Here it is. The final volume in Tad Williams' mammoth 'Otherland' saga. It's always difficult to bring three thousand pages of intricate storytelling to a close. With so many plot threads and characters, it's truly a challenge to bring such epics to a satisfying conclusion. 'Sea of Silver Light' does just that however, bringing the entire series to a stunningly climactic end in true Williams fashion.
The novel starts off at the exact point where 'Mountain of Black Glass' left off. After witnessing the brutal and horrifying subjugation of the titanic Other by Dread, the companions are split apart and cast into different worlds. Renie, Sam and !Xabbu find themselves accompanied only by two members of the evil Grail Brotherhood. Ricardo Klement, now braindead as the result of a failed transference procedure, and Felix Jongleur himself. Forced to work together in an uneasy alliance to escape the nothingness into which they have been cast, they guardedly share information. Jongleur reveals that they are no longer in the grail network he had created, but the Other has built something outside of the network for reasons which have yet to discovered.
Meanwhile, Paul Jonas, Martine, T4b, and Florimel embark on a pilgramage through the deteriorating worlds of the grail network. Dread has begun to remake the worlds in his own image, and the result is a vast wave of corruption spreading through the system. For instance, he's reprogrammed the Roman world to play as an endless invasion of the barbarian hordes. And the barbarians? An army of Dreads, each one of them. Every other world has been twisted, with the original denizens increasingly being butchered by copies of Dread, or melded into horrible abominations.
In the real world, the enigmatic Mr. Sellars continues to orchestrate a desperate strike against the Brotherhood as his plans start to disentegrate around him. Olga Pirofsky, with the help of Catur Ramsey and Beezle embarks on a mission which is almost assuredly madness - infiltration of the imposing J corporation headquarters. Something is calling to her, and she knows the foreboding tower hides a terrible secret. In Australia, detective Calliope Skouros is closing on the mysterious and violent killer known as Johnny Wulgaru, or Johnny Dread. She is unaware how close her investigation has come, or how deadly her quarry is.
Williams pulls no punches in getting the story underway. Unlike previous volumes in the series, 'Sea of Silver Light' takes off at a blazing pace, with action and blockbuster plot revelations on practically every page. We finally begin to learn exactly what how Paul Jonas upset Jongleur so thoroughly, and who Ava is. Her mysterious appearances are all explained as the nature and origins of the network are revealed.
The true mystery, is of course the nature of the Other. Williams doesn't stumble at all here, tying together plotlines started thousands of pages ago to begin building a horrific picture. It's a heartbreaking tale, and acts as the keystone for an overlying theme asserting that stories are integral to defining humanty's perception of realism.
The vivid details of the virtual worlds are truly astounding. One set in a western theme is particularly enjoyable. It's complete with a mine-cart serpent, sickening man-spiders, and interesting characters. The fairy-tale land Renie travels through is also beautifully written, an almagamation of all manners of children's tales. With a series of this nature, Williams has an unusual opportunity to create and visit whatever worlds he wishes, and he takes complete advantage of it.
The ending is excellent, the only problem is that there isn't more of it. After such a titanic struggle, the final climax seems rushed. Events happen very quickly, and some more detail concerning the final revelations would have been appreciated. After pacing himself, if not outright plodding during earlier books, Williams seems to have been in a hurry to bring this one to a close. Regardless, he hasn't left any questions unanswered, or cheated to neatly wrap things up. (The Naked God, anybody?)
'Sea of Silver Light' is the perfect ending to the massive 'Otherland' series. The novel's a strong finish, and establishes 'Otherland' as a worthy counterpart to Williams' classic trilogy of fantasy, 'Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn'.