Resonance (Ragnorok book 3) by John Meaney (book review).

May 30, 2015 | By | Reply More

‘Resonance’ brings John Meaney’s ‘Ragnarok’ trilogy to a conclusion. A multi-stranded historical, contemporary, space opera and far-future epic tying together several viewpoint characters in disparate times and locations. Trilogies seemed to go out of fashion for a few years, but I like the neatness of tying everything together in a set number of volumes, rather than the worryingly open-ended nature of some stories. That’s particularly important for something this complex, where the characters only marginally interact, and then not necessarily in chronological order. The problem I had with both the second book ‘Transmission’ and this one was remembering what was happening several months after reading the previous book. An introductory summary would have been helpful, as provided in Michael Cobley’s recent, and equally multifarious, ‘Humanity’s Fire’ trilogy.


Ragnarok is the final battle of Norse legend, based on the coming of a malevolent hive-mind organism intent on Galactic conquest. It’s a slow conquest, allowing for characters living centuries apart to take part in the story. Agents of this organism, which bears different names in different time periods, emanate a dark aura and the echo of several discordant notes, detectable only to a few: Ulfr the Viking berserker/chieftain, Gavriella Wood the cold war mathematician and a selection of other related characters whose relationships span the next couple of centuries during the formation of the Pilot guild. It is the Pilots who play a central role, an elite organisation able to pilot their synergetic ships into mu-space, another realm that allows interstellar travel.

These varied sections allow John Meaney to display a talent for evoking his different settings with great fidelity, describing equally realistic 8th century Britain, scenes from the cold war and the fantastical city of Labyrinth, home of the Pilots. Here the buildings and furniture are fluid, transport is by fastpath rotation, Pilots are able to take extreme geodesic flights and skip through time and it’s all done with flare and style. I don’t have much knowledge of Dark Ages Britain, admittedly, but the feel and tone of war time and cold war Europe have an air of authenticity. In this third volume, individual story lines gradually wind up and blend into each other, filling in the intervening decades and centuries. It’s when one section arrives in 1989 and a 16 year-old boy is taking his O’levels that I spotted an error, allowing me a moment of smugness. I also left school in 1989 and O’levels had already come to an end. We were the second year to take GCSEs instead. Although my parents still referred to them as O’levels for years afterward and the viewpoint character for this section is an old lady and would probably make the same mistake, so I’ll let the author off. Smugness over.

It’s a satisfyingly chunky novel, allowing time for all of the characters to be developed, not rushing the story lines but allowing each to slot into place. Ultimately, the entire novel follows a single plot, though this isn’t clear until the time-lines start getting straightened out and you realise the links between the threads, aside from the obvious back story. Some of the characters’ storylines seem to have little significance, but serve as bridges between the larger sections where more focus is given. I lost track of some of these lesser characters, which was unfortunate but perhaps inevitable, given the numbers involved. This is again where an introduction summarising the previous two volumes would have helped, because as the plot began to wrap up there were references to things I could barely remember happening in previous volumes so they lost some of their impact.

All in all, an enjoyable conclusion to a complex trilogy that packs in a whole variety of subgenres and some brilliant imagery.

Gareth Jones

May 2015

(pub: Gollancz, 2014. 419 page enlarged paperback. Price: £12.99 (UK only). ISBN: 978-0-575-08536-7)

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Category: Books, Scifi

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