In the future there is no want, no war, no disease nor ill-timed death. The world is a paradise-and then, in a moment, it ends. The council that controls the Net falls out and goes to war. Everywhere people who have never known a moment of want or pain are left wondering how to survive. But scattered across the face of the earth are communities which have returned to the natural life of soil and small farm. In the village of Raven's Mill, Edmund Talbot, master smith and unassuming historian, finds that all the problems of the world are falling in his lap. Refugees are flooding in, bandits are roaming the woods, and his former lover and his only daughter struggle through the Fallen landscape. Enemies, new and old, gather like jackals around a wounded lion. But what the jackals do not know is that while old he may be, this lion is far from death. And hidden in the past is a mystery that has waited until this time to be revealed. You cross Edmund Talbot at your peril, for a smith is not all he once was. . . .
The premise of this book is very interesting, the kind of premise that drew me just to see what the author was creating and where he would go with it. Ringo paints a very unique, utopian-esque world with a nearly perfect society. In this perfect world, a sort of apocalypse happens, forcing these individuals to live in pre-industrial style. I would consider this book a Sci Fi/Fantasy hybrid.
I was interested to see how he would make this happen. It seemed like a broad undertaking for any author to take on himself or herself. Ringo does it with gusto. His writing is simple to follow and easy to understand. He is descriptive as he paints his picture for the reader. It is easy to understand the world Ringo is setting up.
It's obvious that Ringo did his homework when writing this novel. He was incredibly detailed regarding war and period life, at times making the novel seem more like a textbook than an actual novel. He seems to take some liberty in some sections, creating whole plot focuses on political ideas making me wonder if he used this book, in part, to grandstand his personal political opinions.
This book is, in essence, very average. Ringo’s writing is standard. His character development is also very average. The book lacks a level of depth that could have spiraled it into a classic speculative fiction work. The characters were disappointingly one-dimensional and almost campy.
Ringo weighs down this book with far too many detailed descriptions of “how things work” to the point where, at times, I felt like I was reading an instruction manual rather than a novel. His characters also shift. Several that are main characters in the beginning of the book, end the book as being secondary characters and several secondary characters maneuver themselves into primary characters. While this may not bother some readers, I felt myself wanting to find out what was happening to those characters I drew an affection for at the beginning of this work that seemed to fade into obscurity by the end.
The ending of this book is incredibly predictable. It seems to follow the standard rote that many other books follow in their plot sequences. I won’t expand on this point because I don’t want to give too much away, but the predictable nature of this book made it seem a bit too cookie-cutter for me to fully appreciate.
In all, this book is a standard read. The idea that Ringo builds his story on is fascinating and incredibly thought provoking, which are two major marks in his favor. The story looses its luster in the characterization and mind-bogging instruction-manual-like details that caused me to loose interest at several points. The unique plot seems to loose some of it's color and turns incredibly standard and predictable. It also tends to drag at several points.
If you are interested in unique idea and a fun, escapist kind of read, this book is for you. If you want something full of depth and shockingly beautiful writing, I’d look elsewhere.