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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The world of Virga continues to amaze.
Contrary to my expectation that closer inspection would reveal the flaws, the more we see of Virga the more sensible and logical it is. This book talks about some of the biological industry, history and construction of Virga, and hints on the larger ecosystem of which Virga is but a pocket.

This book starts a new story arc with Hayden the Sunlighter now playing...
Published on November 28, 2009 by N. Bird

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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Solid; 3.5 Stars
The Sunless Countries is the beginning of what is probably a second trilogy involving Virga, a very well imagined space habitat. Inspired by books like Larry Niven's Ringworld and Bob Shaw's Orbitsville, the basic idea is an exotic extrasolar space habitat, in this case a 5000 mile diameter sac containing a breathable atmosphere and a central fusion "sun." As is typical...
Published on August 15, 2009 by R. Albin


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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The world of Virga continues to amaze., November 28, 2009
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Contrary to my expectation that closer inspection would reveal the flaws, the more we see of Virga the more sensible and logical it is. This book talks about some of the biological industry, history and construction of Virga, and hints on the larger ecosystem of which Virga is but a pocket.

This book starts a new story arc with Hayden the Sunlighter now playing second fiddle to a historian thrown into the fray because no one else will do it. I think Schroeder's plot construction is getting stronger; the book was well paced with some twists, but nothing just crazy out of the blue.

While not the pinnacle of science fiction (hence only giving it 4 stars) I thought it was a thoroughly enjoyable read and meat for thought.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Karl always delivers, October 21, 2009
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Once again, Karl gives us another great book. This series is very enjoyable, and every entry is excellent. Each book in the Virga series has a different main character, which is an interesting approach. This time it's Leal, an excellent, likable heroine. I really like the way Karl writes females; it really feels like a woman's voice and point of view, very believable. It breaks my heart to have to wait for the next book. But it'll be well worth the wait, as always.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Solid; 3.5 Stars, August 15, 2009
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R. Albin (Ann Arbor, Michigan United States) - See all my reviews
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The Sunless Countries is the beginning of what is probably a second trilogy involving Virga, a very well imagined space habitat. Inspired by books like Larry Niven's Ringworld and Bob Shaw's Orbitsville, the basic idea is an exotic extrasolar space habitat, in this case a 5000 mile diameter sac containing a breathable atmosphere and a central fusion "sun." As is typical for this genre, the novels are adventure stories showcasing the exotic features of the habitats and their inhabitant societies. Schroeder is a competent writer and his habitat is a clever construction. In this series, Schroeder is expanding the setting by introducing more characters from outside Virga and also moving outside Virga for some of the action. Compared with prior books, I found this one a bit slow to start and character development is not as good as some prior books. We'll see what the next books bring.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Adds depth to the Virga series, May 17, 2013
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Tom Braun (North Florida, United States) - See all my reviews
The first time I read this book I really didn't enjoy it as much as the previous books in the Virga series such as Sun of Suns: Book One of Virga. Its heroine seemed weaker and the story was less about crazy physics and world-building and more about a society teetering on the verge of authoritarianism. And then the ending got kind of weird.

This time around, however I appreciated that Leal Maspeth, the heroine, is actually a much subtler and more interesting character than the swashbuckling heroes of the previous books such as Hayden the Sunlighter. In fact the author spends a lot of time explicitly contrasting her maturity and introspection to Hayden's brash heroism.

And the idea of people shutting out the things that they don't want to believe in resonates with the larger themes of the book. The fact that this book even HAS a theme sets it apart from the previous books, which were more about swashbuckling, steampunk, gravity-defying adventure. And that's all well and good. But in The Sunless Countries Schroeder is taking the series in a more mature direction. I think that threw me the first time I read it. But the second time, I appreciate it. For all its brilliant world-building, Sun of Suns was pretty shallow.

