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To Hold Infinity
John Meaney
Pyr, 529 pages

To Hold Infinity
John Meaney
John Meaney has a degree in physics and computer science, is a black belt in Shotokan karate and works in IT. He has been reading SF since the age of eight, and his short fiction has appeared in Interzone and in a number of anthologies. His debut novel, To Hold Infinity, was shortlisted for the BSFA Award and subsequently selected as one of the Daily Telegraph's "Books of the Year."

John Meaney Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Paradox
SF Site Interview: A Conversation With John Meaney
SF Site Review: Paradox

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

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Pyr is a new kid on the block in SF publishing. One of its strategies to gain attention -- and a very good one, I think -- has been to publish for the first time in the U.S. various novels that have previously appeared in Australia or the U.K. -- often to considerable notice and praise. Why these books haven't already made their way to our shores is a puzzlement, at times -- and kudos to Pyr for rectifying that situation. The latest example to come to my attention is John Meaney's To Hold Infinity, the author's first novel, which on its appearance in 1998 was shortlisted for the British Science Fiction Association Award for Best Novel.

All that said, while I found To Hold Infinity interesting -- certainly worth reading -- I thought it more a promising first novel than a book worthy of being shortlisted for the best novel of the year -- any year. There are plenty of neat ideas, and some pretty nice action, and a mostly engaging set of characters. But in addition the plot is a bit too driven by coincidence and convenience. Characters figure things out in unrealistic ways. The love stories are almost perfunctory. The nasty villain is an interesting creation, but his comeuppance is terribly underplayed, quite unsatisfying. There is some fairly pointless technobabble. And the book is a great deal too long.

The story concerns a colony world, Fulgar, partly terraformed, on which a very high tech society has developed. The key to the society is an elite group called Luculenti, people who have been technologically enhanced by the addition of plexcores, artificial brains, in a sense. There seems to be some social stratification as a result -- an interesting aspect of this society that is unfortunately underexplored. One of the leading Luculenti is Rafael Garcia de la Vega, but he is a psychopath, who has exploited some new technology to become a sort of mind vampire, capable of sucking the memories and personality of other Luculenti into his own illegally expanded set of plexcores. He concentrates on beautiful and talented women.

Rafael has sponsored an immigrant from Earth, Tetsuo Sunadomari, an expert on the mu-space tech that Rafael uses illegally, for upgrade to Luculentus status. But naïve Tetsuo has stumbled across some explosive information, hinting at corruption within the quasi-police force of Fulgar, the TacCorps. Tetsuo manages to escape to the unterraformed parts of Fulgar, where he falls in with a group devoted, it seems, to preservation of Fulgar in a more natural state.

At the same time Tetsuo's mother, Yoshiko, is coming to Fulgar to visit her son, still mourning her husband's untimely death. She is quickly "adopted," in a sense, by a Luculentus family. Through her eyes we get a view of the fairly interesting Luculentus society. But before long, Rafael intrudes and, somewhat improbably, Yoshiko perceives his villainous nature. And Rafael's latest mind rape is witnessed by Yoshiko, leading to the climax, in which she makes a daring attempt to trap him. All along, Tetsuo and his new friends are working away on what should be quite interesting projects, which come, in the final analysis, to nothing.

So -- there are lots of potentially neat aspects to this book. It certainly shows a writer worth watching. But I can't say that the promise displayed is in quite realized here.

Copyright © 2006 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area. He writes a monthly column on short fiction for Locus, and a regular feature on SF history for Black Gate, as well as regular reviews for Fantasy Magazine. He is the editor of Science Fiction: The Best of the Year, 2006 Edition, and Fantasy: The Best of the Year, 2006 Edition (both from Prime). Stop by his website at www.sff.net/people/richard.horton.


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