The Chronicles of Zauba’ah is the new prequel to U.K. author Tosin coker’s “quadrilogy” of The Mouths of Babes, Let Sleeping Gods Lie, Heaven’s War: The God Awakened, and 2013 Evolution. Judging from Chronicles, the first novel I’ve read from England’s first female black Sci Fi writer, these books must all be dense, complex, and very challenging reads.
Throughout Chronicles, for example, Coker paints an almost overwhelmingly descriptive canvas of multi-layered alien societies and cultures. She offers beings that can, among other things, communicate telepathically, morph from humanoid bipeds into four-legged spirit forms, and live for centuries. Zauba’ah, in particular, is a warrior-scientist who has to incarnate into different bodies and lifetimes over thousands of millennia. It’s her evolution from adolescent girl to her ascension to an initiate of the N9ne to a planet killing goddess that’s the primary rudder running through the story.
But the plot sometimes seems almost secondary as what’s really going on is the unfolding of an intricately woven multi-verse with an uncommon depth of detail. It’s very impressive to see how Coker juggles so many elements together from the first page on. For example, the various species and sub-species are presented with full backgrounds of their traditions, values, class structures, as well as family and interpersonal relationships, not to mention extremely violent physical, mental, and metaphysical fighting styles. The milieu is full of sensory imagery, and the dialogue benefits from inventive wordplay. I especially liked characters who “overstand” what they learn.
Perhaps the flow is where we can get thrown off. Some sequences have abrupt segues. Long passages of time and seemingly major events can be compressed into a few paragraphs. Sub-plots can seem like very long digressions, but are more likely means to introduce characters that will be important in the books that follow. In fact, the book doesn’t end so much as it just stops as a new “mission” is about to begin. To know what happens next, well, we just have to go on to The Mouths of Babes.
Obviously, there’s a lot of moving parts in Chronicles and the book is not a fast read. Any synopsis is likely to suggest the book is built on familiar SF tropes, but few such novels have as much originality in their presentation and creative scope. Chronicles is for serious readers who seek more than light entertainment in their literature. As Chronicles is designed to set the stage for Coker’s other books, then those of us who haven’t discovered them before have another new epic to travel.