Burning Paradise: Tor Books; November 2013; 317 pages; jacket art by Getty Images; jacket design by Base Art Co. Robert Charles Wilson wrote the Hugo Award winning Spin and has won various other awards. He is a prolific science fiction writer.
Burning Paradise takes us to an alternate reality where WWII never happened. Instead, a 1914 Armistice created, so far, 100 years of peace. However, the United States is not a "free" country. Members of a freedom-seeking underground organization, the Correspondence Society, are being shot, killed, and eliminated. They were forced to go underground after the 2007 massacre of the Correspondence Society.
Somehow, some group or government has engineered a pseudo-human called a simulacrum that looks very human unless it gets ripped apart and the inner guts of green goo, smelling like chlorophyll, oozes out.
Cassie, who is 18, and her 12-year-old brother Thomas have lived with their Aunt Ris for 7 years, ever since their parents were killed in the 2007 massacre. The family is part of the Correspondence Society, and the kids have a plan of escape in case they are discovered. One evening when Aunt Ris is out with her boyfriend, Cassie sees a strange sight out the window: a man, who looks like he's headed to their apartment, is hit by a car. Green goo exiting his wounds reveals him as a simulacrum. Cassie immediately wakes up her brother, they grab their pre-packed bags, and they head to another secret location.
Meanwhile, in a remote farmhouse attic, Ethan Iverson, former University Professor, looks at a video screen showing the approach of a stranger, which he knows is a simulacrum. When he opens the door for the stranger, he zaps it with his 300kv shockgun.
Cassie and Thomas make it to 21-year-old Leo Beck's apartment. Beth Vance, his unpleasant girlfriend, is staying with him. Leo is the son of the famous Werner Beck, a higher-up in the Correspondence Society. Cassie tells her story of the gooey simulacrum, and the four of them grab their bags and squeeze into Leo's car. "So where are we going?" asks Beth.
Trinity Rising: Tor Books; September 2013; 338 pages; cover art uncredited. Trinity Rising is book two in Elspeth Cooper's "The Wild Hunt" series that began with Songs of the Earth. The third book in the projected quartet is The Raven's Shadow.
Trinity Rising begins with magic as Savin steps through a "Veil" that he created in the air. He ends up in a cold room in a castle. He flicks his finger and a fire bursts forth in the fireplace. A sudden shift in the air lets him know he's not alone as he's drawn to a mirror on the dresser. Inside, instead of seeing his reflection, he looks into a writhing void. A voice comes to him from the mirror asking if he has found "it." Savin says no, and that the task has turned complicated. The voice replies that the master grows impatient. Savin talks about the Guardian and an apprentice that he can't "read." The voice warns that unpleasant consequences will occur if Savin doesn't deliver soon.
In a camp that hints of Scottish bagpipes and clans around a campfire, Drwyn lights the funeral pyre of his father Drw, chief of the chiefs. Drwyn has been impatient for his father to die because Drwyn plans to replace him as chief. Drw finally does die while sleeping with Teia, a young 15-year-old girl. At the evening campfire, Drwyn's musings are interrupted by Ytha, an elder "Speaker." She enters his thoughts, saying Drwyn must bed the young Teia in case she got pregnant by his father, so that any future child by the dead chief could be claimed as his. She directs him that the time is right for a speech.
Teia is alone cleaning dishes while the other single females are at the funeral celebration. Teia is grieving the old chief's death, thinking of him as a nice man. Teia needs to gather more water, so she goes to the creek. Looking in the bucket of water she scryes to see the future. Ytha walks up behind her asking, "Are you scrying?" Teia lies and says no. The Speaker Ytha demands that Teia go to Ytha's tent immediately. Ytha wants to prepare Teia for Drwyn's bed.
The Battle: We have two different types of books to decide between, which is never easy.
The alternate reality, science fiction book Burning Paradise offers a mystery and creates a many questions: Who are the bad guys? Who's behind the creation of the simulacrums? What is the fate of the kids? What's the purpose of the Correspondence Society? There are hints that Leo Beck plays an important role in this society. Various quotes are attributed to him, such as "Beware the attention of strangers." The society also preaches warnings. "In a crisis, always assume the worst." "Park, warn and run." "No telephone calls."
Ethan Iberson, the former professor, stores and protects files and firearms for the society at his farmhouse. He's been isolated for the past seven years. Ethan claims that "one useful device by which a solitary man could keep touch with sanity was a regular schedule, strictly obeyed." That determined his daily routines, which was why he was well prepared before the simulacrum knocked on his front door.
Normally, I’m not a big fan of alternate reality books as much as fantasy or science fiction. However, this book seems more character driven, which works well for me.
Trinity Rising is full of magic and intrigue and cool medieval fantasy settings. Even though this is the second book in the series, I find it easy to follow, without any feelings that previous information is stuck in here and there. The book has a flow that compels me to read further.
Savin seems to be the probable villain in this novel. I'm curious to find out whether or not he's a pawn or strong character. I also want to know more about the elusive Guardians and the apprentice.
My reading ended with the character Teia, and I wanted to turn the page and see what happened next.
This is a very tough decision. After reading 25 pages, I want to continue reading both books. However, for Battle of the Books, I (Jackie) must choose between them. In this case, I plan to delve into an alternate reality!
THE WINNER: Burning Paradise by Robert Charles Wilson
Burning Paradise advances to the second round to take on Shadow People by James Swain.
To see the whole bracket, click here.