A World Too Near: Book Two of The Entire and The Rose
by Kay Kenyon
Cover Artist: Stephan Martiniere
Review by Sam Lubell
Pyr Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 9781591026426
Date: March 2008 List Price $25.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
Occasionally an author has an idea that is so good that it forces him or her to become a better writer just to keep up. Such is the case with Kay Kenyon's series The Entire and the Rose, which is a giant leap in sophistication and complexity from her other novels. Even if you've read her earlier work and dismissed it as average but not exceptional; you owe it to yourself to give this series a try.
The Entire and the Rose is a very complex four-book series. In the first book, Bright of the Sky, star pilot Titus Quinn is compelled to return to an alternate universe, called the Entire, that apparently killed his wife, enslaved his daughter, and shattered his memories. Very slowly, he regains his knowledge of this alternate universe and slowly discovers what really happened during his first trip. Unfortunately, the effect for most of the book, for the reader, is like reading the second book of a trilogy without reading the first. A complex narrative structure like this works better with a simple background, but the background of the Entire is entirely (pun intended) complex. In the Entire, the alien Tarig have observed our universe, which they call the Rose, and have copied humans genetically to be a servant race called the Chalin and adopted some parts of Earth Chinese culture.
While Titus was sent to the Entire by a big multinational corporation that wants to use the universe as an alternative to the wormhole transportation system, his personal motivation is to try to rescue his daughter, who has been blinded by the Tarig and adopted by the telepathic Inyx, intelligent horselike beasts. But this changes near the end when he discovers that he needs to warn his civilization that the Entire has an engine that will slowly destroy the Rose universe, including the Earth.
Ironically, this is one of the few series where the second book is better than the first. In the second book, the structure and narrative are both clearer. Titus has been sent to the Entire for a third time, armed with a deadly explosive device and a mission to destroy the engine and save his universe. So once again, he journeys through the Entire, giving Kenyon more opportunity to describe the fascinating world and creatures. Politics plays a large part here. Titus' daughter is working with the Inyx and a Tarig lord to spread revolution. She wants nothing to do with the father she thinks abandoned her and even sends an assassin after him when she is made to believe he is a threat to her rebellion. His wife, who really is not dead, schemes with other Tarig lords to get information that will help destroy the engine. And a superintelligent, but selfish, young Earthwoman talks her way into being sent with Titus in order to take advantage of the long life living in the Entire bestows. She plots to use Titus' daughter in her own schemes. The book would greatly benefit from a glossary of characters as it jumps from character to character involved with different plots and schemes.
What really makes this book superior is the moral dilemma. The Entire characters have to decide if it is right to destroy the Rose universe, on which many aspects of their culture are based. Are their personal motivations, ranging from love of Titus to hatred of the Tarig to desire for personal power, enough to justify risking their universe? And Titus eventually discovers that his device could wind up completely destroying the Entire, which he has come to love. So should he use the device or try to find another way?
Although the books are clearly science fiction, they will appeal to those who enjoy fantasy as well since much of the plot involves traveling through the wonders of this alternate universe. Even though the series is only halfway through, it is clear that if Kenyon can maintain this level of quality throughout the whole thing, this will be one of the important series of the 2000s, and help put Pyr (are they still considered a small press?) on the map.