Friday, January 30, 2015

Book Review: Guardian

Book Review: 'Guardian' by Thomas F. Monteleone

2 / 5 Stars

‘Guardian’ was first published in hardcover by Doubleday in September, 1980; this Fawcett Popular Library paperback (190 pp) was published in October, 1981 and features cover artwork by Paul Alexander.

The novel is set in Earth’s far future, thousands of years after Armageddon destroyed civilization. In the more remote and wilder places of the world, there are vast deserts where the rusting hulks of war machines litter hundreds of square miles, evidence that the Ancients unleashed a lasting and terrible destruction upon themselves. But Mankind has arisen once again, and the world is at a late 19th century level of technology, although some machines of the Ancients are still intact, the objects of wonder and veneration.

Varian Hamer is a young sailor and soldier of fortune who finds himself seeking greater purpose in his life than simply traveling from one port to another. One day, while waiting for his ship, The Courtesan, to set sail from the quays of the city of Mentor, Hamer observes an old man in a monk’s robe purposefully moving about the dock. 

Hamer is intrigued when the old man, named Kartaphilos, approaches him with a request: search the world’s wastelands for the location of the massive citadel housing the Guardian, a super-computer that retains all the knowledge and technology of the Ancients. For the man who finds the Guardian, and unlocks its secrets, will be positioned to transform the world and all its inhabitants.

At first skeptical, Hamer finds himself convinced when Kartaphilos shows him technology far advanced from any in existence in the known world. Accompanied by the stunning Tessa, the aged but experienced world traveler Stoor, and the mute but talented Raim, Hamer embarks on a quest to find the Guardian.

When the team finally does locate the impressive Citadel and the Guardian within its halls, they discover that far from being an inert, passive instrument awaiting its rebirth at the hands of the descendents of its builders, Guardian is very much concerned with its own plans for the future of the human race………

‘Guardian’ is one of Thomas F. Monteleone’s earlier novels and is comparatively weaker than his later works. The sf and adventure elements of the novel drive the narrative for the first half of the book, but after the encounter with the Guardian, which takes over at mid-point, the remaining chapters are really just a backdrop, against which the authors places overly labored expositions about Man’s Fate in the Universe, and what is required for an otherwise all-knowing, omnipotent AI to understand what it means to Be Human.

I can’t say that ‘Guardian’ is a must-have, but readers looking for a quick, but not overly innovative read that revolves around some of the more common tropes of sf may find the book worthwhile. If you do, you may want to try its sequel, ‘Ozymandias’ (1983).

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