New ‘Urbis Morpheos’ review
From ‘Perpetual Man’ aka Tim @ SF Chrons…
Where do you begin to review a book like this?
To begin with it goes without saying that this not the normal type of book that I would pick up to read, although strangely enough, one of the books that is mentioned in the introduction (Crescent City Rhapsody by Kathleen Ann Goonan) is one that I have read, so perhaps there is a precedent.
One of the main things that struck me as I read through the novel was the sheer amount of imagination that has been thrown into Urbis Morpheos. Most imaginative fiction requires a vast amount of creative energy in it, but this ratches things up another notch. It is wildly, insanely creative on a level that is simply stunning.
It is a novel that makes the reader earn its delights, making you concentrate as you read, not just to follow the two major intwining plots, but to absorb the depth of detail sunk into a far future Earth that is both breathtaking and nightmarish at the same time.
Set in a (very) far distant future, it shows a world that has been torn apart by the relentless progression of machine against nature, where the Earth has been torn apart, with nano-technology running rampant, turning the planet into a dystopian place with no-one sure what should be the right dominant force, nature or technology?
It is a world where knowledge can be absorbed through the ingestion of mushrooms (for the biologicals) and through technological wrealities (for the constructed), each side convinced that their is the natural way forward, so society sits in a precarious balance. The world it takes place in is a wondrous, terrible place filled with incredibly named places and artifacts, characters that conjure the strangest of images in the minds eye, with names that are as complicated as they are delightful as you pronounce them.
As stated above this is two tales, one of Psolilai and the other of psolilai (now you begin to see how it requires concentration). Both are women on a mission to try and find their way through the world of Urbis Morpheos, to come to terms with all the things that are arrayed against them, and bring balance to the environment of their world. But of course just to add to the confusion one might be dreaming of the other, but which one is the dream and which the reality is not easy to discern. Even more confusing, the characters they interact with, companions on their journeys and otherwise have the same names, the same relationships, are in fact the same people translocated between the realities. Add to this the fact that jumping between the two characters seems to jump to different places in their journeys, it becomes dreamlike.
In both cases the protagonists seem to be flawed, to make mistakes, and the conundrum is something that is not really resolved until the end of the book, which is the way thing should be. Ultimately the title of the world in which they struggle might be the biggest help of all: Urbis Morpheos, which translates into City of Dreams.
Reading this was an apt reminder of why it is sometimes a good thing to read utside of your regular comfort one, because it opens you to something else. The book is a very enjoyable read, something a little bit different and a showcase for a talent and an imagination that is extraordinary.