Flaming Memories

Finally read Holly Lisle's Memory of Fire. It had been sitting on my shelf for a long time (several years, I'd guess), only a few pages having been read.

The book got off to a rather odd start, with one of the main characters being kidnapped. The kidnappers were very careful not to hurt her, however, even when she fought back against them.

The world we find is one where there are many worlds; probably an infinitude, although we only see more than a brief glance of two. There's a general arrangement of them, with a bidirectional flow of magic and energy (energy flows in one direction; I forget exactly what flows in the other). In any event, the arrangement is called upworld and downworld.

A person who moves upworld becomes something very like a ghost, a person who moves downworld becomes a very powerful magician (for lack of a better term). The downside to going downworld is that, when you use magic, there's a "reverberation" of your spell back in your home world. If you don't know what you're doing, that reverberation can cause huge consequences where you come from.

To move between them, gates are created. There isn't much of an explanation, but it seems that gates are created with mirrors. It's unclear how you can move back through the gate, after passing through it, but you can. (The reason that it's unclear is that there doesn't have to be anything specific, like, say, another mirror, at the other end. The gate doesn't even have to be left open for you to return through it. It's unclear how you can even know that there's a gate there, through which to return.)

To keep from having problems, there are scattered groups of Sentinels who attempt to regulate magical flow from downworld spells. They also attempt to control all gates.

As you might guess, the main problem to be overcome in this book (though there are intimations of other problems to be resolved in later books) is a reverberation of a spell gone very bad. In our world, it is causing a very bad flu. Oddly, it is causing greater havoc in the (otherwise) healthy adult population, rather than the very old and very young, as tends to be the case with the flu.

(As a side note, there are at least two ways that that can happen with a real flu virus. Either it is being curtailed by the current flu shot, and fewer healthy adults have gotten the shot, or it happens because it just sends a person's antibodies into overdrive, and the overreaction of the immune system kills the person. In the latter case, it tends to have the greatest effect on those with the strongest immune systems.)

Anyway, without getting too deeply into the plot, I'll just say that an awful lot of people die. Two of the four main characters come within a hair's breadth of being killed. In fact, you could argue that one of them does die. The child of one of the remaining lead characters is also almost killed. Most of the secondary characters are killed. And about four million other, random people are killed by the flu.

So I figured that I'd read something a bit less depressing (I don't even own the sequels; I'm debating either tracking them down or getting them from the library); I grabbed The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Of course, I forgot that, near the beginning of the book, with the three ominous lines:
There was a terrible ghastly silence.
There was a terrible ghastly noise.
There was a terrible ghastly silence.

the entire planet was destroyed. Subtle was definitely not Douglas Adams' calling card.

Update: The link above is to the closest I can find to the edition I have. There's also a paperback version. I'm going to put another post up with some thoughts about this.

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