Masters of Reality
Traci Harding

This review appeared in Harbinger issue 1.

Cover Well the adventure is over. 'Masters of Reality' is the final book in the Ancient Future trilogy and what a finale. Traci's work gets better with every book.

The book begins in the year 2017 with Tory Alexander searching for the sunken city of Atlantis with her family and friends. While they are on their bathescape, the Goddess, in the middle of the Atlantic the world is going to wreck and ruin around them. Ecological, climatic and geological disasters abound around the world. Amongst this chaos is the ICA, the one bright spark that is repairing the damage. The prophesied (Don't worry there is no cliché prophecy mentioned in a prologue that gives the whole story away. The prophecy is kept to the abstract rather then the specific.) Gathering of Kings is rapidly approaching as is Tory's reunion with Maelgwn.

Unfortunately I can't say much more than this without giving away either bits of the plot of this book or bits of the plots of its antecedents. I shall restrict the rest of my comments to the strengths and weaknesses of style, characterisation etc, rather then particular plot events.

Time travel doesn't play as important a part in this book as it did in 'The Ancient Future' and 'An Echo in Time', the first two volumes in this trilogy. Tory only makes one journey into the past and it is a short one at that. The bulk of the book is set in the near future, 2017 and onwards. But even without physical time travel the book does have a rather schizophrenic feel. Most of the characters are 3 and sometimes 4 people. Reincarnation and past lives has been a strong theme throughout all 3 books. Tory kept encountering the same soul/minds in all the different times she went to. In this book all of this is drawn together with characters having memories of their earlier lives or being earlier incarnations brought forward to the present. This creates some fun moments as characters who have never met greet each other as old friends because of memories of their friendship in other lives. Its actually more complicated than this, but I'd spoil some of the books secrets if I explained.

Traci has a wicked sense of humour and there are some side splitting moments scattered throughout the book. I particularly enjoyed Tory's return to Atlantis, she spent a lot of the second book in Atlantis. I'd tell you the details, but it would destroy the fun when you read the book.

The humour is of a similar style to that which Traci used in 'The Ancient Future', yet stems from a reversed situation. In 'The Ancient Future' the fun was in Tory's contemporary scientifically minded attitudes in a time of mystery and magic. In 'Masters of Reality' Tory's views on magic have become reversed due to her skills and experiences yet she now dwells in the scientific present and, along with her family, confounds those around her of a rational nature with her actions. Tory is frequently referred to as 'too weird'.

Romance is as abundant in this book as it is in the earlier two. The characters who found their other halves, the soul/minds they are destined to be with in every incarnation, in earlier books lose them and then find them again for a variety of reasons. The new characters end up with their correct partners after the expected problems that every relationship that ever was has.

There are a number of places where there is no viewpoint character and Traci is merely giving narration about the current state of the world. Some people may find this detrimental to the tory as it slows it up. I didn't find them too much of a problem. The sections are concise and informative and there is no way to get around their inclusion. As the world Traci has envisaged differs significantly from the world we know, even though it's only set in the near future, it is essential to detail how the world got to each point if the actions and reactions of the characters are to be believed. As the changes that alter the world are not entirely the direct result of the actions of the characters, but an extrapolation of global reactions based on the actions of the characters and natural changes as well, the only way to give this information is through narration. Traci has kept the author narration to a minimum, but there is some.

As with the first two books in the trilogy Traci does occasionally over explain things, though to a far lesser extent than before. The bracketed explanations that I found annoying in 'The Ancient Future' are almost gone. I have hope that her next book will be free of them.

Looking at the trilogy as a whole I'm staggered by how it changes from the start of 'Ancient Future' to the conclusion of 'Masters of Reality'. 'Ancient Future' is a fantasy with Kings and castles, Merlins and magic. 'Masters of Reality' is science fiction with aliens and spaceships, computer hackers and genetic engineering.

In conclusion, I can thoroughly recommend not only this book, but the entire trilogy. I'm eagerly awaiting Traci's next novel.