Songs of Earth and Power

22 May

Greg Bear (born August 20, 1951) is an American writer best known for science fiction. His work has covered themes of galactic conflict (the Forge of God books), artificial universes (The Way series), consciousness and cultural practices (Queen of Angels), and accelerated evolution (Blood Music, Darwin’s Radio, and Darwin’s Children). Greg Bear has written 44 books in total. His most recent work is the Forerunner Trilogy, written in the Halo universe. Greg Bear was also one of the five co-founders of the San Diego Comic-Con. While most of Bear’s work is science fiction, he has written in other fiction genres. Songs of Earth and Power is an omnibus edition of two classic fantasy novels from the eighties. In The Infinity Concerto (1984) Michael Perrin endures years of captivity and deadly struggles in the Realm of the Sidhe, a fantastic, beautiful and dangerous world. In The Serpent Mage (1986) he returns to Los Angeles – but the Sidhe are following him. Greg Bear’s land of elves is not the pretty, enchanted place of so many fantasy novels but is an oppressive, menacing land of cruelty and fear, ruled by the unfeeling fair folk of Celtic mythology. His brilliantly descriptive narrative draws the reader in until you feel part of this world. Songs of Earth and Power isn’t an easy or comfortable read but it is one that is well worth the effort.

Michael Perrin wants to live the simple life of an aspiring poet in Los Angeles. Then Michael is left with the key to an old abandoned house by an elderly and mysterious neighbour. What Michael is about to discover is that this house is a gateway to another realm, the Realm of the Sidhe, a realm that is both compelling and dangerous, a realm that is difficult to escape from. Once he receives the key and a piece of music called The Infinity Concerto, Michael’s life becomes anything but simple. Soon he is whisked away to the land of the Sidhe, dangerous elves in a tentative truce with humans. Barren and stark, this world is anything but the pretty land of faerie tales. When Michael is released from the land of the Sidhe, all he wants is to lead a normal life in LA. But there are hauntings in the streets, bodies in a hotel, and an ancient creature summoned from a loch. Like the fairies of myth, the Sidhe are not willing to let go of their hold on Michael quite so easily. The first book, which follows the journey of Michael through the Realm and towards his destiny, is essentially a coming-of-age tale set in an alien world of myth and magic. The second book is about Michael as a man and tells of his journey to discover the depths of his self and his potential and the path to harmony with the energy of the world around him.

As always with Greg Bear, this novel (even though it consists of two separate books, this is really one story) is at once well-written, detailed, nuanced and thought-provoking. The nature of energy, magic and the worst traits of both humanity and the Sidhe are explored, as well as the prejudice and the concepts of gods, creation, religion, destruction and politics all are to be found within the pages. Magic is created in the forms of songs of power which may take the form of any of the great arts – music, dance, poetry. The story tells of the boy Michael’s rise to Magehood through his talent for poetry, leading to the destruction of the realm and the return of the Sidhe to Earth. Despite these serious themes the book also has a charming child-like quality which is difficult to convey, as it tells of first love, innocence lost and the power of music to stir the soul and change the world. Appealing to lovers of classical music, fairy folklore and science fiction in equal measure, Songs of Earth and Power is quite simply unique and unforgettable among fantasy novels – read it or miss out on an experience like no other!

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