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Let me just start by saying this the first time I finished this series, I immediately went back and started reading it again I can t think of any other series that I ve done that with.This is one of Tad Williams economy sized manuscripts, similar to his fantasy classic Memory, Sorrow and Thorn Similar in size and scope, anyway four giant tomes chock full of all things awesome It s a series of grand scope, amazing scale and great imagination, well worthy of your time It s a complex, interweaving of tales, full of vibrant characters, implacable enemies, and important questions about destiny, identity, consciousness and the very nature of reality itself Seriously, top shelf stuff here, people.It begins in a near future world, and it begins with the children Renie Sulaweyo, a teacher in South Africa, has a brother in the hospital He, like many other children around the world, has gone into an inexplicable coma, the causes of which defy medical science The only clue she has is that the outbreaks of these comas coincide with the availability of access to the Net a virtual reality internet that is what Second Life dreams of becoming Here, depending on your equipment, you can live in a virtual world that is vibrant and exciting than anything the real world can offer And you can do it in full sense surround 3D.Renie s brother, Stephen, engaged in the usual mischief that any kid with access to his own virtual universe might do, and finally got caught Something shut him down, and Renie was determined to find out what did it With the assistance of her student, a Bushman named Xabbu, Renie uncovers an amazing virtual world, something that puts the best virtual reality to shame It is the Otherland, a playground for the obscenely wealthy And it may hold the secret to what has afflicted her brother.That s the short version, and since Renie is the one we re introduced to first, it would be easy to think of her as the protagonist of the story That would be highly inaccurate, though There s a lot of other storylines going on in there as well There s young Orlando Gardiner, who compensates for a crippling illness by being the baddest barbarian on the net His best friend, Sam Fredericks, has stood by him for many years in an online game that makes World of Warcraft look like pen and paper DD They and others are lured into a deadly quest by a vision of a great golden city, realistic and magical than they ever thought they could find.Out in the real world, there s little Christabel Sorenson, upon whose earnest desire to help the funny looking Mister Sellars the entire future of the Otherland rests There s the aptly named Dread, an assassin extraordinare whose strange twist gives him an edge in all things electronic And, of course, there is Paul Jonas, a man trapped in an imaginary world, whose escape threatens the greatest dreams of the richest men the world has ever known.All of this, as the series title suggests, centers on the Otherland project, a virtual reality of monumental proportions It s a digital world that is real than the real world is, a world of computer created, but very deadly, dangers The slightest misstep could spell disaster and death die in the Otherland and you die in real life.And just FYI, Otherland predates The Matrix by three years and, kung fu aside, is a much better story So if you re thinking, Man, this is just a Matrix rip off, you re very, very wrong.It s a daunting series to begin After all, it s four books, each one clocking in around 800 to 900 pages There are at least fifteen major characters, and the Otherland itself shows us seven different worlds in this book alone There s a lot to take in, and on top of all that, there s a whole world happening outside the story each chapter is preceded with a small news blurb that tells us about things that are going on in the world Cops rounding up homeless kids in lethal snipe hunts, homicidal artists, legislative representation for the industrial sector of America this world is both familiar and alien at the same time.The good news is that it is a lot of fun to read The pacing is very good, so you never get too bored watching any one character for a while What s , Williams pays homage to some of the greatest fantasy and science fiction the English speaking world has to offer At one point, even the characters admit that they seem to be caught up in a very familiar story So my advice is to just dive right into it Once you get going, things clip along at a good pace and you ll find yourself on page 943 in no time flat.The really fun part is re discovering things in this series There are some things I remember very clearly, but other little details that pop up and make me think, Oh yeah, I forgot all about that I enjoy seeing Williams prescience after all, he wrote this just as the internet was really becoming popular, and a good ten years before things like online gaming and social media took over our lives His vision of an immersive, VR world may have seemed a little wild and out there back in the mid nineties, but not any.So, make a sandwich and find a comfortable