Saturday, July 4, 2020
Mistress of Illusions
The Mistress of Illusions is the second book in Mike Resnick's crossworlds Dreamscape trilogy. Released 14th April 2020 by Penguin on their DAW imprint, it's 304 pages and available in hardcover, mass market paperback, audio, and ebook formats.
The author has been one of my favorites for many years. He's amassed an enviable collection of SF's highest honors. He's undeniably a talented and prolific author who has really proven his competence over decades. I was surprised, therefore, when this book failed to draw me in (to about the same degree as the first book in the trilogy which I also read and reviewed on my blog).
There is a crossworlds speculative fiction trope where the protagonist is thrust into the action without really having any idea of how they fit into the grand scheme of things, what the rules are, where they are, or what's going on. Heinlein's Number of the Beast, Willett's Worldshaper, and others spring to mind. Obviously each author brings their own experiences and plots to the writing.This book sees protagonist Eddie Raven thrust into a crossworld manhunt with him as quarry. He doesn't understand what's happening, how he's jumping from one world to another, and he spends the entire book saying "I don't understand. I'm nothing special. I'm just a guy"!
I found the passive nature of jumping from one encounter to the next jarring and bewildering. I'm familiar enough with the author's mastery over the written word to assume that he's perfectly well aware that's the effect he's creating and that it's intentional. The worlds Eddie Raven jumps into are odd pastiches of old movies like Casablanca and The Wizard of Oz. Even the narrative bits set in Raven's 'prime world' have an odd/nostalgic vibe and could well be set in the 1950's America or earlier.
It took me several weeks to finish reading The Master of Dreams because I found myself restless and unengaged with the narrative. It's competently written, with flowing (if odd) dialogue. The characters are well written. There was just something which failed to draw me in.
It honestly comes down to a matter of trust. The author's works have been entertaining and engaging me for decades at this point and I will stick around and see how the series develops. I'm saddened that Mr. Resnick passed away in early 2020 and I hope the third book in the trilogy ties up all the loose ends and gives some closure.
Three and a half stars. I've rounded up for the quality of the writing.
Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.