Forgotten Book: The Everness Series by Ian McDonald (2011 – present)

Planesrunner kicks off Ian McDonald's dizzying Everness series.

By Scott A. Cupp

This is the 180th in my series of Forgotten Books.

I have been a fan of Ian McDonald ever since his first book Desolation Road was published by Bantam Books in 1988. It was an amazing book about a future Mars. Soon other novels followed, including Out on Blue Six and King of Morning, Queen of Day and the short story collection Empire Dreams. I knew from the beginning that I would be buying all his works and enjoying them for years to come.

In late 2011, Pyr Books published Planesrunner. I became aware of it because of the wonderful John Picacio cover, and I got my copy from John himself. It followed closely with the second in the series, Be My Enemy, and in 2014, Empress of the Sun continued the tale. The two subsequent books also sported Picacio covers.

The series is a wild conglomeration of steam punk and space opera and young adult coming of age. The hero of the series is a young Punjabi boy living in London named Everett Singh. His father is a quantum physicist who has been working on some very odd ideas when he is suddenly kidnapped right in front of Everett. The kidnappers seem to have vanished but Everett receives an odd email that leads to the discovery of the Infundibulum, a device that allows him to hop worlds. The kidnappers are members of the Plenipotentiary of the Ten Worlds, the ten alternate Earths which run things. Charlotte Villiers is the villain of the piece, a Plenipotentiary of one of the Earth’s. Everett’s earth is Earth 10.

When Everett operates the Infundibulum he finds himself on an Earth with no fossil fuels, where airships rule the skies. He eventually finds himself aboard the airship Everness, commanded by Captain Anastasia Sixsmyth, her adoptive daughter Sen and a wild crew.

But Everett soon finds out that with the Infundibulum he is not limited to the 10 Earths. The whole of the Multiverse is available to him.

While Everett searches for his father, Charlotte searches for Everett and the Infundibulum. Each of the Earths contains variations of the inhabitants of the other Earths. So there is an alter of Everett Singh on each of the ten worlds, as well as of his father and friends and Charlotte. Sometimes these alters are of the opposite sex.

There are weird alien races which react like computer viruses (the Nahn) or create highly modified versions, like Everett M. Singh in Empress of the Sun and Be My Enemy, who comes to our Earth bringing the Nahn.

And there are the Jiju, dinosaurs that did not die out in the comet disaster and therefore have a 65 million year evolutionary advance on humans in their universe. They live on a diskworld with a captive sun. The construction of this world makes Niven’s Ringworld look like a kiddie park. All the Jiju want is to get the Infundibulum and obliterate their competitors on their world and throughout the Multiverse. Cold blooded dinosaur space killers! What more could you want?

McDonald has developed the culture of the airships along gypsy terms and created the Palari language which combines terms and ideas from many other societies. A glossary is included in each volume.

Everyone in the books is pursuing something. Everett wants his father. Charlotte wants the Infundibulum and Power (with the capital P). Sen wants Everett and to work on the Everness and to please her mom. Captain Anastasia wants to take care of her ship and crew and to see whatever it is Everett can do to get to his father, pretty much in that order.

These are fun books with lots of action and adventure. The story through the three published volumes is not complete, which I disliked, but that’s pretty much the only thing I disliked about them. There does not seem to be any information about a fourth volume, but we can hope.

Check out the first one, then settle in for all three. Super advanced dinosaurs are quite a bit of fun — and nastiness.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.


Forgotten Book: Danger: Dinosaurs! by Richard Marsten (1953)

When time travelers go back to hunt dinosaurs, what could possible go wrong?

By Scott A. Cupp

This week the Forgotten Book folks are celebrating the life of Ed McBain. I haven’t read anything by Ed for this review, but I thought I would revisit this review from a couple of years ago. This was a favorite book growing up. I have also inserted a few new comments down below.

This is the 101st or 160th (you decide) in my series of Forgotten Books.

The astute mystery fans among our readers already know that Richard Marsten is a pseudonym for Salvatore Lombino aka Evan Hunter, Ed McBain, Curt Cannon, S. A. Lombino, D. A. Addams and Ted Taine. A prolific writer of mysteries, he came very close to being a major science fiction writer.

In the early 1950’s as he was writing the first of his 87th Precinct novels, Evan Hunter (he legally changed his name in 1952) wrote several science fiction novels including the Winston juveniles Find the Feathered Serpent (as by Evan Hunter) as well as Rocket to Luna and Danger: Dinosaurs! (both as by Richard Marsten). I did an article in the early ’90s for a Martin Goldberg book to be entitled The Ed McBain Companion in which I postulated that had the 87th Precinct novels not taken off as they did, Hunter might have continued in the science fiction realm.

We will never really know.  He did about two dozen short stories and one more novel, Tomorrow and Tomorrow, which I recall liking quite a bit though it has been quite a while since I read it.

To the book at hand! Danger: Dinosaurs! is a classic time travel novel where people can travel back via the Time Slip to the Jurassic period to “hunt” dinosaurs with camera and lens. Young Owen Spencer is set to take his first trip, theoretically as his brother Chuck’s assistant.  They are taking back a group led by Dirk Masterson, his assistants Brock Gardel and Arthur Baron, and Masterson’s niece Denise. They will be safe with their use of a mile-radius force field which will keep everything safely away.

What could go wrong? Ask Ray Bradbury and L. Sprague de Camp.

In the first few hours, Masterson “accidentally” destroys the force field and all bets are off. The trip only allows dinosaurs to be shot only with cameras to prevent any potential time paradoxes from occurring. But Masterson has conveniently brought high powered weapons along (very much against the rules) and is planning on hunting and protecting the group at the same time. His first targets are a herd of stegosaurus and a pteranodon.

Nothing fazes the beasts and when Masterson starts a brontosaurus stampede, he nearly dies. Chuck saves him, at the cost of his own life.  This brings up a time paradox that I found implausible. Marsten postulates that since Chuck dies long before he is born, he ceases to exist at any point in time. All memory of Chuck is erased, just as if he had never lived. I think he would have existed for those periods of his life up until his death. It is a major plot point, and while it bothered me, it wasn’t a deal breaker. I still enjoyed the book.

During the week they have to spend before being rescued, they encounter a number of dinosaurs as well as two lost scientists, Dr. Perry and Dr. Dumar, who were doing geologic work and had discovered a large uranium deposit.

The group heads for the two white hills marking where they have to be when the automatic return is set to occur, when they experience an earthquake and find their markers gone. This is just one of many setbacks and problems that befall the team, not including Masterson’s personal agenda, which does not include following any of the rules set down by the time agency or Owen and Chuck.

The book is a good fast, fun read that I quite enjoyed in the early ’60s, again in the 90’s and once more this last weekend. It’s highly recommended. Unfortunately it has not been reprinted in an accessible format. The copies online range from $50 to $400 or so. You can find some copies less expensively if you don’t mind a lot of wear and not having a dust jacket. I like my copy better. But, when you get one, you get the fabulous Alex Schomburg endpapers (and the wonderful dustjacket). These are full  of iconic science fiction tropes and should be represented in every science fiction fan’s library.

And if you like this one, try the others. They are superb stories. Science fiction lost a great writer when McBain decided to go to the 87th Precinct. But the mystery field rejoiced. And so should we.

Series organizer Patti Abbott hosts more Friday Forgotten Book reviews at her own blog, and posts a complete list of participating blogs.