Book Review: Elder Race, Adrian Tchaikovsky

Book Review: Elder Race, Adrian Tchaikovsky


Elder Race, Adrian Tchaikovsky

Book Review: Elder Race, Adrian Tchaikovsky

Science Fiction and Fantasy novels have long been grouped together. Indeed, as has often been
observed, without a scientific knowledge any technological advance can be considered magic. Voices
communicating across vast distances: radios or cell phones…or magic? Boxes with tiny actors inside
them…or televisions? Your view of things depends on your informational starting point.
Lynesse is the fourth daughter of the queen, which makes her relatively useless. She is royalty so she
can’t perform regular work. But as the fourth daughter, she is far from being in line for the throne and
can’t take on any palace responsibilities. She has gained the age of maturity only to be considered a
failure and a disappointment.

When a demon is rumored to be attacking near her country’s borders, Lynesse realizes what she must
do. Long before, her ancestor made a pact with a deathless sorcerer. If ever their country were in deadly
peril, any of the heirs to this ancestor could call upon the sorcerer for assistance. This was a much too
dangerous job for the queen or the other three princesses to contemplate. If Lynesse failed, so what? No
loss to the country. But if she succeeded, she would not only save her country but she might also prove
her worth to her mother and to the nation.

Sleeping in the tower, though, was no sorcerer. Nyr was a junior anthropologist, sent from Earth
centuries earlier to study Lynesse’s people and write a report. At some point, his teammates returned to
Earth. Nyr stayed on to complete their work. Waking up occasionally from his chryosleep to update his
notes and to check on any transmissions from Earth, Nyr was a scientist. A scientist who had once
ridden out to battle with a beautiful local woman, who had used his technology to defeat a local warlord
who was using technology intercepted from Earth. This interference in the local affairs was a mistake no
scientist should have made, and it will not be repeated.

Then, Lynesse knocks on the tower door.

Lynesse prevails upon the sorcerer to leave his tower and join her quest to slay the demon. Or, to put it
another way, Nyr decides to accompany the girl on her journey so he can update his notes about their
customs, especially as it concerns whatever they might see as a “demon.” Along the way, the sorcerer
uses his magic to defeat those who would harm them (or Nyr calls upon technology to protect himself
and his companions). Throughout, Nyr protests vigorously that he is not a sorcerer. He is a scientist (and
not a very good one, at that). Unfortunately, the translation falls short, and Lynesse hears him vigorously
stating that he is not a sorcerer, he is a (different word that means the same thing as sorcerer).
At the end, both Nyr and I seem to be wrestling with a similar question that is not directly related to the
plot, or may be entirely at the center of the plot. You decide. Nyr has been mostly asleep for centuries.
Never aging, never interacting, never growing old. But if someone can never die, can it be said that they
ever truly lived? Observation has its place and holds some value. But if we are observers only and never
participants, if we are surrounded by growth and change but we ourselves are immune from growth and
change, what use are we? Lynesse is deemed useless by her society’s conventional wisdom. Nyr has
chosen uselessness by sleeping the years away in his tower.

Which of them is truly alive?


Book Review: Elder Race, Adrian Tchaikovsky

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