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Fantasy Friday Review – The Infinity Concerto

The Infinity Concerto by Greg Bear

Review by Cyndi J. (cyndij)


THE INFINITY CONCERTO by Greg Bear is the first of a duology, but if you’re not inclined to go further this one has a story arc so at least there’s an ending.

Sixteen year old Michael Perrin is interested in poetry, music, and old films. He meets and becomes friends with Arno Waltiri, an elderly friend of his parents. Waltiri was a composer of film scores and one very strange symphony that was requested by a man named David Clarkham. Waltiri gives Michael a key left to him by Clarkham saying it could lead to an adventure, if Michael is willing to take a risk.  Waltiri says he never had the courage to go through with it.

After Waltiri’s death, Michael decides to follow the directions left with the key and suddenly finds himself in a strange landscape with no method of return. He is, in fact, in the land of the Sidhe – the Realm.  There are other humans here, but they’ve been relegated to a dismal little ghetto in the middle of the Blasted Plain. Hated by the Sidhe, the humans are nonetheless protected by a treaty from a long-ago war.  Michael is apparently the only human to arrive by choice; all the others seem to have been transported somehow while lost in music – playing, listening, or composing.

However, as the reader knows from the beginning, someone or something has plans for Michael.  He doesn’t know why he’s sent to train with the half-Sidhe, half-human Crane women, but he soon realizes there are a lot of forces in play and eventually he realizes there’s something for him to do, if he can just figure out what. Michael’s training is abruptly brought to an end and he must  make his way across the dangerous land if he’s ever to find a way home.

This is a nice hero’s journey sort of fantasy, lots of references to poetry, classical music and some religion; I expect I missed a number of references  I liked the idea of the ancient war that caused the devolution/evolution of humans, and the other races like the Spryggla and the Cledar. I liked Michael – at times he seems very adult, and sometimes he’s cranky and obstinate as you’d expect in a 16-yr-old.  His ability to break off and then throw away the parts of himself he doesn’t like seems very convenient and I wondered about it. Does that mean he won’t, or can’t, act that selfishly in the future?

It can be a little slow in places, and there were scenes I couldn’t visualize very well. Others, like the spreading blue plague, were quite vivid.  I thought the transition from training to quest was a little abrupt, and Michael’s growing magic abilities weren’t given enough emphasis.  It’s a good fantasy, sets up the next book very nicely, with good characters and world-building but Michael’s experiences in the Realm are mostly grim.



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