Kat Hooper's Reviews > A Storm of Wings

A Storm of Wings by M. John Harrison
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's review
Mar 06, 2012

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bookshelves: audiobook

ORIGINALLY POSTED AT Fantasy Literature.

A Storm of Wings is the second part of M. John Harrison’s VIRICONIUM sequence. Viriconium has been at peace for eighty years after the threat from the north was eliminated, but now there are new threats to the city. Something has detached from the moon and fallen to earth. A huge insect head has been discovered in one of the towns of the Reborn. The Reborn are starting to go mad. Also, a new rapidly growing cult is teaching that there is no objective reality. Are the strange events linked with the cult’s nihilistic philosophy? And what will this do to Viriconium’s peace? Tomb the dwarf and Cellur the Birdlord, whom we met in The Pastel City, set out to discover the truth.

A Storm of Wings was published in 1980 — nine years after The Pastel City — and M. John Harrison’s writing style has evolved. In some ways it’s better — characterization is deeper and the imagery is more evocative. This world feels fragile and moribund and the reader gets the sense that, as the cult proclaims, it’s hard to tell what’s real and what’s just a warped perception. Or perhaps Viriconium is slipping from reality into a dream. Or into a different reality altogether. The story is strange, outlandish, and blurry.

I like weird tales, but I had trouble with A Storm of Wings because the pace was so sluggish. M. John Harrison spends so much of his effort building an eerie atmosphere and a dreamy mood and not enough time with real action. The atmosphere is successful but that wasn’t enough to completely satisfy me because very little actually happens in this story. I often wished that Harrison would quit with the mood and move onto the story.

However, I do love the city of Viriconium — a city whose palace, which is built to mathematical precision and carved with strange geometries, lies at the end of a road called the Proton Circuit. A city that must have been absorbed with the highest levels of math and science until it fell. A city that no longer remembers its former glory. I can’t wait to find out more about Viriconium in the next book.

I’m still listening to the audiobook version of the VIRICONIUM omnibus. Thanks to narrator Simon Vance, this is an excellent format for this epic.
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