"You smiled," she noted. "Is something funny?"
"Probably I'm just happy the lion didn't eat either of us."
"You have a very strange sense of humor, Mr. Quatermain."
"Perhaps," he said. "But I persist in thinking it would be considerably less funny if the lion had won."
'The Mistress of Illusions' is the follow-up to 'The Master of Dreams' and the second title in the 'Dreamscape Trilogy.' Author Michael D. Resnick is a former Nebula Award winner, a five time Hugo Award winner, the late executive editor of Jim Baen's Universe, and the late editor/creator of Galaxy's Edge magazine according to his bio.
Transparency first, I have not read the first book in this trilogy. Though, now that I've read this one.. I do intend to. I'll also be eagerly looking for the conclusion when it releases in the future. I can only hope that his passing earlier this year doesn't halt the series entirely.
I have only one complaint about the whole book and I'll get it out of the way here, as this one's strictly personal. I've said it before, cliffhangers should be used sparsely and well. In my opinion, a great writer doesn't need them to get you to read the next book in a series. Before I was a quarter of the way into this title, I was already going to read the next book, but a cliffhanger done the way it was is almost enough to make me reconsider.
By the time Eddie Raven, our main character, reached the end of the book, he'd been dragged through so many worlds and circumstances to prepare him for what was ahead, that when the story just stopped abruptly as he was about to take that next step.. I just stared at the page in disbelief and annoyance. I understand wanting to carry some momentum into the next book, but there are subtler ways. A looming threat can be dangled before the reader, without the old 'step forward/fade-to-black' of a tv series.
After what I'd followed Raven through, it felt like the entire book was just a journey. Literally, just the act of putting heel to toe from wherever book one left off, through some in-between space of little consequence, to the final book where the real conflict will take place. It actually made what he was experiencing feel less important and it clearly wasn't. In my opinion, if you're going to write a journey novel like that, taking that last step is the mistake. Let the story be what it is.. a focus on the growth the character makes, the alliances that are formed, and the things that are learned. Just leave it at that. Don't slap me with a step into the great beyond and a curtain fall. It's insulting.
"..But someone with some clout doesn't want me killed, and evidently I know something so valuable that they spread around some money or some threats or both to make it so no one shot me by mistake."
He smiled. "Do you know how many innocent people get in the way of bullets every day in New York?"
"It's been awhile since anyone accused you of optimism, hasn't it?"
You may think I didn't like the book after all that, but you'd be wrong. I loved it. Resnick is every bit the classic sci-fi writer one would expect from his fifty plus years in the industry.
He transitions with ease between all the worlds Eddie Raven slips in and out of, always reacclimatizing us around Raven's home and giving his character the stable point with which to center himself that he so desperately needs to keep going. I'll tell you, as a reader, we need that too.
The story keeps up a dizzying pace. Every time Raven is almost comfortable somewhere, he's moved elsewhere. He hops through time and space, reality and fiction. There are a couple of people who seem to be helpful, at the very least they have information they encourage him with even if they rarely share it. And at least one enemy that seems to dog him through more than one world.
At first glance, the cover had reminded me of the Salvador Dali art I loved so much. It's surrealism continued to draw my eye and I must say, nothing could be more well suited for the front of this book. The actual representation of course is obvious, but as with this type of artwork, the book keeps you off-balance as much as our protagonist. I spent much of the read both knowing I understood what was going on.. and somehow still feeling as if I had no idea.. because the landscape was ever shifting.
"You're smiling, Count," said Mina.
"A happy thought," he replied.
"Of torture and bloodshed?" asked Van Helsing.
"Only limited to people who annoy me..."
It's rare for me to enjoy dialogue as much as I did, but Resnick's Eddie Raven is wonderfully witty. More than once he made me laugh aloud with some smooth snarky comment and I loved the way he'd dance around truth in these other worlds.
I'd highly recommend picking up this title, particularly if you're a fan of classics like Larry Niven's 'Ringworld,' Philip K. Dick's 'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,' or even 'Heavy Metal' the movie.