Wednesday, June 20, 2012
Some subsequent books, though, have suffered both from Weber's penchant for wandering narrative and the besteller bloat that comes from a publishing house realizing it can sell bigger books for more money. No. 5, How Firm a Foundation, has some nagging reminders of that problem, but is easily the best of the series since that first volume in terms of plot movement and straight-ahead storytelling. Weber runs several narrative strands through the book -- the pacification of the conquered nation Corisande by our hero and heroine rulers, Cayleb and Sharleyn, the awakening of Church priest Paityr Wylsynn to the true history of his world and how that affects his faith, the plans android Merlin Athrawes must make to deal with technological safeguards the Church originators may have left behind and the tragic journey some prisoners of the war make to their ultimate fate at the main Church temple. He juggles them all well and mostly resists his frequent habit of bogging them down in conversations among characters about what's going on.
Weber uses these different stories as a small spark for thinking about some larger concepts, such as how a person might maintain faith when the things on which that faith rests are proven false or how some people may maintain some of their dignity and strength in extreme situations. He holds a local pastor's license in the United Methodist Church (which makes me wonder when the Safeholdian analog of a Wesleyan Revival is going to show up and makes me ask why the series' hymn-related titles have yet to draw from that hymn-writing machine Chuck Wesley). How Firm a Foundation is not a novel of ideas, but it does a pretty good job in raising some for a work that's firmly rooted in its genre fiction status.