The Songs of Chaos is a science fiction book which straddles two worlds – “The First World” on the one hand – contemporary America – and “The Second World” on the other. This second world is technologically considerably behind our own, but has retained a human capacity for directly accessing forces in the realm of nuclear or sub-nuclear physics. At one stage, very long ago, traffic between the worlds was relatively common through “portals“, but now it is essentially unknown on our side and extremely rare on the other.
The Second World is peopled by a considerable range of human subspecies, as though the early days here when we shared the planet with Neanderthals and other hominids had persisted through into historical times. These different subspecies live together in an uneasy truce, regularly punctuated by skirmishes and small scale raids. The story largely follows two groups from our world who cross over into the other, intersecting with various individuals on that side. For a British reader, the casual references into American culture are sometimes obscure, and I soon felt that The Second World was a more familiar place than the First.
The basic framework is imaginative, and by and large interactions between inhabitants of the two worlds make sense as the crossover situations gradually become clear to each of them. Enough happens in this book to make it a story in its own right. However, it is the first novel in a series, so appropriately (though frustratingly) there are plenty of loose ends and glimpses into deeper and mostly darker matters. I was not wholly convinced by some of the revelations near the end of this book, but they have certainly set up problems for the next one to address.
A disappointment with the book is the considerable number of proofreading errors still remaining, chiefly substitution of one word for another (flash instead of flesh, for example), or the common misuse of apostrophes. I can easily overlook a few of these, but the frequency was quite obtrusive. A thorough proof read or external edit would have caught almost all of these, and the result could be uploaded to give a clean copy.
A few world-building issues stood out as odd to me. We are told early on in the book that time flows faster on this side than the other. However, the pattern seemed erratic, and I felt that it varied according to the needs of the plot rather than being consistent. Similarly, one of the subspecies in The Second World seems to know a great deal about contemporary First World politics, which seemed odd considering the portals were not actively used any more (as well as the time rate variation). These may well be explained in subsequent books. Morgan also jumps viewpoint radically from time to time, in order to supply background information, and this feels slightly dislocating.
All in all a strong four star book for the imaginative concept at the core of the book. The production problems can be readily fixed, and some readers will not mind these anyway. The book is worth looking into by science fiction enthusiasts for an unusual setting and plot that avoids futuristic gadgetry.
Disclaimer: I was a beta reader for an early version of this book. This review applies to the published version. I received a free copy of the book in exchange for a fair review.