The Wild, by David Zindell

the-wild-by-david-zindell coverGenre: Science Fiction
Publisher: Bantam
Published: 1996
Reviewer Rating: three stars
Book Review by David Hart

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This is the second in the Requiem for Homo Sapiens trilogy, following The Broken God. Danlo Ringess has qualified as a space pilot and leaves the city of Neverness with many of his order, which is setting up a secondary base in the Wild. The Wild or Vild, as I understand it, is a large area of the galaxy where the mathematical ‘manifold’ through which pilots propel their ships, is unusually difficult and dangerous to navigate.

The cause of this endeavour is the aftermath of an ancient religious war. Thousands of years earlier, a man called Ede founded a religion that involves interfacing with computers, and at the end of his life ‘copied’ himself into one, thus becoming in the eyes of his followers a god. Edeism is now the dominant religion in the galaxy but, being a religion, it naturally evolved and fragmented into many heresies and sects, which naturally fight and persecute one another.

After one of these wars the losing side, called the Architects, fled into the Wild. One ship established a Church on a planet they called Tannahill. Other surviving ships, which somehow are powered by causing nearby stars to become supernovae, continue in space. All the Edeic sects adhere to the “Go forth and multiply” concept, but the space-faring Architects have taken it to its logical extreme and are reproducing as fast as possible, trying to turn all the matter in the universe into humanity. Unfortunately this means yet more supernovae, which have become a threat to the adjacent civilized planets. So the pilots guild is moving into the Wild to try to locate these people and ask them politely to desist.

We follow Danlo as he travels through the Wild, first to the Solid State Entity (another computer ‘god’ that was originally human) and then in stages to Tannahill. It is this classical Quest motif that rescues this book from the tedium of its predecessor. Danlo moves about the galaxy, spending only a couple of hundred pages in each world, so there is always another culture to look forward to. He meets people, so Zindell often can progress the story via dialogue (which he does well) rather than by those long, long paragraphs of description or introspection. And, practice making perfect, by the last section of the book he has finally got the hang of believable characterization.

On the other hand, too much of this book involves the beliefs and mechanisms of Edeic sects. These are well constructed and described; it’s just that, as so often in Zindell’s books, the quantity is excessive for all but a student of comparative theology. Another problem is an increasing tendency for Danlo to be faced with certain death or madness, only to discover out of the blue some saving mental ability, which subsequently disappears or is ignored. And of course those doldrums of descriptive paragraphs, though thankfully less frequent, still occur from time to time and seem to be getting even longer!

Nevertheless this book is a distinct improvement on The Broken God. There is more happening, more interesting characters, and I didn’t so often have to force myself to keep reading. Lets hope the improvement continues; but I can’t help thinking to myself: “1300 pages down, only 800 to go”.

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