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Monday, May 4, 2009

Overlooked Masterpiece: Omega by Christopher Evans (Reviewed by Liviu Suciu)

Christopher Evans at Wikipedia
Original PS Publishing Page for Omega

INTRODUCTION: Though I pride myself that I tried the work of almost all US and most UK *sf* authors from the mid-80's on, I have to confess I have never heard of Christopher Evans until THIS.

As you will soon find out by clicking on the link-through, *THIS* is an extraordinary review of Omega written by Paul Kincaid for Strange Horizons and containing an overview of Mr. Evans (original adult) novels, *six* in number before this one. I wanted the book immediately, but unfortunately it is very hard or very expensive to find,and instead I got all the other six novels and read and loved four so far, with the rest to read sooner rather than later.

When I had the chance of getting a pdf review copy
of Omega from PS Publishing, courtesy of Paul Raven I just jumped at it and indeed Omega was as good as advertised, if not more.

Omega is truly deserving of an *as wide release as possible* so all sff lovers have a chance to enjoy it!

OVERVIEW: This a "blow me away" kind of novel both in concept and execution; narrated by current day London inhabitant, Owen Meredith with brother Rees, wife Lyneth, two kids and former girlfriend Tanya, currently married with best friend Geoff, or so Owen believes.

Owen suffers a traumatic accident, and finds himself slipping in and out the body of Major Owain Maredudd, his alter-ego in a bleak, militarized and devastated London where WW2 has not really ended, though now it's a Cold War three powers standoff between Europe, USA and Russia, whose sphere of influences are separated on land by cordons of nuclear wilderness.

Owen cannot really influence Owain's actions, while his return to "real life" is marred by memory lapses - with the flips happening unpredictably and quite often.

Owain has a very different family - brother Rhys too, but his uncle, Marshal Maredudd is the Alliance British Commander which makes him effectively Britain's head of state. Owain has memory problems too, not to speak of his darker personal life marked by impotence, bouts of rage and close friendship with Marisa the exotic trophy wife of sinister Interior Minister Carl Legister.

The switch point of the histories was when Adolf Hitler died in a plane crash in the early 40's, the Wermacht liquidated the Nazi leadership, Britain allied with the de-nazified Germany and lent its power to the Eastern Front in return for Germany freeing all its western conquests and forming the European Alliance, a military European Union-like superstate and agreeing to a Jewish state in
Palestine among other demands.

However the USA kept its alliance with the USSR for a time, stopping an outright European victory, and 60 years later marked by bouts of war including limited nuclear strikes led to the current standoff.

And there is Omega, the rumored secret weapon to end all wars.

The prose is just superb, the book is riveting since you really are kept on the edge of the seat with unpredictability and suspense, as well as kept guessing what's real about Owen's past and what will happen in Owain's world - since that's where the tension of the novel lies. The personal of Owen in "our" London versus the military/political and the fate of the alternate world of Owain's London.

Owen is the narrator, but he is unreliable with respect to his own memories - he recounts his life, alternating between the steady hometown girl Lyneth and the exotic Tanya, all under the shadow of his domineering historian father and autistic, in-out of the hospital brother and leading to his current unhappy marriage with Lyneth and "sort of an affair" with Tanya.

Owain is seen only through Owen's eyes, but his world and personal history are "reliable" in so far as Owen knows, but the Cold War may be turning hot and Omega may just be real.

The tension is solved in a very satisfactory way and while I saw the first part of the puzzle after a while - though the author keeps throwing "spans" that may lead a reader astray, that part makes sense "naturally" in only one way, and indeed it turns out that way, so no real surprise there - the second part came as a total surprise and the ending is outstanding.

Great, great novel!!!


Okie said...

This does sound like a great book and I look forward to picking it up. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Liviu said...

All credit for finding out about the book goes to Paul Kincaid and then to Paul Raven for so kindly providing me with a pdf copy.

I strongly hope this book will see a wide release soon since it's just unbelievable good from page 1 to the end.

And the other books of the author that I read (Insider, Capella, Mortal Remains and Chimera) are very good too with The Insider just psychological sf ( ? - there is an alien but is it real ?) of the highest class and Chimera a sort of weird fantasy collection of related stories; Capella and Mortal Remains are more traditional sf (colony, solar system adventure) but as enjoyable as any similar ones.

The alt-hist novel with the Aztecs dominating and the other psychological (sf ?) novel In Limbo read very well and are on my the sooner rather than later stack

Anonymous said...

Wow, you don't get more of a ringing endorsement than that, duly added to my shopping list.


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