Science Fiction Though the Decades

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

2005: The Fall of Tartarus (Brown, Eric)

Imminent supernova spawns tales of coping with death (5/5)
From June 4, 2010

Having read three more Brown books since first reading The Fall of Tartarus, I've become familiar with the author's humanistic characterizations, particularly in Engineman (1994). But Brown can also built up a world from nothingness, as he's done here in The Fall of Tartarus and in Guardians of the Phoenix (2010). I'd urge the reader to seek out Brown's humanistic science fiction, but don't go looking for it in his pulpier novels like his recent Weirdspace: Devil's Nebula (2012).

That said, The Fall of Tartarus is a collection of eight stories taking place on the planet of the same name, which is under the punishment of its near-nova solar body. Much like the levels of Dante's hell, the progressive stories only grow more and more insidious as the last. The running theme of personal death is each story reflects the terrestrial and solar death of the system; I don't know which line of mortality is more gripping, harrowing or enlightening... all in one. If you think experiencing death through the eyes of another human could be called monotonous, then perhaps this saga isn't for you. The further you dig into this collection, the deeper the sentiment and the richer the pay dirt of the greater plot.


Destiny of Tartarus (2000, novella) - 5/5 - A young man returns to Tartarus in search of his father, who is rumored to have been last seen competing in Charybdis boat races. On the onus led train ride, the man befriends an influential man and a cherubic Messenger. The three agree to partake in the races together while the young man is eager to unravel the mystery surrounding his father's history thereafter. 68 pages

A Prayer for the Dead (1995, novelette) - 5/5 - A man revisits his homeland and reflects upon the tragedy which occurred the many years ago when he was to wed his lover in an ersatz wedding hosted by an alien hermit- the summer of love which turned into a lifelong summer of longing. 41 pages

The Eschatarium at Lyssia (1997, novelette) - 4/5 - Sculptor/drug addict/widower abandons sculptures dedicated to his wife's death throes to revisit the alien amphitheater in which he and his wife spent many a-years. The Messenger tells him of his wife's ghost and her will to set his mind at ease. 26 pages

The Ultimate Sacrifice (2000, novelette) - 5/5 - Videographer/journalist begins an emotional documentary of her search for her brother, officially deceased but rumored to still be alive in a monastery of The Church of Ultimate Sacrifice, whose belief revolves around personal suffering for the benefit of delaying the sun's supernova. 42 pages

The People of the Nova (1999, novelette) - 4/5 - Widowed Director of Evacuation and his savage-cum-daughter are confronted by a tribal man who knows the whereabouts of the two missing scouts. 25 pages

Vulpheous (1998, novelette) - 4/5 - Xenobiologist and hunter tracks the last remaining Vulpheous to a volcanic caldera where he hopes to capture the animal for the sake of mankind. However, there is also a young tribal woman around the lake to await the same animal for healing purposes. 28 pages

Hunting the Slarque (1999, novelette) - 5/5 - Reincarnated man remembers being ripped to shreds and dying on Tartarus, but why is he on Million and his wife back on Tartarus again? To reimburse the expense of the reincarnation, the man must travel back to the sight of his death to capture the very thing which killed him before. 49 pages

Dark Calvary (1999, novelette) - 5/5 - Cramer shot his wife in the back but the Church of Ultimate Sacrifice has proof of her undeath, so he returns to Tartarus to find his wife and help the abbot find the fabled secret alien temple... all before the sun goes nova within the month. Cramer must confront his hatred of the church and his odd longing to see his reanimated wife but under such circumstances he cannot comprehend. 33 pages

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