Book review: “The Gate to Futures Past” by Julie E. Czerneda
No. 2 in the “Reunification” series. Science fiction. DAW, 2016
“The Gate to Futures Past” is another installment in a long line of books following Sira (a powerful Clan woman in a human-dominated universe) and Morgan (Sira’s human partner in crime with plenty of power of his own). The series began with “A Thousand Words for Stranger” (“The Trade Pact” trilogy No. 1) back in 1997 and has only grown more dynamic and interesting since. I’m very passionate about this author. She is one of my favorite science fiction writers for a few reasons. She has well-rounded characters who stick with you long after you finish the books, she uses a brilliant infusion of biology to make her flora and fauna more realistic and creative (she was a biologist before becoming a writer, which I think gives her an edge), and her books always have delightful splashes of humor. While this saga in particular isn’t my absolute favorite from this author (averaging only 4 out of 5 stars), I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.
Any day I have a chance to dive into Sira and Morgan’s world is a good day, so it really doesn’t matter what they’re doing for me to enjoy reading about them. That said, from a story-construction perspective, “The Gate to Futures Past” spent a ton of time (about half the book) stagnating in the same setting. Now, I’m not sure how the author could have progressed the plot convincingly without a good portion of the novel committed to the same setting, but as a reader, I eventually hit a point where I was like, “So … when does the real story begin?” But when I finally reached the halfway mark, the story exploded with awesomeness. It was worth the wait.
And actually, the whole saga was kind of worth the wait. It has been slowly building up to the specific story points being explored in this most recent trilogy. At the very back of “A Rift in the Sky” (the final book in her “Stratification” trilogy), almost as an afterthought, Czerneda conveyed the following in her author’s note: “I hope you enjoy the first six books of the Clan Chronicles. Once you have, I hope you paid attention and have questions. Because I promise … you ain’t seen nothing yet.”
As you can imagine, I was super excited to see what the author had in store next. I also thought those were some risky words on the author’s part to commit in writing; with all the buildup and anticipation she was creating, her readers had no choice but to expect a big payoff. Well, after reading this most recent novel, the story is definitely living up to its potential!
At the risk of sounding overly critical, the only issue I had with this book (and others in the saga) is an occasional lack of clarity. The author has a tendency not to write in complete sentences, especially when she’s trying to be deliberately vague to help build suspense. Her unique sentence construction often gives her a distinct voice — one which is very strong, creative, and immersive — but every once in a while, it can lead to a bit of confusion. Each book has these “interludes” where she talks about the M’hir (a place from which the Clan draw their power … I’ve always kind of thought of it as a sub-space type of place) and the entities within it. She writes it more from a sensory standpoint than a descriptive one, which often left me lost on what was happening, perhaps deliberately so (even when I was studying this series while competing in Czerneda’s Beta reader competition, I still wasn’t totally sure I knew what was going on). Anyway, even if eventually these passages make more sense, it can be a little frustrating spending so much time and focus trying to understand them from the get-go. I didn’t have this issue with any of her other stories, which is the only reason why I didn’t rate these quite as high (but like I said, they are still entertaining reads).
Overall, if you like science fiction of the space-opera variety, I highly recommend Julie E. Czerneda. “The Gates to Futures Past” is the second book of the third trilogy in this saga. “The Trade Pact” trilogy is where Sira’s story begins, and “Reap the Wild Wind” is the beginning of the prequel “Stratification” trilogy. Really, you can read them in either order, but I think I would steer you more towards beginning with “The Trade Pact” trilogy. Both trilogies contribute heavily to this “Reunification” trilogy, so I would definitely recommend devouring both of those before beginning this one.
I’d like to thank Berkley Publishing Group, Julie E. Czerneda, and NetGalley for the chance to read and review an early copy of “The Gate to Futures Past.”