warriors, great heroes, elves, dragons, orcs, demons, wizards, and so forth--and he's set it in the far future and given it a science-fictional explanation. That's right, it's really a science-fictional world (O the wonders of nanotechnology) in which all of the trappings of traditional heroic fantasy make sense!

It's that last bit that makes the premise so remarkable. It requires extremely high-tech, the kind that's indistinguishable from magic, to breed elves who live forever, orcs who will fight whenever, and dragons that can fly whereever, and yet given the pre-industrial setting that tech can't be available to the general public. If it were, everyone in the book would be a wizard.

And so, in fact, they were. Earth was a veritable utopia. Every citizen could spend his time doing anything that interested him, with every need met by the nanites of the 'Net. Even food production was no issue--Mother, the vast AI that maintained and protectedthe 'Net, had records of every kind of dish one could wish for, and the nanites could assemble it from atoms in moments. Indeed, one could have one's body sculpted into almost any form

And then came a division in the Council, the small group of individuals who oversaw Mother and the rest of the 'Net. The division turned deadly, and soon the two factions were fighting in earnest to wrest full control of the 'Net from each other. As all power reserves were drawn upon to this end, power became unavailable to the rest of the population--and all that nice, juicy high-tech magic became unavailable. Civilization crashed over night. Only a very few people retained any kind of use of the 'Net. The remainder were forced to learn to grub for food and build shelters out of natural wood, and all manner of archaic unnatural acts.

Unnatural, that is, except for a handled of "reenactors", descendants of our present day Society for Creative Anachronism, who knew how to farm, and to forge iron and steel, and raise animals, and mine for ore, all because, in their long lives, that's what they had become interested in. And around the settlements of such folk, civilization slowly began to grow again.

As I say, it's an interesting book, with a number of memorable characters; and though there are some parts I disliked, I plan to keep an eye out for the sequel.

Posted by Will Duquette at February 20, 2005 09:08 PM