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Rift in the Sky (Stratification, Bk 3) Mass Market Paperback – July 6, 2010
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About the Author
Julie E. Czerneda is a biologist and writer whose science fiction has received international acclaim, awards, and best-selling status. She is the author of the popular "Species Imperative" trilogy, the "Web Shifters" series, the "Trade Pact Universe" trilogy and her new "Stratification" novels. She was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer. Her stand-alone novel, In the Company of Others, won Canada's Prix Aurora Award and was a finalist for the Philip K. Dick Award for Distinguished SF. Julie lives with her husband and two children in the lake country of central Ontario, under skies so clear they could take seeing the Milky Way for granted, but never do. You can find her at www.czerneda.com.
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Top Customer Reviews
Rift in the Sky is the concluding third book of Julie Czerneda's Stratification trilogy which is the second trilogy in her Clan Chronicles series (the first trilogy being The Trade Pact Cycle, a noteworthy collection of novels that not-so-coincidentally includes her breakthrough work, A Thousand Words for Stranger). Okay, that takes care of what this book is in terms of its publishing lineage for those who don't know Julie or her books. (Please go to [...] for the definitive bibliography.)
Then again, what is this book, really? "After all," says the jaded fiction reader, "Aren't series and trilogies simply ever lessening circles of repetitive navel gazing created to bilk a fanbase?"
People like that have never really met the works of Julie Czerneda.
As implied in my tag line above, I read Rift immediately following the latest Weber effort. While I will review that book seperately, the immediate juxtaposition of the two clarified exactly why Ms. Czerneda is an author to be admired and emulated not only for the pure enjoyement of a reader but also as an example of professional speculative fiction prose.
The Stratification trilogy encompasses a prequel story arc that forms the foundation of The Trade Pact Cycle novels. This continuing tale of adventure, danger, and romance provides many answers as to the "Why?" questions asked in the previous works but quite a few new mysteries are added to the mix as well.
As in all trilogies, you benefit most in Reading Rift by having read the previous two books, Reap the Wild Wind and Riders of the Storm. The characterizations created in the earlier works such as the two mains, Aryl Sarc and her Chosen, Enris, have grown and matured through the previous books in preparation for the new challenges presented in the third.
In all honesty, I really can't say that Rift is a "stand alone" kind of book that you can read without having read the previous two. I know that's the goal for publishers and authors when they kick off any book of a trilogy but there's so much that's been built into the first two books that trying to add it in would run the risk of a very Weber-esque case of info-dump-itis. Considering how good a read each individual book is in terms of pacing, character development, mystery, and layering, I think that Ms. Czerneda and her publisher made an excellent choice.
Why are all of these books good reads? Because Ms. Czerneda is, truly, one of the current masters of speculative fiction storytelling. She understands at a core level how the combination of pacing, implication, and believability have to be woven together to create immersive tales. Her attention to plot detail and foreshadowing is singular amongst her current peers. Her characters are all - even the minor ones - well realized and multi-faceted enough for the roles which they occupy. There are no cardboard cutouts in any of Ms. Czerneda's worlds.
In the case of Rift, she addresses a very complex and fluid situation for her characters in a such a manner that, although the reader is never lost, you still can palpably feel the confusion and desperation of those involved. The reader's trance never breaks. One has to keep turning the pages to see how the disruptions and dangers threatening the Om'ray's very existance as a people and species unfolds. Best of all, although you know that the heroine is Aryl Sarc, you never are quite sure she's going to survive it all in the end. There's this lingering worry that she will die or lose her love or her baby or have some other horrific thing happen that twists your heart around until the very end. And horrific things do happen, no two ways about that.
The depths of consideration into interpersonal and interspecies relations are another notable point of depth to the work. "Trust" becomes a by-word for foolishness and a flood gauge for how Aryl and her people fall from their simple, more naive world as the novel goes by. That there can be good and bad creatures within and without, and that the metric for good and bad vary by what serves the various species best provides for difficult challenges to the morals of Aryl and how she sees herself.
Rift, therefore, is a story that addresses a broad range of perspectives of various groups through the lens of Aryl's attempts to understand and survive. The pace of the book is fast but not suffocatingly so. Subtlety in the various details, foreshadowing, and characterizations flesh out the prose into a satisfying whole. Added to this is the attention to various scientific details that are de riguere for Ms. Czerneda that help support the reader's suspension of disbelief by helping keep the whole created universe "believable". The result is a book that satisfies while reading and lingers in enjoyable consideration afterwards.
Which was a shame but there was a lot of padding in the plot and situations across these three novels, and ultimately my view is that three books should have been two books. Especially when it came to the ending of this novel, which felt contrived rather than a natural outcome of events.
In particular, this is the "big reveal" that has been building from the first two novels - and you need to have read them for this one to make sense - because things are coming to a head for Aryl and her disaffected tribe. But when they do it was a massive disconnect for me. No spoilers, but it was in the order of "And then she woke up..." in terms of sophistication compared to what had gone before.
And I know this is a prequel to the "Trade Pact Universe" series but it leaves so much unanswered with regards why/how Cersi works, the Agreement, the M-hir and adds a lot more questions with the "ending" that I felt shortchanged. Sure, Czerneda possibly answers them elsewhere in the Trade Pact series, but having just read three novels for so little payoff I'm disinclined to bother.
Clearly, if you've read the previous two novels you should read this one. And Czerneda writes well so overall this prequel series is pretty good. It's just that having invested in such an interesting little universe, I did not think the conclusion was worthy of the build up.
I have to buy her books because I really enjoy reading them again and again, there are very few books you can say that about.
Reap the Wild Wind (Stratification #1)
Riders of the Storm: Stratification #2
Rift in the Sky: Stratification #3
A Thousand Words For Stranger (10th Anniversary Edition)
To Trade the Stars (Trade Pact Universe)
Ties of Power (Trade Pact Universe)
Survival: Species Imperative #1
Migration: Species Imperative #2
Regeneration: Species Imperative #3