~by Tad Williams
Otherland: Mountain of Black Glass is the third book in the massive four volume series, Otherland, written by Tad Williams. The Grail Brotherhood continues its quest of immortality while a group known as The Circle tries to thwart at least some of the Brotherhood's plans. Dread, a rogue "servant" of the head of the Brotherhood, Felix Jongleur, works towards his own goals by his own, terrifying, means. All the while, the Otherland system is becoming more and more unstable. Paul Jonas, Renie Sulaweyo, and the others trapped in the system struggle to survive in an increasingly dangerous situation as they try to make sense of what is happening to them, the system, and their loved ones.
I haven't been reading the series straight through, which is somewhat unfortunate since I forget many of the details from one book to the next. Luckily, Williams as included a synopsis for each of the previous two books, Otherland: City of Golden Shadow and Otherland: River of Blue Fire. (The synopsis of Otherland: City of Golden Shadow is the same one he used in the second book, except that it is missing a paragraph.) While I still feel I'm missing out on quite a bit of the detail (which really is very understandable sine these books are huge in several ways) they do provide adequate summaries which make it much easier to jump back into the story after a break.
While many of the simulated worlds in the previous books were literary references that I could recognize (Wonderland, Oz, and War of the Worlds for example) I was not particularly familiar with those featured in this book beyond the Ancient Greek classics of Homer--The Oddessy and The Illiad. There is even a brief appearance of Virgil's Aeneid (an accidental theme in my reading recently). The other simulation worlds were extraordinarily creative and were quite a bit of fun.
In some ways, this book seemed to drag on--I noticed its length much more than I did the first two books, and I didn't find it quite as engaging either. It is very much a "middle" book, and seeing as it is the second one at that, execution is particularly tricky. I did begin to wonder about the point of it all but happily, by the end of the book, the multitudinous story-lines at least begin to coincide. Certainly not all of them, but enough that things start to pull together nicely. Many, many questions still remain to be resolved but answer are beginning to be hinted at.