The end of this book clearly sets up for Book V, Ashes of Candesce: Book Five of Virga, which I will read next. The reader and our heroes find themselves beyond the walls of their world of Virga, facing utterly alien worlds and enemies. That's a little bittersweet, because Karl Schroeder has spent so much time building up his intricate, plausible steampunk world that I hate to leave it, and I suspect it's going to be turned upside down and changed forever in the next book anyway. But Schroeder is a brilliant sci-fi author who is able to dream up fantastic ideas and then explore them to their logical limits. He is, in short, a sci-fi genius. So I am looking forward to what comes next.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Great read. Couldn't put it down., April 17, 2013
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This review is from: The Sunless Countries: Book Four of Virga (Kindle Edition)
Really nice follow up to the Virga series. I like the way this new character was weaved into the overall story with her specific point of view and struggle.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fast, fun reads, January 20, 2012
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This review is from: The Sunless Countries: Book Four of Virga (Kindle Edition)
Great stuff, truly, though it's not a future world I would care to actually live in, like the future of, say, Jack McDevitt's Alex Benedict detective series. Well worth your time and money (though the Kindle price is rather high) Start with "Sun of Suns," and don't be surprised to find yourself hooked. They are fast, fun reads. Having finished this one, a cliff-hanger, I must now wait until Valentine's Day to receive No. 5. Sigh.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Still on an upward trajectory, April 29, 2011
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Edward Barnett (Cambridge, MA United States) - See all my reviews
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I'm generally not a fan of sequels or series. It seems that they often start with a novel idea, but then lose their spark, or worse (like a TV series that has run too long), they "jump the shark." There are rare exceptions, where an author keeps inventing individual stories that are worth telling while also advancing our understanding of the universe he or she has created -- Asimov's Foundation series comes to mind.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first book in this series (Sun of Suns). It was a great swashbuckling adventure set in a world that was both familiar and bizarre, with hints that there was something bigger to the story. In the second book, the bigger picture faded almost completely, and we were given a distinctly different tale of an Odysseus-like character who found herself stranded in a strange world and had to use her wits and guile to return home. The third book took another character from the first novel and moved him into the role of protagonist, providing a third perspective on the world of Virga, with the "bigger picture" issues moving back onto the main stage.

The fourth book, The Sunless Countries, introduces a new character and protagonist, but with plenty of links to the earlier books (especially Books One and Three) to provide continuity. This latest book puts the big-picture context question (what is Virga, and why is it so special) front and center. The final pages, while not a cliffhanger, clearly are designed as the first steps down the next path this series of books will take.

As with the earlier books, this book is, if I had to pick a single word, intriguing. In the best tradition of science fiction, it made me want to know more about this strange world, to understand how it works and what mysteries it holds. The world Schroeder has created is fascinatingly simple at the conceptual level. The magic is in the texture, where the author does a great job of illustrating how the rules of the different environment change all of the details of every day life.

The book isn't all about the world, though. I also thoroughly enjoyed the lead character. As was true with the earlier books, the protagonist is richly human and fundamentally likable. In all four books, the protagonist is someone I would genuinely like to meet and spend time with in person -- they're interesting people. The fact that each book has pulled a different protagonist to the fore is part of what has kept the series fresh and interesting.

The author has done a great job of creating an intriguing, richly textured, consistent world, which in itself is an accomplishment. He has then populated it with grand adventures and engaging characters. It's an impressive body of work and thoroughly enjoyable read. I look forward to seeing where he goes next with this idea.
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3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars super science fiction thriller, August 8, 2009
Far from the center of Vega where the artificial light is at its strongest in the city of Pacquaea, the dimmer outer towns begin to vanish with no known cause. Those in the inner sanction believe a threat from off world has begun to systemically destroy the sunless orb.

At the same that towns are being devastated most likely from the outside, a new religious movement has taken root proclaiming that Vega is eternal and not created. They are called Eternists. They begin a concerted effort to impound books, control all the news they feel fit to print and force a referendum on subjecting science to popular votes.

Sun lighter Hayden Griffin and historian dreamer Leal Hieronyma Maspeth unite to investigate the outsider assaults. Their inquiry takes the courageous duo to an eerie group of dead apparently killed by rain, encounters with the "mythical", struggles with menacing politicians threatening to end each of their careers especially his commission to build a new "sun". As he reconsiders his choices while she pushes on, they begin to close in on the outside at a time the increasingly powerful Eternists want to prevent them from learning any truths except what they decree is the one and only Truth.

The latest Virga science fiction thriller (see SUN OF STARS and QUEEN OF CANDESCE) is a super entry as Karl Shroeder takes readers to previously unexplored bubble regions beyond the world's centrally located artificial suns; places that were dim, but now are THE SUNLESS COUNTRIES. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down as the two heroes investigate why bubbles are going dark. Fans will relish Karl Shroeder's excellent outer space saga as once again the bubble world of Virga seems a genuine host for a great adventure.

Harriet Klausner
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