Monday, April 7, 2014

Review: The Book of Ti'ana - Rand Miller

The Book of Ti'ana by Rand Miller
Series: Myst Trilogy #1
Genre: Adult, Neo-Victorian, science fiction
Published on November 7, 1996
Published by Hyperion
Pages: 336
Read From: 3.23.14 - 3.29.14

These pages are your link to the story of Ti'ana - known among humans as Anna - the first woman from the outside world to enter the domain of the D'Ni. She wandered into a place she never should have seen, and her
intelligence and wisdom surprised some. And terrified others. When one young lord befriends her, then marries her, all layers of D'Ni society are shaken. But no one realizes just how deeply.


Cover Blurb: Yes or No? Yes!!!! Yes, yes, and yes! It’s gorgeous! It’s mysterious! It’s just absolutely wonderful! They simply don’t do cover art like this anymore.

Characters: I’m saying this right off: If The Book of Ti’ana ever gets turned into a movie, Tom Hiddleston has to play Veovis. A lord’s son who commands the respect of the elder councilors, who always gets what he wants, and who is a good friend when he has an invested interest in being your friend. But also more than a little eaten up with D’Ni arrogance, which eventually leads to an overwhelming hatred for his best friend (who has, in Veovis’s eyes, betrayed and polluted the D’Ni people and D’Ni ways) and turns him into something of an anti-hero. Yes, I like Veovis. I would feel a whole sorrier for him if it weren’t for his arrogance. But he also wouldn’t be Veovis without it. A’Gaeris, the real villain of the story, is the sort of conniving, twisted, and slimy little creep that I love to hate. He can turn best friends against each other, while pretending to be their ally. And now that I have talked about the villains (because the villains are always the backbone of a Myst story), I will talk about the “heroes.” Aitrus is a quiet, curious, very honorable, and intelligent protagonist – so much so that it is, naturally, difficult to dislike him in any way. He and Veovis are such opposites that it’s a wonder they ever became friends. Veovis is comfortable among politicians, believes in sacrificing everything to keep D’Ni ways and D’Ni blood pure. Aitrus just wants to be left to his experiments and notebooks, hates dealing with politics, and does what he thinks is right – even if it means changing how D’Ni is. Anna/Ti’ana (her D’Ni name) is much like Aitrus in her inquisitiveness and delight in exploration. But she’s much more open about her emotions and feelings. Among these four key characters is a host of D’Ni lords and commoners – whose names, yes, start to blend together a bit.

The Romance: Aitrus and Anna fall in love and eventually marry, which is what officially drives a wedge between Aitrus and Veovis. While it doesn’t feel like it, several years actually pass in the book, and through those years, Aitrus and Anna get to know each other. It’s so nice to read about a mature, realistic romantic relationship! Initially, Readers might bulk at the age difference between Anna and Aitrus. But one has to recall that the D’Ni live much longer than surface-dwellers (like Anna), so fifty is the equivalent of eighteen. Ages aren’t referenced often, though, so it’s easy to forget that one must wrap one’s mind around this concept. The romance is a key factor to the storyline, but it isn’t overwhelming, and it’s realistic and genuine.

Plot: The Book of Ti’ana takes Readers to the underground world of D’Ni – an ancient civilization with a rich history totally unknown to surface-dwellers. The D’Ni have always been an exploratory civilization, their empire and knowledge expanding to hundreds of worlds – worlds that they are able to travel to by using Linking Books. But now they want to know what’s on the surface of their own planet, and so they construct a massive shaft straight up. Aitrus is part of the Surveyors Guild, and he most of all cannot wait to explore the surface. But the D’Ni lords are worried about the influences of surface-dwellers on their ancient civilization. What if the surface-dwellers are hostile and try to invade D’Ni? Before the dream of seeing the surface can even be realized, the project is shut down. Years later, though, Anna finds a volcanic tunnel down into D’Ni. Her arrival heralds the beginning of a new age for D’Ni – and it’s destruction. Anna is not what the D’Ni expected, and when Aitrus marries her, his best friend Veovis will stop at nothing to end the pollution of Anna’s influence on D’Ni civilization. Even if it means betraying his entire race. Okay, I am going to confess: I am a really big Myst fan. Riven was the first computer game I played, and it was my official introduction into this captivating world. So, I may be more than a little biased. This isn’t the first time I’ve read The Book of Ti’ana, but it has been several years and I did my best to look at it with both a critical eye and as a fan coming back after many, many years. Chronologically, The Book of Ti’ana is the first book in the trilogy. However, it was the second book to be published. Because of this, The Book of Ti’ana may be confusing to Readers who don’t know anything about Myst. There are many world building details that are left out because they were covered in The Book of Atrus (Book #2 chronologically; the first book to be published). But because I am familiar with the world, I didn’t need those world-building details. That said, the world of D’Ni is amazing. The technology is superior, but it isn’t all futuristic and techy. The writers have taken the classic charm of the Victorian era and applied it, so you get a more Neo-Victorian/steampunk feel rather than a futuristic alien feel. As a fan of the Victorian era, I loved it. And a civilization that prizes above all books and writing?! Yes, please! The plot of The Book of Ti’ana does read more like a backstory, since it was published second, than as a first book in a trilogy. It spans several years, but the passage of time feels like days. This causes the plot to have a very quick pace. Before you know it, Anna is descending into D’Ni, and then she’s married Aitrus, and then the conclusion is right on your heels!

Believability: Not very applicable, but as far as science fiction goes, I give the writers props for using plausible scientific laws and mechanics. Some might call the Ink that is used in Linking Books magic, and how it works isn’t explained – not even the D’Ni fully understand the Art – but it is made clear that it isn’t magic, but some unknown science.

Writing Style: Third person, past tense. The writing really isn’t the world’s greatest. There were times when the same word was used several times in one paragraph, and a lot of moment-by-moment details were offered. I love the mechanics of the D’Ni machines, but for someone who isn’t yet a Myst fanatic, all of the details about tunneling could get old. That said, while the writing is very moment-by-moment, it also holds a classic ambiance – especially the dialogue.

Content: None.

Conclusion: I love stories about betrayal and revenge and redemption and the falling of great civilizations. One could argue that it’s rather convenient that Anna and Aitrus are able to find what they need when they need it. And one could argue that Aitrus should have known better than to trust anything A’Gaeris said. Even more so, one could argue that yes, it was all Anna’s fault after all. And maybe that’s what I like about this book so much. Aitrus and Anna both mess up. They trusted the wrong people and they didn’t tell the right ones when they should have. And the book doesn’t try to portray it any other way. It’s a tragedy, and like all tragedies, everything happens because of poor decisions. Aitrus and Anna were trying to do what they thought was right; they just didn’t take the path they should have. The Book of Ti’ana isn’t where Readers new to this world should start. You should read them in publication order, and start with The Book of Atrus, and then read this one. You will be able to appreciate and understand everything in it so much more.

Recommended Audience: Girl-and-guy read, sixteen-and-up for interest level (even though I loved it even when I was a nine-year-old kid). Fans of Neo-Victorian, steampunk, and science fiction will enjoy it, as well as Readers who like stories propelled by villains.

Others in the Myst Trilogy:
1)The Book of Ti'ana
2)The Book of Atrus
3)The Book of D'Ni

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