Joachim Breitner

Tad Williams' "Otherland"

Published 2005-09-28 in sections English, Buchkritik.

I recently finished reading the first volume of Tad Williams' "Otherland" triology. I have mixed feelings about this book. First important thing to know when starting to read the book: It not only says "Volume One", it means "Volume One": The story is even more unfinished as the story of the ring after The Fellowship. Also, the reader needs quite some patience with the book as about the first half is not really exciting. I'm not saying it is not interesting, but it is not hard to stop in that half, so one might stop for good, missing the better half of the book.

The better half is the second one: By now, each of the half dozen seemingly independand stories have advanced far enough to be interesting for themselves, and the first slight connections become apparent. This separation in several tracks actually helped me through beginning: It is always a surprise what storie will be continued now, and for what story you have to wait. Also, only after some reading time the reader feels at home is the not-too-much, but still, different world. And of course, by now the conflict is fully visible, so that after some point, you just want to know what's going to happen.

The book was first published in 1996, when the Internet was just beginning to become mainstream. Nevertheless, Williams created a very convincing view of the world in a few decades. The ways in which the net is accessed in the futrure, from simple touchscreens over 3D goggle to neuron implants, are still the most probable way. There are sucessful experiments with a neuro prosthesis proving a 12x12 pixel black and white vision to blinds.

Also the way the net itself is described, a commercialized copy of the real world, with people paying a lot of realmoney for prestigous sims and strange buildings, but also with a non-commerial, distributed ran hackers' playground, is something that has already become real: Products like Second Life are fightening similar to Williams' vision: A world where people pay real world money for vitual estate, where they can do just about everything they could do offline: Finding friends, being creative, working, playing, showing off. I must admit, after having read the book, I would have tried Second Life myself, but as long as they don't provide a linux client. Although I still would prefer a free and distributed equivalent to Second Life. "Tree House" rather than "Inner District", for those who have read Otherland.



I can just say: Continue reading the other 3 volumes. It is worth it. After the first volume I thought what the heck, how can a book end like this - I do not even have a clue what is going on here.

But the next volumes start to join all those different characters and storylines and the overall picture becomes finally clear.

Hope you enjoy them as I did. Btw, SWR or WDR created a German audio book/play from all books.
#1 Carsten Aulbert am 2005-09-29
I take the liberty of recommending you another book (well, more series). It is fantasy as well, features many ver compelling tracks (which you seemed to like ;-) ) and a very detailed designed universe. And the best is: It is thrilling from the beginning on ;-) The serie is called "The Malazan book of the Fallen" by Steven Erikson with the first book bein "Gardens of the Moon". I just finished reading it for the second time...
#2 Sebastian Ley (Homepage) am 2005-09-29
I can only join the first poster in encouraging you. The different worlds the adventurers have to travel through are amazing, and if I did tell you, I'd spoil it. Sometimes, you don't know what's going on for fifty pages, and then you realize what this world is about. And in the end, all the strings will be reunited, but in the meantime, there will be more, not less. And prepare for a good share of surprises.

Anyway, Otherland is *so* much better than Osten Ard (being mostly a Tolkien copy + some additions). I just finished reading "War of the flowers" by Williams, which is also not that original. But Otherland truly stands for its own.
#3 Torsten Marek am 2005-09-29
I have just finished reading "Otherland" after hearing many years ago about Tad Williams. I loved the book and am ready to get into the other three. Interested to read of other recommendations as enjoy sci-fi & fantasy. I agree that "Otherland" difficult to stick with at first but well worth the effort. I loved the challenge of the multiple narratives and intertextual references. I think I am now a Williams fan.
#4 ascott am 2005-10-05
Other book I can recommend:

Most books of
Iain Banks.
Douglas Adams
Peter F. Hamilton (especially the trilogy starting with "The Reality Dysfunction")
#5 Carsten Aulbert am 2005-10-05
<strong>Trackback:</strong> <a href="">Extended-range telepresence</a><br />
Today, I took part in a tour to the Intelligent Sensor-Acuator-Systems (ISAS) department here at the University of Karlsruhe. They work on a project for extended-range telepresence. At first it is like a regular Virtual Realtiy device: Head-mounted disp
#6 nomeata's mind shares (Homepage) am 2005-11-28
<strong>Trackback:</strong> <a href="">Tad Williams' Otherland - Part II</a><br />
Just before Christmas, I finished reading the second volume of Tad Williams&#8217; &#8220;Otherland&#8221; quadrilogy, &#8220;The river of blue fire&#8221;. Most of what I said about the first part still holds, especially what I said about the similarty
#7 nomeata's mind shares (Homepage) am 2005-12-29
Yo, ich weiß, dass es ein uralter Post ist. Trotzdem sei der Hinweis erlaubt, dass (1) Second Life inzwischen einen ziemlich guten Linux-Client hat und (2) sogar ein sim namens Otherland existiert. Ganz so creativ wie die simulationen in Tad Williams Buch geht es dort allerdings nicht zu. Dazu sind die naturgesetzlichen Vorgaben in SL nicht stark genug änderbar.
#8 Markus Breuer (Homepage) am 2006-09-25
Nix gegen uralte Posts :-)

Den Linuxclient hab ich mal ausprobiert, aber irgendwie wusste ich nicht so recht was ich in SecondLife machen soll...

Aber persönlich werd ich vorbehalte haben solange SecondLife ein geschlossenes System (wie etwa die meisten Instant Messenger) ist, statt ein offenes förderales System (wie etwa Jabber, e-Mail oder das Internet an sich). Gerade "Otherland" zeigt wie mächtig so eine Welt sein kann, und da finde ich offene Strukturen wichtig.
#9 Joachim Breitner (Homepage) am 2006-09-25

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