It took me a while, but I finally managed to wade through the four volumes of Tad Williams' Otherland series. Tracking down the second and third volumes took most of the effort, as they weren't in my local library and not on the shelves of first-hand bookstores, so it meant checking back with secondhand stores on a regular basis in the hopes that a copy would show up. But now that I've read the quartet, City Of Golden Shadow, River Of Blue Fire, Mountain Of Black Glass and Sea Of Silver Light, I'm left with a couple of unanswered whys.
The first why is sort of two parts; why was thing written in the first place, and why did it have to be so long? The second why has more to do with me than the quality of the books: why did I keep reading the things? I even spent money on them that could have been put to far better use.
Sometimes after reading a book, I'm left feeling what was the point in writing the damn thing? Okay, sure, there is a story and characters and they do stuff, but for what purpose? Is there a reason for it all? True, works of fiction don't have to have a point, they can just be riveting stories, intense character studies, or thrilling plot lines, but those in turn become the point of writing the book.
The author sets out to create a character study, or an exploration of style if he or she are exceptionally post modern. But there's usually a point to the whole exercise. In Otherland, I missed the point entirely.
The plot is quite simple really. Children around the world are falling prey to a mysterious coma-inducing disease, somehow contracted while surfing the net. A sinister cabal of corporate leaders throughout the world are creating for themselves the means to live forever in artificial reality by recreating themselves as living parts of an organic operating system that controls a massive artificial reality. They are somehow utilizing the brains of the children to make the operating system function.