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Empress of the Sun

Empress of the Sun by Ian McDonald, Everness #3

The airship Everness makes a Heisenberg Jump to an alternate Earth unlike any her crew has ever seen. Everett, Sen, and the crew find themselves above a plain that goes on forever in every direction without any horizon. There they find an Alderson Disc, an astronomical megastructure of incredibly strong material reaching from the orbit of Mercury to the orbit of Jupiter.

Then they meet the Jiju, the dominant species on a plane where the dinosaurs didn't die out. They evolved, diversified, and have a twenty-five million year technology head-start on humanity. War between their kingdoms is inevitable, total and terrible. 
Everness has jumped right into the midst of a faction fight between rival nations, the Fabreen and Dityu empires. The airship is attacked, but then defended by the forces of the Fabreen, who offers the Everness crew protection. But what is the true motive behind Empress Aswiu's aid? What is her price?

The crew of the Everness is divided in a very alien world, a world fast approaching the point of apocalypse.

 Last year I read the first two books of the Everness series by Ian McDonald: Planesrunner and Be My Enemy. Already from the first book I was hooked onto his concept behind the Everness series. With the second book he really took his story a few dimensions further. Ian McDonald was well-known adult science-fiction, but he has carved and made a name for himself with his rapid action adventure series Everness in the young-adult genre. 

The second book in the series: Be My Enemy left the series with even more promise that the first book. Ian McDonald did a great job in not letting his series falter with the sequel, he kept introducing new and exciting things to his many parallels and keeping the development of several key characters on track. It also introduced the reader to another Everett. His alter from a different version of Earth, heavily modified and with only one single goal in the back of his mind. Getting rid of the real Everett... The sequel left the series with a lot of threats for the real Everett to overcome...

Empress of the Sun opens with a failed jumped of the airship Everness, to a wild and exotic planet. Everett and the Everness are still in search for Everett's father and are on the run for the Order who want to get their hands on the Infundibulum, which contains all the maps of the parallel worlds. The planet that they are stranded on features lush jungles and much more, however this new world is so unique that the crew of the Everness find it hard to give this planet a place. Meanwhile Everett is being scolded for letting the Everness make a bad jump that caused them to crash... But it soon starts to dawn on Everett that his calculations weren't off, it the planet itself that is different... it's really different. And in here comes to show one of the major strengths of this book and the whole Everness series. Expect the unexpected. I was surprised with the sequel but Ian McDonald again shows his imagination in full colors. Because, what if the dinosaurs weren't extinct in several parallel universes? Well this is what you will see in Empress of the Sun. These dinosaurs aren't the brutal flesh eating kind that we mostly know, more on the contrary, they have 65 million years of evolution ahead of us! They are smart, not to be trifled with and very dangerous. Their headstart on evolution comes to show quite nicely when you learn what makes their planet go round. It's build on the idea of an Alderson Disc, these lizards have full control of what they do and when they do it and makes up for an interesting and engaging story. What further added a lot of great stuff to Empress of the Sun were the perspectives of Everett M. and Charlotte Villiers. Their stories alternate with those of the real Everett.

Not only enlarges Ian McDonald his series yet again with the new dimensions, he also doesn't falter with his character development. We see all the characters from the first two books, the protagonist Everett, and his friends of the Everness, Sen, Anastasia and lets not forget the ever preaching Mr. Sharky. All these characters be it the primary or the secondary characters all get to do their say, here Anastasia and Mr. Sharky did remain as how we got to know in the first two books but Everett and Sen really undergo some nice changes in the characters, they are starting to grow up and you can nicely see that Everett is becoming more of an adolescent boy, getting an eye for certain things... I liked how the more static relation between Everett and Sen grew to a more dynamic one. However it's not all good and good, because Sen has quite an personality and Sen wouldn't be Sen if she wouldn't let that come to show on more than one occasion, her no means no but it feels that this really is some playing hard to get... and it leads to some very funny dialogues. Luckily Everett doesn't give up that easily. Not only was the "romance" growing, it just feels that overall, by the actions and events that happen on this new planet.

Besides these characters I really liked the direction that Ian McDonald took with showing Everett M. We got to know this alter of Everett in Be My Enemy and that he was tasked with getting rid of the real Everett. Everett M. is heavily modified and can do stuff that a human couldn't, he has enhanced senses, reflexes and can boost his own power. He now has taken the place of the real Everett... with a lot of consequences. When I first got to learn about Everett M. I thought he was more of a robot instead of a human, his emotions felt more static in all and that he was only there for one task. Now that he is living a normal boys life it seems that is starting to grow more and more on his emotional side and this gave a great boost to his overall character. He is learning the normal customs of Earth life, going to school, having friends and a girlfriend and everything that comes along in a normal teenage boys life. Though this proved to be confronting him on many different levels, Everett M. is I think partly intrigued and impressed by how this normal life is paying off for him. Could this be a turn around for Everett M.? It does seem that he is will be redeeming himself and I am very eager to see how his character will develop further. Next to Everett M. there are some interesting development going on around Charlotte Villiers and her alter Charles. They stand central as the bad guys of the book, but they have planned everything in fine detail, but even then some plans don't work out as planned. However they wont let this set them back, more on the contrary, they make new, more devious plans to make sure they will succeed next time. It comes to show that The Order aren't to be messed with and when they set their eyes on something they will do anything to get... no matter the cost...

Storywise and characterwise, Empress of the Sun is just spot on. It's one adventurous journey that explores not only Multiversing from a scientific point of view but also with a great set of characters that have their ups and downs. Ian McDonald shows that he know how to write a great story, and tops it all of with a great sense of worldbuilding. Each of the planets that we have visited in Everness so far has been one-of-a-kind, they have been fun to read and the Nahn on Earth 1 gave this impending doom feeling. The dinosaur planet and the idea behind the planet with the Alderson Disc again showed a great imagination and Ian McDonald knows how to bring these heavy science fiction element readily to the younger audience. I just can't seem to find any fault in the characters or the world, it's one big pleasure to read. 

Empress of the Sun is a fantastic read that you shouldn't miss out on. Eventhough it's classified as a young-adult book, I know that a lot of adults (like me) will find it just a great to read. Ian McDonald's Everness series keeps on improving book after book, they draw you in and don't let you go. It pacey and a whole lot of fun to read and it's all impossible to make a guess as to where the story will go, just sit back relax and let Everett take you yo places beyond your wildest dreams. The Multiversing still has a lot of untold and unfound places to discover and I hope to see it soon! This really is a story of unparalleled dimensions.


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