Hammerfall (Gene Wars Series)by C. J. Cherryh
One of the most renowned figures in science fiction, C.J. Cherryh has been enthralling audiences for nearly thirty years with rich and complex novels. Now at the peak of her career, this three-time Hugo Award winner launches her most ambitious work in decades, Hammerfall, part of a far-ranging series, The Gene Wars, set in an entirely new universe/b>/b>
One of the most renowned figures in science fiction, C.J. Cherryh has been enthralling audiences for nearly thirty years with rich and complex novels. Now at the peak of her career, this three-time Hugo Award winner launches her most ambitious work in decades, Hammerfall, part of a far-ranging series, The Gene Wars, set in an entirely new universe scarred by the most vicious of future weaponry, nanotechnology. In this brilliant novel possibly Cherryh's masterwork the fate of billions has come down to a confrontation between two profoundly alien cultures on a single desert planet.
"The mad shall be searched out and given to the Ila's messengers. No man shall conceal madness in his wife, or his son, or his daughter, or his father. Every one must be delivered up." The Book of the Ila's Au'it
Marak has suffered the madness his entire life. He is a prince and warrior, strong and shrewd and expert in the ways of the desert covering his planet. In the service of his father, he has dedicated his life to overthrowing the Ila, the mysterious eternal dictator of his world. For years he has successfully hidden the visions that plague him voices pulling him eastward, calling Marak, Marak, Marak, amid mind-twisting visions of a silver tower. But when his secret is discovered, Marak is betrayed by his own father and forced to march in an endless caravan with the rest of his world's madmen to the Ila's city of Oburan.
Instead of death, Marak finds in Oburan his destiny, and the promise of life if he can survive what is surely a suicidal mission. The Ila wants him to discover the source of the voices and visions that afflict the mad. Despite the danger sof the hostile desert, tensions within the caravan, and his own excruciating doubts, Marak miraculously reaches his goal only to be given another, even more impossible mission by the strange people in the towers.
According to these beings who look like him yet act differently than anyone he has ever known, Marak has a slim chance to save his world's people from the wrath of Ila's enemies. But to do so, he must convince them all warring tribes, villagers, priests, young and old, as well as the Ila herself to follow him on an epic trek across the burning desert before the hammer of the Ila's foes falls from the heavens above.
Written with deceptive simplicity and lyricism, this riveting, fast-paced epic of war, love, and survival in a brave new world marks a major achievement from the masterful C.J. Cherryh.
A madman, seeking to reclaim his father's lands, leads a group of fellow madmen across a wasteland, guided only by the group's shared vision of a tower, a star, and a cave of suns. As they make their way across the desert, they're mysteriously pulled east, always east...
Before this story is over, we will find ourselves witness to a war between old powers fought on the cellular level of the planet and its creatures. Strange alliances are made, forgotten sciences and the erased history of mankind are revealed, and an ancient enemy with the power to remake the world extends its evil hands.
Hammerfall, which is considered C. J. Cherryh's first new science fiction universe in 30 years, promises to be the beginning of a larger story that will span generations. Cherryh's work here shows her usual brilliant imagination and awe-inspiring scope. This novel lets her do the two things she does best: create worlds and breathe life into new and fascinating characters. (Jim Killen)
Read an Excerpt
Imagine first a web of stars. Imagine it spread wide and wider. Ships shuttle across it. Information flows.
A star lies at the heart of this web, its center, heart, and mind.
This is the Commonwealth.
Imagine then a single strand of stars in a vast darkness, a beckoning pathway away from the web, a path down which ships can travel.
Beyond lies a treasure, a small lake of G5 suns, a near circle of perfect stars all in reach of one another.
This way, that strand says. After so hard a voyage, reward. Wealth. Resources.
But a whisper comes back down that thread of stars, a ghost of a whisper, an illusion of a whisper.
The web of stars has heard the like before. Others are out there, very far, very faint, irrelevant to our affairs.
Should we have listened?
-- The Book of the Landing.
Distance deceived the eye in the Lakht, that wide, red land of the First Descended, where legend said the ships had come down.
At high noon, with the sun reflecting off the plateau, the chimera of a city floated in the haze, appearing as a line of light just below the red, saw-toothed ridge of the Qarain, that upthrust that divided the Lakht from the Anlakht, the true land of death.
The city was both mirage and truth; it appeared always a day before its true self. Marak knew it, walking, walking endlessly beside the beshti, the beasts on which their guards rode.
Thelong-legged beasts were not deceived. They moved no faster. The guards likewise made no haste.
"The holy city," some of the damned shouted, some in relief, some in fear, knowing it was both the end of their torment and the end of their lives. "Oburan and the Ila's court!"
"Walk faster, walk faster," the guards taunted them lazily, sitting supreme over the column. The lank, curve-necked beasts that carried them plodded at an unchangeable rate. They were patient creatures, splay-footed, towering above most predators of the Lakht, enduring the long trek between wells with scant food and no water. A long, long line of them stretched behind, bringing the tents, the other appurtenances of their journey.
"Oburan!" the fools still cried. "The tower, the tower!"
