The Unfinished Land is a standalone historical science fiction with shadings of epic fantasy (and a dash of light horror) by Greg Bear. Released 16th Feb 2021 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, it's 384 pages and is available in hardcover, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats.
This entire substantial book has a misty surreal quality. The prose is masterful - evocative and beatiful... but undeniably dreamlike and meandering. The plotting is slow and deliberate, the narrative arc positively creeps and in some places has a very odd feeling of inevitability. I was impressed that the author managed to write passages which gave me the same feeling one has while dreaming of being chased and running without moving forward.
The background and world building are a pastiche of several different pantheons and cultures (Norse, Celtic, Romani, and others) with a sprinkling of the author's own unique imagination. The dialogue is split between modern vernacular and oddly "period" turns of phrase. The book is ostensibly set in the middle ages but most of the action occurs beside and outside of time, so the dichotomy of anachronistic vernacular is jarring adjacent to the occasionally archaic dialogue.
The author is incredibly imaginative and the book is very very well written. It's also very trippy and weird. It invites contemplation on a much deeper level. There's a lot happening under the surface and this isn't a book which can be read and enjoyed with a superficial read. I would recommend it to fans of the author as well as fans of surreal/magical realism (Catherynne Valente, John Crowley, etc). Four stars.
Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.
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