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Friday, July 24, 2009

"Heart of Veridon" by Tim Akers (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

Official Tim Akers Site
Read short stories set in the Veridon universe HERE
Order "Heart of Veridon" HERE
Read FBC Review of Solaris SF 3 which contains a story featuring the main hero of the novel

I have heard of Mr. Akers a while ago when I read a short story that impressed me and found out about his steampunk universe of Veridon, the Church of the Algorithm (!) and much more (how can you not love this last name if you are into steampunk?).

There are several Veridon stories offered free online by Mr. Akers
linked above and I devoured all available at the time. When "Solaris SF 3" appeared with another such superb one earlier this year and I found out about the novel I was very excited though later the Solaris-on-sale news broke and the Veridon universe may remain homeless for a while.

I was lucky to get a pdf arc from the great folks at Solaris and I have read
"Heart of Veridon" several months ago and I was truly impressed; the praise that Lou Anders heaps on it HERE when announcing the new PYR series to be written by Mr. Akers is well deserved .

OVERVIEW: The City of Veridon sits on a plateau where the river Reine that is its lifeline goes down the plains in a spectacular waterfall. The hinterlands of the city extend downriver, but upriver there is a mystery place from where artifacts float down the river. Using them the Church of the Algorithm gained and now is consolidating power. No expedition so far penetrated the uplands and returns, but airships make regular trips downriver in the hinterland. Pilots form a special class in Veridon and go through the rigorous Academy training.

Veridon is also a conflicted city between the old aristocracy, the new rich, and the Church of the Algorithm that made zepliners and other "steampunk tech" possible as well as having a thriving underground with Valentine a powerful mob boss.

Jacob Burn is a scion of the oldest nobility thrown out of house by his father Alexander after his failure as Pilot, later employed by cog-work underground wheeler-dealer Valentine and his right hand Cacher, while having a crush on Emily the "independent" operator who is Cacher's official girlfriend.

The novel is written in first person with Jacob as a narrator and stands at about 470 pages divided into eighteen chapters and an epilogue. "Heart of Veridon" works as a standalone, but it truly begs a sequel.

While I met Jacob Burn in the Solaris SF 3 short story "A Soul Stitched to Iron" which is alluded to in the novel but it is not essential to it and the novel was a highly anticipated one, the first paragraph would have hooked me immediately anyway:

"I was on the Glory of Day when she fell out of the sky. I rode the flames and shattered gears down into the cold, dark Reine, survived because I was only half-alive to begin with. Two times I’ve been dragged out of the wreckage of a zepliner, two times I’ve walked away. This time I was just a passenger. The first time I was captain, Pilot, and only survivor. The sky doesn’t like me much."

When he is entrusted a mysterious object on Glory by a dying associate, Jacob becomes a marked man and the center attention of various factions, one more sinister than other, so much so that Valentine does an "Alexander" on him and "disowns" him too; business as he puts it...

On his own, Jacob finds two stalwart partners in Emily and a mysterious "bug-man", the "Anansi" Wilson, former engineer and savant until the Council cracked down on his Artificer order, and tries to figure what is the mysterious object and how to get of the mess alive.

The world
building in the novel is outstanding and I strongly recommend checking out the Veridon stories that are free online and linked above to get a taste of it and as a bonus one of them contains some background on one of the weirder characters of the novel, a head of a noble house that "has been dying" now for a century or more, and his Council seat has been morgaged and re-mortgaged to various new rich, though his descendant is still the proxy vote as long as he lives.

Jacob Burn both resentful of his fall and reasonable happy in his day to day underground operator living is the best drawn character and his narration is superb. His two companions, Emily and Wilson are also "individualized" well and both have secrets of their own, while the snapshots we get of various powerful operators in the City, from Councillors to killers add to the panaorama of Veridon and make it feel "real", a place we can visit. The mystery at the core of novel is well handled and its resolution is natural.

If there is one niggle I have about the novel it is the ending which is just a stop in the story. Not a cliffhanger and solving the main thread of the novel but begging for the sequel we all hope will get written sooner rather than later. With a contracted series in the pocket even if only for only one extra novel in the universe, I would have no qualms to rank "Heart of Veridon" a co-#2 2009 novel for me, but this way, with no clear sequel in sight due to publishing vagaries, the novel remains a notable 2009 one for me and highly recomended with the caveat above.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Worst book I have ever read. Plot full of holes. In the stylee of pulp western.

Anonymous said...

A very well written book but with an abrupt and not very satisfying ending.

Flavy said...

I’m reading now this book and i am at page 210. Until now the book “catch me” and make me remind of China Mievile with the book – Perdido street station. But i have a problem: at page 198 when they meeting with Patron Tomb i cannot imagine at all how did looks like that man. Is him in a body similar with that from the cover of Dead of veridon? I can’t see how is look like that man, i try to imagining him in a aquarium, but is not fix with description I read it…maybe the problem is the thing that i am not a native english reader, only a romanian guy who try to read books in other language and failed in understand a such minor thing… Thanks

Flavy said...

Today I finish to read Dead of Veridon and I can tell that this one I liked a little bit more than Heart of Veridon. Though I was a bit dissapointed about the end, because it lets many questions without answers, the book was a very good way for me to relax .

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