9 February 2012

Review: Transmission by John Meaney

John Meaney
London, 2012
ISBN 978 0 575 08535 0

This is the second book in Meaney’s Ragnarok trilogy, and if you enjoyed the earlier book, “Absorption”, published in 2010, I think you’ll like this too.  Both books are fairly similar – both deploy a startling range of characters across multiple timeframes, ranging from the eighth century (Viking warrior Ulfr) to the Second World War and after (chiefly Gavi, a German Jewish refugee scientist working at Bletchley Park) and the far future (scenes set in the 27th century are only a stepping stone:  there are also events in 5568AD and 502019AD (the latter looking forward another half a million years)

Again, most of the significant characters are being attacked by, or fighting back against, the mysterious Darkness (though a couple seem to be tainted by it).  The nature of this enemy is still unclear, as are the exact relationships between the characters (though there are clear crossovers and linkages) but the bigger picture is now beginning to emerge, both in hints (significant names, family relationships, reported history) about how the various storylines may combine and in the direct echoes between the storylines.  The trilogy resembles a vast,  canvas where small details become more significant in light of the overall design.  Some things are now explained (for example, the nature of the troll that attacked Ulfr's party in Absorption) while others are still mysterious (such as the ultimate relevance of Sharp's people) and some new threads are added (a new race, seemingly alien, but which might be far future humans).

It is perhaps a pity that this book wasn’t published last year, since there is a lot of detail in Absorption that it helps to remember in reading Transmission.  Meaney does repeat the main points, but I would advise rereading the earlier book if you can. 

This is though an excellent story, filled with mind bending concepts.  Just to name a few, Meaney weaves in resonances - both in nature and in the story structure – the Second World War, the history of martial arts, hypnotism, neurolinguistic programming, wave-particle duality and cryptography.  He seems to be equally at home with Viking runes and advanced physics.  In all, an excellent, engaging read. I’m looking forward to the final part of the trilogy (I hope I don’t have to wait another two years for it though!)

What else?  Well, I think family names are important in this trilogy, so keep an eye out for them.  And I think Meaney shows excellent timing in his concept of “mu space” – pronounced “moo” not “mew” – which enables faster-than-light travel through some kind of mysterious extra dimensions with fractal geometry – given the recent CERN experiments that seem to show faster than light neutrinos.


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