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Souls in the Great Machine (Greatwinter Trilogy) Paperback – May 12, 2000
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In 40th-century Australia, Zarvora Cybeline discovers the world is threatened by destruction from the sky--yet the planet doesn't have enough technology even to build a steam engine. To save civilization, Zarvora must recover lost 21st-century technology. But technology is proscribed, and the dangers from the sky are joined by enemies in the sea, and even among her own ranks. Zarvora embarks on a bold and ruthless plan to save a world no one else believes is in danger.
Souls in the Great Machine is a big book at 450 pages. Stuffed fuller than a Thanksgiving turkey with great storylines, characters, and concepts, it's got thrilling action, hair's-breadth escapes, tyranny, treachery, villainy, heroism, duels, riots, war, love, hate, obsession, powerful women, mad monks, a returning ice age, a lost race, rediscovered civilizations, invasions, executions, high-tech, steampunk tech, a computer with human components, and numerous subplots. In short, Souls in the Great Machine is huge; it is epic--but it is not sprawling. In the hands of most authors, this complex and ambitious SF novel would be a trilogy. And while Souls may occasionally move a little too fast, the plot never drags and the reader's interest never flags. If you're looking for a sense of wonder, for adventure that respects your intelligence, for an enormously fun read--look no further than Souls in the Great Machine. --Cynthia Ward --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Fast-paced and amusing, McMullen's latest novel (after The Centurion's Empire) is an action-packed adventure in the tradition of world-building SF. Set 20 centuries in the future, in a postnuclear winter society, the tale centers on the Calculor, a fantastic calculating machine powered by nameless human components who remain imprisoned within its workings. As the Highliber of LibrisAaka head librarianAZavora is the de facto ruler of the Calculor, and thus of all Confederation society, packing more political clout than the mayor himself. Through the Calculor's number crunching, Zavora has discovered that the world will be plunged into another "Greatwinter," or ice age, unless she can gain control of a satellite in Earth's orbit, which seems nearly impossible given her society's limited technology. Aiding Zavora in her mission are the Abbess Theresla, who has an innate ability to resist "the Call," a psychic phenomena that forces all humans to follow its deadly beckoning; Lemorel, a spirited young street fighter and librarian within the Libris; and Johnny Glasken, a rogue and former prisoner of the Calculor. McMullen's dramatic pacing and believable characters ensure that readers will enjoy Zavora's quest through a well-wrought, richly imagined multidimensional world.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Others complain that the characters change too much, that there are no true heroes in the novel (as every character has committed immoral actions), and this makes them unrealistic. I disagree. It represents how humans are in a constant state of flux, and that the capacity for evil exists in all - even those with the best intentions, and especially those ruled by their emotions.
Read the whole trilogy, you will NOT be disappointed.
The story is based in future Australia, and could use a map for us Americans who dont get all the references.
I'll probably order the second one in the series, but this was much weaker than the Centurian.
There is a LOT going on in the Greatwinter Trilogy and Sean McMullen plunges readers right into the thick of it. While the first book can be hard to grasp for the first few chapters, you'll be glad if you stick with it. Sci-Fi readers will be no strangers to post-apocalypse Earths but McMullen's take is unique and imaginative, giving us a bunch of antagonists, both human and artificial. Trying to take on everything happening in this book in a two or three paragraph review is impossible but I thought the mix of plot devices worked well.
The biggest factors in positive and negative thoughts on this book seems to be the characters and I can see why. Personally, I liked the characters quite a bit and thought they developed throughout. Antagonists become protagonists and there's a thick, grey area between "good" and "bad." In short, most of the point-of-view characters have ambition they don't conceal and will do whatever it takes to forward their agenda, usually for their version of "the greater good." There are points when some characters seem to take actions wildly out of character (especially near the middle of the book - keep in mind this was once two shorter novellas turned into one larger book) in a Dues Ex Machina'ed way that left me looking for an explanation of why they'd take such a strange turn.
Having read the rest of the books in this series before writing my review for the first, I'd sum up my review by saying that while Souls in the Great Machine has its flaws, it's a solid introduction to a fantastic world and series.
Aside: For readers NOT living in Australia, a little familiarity with the Down Under may help with the expansive geography of where things are in this book.
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I highly recommend this. Some of the best sci-fi I have read
with a very interesting primative high-tech twist.Read more