Werner's Reviews > The Fatal Tree

The Fatal Tree by Stephen R. Lawhead
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Recommended for: Fans of science fiction that deals with quantum physics

This fifth and final volume of the Bright Empires series is much of a piece with the four volumes that went before, in terms of content, style, and quality. Reader's reactions to the first four would probably be predictive of their reaction to this one. (And the first four should definitely be read, in order, before tackling this one!) As readers of the Shadow Lamp already know, and as the cover copy (which also serves as the Goodreads description) states, our major characters are now caught up in the climactic effort to respond to, and hopefully prevent, the End of Everything: a reversal of the universe/multiverse's expansion in a rapid contraction that will annihilate everything that exists.

Both the characteristic strengths and weaknesses of the series continue to be in evidence. For perhaps the first two-thirds of the book, the plot actually seemed to me to be somewhat more aimless than in the preceding books, with our "questors" seeming to act in a relatively random fashion in the face of the emergency. On the plus side, Lawhead delivers a couple of surprises in his plotting that I did not see coming; but character development continues to be believable. Multiple plot strands are juggled probably about as well as they can be, with so many. And the author creates an impressive vision of the cosmic scope of a meaningful multiverse, suffused with an explicitly theistic perspective and expressed in majestic and beautiful prose, which didn't fail to impress this reader. We even have some clean romance, presented tastefully and intelligently, as is Lawhead's wont.

A major point that for me cost this volume, and the series in general, stars is the heavy reliance on quantum physics, which I don't fully understand (and am not unreservedly convinced is valid anyway), and which tends to be only vaguely explained here. Also, the internal logic of the premise seems weak to me. It isn't a spoiler (since the preceding books state it) to mention that the contraction of space-time is happening because Arthur Flinders-Petrie misused the Spirit Well to restore the dead Xian Li to life. But that raises other questions that don't get answers. How does the Spirit Well do this in the first place? What is its relation to the multiverse? If it can be misused in this fashion and can thus threaten the End of Everything, why wouldn't the Creator whom Lawhead posits take measures to prevent this in the first place? Why would one action that wasn't "meant to be" cause the contraction of the universe? (How do we know what's "meant to be," in this sense?) Why does the contraction wait three generations to start happening? Inquiring minds want to know!

Related to this, the logic behind the ending is unsatisfactory, IMO. (view spoiler) Arguably, this whole scenario is not really well thought out, and just operates the way that Lawhead wants it to independently of internal logic.

In summation, I liked the series moderately well, and liked several of the characters. But generally speaking, I don't regard it as Lawhead's best work. Personally, I'd recommend the King Raven trilogy as a better introduction to his corpus.
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Reading Progress

November 10, 2014 – Shelved
November 10, 2014 – Shelved as: to-read
August 11, 2015 – Started Reading
August 11, 2015 –
page 12
August 13, 2015 –
page 70
August 14, 2015 –
page 98
August 16, 2015 –
page 125
August 17, 2015 –
page 204
August 19, 2015 –
page 254
August 20, 2015 –
page 286
August 21, 2015 –
page 313
August 22, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-2 of 2 (2 new)

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B the BookAddict Excellent review, Werner.

message 2: by Werner (last edited Aug 24, 2015 02:08PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Werner Thanks, B!

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