place to sit This ll take a while, but I guarantee it ll be worth it. I love this series I read it years ago, picking it up only because of the cool cover It s not the type of book I usually read I m not a fan of cyberpunk lit But then again, Otherland is far from typical Heck the main characters are black South Africans unlike in District 9, Tad s rendering is realistic and free of prejudice Smile , little did I know that years later, my novel would be bought by the very editor who worked on this awesome series.I m on page 268 and I m enjoying it in the same way that I enjoyed it back in the late 90s I LOVE Xabbu Back in when I first read it, I was totally in love with his character Like he seemed like The perfect guy He still does I totally relate to Renee on many levels Long Joseph is a great character When Tad is with Christabel, Mr Sellars and Orlando, I m happy But whenever Tad s with the Grail Brotherhood or Dread or Paul, I m totally bored that s when I start skimming Paul never interested me because he was always confused and in the dark often literally and his plot felt too traditionally fantasy which bores me The Grail Brotherhoodugh, wholly uninteresting all the Egyptian persona and such seem silly Dreadhe s just a bad guy, ya know Heh Also, I ve always had a hard time with novels that jump from point of view to point of view too often I get frustrated because I get really into one story and then we re off to another story and I have to work to get interested all over again This is especially frustrating when I read on the Stairmaster which I do a LOT Nevertheless, I am enjoying rereading this series and will happily continueOk, finally done Loved it I m tempted to move right on to part two but I ve got Under the Dome to contend with first. Tad Williams has been one of those authors I d never really gotten around to even though he s a pillar of fantasy literature Technically, I did read his story contained in Songs of the Dying Earth which was excellent , but never one of his mainstays such as Otherland and his epic, Memory, Sorry, and Thorn series.Apparently that day has come and I ve officially read Tad Williams And what did I think I hate to say this, but mostly meh.That s not to say I didn t enjoy City of Golden Shadow, but for the ending we get i.e., the status of the characters at the end , there s not really a whole lot to show for it It s a long book, and not really all that much happens There are tons of mysteries, but I found myself not really caring about some of the main characters and that made it difficult to say the least.At the same time, I feel compelled to go on Though I was disappointed with where we got in the end of the book, I wasn t so much disappointed in the ending itself It was exciting to finally see things moving along, to see progress I was finally sucked in by the end, but how did it take just under 800 pages to do that I won t go into the story, I feel like I m one of the last to finally discover Williams so it s weird describing it, but it s interesting and mysterious and I guess that s what kept my interest for so long.Additionally, I listened to this on audio and I really wonder if I would have pushed through had I been reading this page by page It s so long and slow moving, I honestly think I might have given up I m glad I listened to it because I m excited to see what happens now that the story can finally begin But that s one long intro And I have to say that the narrator, George Newbern, did an excellent job That certainly helped as well His accents for the different characters, including Indian, Spanish, and Bushman Xabbu were always impressive He switched through them effortlessly as well and though some sounded similar, it was also distinct Overall, I m glad I finally read City of Golden Shadow and after doing so to completion I might add I m convinced that Williams deserves the praise he gets I was bored at times, but interested and even captivated at other times I enjoyed it in the end, but I don t know if it s worth the slog for everyone because it really was a slog at times I ll have to read in the series for incite.3 out of 5 Stars for a slow start but eventual payoff recommended I m giving this book a 3.5 rating which seems a little harsh to me becuase I genuinely really really enjoyed it Honestly, the only reason it s not quite scooping the 4 s is becuase although I really enjoyed it, it s a 900 page book and it s only just starting the overall plot by the time you reach the end.This is probably one of the most surprising books I have read in a while as it s a slightly older fantasy sci fi crossover pre 2000s and so I kind of assumed it would be a classic style It is a bit wordy at times, and I think if I had read rather than audiobook ed this it may have taken me longer to digest it all, but honestly the narration had me envisioning the different worlds so clearly We also have a whole host of characters, so again I suppose this is somewhat classic in theme, but they are from all walks of life, all different genders, races, sexes and nationalities They each have their own problems and unique situations, which