Mr. McCullough's novel "CodeSpell" is the third in a series, beginning
with "WebMage" and continuing with "Cybermancy." As before, the books
follow Ravirn, a descendant of the Fates and minor player in the
extended Greek pantheon, as he navigates his way through a tangled
mess of computing problems of the gods, trying to keep the
pantheo-management computer that assures the stability of the gods'
relations to one another from crashing, with possibly fatal
consequences for the universe.
In many ways, this book is all about cleaning up the disasterous
side-effects of his successes in the previous two novels, and perhaps
concomitant with this, it would be a terrible place to begin reading
the series. Not only are there spoilers aplenty, but Mr. McCullough's
world has a rather steep learning curve and this book is heavily
dependent on the reader remembering what has previously transpired and
the rules of how things operate.
This time around, as Ravirn is spending more time dealing with major
gods on a more equal level, we get to explore some interesting new
territory. It has previously been noted that a god's role shapes
their behavior, and now we get to see the tension between a god as an
individual and a god as a role in detail. A Fury who is on the one
hand a lonely woman and on the other hant a hunting incarnation of
anger: is it any wonder her behavior in a relationship involves a lot
of pouncing (though scary/pleasant rather than deadly) and no
forgiveness? Zeus, who seems to be dragged back into his assigned
role as philandering frat boy/used car salesman even when being
serious. Eris, goddess of discord, who cannot help but be disruptive
and so when working with allies seems to channel it towards the most
irritating but least significant ways in which she can be a pain. And
of course our hero Ravirn, who is struggling to cope with his own rise
in stature, and the ways his roles are beginning to impose on his
sleep, his love-life, his self-image, and perhaps his sanity.
Mr. McCullough's fictional universe is starting to show some cracks
around the edges, though, as the power-level of the characters has
slowly ratcheted up and the number of available secrets left to reveal
has diminished. Assuming that he writes a fourth book, as this one
seems set to lead to, I think it will be a big test of his authorial
abilities. Can he make the shift from upping the ante to exploring
the relations within his world? If so, I think it will be wonderful.
If not, I think it will begin to strain my enjoyment. That question,
though, is for the future: for now, "CodeSpell" is a solid addition to
a surprisingly fresh series with more subtlety than it first appears.