cover image Mountain of Black Glass

Mountain of Black Glass

Tad Williams. Daw Books, $24.95 (689pp) ISBN 978-0-88677-849-1

Epic in scope and size, this near-future cyberspace adventure has likable characters, heinous villains, a plethora of classical references and a slew of powerful action sequences that propel its many-tiered plot forward. Paul Jonas, a mysterious man with no clear memory of his past, is trapped and hunted inside the Grail Project, an artificial intelligence network run by the ultra-wealthy Grail Brotherhood. This third installment of the Otherland series (City of Golden Shadow; River of Blue Fire) reveals that the Project has been designed to provide cyber-immortality to its rich owners: it does this, at least in part, by stealing essential elements from children's psyches and leaving them comatose. Renie Sulaweyo has lost a sibling to the Grail Brotherhood's machinations. While Renie's body is watched over in the real world, her consciousness has been transferred inside the network, where she works with a motley band of reluctant adventurers trying to save the children and themselves. Stalking them is the brilliant psychopath Johnny Dark, who knows secrets about the Project and has his own evil mental twist that can hurt it. While Williams has a rather conventional take on power and prejudice in his ""real"" world, he lets rip inside the network, working with environments that include Homer's Odyssey, an ancient Egypt where the gods are somewhat less than omnipotent and a gigantic House in which Linen Closet Sisters are kidnapped by boys from Cutlery. As his ""real"" characters encounter computer-generated simulacrums who express compassion and have their own dreams and desires, the line between reality and fantasy blurs. Though the sheer weight of the series is daunting, Williams fills his pages with the sort of stories and characters that readers of epic fantasy are sure to love. (Sept.)