cover image Ancients of Days: The Second Book of Confluence

Ancients of Days: The Second Book of Confluence

Paul J. McAuley. Eos, $16 (386pp) ISBN 978-0-380-97516-7

In McAuley's followup to Child of the River, named a PW Best Book of 1998, Yama continues his quest for identity, still pursued by the implacable Prefect Corin of the Department of Indigenous Affairs, who would subvert Yama's burgeoning psychic powers and put them to use in the war against the Heretics. Confluence is a planet-sized, needle-shaped artificial environment set millions of years in the future by the Preservers, humanity's distant descendants, to orbit a star. Nearby is the Eye of the Preservers, a massive black hole within which the galaxy's remaining humans have evidently hidden themselves, for reasons unknown. The inhabitants of Confluence, the 10,000 bloodlines, are, apparently without exception, animals, some of earthly origin and others not, all genetically engineered for human intelligence and form. Yama, an orphan of mysterious parentage, is a Builder, a member of a bloodline thought long extinct. His desire to uncover the mystery behind his birth is the motivating force for both his quest and the series. Throughout, he is opposed not just by Prefect Corin but by other intelligent beings, both organic and inorganic, who would bend him to their will. Although there are many exciting incidents along the way, what counts most in this colorful tale is the complex world that McAuley has created. Reminiscent of Gene Wolfe's classic series Book of the New Sun and the best of Jack Vance, the Books of Confluence are highly entertaining and beautifully written, full of exotic settings, unusual characters, nuggets of scientific speculation and a healthy dose of decadence. McAuley is one of the field's finest practitioners and here he is writing at the top of his form. (July)