Fractal Noise: A Fractalverse novel book 2, by Christopher Paolini (book review).

The loss of his wife, Layla, sent Alex running away from an emptiness he couldn’t escape. Joining the survey expedition to the Talos system was not far enough. Nothing matters anymore and there is no point.

Then the scans picked up a hole. A big hole. A hole in a planet big enough to be seen from space, perfectly round and clearly not a natural formation. A big hole emitting so loud a noise that it would tear unprotected flesh apart. His wife would have been the first to investigate it and Alex pushes through his apathy to do this for her.

It seems like there is a rule written somewhere that ancient alien artifacts must be ludicrously enormous (unless they’re regular-sized and made up of nanobots) and humans must do anything and everything to investigate the things beyond the point of lunacy. Which is fine because Alex is not a mentally well man and the giant hole is damn giant and those are the two things that ‘Fractal Noise’ hinges upon. Everything else in the story is peripheral to Alex and each step he takes towards the unknown.

Writer Christopher Paolini gives the reader a very visceral sense of the encroaching hole and its noise. Every footfall and every THUD from the hole had my feeling Alex’s despair and fear and the full body pressure of the endlessly repeating THUD.

‘Fractal Noise’ is very different from ‘To Sleep In A Sea Of Stars’, the first novel set in Paolini’s ‘Fractalverse’. There is less action. Kira (‘Sea Of Stars’) is like Alex in that they are both explorers and both find a mysterious alien artifact. Kira path is very external and begins from connection with her artifact and leads her to meet people and seek answers in the wider universe. Alex’s story is more about his internal journey as he heads toward his artifact with other characters there to inspire introspection rather than action. It’s more on par with ‘The Road’ where the journey is the story and the endless walking forward leads to endless memories and questions and philosophical thoughts.

If you like books like ‘The Road’, you’ll probably find ‘Fractal Noise’ too light. If, like me, you had to read ‘The Road’ for a class and bribe yourself for every page read, you might find ‘Fractal Noise’ a little heavy. I’m putting it in my ‘good but I’d rather study it’ pile. There is a lot of good stuff in there that my undergraduate self would love to write an essay or two about. My adult self wants some more running around and fight scenes.

LK Richardson

September 2023

(pub: TOR, 2023. 304 page hardback. Price: $28.99 (US). ISBN: 978-1-25086-248-8)

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