Vu X. Do,
The Beginning, The Seventh Storm, The End
(iUniverse, 2003)

In the indeterminate future, Mars is a virtual paradise while Earth is a crowded and violent mess. The people of Mars, who have long distanced themselves from their distant Earth origins, have harnessed the seemingly endless power supply of tensonics, and have conquered gravity as well as social misbehavior such as violence. Upon accepting a case, a deaf-mute detective on Earth discovers his true Martian origin and his role in preventing the end of everything.

The set-up for The Beginning, The Seventh Storm, The End is a big one. There is a lot of material and potential for numerous stories. It's like a Dagwood-sized sandwich -- there's too much inside it and no way to hold it all together. Unfortunately, that's what happens in this book.

The story told could be placed in two categories. One category would be a very vague and theoretical hard-science tale (along the lines of Greg Bear). Another would be a grand planet-spanning adventure with political intrigue and fantastic landscapes. The problem is that the book never quite fits into either category. It's not a nice blending of the two, more of a forced union. (To continue the food analogy, it's like gluing half of an apple to half of an orange. An interesting combination, but it still doesn't seem right.)

I appreciate Do's desire to provide a full, rich world of characters with individual histories. However, the author relies on too many revelatory moments to instantaneously connect the character to the situation. There are no hints prior to these revelations, which make the connections seem trite. The backstories must have confused even Do, because the character focus shifts within each section of the chapter. In a few cases, Do abandons one character in mid-paragraph and follows another character all the way to the end of the section.

While rife with problems, this book also has a lot of redeeming qualities. The character of Obek is rather interesting, especially since he can neither hear nor speak, yet he usually has the answer. The action sequences are fantastic (Obek's one bad mutha, lemme tell ya). The Martian landscape -- er, skyscape -- is breathtakingly described and full of imagination. (Do's description of an asteroid-sized city with a gravity-controlled waterfall is spectacular.)

There's no denying the broad imagination of Vu X. Do. From the breath-taking Martian skyscape to the head-scratching concept of tensonics (time and energy are the same AND co-dependant), The Beginning, The Seventh Storm, The End bites off a little bit more than it can chew. While it has enjoyable moments, it doesn't quite reach its potential.

- Rambles
written by C. Nathan Coyle
published 10 January 2004

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