10 June 2018

BOOK REVIEW: The Fall Of Tartarus by Eric Brown

My rating: 5 out of 5

Somewhere within every review that I write of Eric Brown's work usually appears a statement that he has [yet again] failed to disappoint me and this collection of eight interlinked short works is yet another superb example of this. This book showcases an author who writes consistently good science fiction and the stories overflow with so many of the ingredients which make up supremely entertaining yarns. The main character is the planet Tartarus whose sun is going nova (a cataclysmic eruption and subsequent decline of a star) and each story is about characters who are either live on the planet or are returning for various reasons. The stories are arranged chronologically, with each one set closer to the impending supernova, from a couple of hundred years prior right up until the supernova engulfs Tartarus and those left there. Each story was originally published in sci-fi magazines between 1995 and 2000 and one of the stories, the novella Hunting The Slarque, won the British Science Fiction Association’s best short story award in 2000, a fact which doesn't surprise me one little bit.

The first story Destiny on Tartarus tells of a young man who travels to Tartarus to find out the fate of his father and is a fantastic journey across the planet where we see some truly amazing sights. This story culminates in a very dangerous boat race in the planet's fiercest waters and this is where our main character learns what he came to the planet to discover. A hugely fun yarn that was a pure joy to read.

Next is A Prayer for the Dead which is another retrospective beauty where the main character revisits his childhood home on Tartarus and reminisces about his childhood and the events that occurred over one particular period. Superb characterization and an interesting ending really make this one what it is.

The Eschatarium at Lyssia tells the story of an artist who lost his wife on Tartarus and is asked by a messenger from the planet claiming to have been sent by his [living] wife who wishes to see him again. Disbelieving, he still goes back to the planet and when he revisits an ancient structure created millions of years ago by a mysterious alien race, he finds the answer to this questions and makes some startling discoveries. Reasonably short, it gives us more good characters and a personal and emotional story.

In The Ultimate Sacrifice, we follow a reporter who goes to Tartarus to find her lost brother or to find out the fate he has suffered. She's lead to the Church of the Ultimate Sacrifice where adherents practice a form of mortification in an attempt to appease the God of the supernova. It reveals more details of religion on Tartarus and is very interesting with a bittersweet ending.

The People of the Nova tells a story of an official on Tartarus who is trying to find a native tribal people in order to evacuate them before to the supernova. This story that looks at the rights and wrongs of forcing people to abandon their home planet and has plenty of feeling and emotion mixed in.

Next up, Vulpheous is another excellent story with a bittersweet finish. The main player here is hunting to kill the last existing member of a rare sea-elephant-like species called the Vulpheous. He believes that the animal's liver may hold the key to cure to many currently incurable diseases. He meets a native girl who has also trekked to the Vulpheous in order to find a different cure for herself, one which requires the animal to be alive. Conflicting emotions and dilemmas ensue, as you can imagine.

Hunting the Slarque tells the fascinating story a man who was a victim of an attack on Tartarus (he was actually killed) by what is believed to be a Slarque, a devolved intelligent species thought by many to be extinct. His remains were placed in stasis which then underwent a "regeneration" procedure funded by a wealthy businessman in return for assistance in capturing a Slarque for his zoo. This has a really interesting finish where the story elements come together really nicely.

Finally, Dark Calvary reintroduces the Church of the Ultimate Sacrifice and also reveals more details of the Slarque and the relationship between these two. The ending is superb and is a fitting finale to both this story collection and the planet of Tartarus itself.

In summary, this compilation shows that Eric Brown can't write bad stories, well I'm yet to read one. I'm left feeling satisfied and complete from reading these stories, each one fitting within Brown's tried-and-true formula which has amazing locations and events along with the character themes of loss, love, sacrifice and redemption. These ingredients really make the stories shine, just like just about every other piece of Eric Brown's work that I've read so far. I couldn't recommend this one any higher.

5/5 for concept
5/5 for delivery
5/5 for entertainment
= 5 out of 5

Buy the ebook HERE (Amazon US)
Buy the paper book HERE (Amazon UK)

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