In Empyrean, Jim Cronin brings down the curtain on the wonderful and fascinating Brin Chronicles. Having been privileged enough to have read all three books, I can honestly say the author has done a tremendous job of tying everything up nicely and leaving this reader, anyway, extremely satisfied. I couldn't help but give myself a wry smile as I realised Cronin had indeed left a tiny hole for the possibility of a fourth book, but that having been said, if the Brin Chronicles ended with Empyrean, that would be just fine.
In this latest iteration, suspicion has been raised about the Skae's true motives toward the Brin. They had always been seen as the saviours of the Brin race and as such had been revered, with some factions of the population even embracing the Skae as Gods. When Maliche Rocker, head of the Brin Council, suspects there may be more to the story of their salvation than the Skae have told them, he embarks on a risky adventure to try to uncover the truth about what really happened all those years ago. Along with his son, Jontar Rocker and some other exceptionally gifted Kolbri (the result of mating between the Brin and the Kolandri), they risk everything in a search for the truth.
The Kolibri have unique talents that allow them to interact with technology in ways never seen before and to utilise the space strings to travel through both time and space, returning thousands of years to the rebirth of the Brin race and to try to pinpoint the true causes of the long-lasting and violent war against the Gorvin, which seems to have been going on forever.
What I particularly enjoyed about Empyrean is the totally new cast of characters, as time has moved on. Yes, they are still Rocker's, but they have their own unique perspectives on life and especially on the Skae. Maliche is married to a Kolandri, in Ryma and this alone gives rise to thought and discussion about things such as inter-marriage between races and/or species. Their goal is to live in peace, as one people, but there are many who see that as not only undesirable, but positively evil. Cronin brings us plenty of political corruption and lobbying, but all set in a fantastic world that he has created from his own imagination.
This is a very easy book to read, despite the technological innovations and theories straight from the author's imagination. Science Fiction can so easy descend into mind-boggling technological descriptions that can distract the reader. Equally able to distract some readers is the concept of time travel and the paradoxes associated with it. We all love a good piece of time travel and Jim Cronin definitely has an understanding on writing in this genre, with some clever and at times witty comments and asides.
I have compared Cronin, in the past, to my favourite Science Fiction author, Robert A Heinlein and nothing in Empyrean would change my opinion from that comparison. It is an incredibly readable, fast-paced and enjoyable adventure, that just happens to be set in space and in a world very different from our own. The entire Brin Archives series is a triumph for this author, in my opinion and I would recommend all three books; Hegira, Recusant and Empyrean not only to all Science Fiction aficianados, but also to just readers who love a rollicking adventure story.