Book Cover
Title Trapped
Series ---
Author James Alan Gardner
Cover Art Alan Polack
Publisher Harper Collins - 2002
First Printing Harper Collins - 2002
Category ---
Warnings None

Main Characters

Philemon Dhubhai, the Steel Caraytid, Sister Impervia, Sir Pelinor, Myoko, Sebastian, Annah

Main Elements Aliens

Strange things are happening on a backwater world called Earth.

Scientist Philemon Abu Dhubhai knows nothing about magic and psychic powers - only that before the ultra-advanced League of Peoples visited Earth (centuries ago, after the collapse of the OldTech civilization), such powers were impossible. Afterward, when most people went to the stars, and the League cut Earth off from the rest of human space, psionics became fact. Thanks to the alien nanotechnology that invisibly blankets the planet, one human in a thousand has the gift, and on a world where civilization is a curious blend of pre-Industrial culture and OldTech science, magic has its uses.

Mostly, though, life is a dull but comfortable round of marking papers and visiting backstreet taverns for Phil and his friends, mediocre teachers from Feliss Academy - the Steel Carayatid, a humble sorceress whose love is fire; Sister Imprevia, a warrior-priest while heart and the scars to prove it; petite and fresh-faced Myoko, a telekinetic whith a mind like a steel trap; and Sir Pelinor, the Academy's devoted knight and armsmaster. But all that changes when a student is found murdered by a quick-kill bioweapon, and her boyfriend, the prime suspect, goes missing. Suddenly these unlikely heroes - plus the mother of the murdered girl, one of the planet's most powerful crime lords - are ensnared in a terrifying web of conspiracy that could involve the ruthless Spark Lords...and even the League of Peoples itself.

When I started reading this book, I didn't have any high expectations. I bought it on sale and because the idea seemed to have an interesting twist of magic is science. But it wasn't long before I not only started enjoying Phil's narrative, but about half way through I found it hard to put the book down at all.

The story starts with such an odd-ball group of teachers drinking at a less than reputable tavern. Now think back to when you are in school (or if you are still in school). Picture your teachers at a tavern. Picture them getting regularly into a bar brall. Weird, no?

Now you just read the summary above right? Each teacher has his or her own special talent, whether it be magic, or she simply kicks butt. Except Phil. I think that's what endeared him to me. The guy is super smart, could have found the cure for cancer, but he simply had no ambition to do so. The only talent he brings to the group is the size of his money purse, he pays to fix the broken windows and chairs after their frequent altercations with the various low-lifes that frequent the kind of places the teachers like to spend their evenings. Now if that doesn't qualify you to go on a quest, I don't know what does ;)

And that's what makes it different from so many other "get a bunch of misfits together and have them save the world". All these misfits really aren't all that special. Sure they shine when it counts, but even then they are not all *that* spectacular. After all, the Steel Carayatid is an overweight, middle-aged woman in a scarlet red body suit (ack, the imagery!), "Sir" Pelinor only wants people to think he was a knight, in truth he was just a border guard. And as I mentioned, Phil is just rich, but otherwise almost useless...well, except when he calls upon his rich friends. That's why they were just teachers, they were talented, but not that talented.

I also like the setting. They are basically living in a world littered with our leftover junk. In one scene Phil explains how people are still making use of car tires as bumpers on a dock. They are no longer capable of producing rubber, but that stuff is so hard for the environment to break down, all people have to do is wander around the old cities, find some rusted ruin of a car and take the tires off.

And finally, the final showdown takes place at Niagara Falls. I don't know if Feliss is a real place or not, but Niagara sure is. It was interesting to place the story in a location we know. And apparently, even hundreds of year from now, Niagara is still the tourist trap it always was.

I'll leave you with this quote, and the author's response to the quote, I love it:

Were Niagara but a cataract of sand, would you travel your thousand miles to see it?
------ Herman Melville, Moby Dick

(Yes, Mr. Melville, I would. A cataract of sand, especially one the size of Niagara Falls, would be mind-bogglingly cool.)

Posted: September 2006


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