inevitably do come together at the end of this book in a very interesting way but like I say, it s riiiight at the end where stuff starts to make sense as a whole I liked all of the characters in their own way I felt that they were some of the uniquely written characters I had encountered and it s a story I very much got hooked into straight away.So, the story That s kind of hard to explain We have a lot of different characters, some are in the real world, some are in Otherland, and some spend a majority of their time in the Net basically Virtual Reality which is super cool This book kind of reminded me of Ready Player One although RPO came after this and I think if you like that and you want a broader, wider look at how that sort of thing could affect the real world, this is it The story focuses largely on Renie, a young black lady who is in South Africa and lives with her young brother who she cares for and her father a drunk They struggle to get by but she has a job at a uni teaching people how to use and navigate the ins and outs of the Net When her young brother suddenly becomes quite unresponsive whilst at a friend s house, not long after she caught him getting up to illegal activities, she becomes convinced that the Net is involved Renie and her friend Xabbu a Bushaman embark on a mystery trail to try and unwind the virtual realities, simulations, dimensions and stories which might lead them to find out about how to help Stephen her brother.That is the main story anywaysAlongside that we also have Christabel a young girl whose family seem to underestimate her and the old man she visits who is certainly somehow involved We have Orlando and Frederich friends via the Net although they have never met, and Orlando has a very rare condition which means he s dying And Paul a wanderer with memory loss who is struggling to understand his new reality and decipher his past along the way They are the main characters, although we meet and along the way including Gods, new races, disembodied voices, tribes of child monkeys and much it s a wacky world.We also have a section at the start of each chapter which relays some sort of general news articles about the world and the chaos troubles it faces with the new tech taking over I thought these all really helped to flesh out the story even.And some of the sections are told in second person which I have to say can be very creepy and disturbing at times as you feel that you re really in the story a pretty cool feature.Basically this book surprised, captivated and enchanted me, disturbed, intrigued and shocked me all at different moments and I do really want to know what will happen to our characters next I fully intend to go on to the next book soon and I would highly recommend this Just know, going into it, that it s vivid and exciting but it s ultimately a set up book and the story is fast paced and slow paced at different intervals 3.5 s I think Renie s quote from the middle of the book sums up my feelings entirely We still don t have any answers or any way to bring my brother back, and the search just seems to get complicated and vague If this were a detective story, you d have a body and some bloodstains and footprints in the garden it s definitely a murder, and you ve definitely got clues But all we have here are things that seem a little strange, bits of information that might mean something The I think, the less sense it makes She pushed at her temples with her fingers It s like when you say a word too many times, and suddenly it doesn t mean anything any It s justa word That s how I m feeling Reminder That s just halfway through the book.The first volume of the Otherland series had an incredible concept, but a slow execution This mammoth of a novel could have done away with many unnecessary descriptions If it had been condensed down by at least a fourth of its page count, I would have loved it The epic physical size has a tendency to outshine what lies within However, I would like to read the rest of the series to see what fate has in store for the protagonists The characters were the best part and I found them far engaging than their world s at several points in the story I would rather see those two factors hand in hand though The Matrix aside, I d be intrigued to see a film adaptation of this Good luck to the screenwriter though They ll need lots of it. Executive Summary Slow in places, but this story really works for me Interesting world building and decent characters has me looking forward to the continuing on this series.Audio book George Newbern does an excellent job with this book Good inflections and emotion, as well as a variety of accents He is definitely a narrator that adds extra enjoyment to the book Full Review My only experiance with Tad Williams prior to this book was his urban fantasy book The Dirty Streets of Heaven I was not much of a fan The writing was excellent, but the characters and the plot didn t do much for me.I m not sure how to categorize this Is it sci fi Is it fantasy It is cyberpunk It has elements of all three, but doesn t exactly fit into any one of them neatly.This isn t a dystopian story It