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The Realms of Tartarus

Short Stories
They had built Utopia on Earth at last. Ten thousand years in the making...

They built it on a platform that covered the polluted surface of the old world, turned men's eyes away from the unsolved problems of the bad old days, and brought their shining new cities up into the perpetual sunlight.

But down there, in the lamplit "sky" of the old surface, life had persisted. Men existed, and semi-men, and things that never were men... and nobody in the sunlight above knew of them until disturbing dreams began to intrude and visions bothered a few sensitive minds.

One man investigated. One man went down to that forgotten basement of the Earth and thereby uncovered the grave of the world that was and let its transformed phantoms glimpse the light above.

Omnibus of three novels, only the first of which had previously been published:
The Face of Heaven
A Vision of Hell
A Glimpse of Infinity

Cover art by Ron Walotsky

Published in 1977 by DAW.


Translated into French as: Les Royaumes de Tartare.

Review by Ian Braidwood

Cast of Characters:
Carl, Joth, Ryan and Julea Magner. Chemec, Camlak, Porcel, Ermold, Nita, Sada, Old Man Yami, Huldi, Rafael Heres, Abram Revelent, Thorold Warnet, Enzo Ulicon, Jervis Burnstone, Yvon Emerich, Eliot Rypeck, Randal Harkander Iorga, Joel Dayling, Sisyr, Gregor Zuzara, Vicente Soron, Javan Sobol, Joachim Casirati, Alwyn Ballow, Luel Dascon, Germont.

Imagine a world, where to escape its own pollution, the populace has built a platform encompassing the entire surface, like an astounding eggshell. This is the Earth of The Realms of Tartarus, set at a time soon after it's completion.

While the people on the platform have been busy, so has evolution below. With their primary energy source cut, most plants have died off; leaving Earth to domination by fungi and those creatures adaptable enough to consume them.

This is a considerably more complex book than the Hooded Swan series, concerning three separate communities and the internal conflicts of each.

The platform-livers are the beneficiaries of The Euchronian Millennium headed by a body known as the Hegemon, which oversees the plan.

Below, people - of whatever species - live in small closed settlements and of these, just two are described with brutal clarity: Stalhelm and Walgo live in an atmosphere of simmering hostility, which neither has the resources to pursue.

Realms isn't an easy read - parts of it are like an essay - but it is jam-packed with ideas and exciting speculations. It is a book which will provoke you and make you think. Whether intentional or not, the allegorical comparison between the worlds of Realms and the first and third worlds of our own time are inescapeable.

This is a deliberate attempt by Brian to move upmarket, to challenge his readers and his own writing skills.

In summary, The Realms of Tartarus does have a great deal to recommend it: it's jam-packed with speculations and illustrations of scientific insight. It isn't one of Brian's easiest reads, but it's definitely one of his best.

The Brian Stableford Website