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Queen of Candesce
Karl Schroeder
Tor, 332 pages

Queen of Candesce
Karl Schroeder
Karl Schroeder was born in 1962 in Brandon, Manitoba. He moved to Toronto in 1986 to further his writing career. In 1996, he was elected president of SF Canada. His awards include the Context '89 Short Story contest for his story "The Cold Convergence" (then titled "Live Wire") and "The Toy Mill" won the 1993 Aurora award for best short work in English.

Karl Schroeder Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Lady of Mazes
SF Site Review: The Engine of Recall
SF Site Review: Permanence
SF Site Interview: Karl Schroeder
SF Site Review: Permanence
SF Site Review: Ventus
SF Site Review: Ventus

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Greg L. Johnson

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At the end of Sun of Suns, the first book in Karl Schroeder's Virga series, most of the major characters were either missing or presumed dead. Two, a young man who had been the hero of the story, and a woman who, while not an out-and-out villain, was definitely not a pleasant person to spend much time with, were left drifting off in the free-fall atmosphere that fills the artificial world of Virga. It would be understandable if a reader of Sun of Suns expected book two to continue the story of the young man's adventures. Instead, Queen of Candesce follows the plight of the arrogant, paranoid, smart, and very dangerous Venera Fanning.

As the novel opens, Venera is in the process of landing on Spyre, an old nation located near the artificial sun at the center of Virga. She quickly becomes entangled in the local politics, and proceeds to attempt influencing events to suit her own needs. That requires making allies and enemies, and in the process Venera discovers much about the history of her world, her past, and possible future.

Virga is set in a universe dominated by a post-human society known as Artificial Nature. Artificial Nature is controlled by artificial intelligences, machines that relegate humans to a life of virtual reality. Virga is a refuge from that control, a huge sphere which contains an atmosphere and sunlight needed for human existence, and which has existed long enough that a fair amount of the populace no longer remembers that there is a world outside. Technology, with some exceptions is at a fairly low-level, giving Karl Schroeder the ability to write such scenes as pitched battles with pirates, fought with swords in a weightless environment. Both Sun of Suns and Queen of Candesce have an element of swash-buckling adventure to them that allows for a goodly amount of old-fashioned fun in a setting that could only happen in a futuristic, high-tech universe. At the same time, there are hints that some characters have a much greater knowledge than others about the true nature of their world, and suspicions mount that somewhere there is a much greater danger lurking than that of pirates and navies comprised of wooden battleships.

Venera, too, ultimately emerges as a more complicated character than she seems at first glance. There are good reasons for her paranoia and lack of empathy toward others, reasons that eventually lead her to re-examine her own feelings and motivations. Queen of Candesce, thus, works as both a character study and a fast-paced adventure story, with a mix of old and new that just might be unique to Karl Schroeder's particular vision of the future.

Copyright © 2008 by Greg L. Johnson

Reviewer Greg L Johnson was surprised at the extent to which his judgement of Venera's character changed during the course of Queen of Candesce. His reviews also appear in the The New York Review of Science Fiction. And, for something different, Greg blogs about news and politics relating to outdoors issues and the environment at Thinking Outside.


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