s a near future one where computers have enabled in depth virtual reality It has a very cyberpunk feel at times Maybe it s post cyberpunk Then within the virtual reality, we experience many traditional fantasy settings and characters So it s really a blending of the three.Regardless of the exact genre, the world hits all of my buttons I m a sucker for VR stories If you mix in fantasy like this does, all the better.The story took me a bit to get into at first It s very well written, but there are several subplots, and it took a long time for it to become clear just how they related to each other This book is very largely a setup book Much of it seems involve moving characters into the right place and setting up the world.The characters are pretty well developed and diverse We have a VR specialist from South Africa named Irene Renie Sulaweyo and her student a Kalahari Bushman named Xabbu There are also the traditional protagonists in Paul Jonas and Orlando Gardiner I found Renie and Xabbu refreshing as characters, but for me the large draw was the world building and the mystery of the Golden City Once I was up to speed on what was going on, and the storylines began to converge, I was hooked I m definitely looking forward to continuing on and seeing where things will go next. I don t know what to think of this book I liked it, but I was confused, so I looked up some reviews on , and then decided that I didn t like it based on what people said, but then I kept reading, and then I liked it a lot and made my peace with it being just the first part of a four book series, and then I was totally into it, and then they spent too much time on the villains and their complicated pseudo Egyptian mythology simulation, and I am sick of completely evil antagonists who are cruel and wicked to a cartoonish point, and having to spend most of the last twenty pages in the company of Horus and his odd minions and their monologuing tales and now I am doubting if I ll continue with the series The world is so interesting, and could be perfectly entertaining as obtuse and marvelous and strange, and the AI could be a perfectly sufficient source of conflict, but then it gets all mucked up with a conspiracy I honestly don t know if I can handle another three thousand pages of conspiracy I wonder if the books would make sense if I just skipped over the villain parts It certainly hasn t affected my ability to enjoy the virtual reality coolnesses of this first book.Although the book is way too long for the story it contains.I did learn a valuable lesson about reading reviews before finishing books I ve learned it before, but I need periodic reminders It s awfully fun to go to and read only the reviews that perfectly align with your feelings after you garner some of your own, but you really can destroy a book experience by reading them partway through I almost ruined this experience Should I end up continuing with this series of books, I m not going to look up another thing about Tad Williams til this session has run its course. When I picked up this book I initially thought it was fantasy and for some reason to do with faerie it really isn t Well, not very much Otherland is a story about a virtual world where people can shop, meet up, have businesses, play games, or anything you really want to do Think if you will of the evolution of the internet It actually sort of reminds me of OZ in the anime Summer Wars.Something has gone wrong and children are falling into comas and having seizures, and some people are discovering a mysterious part of the VR system called Otherland I suppose this is why I thought of faerie tales as it is a little Pied Piper of Hamlin Our main character, Renie, decides to investigate when her younger brother Stephen ends up in one of these medically baffling comas.Then begins a dangerous hunt throughout both virtual reality and reality itself where no one is safe in either, corruption, killers, and many, many worlds historical, fantasy and so on, created on the net, with all the characters trying to find out answers to something which all seems to lead to the Otherland.There is so much to like about this book, through the characters and plot it explores the good, the bad and the ugly of the internet and future progression with its effect on humans of all backgrounds Highly recommended and I ll be looking out for the next one Robert Jordan level wordulency, plus SF internet idea outdated before its publication date, minus appealing writing style, divided by Michael Springer s mid semester attention span,times 90 bunjillion pages in four volumes,equals FUCK YOU, TAD WILLIAMS, YOU GO TO HELL YOU GO TO HELL AND YOU DIE YOU FUCKIN DIE WHAT THE FUCK Throws book against the wall, then walks over and urinates on it Okay, so I actually just took it back to Half Price Books Whatever. ^Free Ebook ⇯ City of Golden Shadow ↻ Renie Sulaweyo, A Teacher In The South Africa Of Tomorrow, Realizes Something Is Wrong On The Network Kids, Including Her Brother Stephen, Have Logged Into The Net, And Cannot Escape Clues Point To A Mysterious Golden City Called Otherland, But Investigators All End Up Dead