Monday, July 19, 2010

The Infernal City by Greg Keyes

I don't expect much from a video game tie-in novel, let alone one I happened to win in an online competition. Which is just as well, as, honestly, The Infernal City doesn't offer much.

This is not to say it isn't a reasonably entertaining read, but probably only if you're familiar with The Elder Scrolls games. Most of the fun comes in recognising the setting, being able to visualise well the locations and spotting the various references to the games: Vivec city and the Ministry of Truth are mentioned, the eruption of Red Mounatin is referenced, the sword Umbra is a key plot point and even the Huntsman Hircine make an appearance. Aside from this, the floating city of Umbriel is a fascinating creation and vividly evoked: its alien nature is described well and you get a feel for the social dynamics without too much exposition. The potential of it as a location makes me wish Bethseda would release a game set there - maybe another expansion for Oblivion?

The plot is fairly basic: floating city appears, killing people it passes over. Various heroic types set out to try and stop it. Presumably being only the first in a series, they don't get very far, and the ending seems a little rushed. Also, there are far too many characters for so short a book, and some have distinctly less to do than others. Indeed, the subplot involving the spy/government agent Colin could have been dropped completely - I assume it will be continued in further books but here just seemed an unnecessary addition. He only appears about three times, and his investigation doesn't uncover much that isn't at least implied during Prince Attrebus' storyline.

Overall, its just a bit too pedestrian and predictable. I probably won't go out of my way to read any follow-ups, but if I see them in the library (or happen to win them in another competition) I'll probably pick them up. I admit to being slightly curious to see how Umbriel will be stopped and the protagonists stuck there escape.

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