"Run to it! Run!" the junior guards encouraged their prisoners. "You'll be there before the night, drinking and eating before us."
It was a lie, and some knew better, and warned the rest. The wife of a down-country farmer, walking among them, set up a wail when the word went out that the vision was only the shadow of a city, and that an end was a day and more away.
"It can't be!" she cried. "It's there! I see it! Don't the rest of you see it?"
But the rest had given up both hope and fear of an end to this journey, and walked in the rising sun at the same pace as they had walked all this journey.
Marak was different than the rest. He bore across his heart the tattoo of the abjori, the fighters from rocks and hills. His garments, the long shirt, the trousers, the aifad wrapped about his head against the hellish glare, were all the dye and the weave of Kais Tain, of his own mother's hand. Those patterns alone would have damned him in the days of the war. The tattoos on the backs of his fingers, six, were the number of the Ila's guards he had personally sent down to the shadows. The Ila's men knew it, and watched with special care for any look of rebellion. He had a reputation in the lowlands and on the Lakht itself, a fighter as elusive as the mirage and as fast-moving as the sunrise wind.
He had ridden with his father to this very plain, and for three years had seen the walls of the holy city as a prize for the taking. He and his father had laid their grandiose plans to end the Ila's reign: they had fought. They had had their victories.
Now he stumbled in the ruin of boots made for riding.
His life was thirty summers on this earth and not likely to be longer. His own father had delivered him up to the Ila's men.
"I see the city!" the woman cried to the rest. She was a wife, an honorable woman, among the last to join the march. "Can't you see it? See it rise up and up? We're at the end of this!"
Her name was Norit, and she was soft-skinned and veiled herself against the sun, but she was as mad as the rest of them that walked in this shuffling chain. Like most of them, she had concealed her madness, hidden it successfully all her years, until the visions came thick and fast. Perhaps she had turned to priests, and priests had frightened her into admission. Perhaps guilt had slowly poisoned her spirit. Or perhaps the visions had become too strong and made concealment impossible. She had confessed in tears when the Ila's men came asking for the mad, and her husband had tried to kill her; but the Ila's men said no. She was from the village of Tarsa, at the edge of the Lakht in the west.
Now increasingly the visions overwhelmed her, and she rocked and mourned her former life and poured out her story in her interludes of sanity. Over and over she told the story of her husband, who was the richest man in Tarsa, who had married her when she was thirteen. She wasted her strength crying, when the desert ate up all strength for grief and all water for tears. Her husband might have been relieved to cast her out.
The old man next in line, crookbacked from old injury, had left an aged wife in Modi...Hammerfall . Copyright © by C. J. Cherryh. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Meet the Author
C. J. Cherryh—three-time winner of the coveted Hugo Award—is one of today's best-selling and most critically acclaimed writers of science fiction and fantasy. The author of more than fifty novels, she makes her home in Spokane, Washington.
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Kirkus is mostly right, this book is advertisement for the series. But I will not be disappointed unless the series fails. Cherryh has been very quick to realize that the new nanotechnology and genetics is certain to impact our future in dramatic ways. I believe she will yet provide multiple and exciting examples of their use that will be as surprising and thought-provoking as they will be believable. Her gene wars series will do for nanotechnology what Cyteen has done for psychology, what Foreigner has done for politics, and what The Faded Sun has done for sociology. She is incapable of less. Hammerfall is obviously the beginning of a brilliant series, but it is far from a failure as a book.
I bought this book on vacation up on Lake Champlain. I was so absorbed in the world Cherryh created that I read it for the last 4 days of my vaction. I lost my copy, but if I knew where it was, I'd read it again.
C.J. Cherryh is my favorite author, but this first novel in a new series is anything but compelling. All that desert trekking was boring, and the characters were not engaging. The author's other recent SF novels are full of fascinating characters that you can really identify with, as well as plots that don't get mired down in sand.
Since he was eight, Marak did his best to conceal the visions he saw and ignore the voices he heard because he knew either condition is considered a sign of madness. Those who are deemed mad are turned over to the Ila. Until he turned thirty, Marak successfully hid his delicate situation. He joined the war against the Ila, trying to break into the great city where she lived in splendid security. Marak confesses his illness and his father disowns him, giving him over to the soldiers for disposal to Ila. After traveling across the large desert, Marak meets the five-century-old Ila. Everyone who is dubbed mad hear voices telling them to go east. Ila wants Marak to do just that but report to her what he finds. After a long arduous trek, Marak reaches a tower where he meets Ian and Luz, Ila¿s peers, claiming that the world is coming to an end. If he is to survive he must return to this tower with Ila and as many people as will go with them. C.J. Cherryh is one of the most gifted science fiction writers of our time and with her latest novel, HAMMERFALL, she has created a new universe for the first time in thirty years. The story line reads like a modern day Noah¿s Ark as the audience keeps on reading to learn what happens as a world gets destroyed. Those sequences of scenes are brilliantly crafted. The protagonist is a hero as his actions and choices speak well of him as a person. Ms. Cherryh has another winner in this novel. Harriet Klausner