The Miocene Arrow
by Sean McMullen
A book review by Mark L. Olson
Tor, 2000, 416 pp, $27.95
The Miocene Arrow takes place in a post-apocalyptic North America and is a sequel to Souls in the Great Machine. Souls introduced a world two thousand years after our civilization collapsed, leaving automated battle stations in orbit which destroy any large moving vehicle and anything electrical. Worse, inimical Cetazoids in the oceans set up a Call which sweeps across the land causing any large mammal caught in it to walk in a trance towards the ocean and death.
There are some Callhavens where the Call is infrequent and in which strange human civilizations have rebuilt. Souls in the Great Machine dealt with the Australian Callhaven where a brilliant librarian had reunited the country using a computer organized from enslaved human components performing the rote tasks of computation. Another Callhaven exists in the western mountains of North America and the civilization there is an ancient patchwork of chivalric kingdoms where the aristocracy fight formal duels in tiny diesel-powered planes maintained by hereditary engineering guilds.
An Australian faction which is immune to the Call has discovered that the ancient battle stations are no longer working and sends agents to North America to destabilize the kingdoms and steal the aeronautical technology. Being immune to the Call, they gain power in several of the kingdoms, ultimately plunging the North American kingdoms into total, unchivalric war.
The story of the war is very well told, with the best scenes from the point of view of several young flyers who have been given their chance in what had been an exclusively aristocratic endeavor by the huge toll the war has taken among the nobility. Several of the best characters from Souls in the Great Machine also make their way to North America to combat the agents. Ultimately two wars are being fought, one between the various American factions and another, secret war amongst the Call-immune Australian factions.
This is an excellent book and a fine successor to the first volume -- I'll be looking forward with interest for the third.