With the amount of praise being piled onto him from all sides, when I first heard he had a new book coming out, I though it was about time I finally delved into Eric Brown’s work. Not to mention The Kings of Eternity, his latests, was being hailed by such high standing science fiction figures as Stephen Baxter as Brown’s ‘best yet.’ The experience was indeed deserving of all the praise. This riveting ‘dual’ story is in many ways a nostalgic ode to science fiction of the past, while at the same time it is a thoughtful exploration of human nature (within a sci-fi concept) and an entertaining, mysterious tale to boot!
1999. On the threshold of a new millennium, the novelist Daniel Langham lives a reclusive life on an idyllic Greek Island, hiding away from humanity and the events of the past. All that changes, however, when he meets artist Caroline Platt and finds himself falling in love. But what is his secret, and what are the horrors that haunt him?
Writers Jonathon Langham and Edward Vaughan are summoned from London by
their editor friend Jasper Carnegie to help investigate strange goings-on in Hopton Wood. What they discover there - no less than a strange creature from another world - will change their lives forever.
Not knowing what to expect going into a Brown book for the first time, I was taken aback by the accessibility of The Kings of Eternity. In its initial stages, it’s almost as if it isn’t a science fiction book at all. Even when the tell-tale signs that this wasn’t a simple historical fiction began to appear I was impressed by Brown’s control in keeping the science fictional elements of the plot as supports to the story and not its focus. Instead, The Kings of Eternity is very much about its characters, never letting itself be overpowered by the more supernatural elements.
Brown chooses to lay the story of his The Kings of Eternity in two parts, both focused on the view points of characters: one that concentrates on Daniel Langham and his rather mundane, reclusive life as a bestselling novelists in 1999 and another that follows Daniel’s grandfather, Jonathon Langham, and his eerie adventures in 1935. Brown drops subtle hints that there is more to both of these characters than meets the eye. The tight narrative focus of these points of view helps emphasize the human element of these two tales - Jonathon’s story is even told from a first person point of view - and helps with immersion into the novel.
Though the big twist in the story, the key element around which the plot revolves, was not difficult to predict after too long, by making the reader engage so deeply with the characters Brown maintains an often palpable tension and a true sense of mystery through the reveal. This wouldn’t have been possible, once again, if The Kings of Eternity wasn’t about the characters. As it is, I desired more to know how things would affect the characters and how they would face it and grow than I was excited to be seeing how all the pieces of the puzzle fit.
All through its length, I was enthused and captivated by The Kings of Eternity. Brown in this novel displays a skill not all writers possess: that of being able to affect the readers through engaging characters and emotionally compelling plot. With such terrific writing, an irresistible underlying sense of nostalgia and a fine storyline, there is no way The Kings of Eternity will not win you over - science fiction fan or not. I can only recommend this highly to any and all readers. Now to see if Brown’s other books are as good...
My Rating: 5 out of 5
Reading Age: 14 and up
Eric Brown's Website: http://www.ericbrown.co.uk/
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