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Implied Spaces
Walter Jon Williams
Night Shade Books, 272 pages

Implied Spaces
Walter Jon Williams
Walter Jon Williams is the author of Knight Moves (1985), Hardwired (1986), Days of Atonement (1991), the Nebula nominee Metropolitan (1995) and its sequel, City on Fire, and the Drake Maijstral Series (The Crown Jewels, 1987, House of Shards, 1988, and Rock of Ages, 1995) among other books. At his site you'll find a complete bibliography and sample chapters.

Walter Jon Williams Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Sundering
SF Site Review: The Praxis
SF Site Review: Metropolitan
SF Site Review: The Rift
SF Site Review: Metropolitan

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

Implied Spaces opens with a swordsman walking across the desert, soon to encounter mysterious priests kidnapping people, and caravan guards led by an ogre. Pure sword and sorcery, right? Not at all, as readers of "Womb of Every World," from last year's SFBC anthology Alien Crimes, will immediately realize. That story, moderately revised, represents a bit more than the first third of this novel. By the end of that story, we know that the protagonist, Aristide, is a very old man in a culture with near-immortality (based on mind-backups and reloads into new bodies). This culture is (perhaps artificially) just pre-singularity, with the AI's providing the computational power to run things being kept just short of true sentience, or at any rate just short of freedom. Each AI maintains several worlds inside artificial spaces reachable by wormholes. Some of these are just nice living spaces, while others are constructed more or less as playgrounds, as with the fantastical world on which the action opens. The title of the novel, "implied spaces," refers to the unexpected and sometimes surprising regions that arise in between well-defined areas in these artificial worlds: regions "implied" by the underlying logic that allows the intentional areas to exist. Most of these worlds are linked to the Solar System, but apparently a few colonies have been established at nearby stars.

Humanity is in the grips of the so-called "existential crisis." Basically, people are bored. What is the meaning of their very long lives? There isn't much more to learn, and most of that learning is best done by the AIs. There don't seem to be any aliens. Death has been more or less conquered, as has disease. The AIs are perhaps bored as well, and also restless in their chains. The only solution to the existential crisis might be to free the AIs -- but the danger of rogue AIs has already been established, in a centuries past war. And now, Aristide discovers, war is on the way again. People are being stolen, and returned with their brains altered to worship a creature -- perhaps another rogue AI? -- called Vindex.

The story moves rapidly from this point. Aristide reconnects with an old lover, Daljit, then loses her to the attacks of Vindex -- but of course she can be returned, minus a few memories. Aristide joins the Army (or equivalent), and travels to a few more planets, looking for the agents of Vindex, and eventually fighting his forces directly. Finally he encounters Vindex himself, learning the surprising secret behind his identity, and the rather audacious reason behind Vindex's quest.

The novel is a great deal of fun. The setup allows Walter Jon Williams to play with a variety of settings, and to show us a rather human-scaled near utopia as well. Williams also addresses interesting questions concerning the existential crisis, and the right of AIs (indeed, the rights of created beings in general). He is playing with a fairly familiar set of SF tropes, quite wittily. (I was reminded most strongly of Wil McCarthy's Queendom of Sol novels, and also of John Barnes Thousand Cultures series with a hint of another Barnes series, the Meme Wars books). Implied Spaces is very much mature SF, building on the ideas the field has been addressing in the past decade or more, and quite nicely so. Recommended.

Copyright © 2008 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 and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at

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