The Sunless Countries (Virga 4) by Karl Schroeder (Tor 2009) [Book Review]

This is the latest adventure in the fantastic Virga universe. You have to take your hat off to a writer that pulls off a believable hard scifi steampunk in a post singularity world. I am an explorer when I read, I like to learn new things about the world and in the Sunless Countries we learn more than ever before.

Maybe Karl Schroeder planed this as trilogy from the beginning as I read somewhere but it works very well as a series. He is clearly not finished with the universe but I have no Idea if the next book is going to be a Virga book though. The whole series has been enjoyable but it is hard not to like a world of airships, pirates, air bikes, artificial suns and warring pocket nations all protected from the outside world’s artificial nature by the radiation from the central sun Candesce.

In the Sun of Suns (2006) Admiral Fanning and his wife shut down the sun so he could use radar a night. In Queen of Candesce (2007) his wife find her way back and in Pirate Sun (2008) the Admiral finds his way home and the story might have ended there if something else hadn’t slipped in when Virga’s defenses where down and now it is gobbling up city after city. There are people living out in the sunless countries, whole cities even. This story is about a formidable young woman Leal Hieronyma Maspeth a scientist in a city that is about to turn its back on the scientific method. She dreams about love and is an explorer of Virga’s past. Her knowledge and the books she tries to protect might be the only chance they have.

The characters are a delight as in the previous books but the scope is so much bigger. The book is rather self contained but there are still mysteries I would like to have explained in another installment. This is probably the first in a new Virga Trilogy (sheer speculation from my side) with a little bigger scope.

The Sunless Countries was as hard to put down as the other books in the Virga series. The tempo is slightly less than before but the revelations was worth it. I liked it a lot. This is a series you shouldn’t miss.


Title: The Sunless Countries
Series: Virga book 4
Author: Karl Schroeder
Genre: Retro futuristic steampunk
Hardcover: 335 pages
Publisher: Tor (2010)

In an ocean of weightless air where sunlight has never been seen, only the running lights of the city of Sere glitter in the dark. One woman, Leal Hieronyma Maspeth, history tutor and dreamer, lives and dreams of love among the gaslit streets and cafés. And somewhere in the abyss of wind and twisted cloud through which Sere eternally falls, a great voice has begun speaking.

As its cold words reach even to the city walls—and as outlying towns and travelers’ ships start to mysteriously disappear—only Leal has the courage to try to understand the message thundering from the distance. Even the city’s most famous and exotic visitor, the sun lighter and hero named Hayden Griffin, refuses to turn aside from his commission to build a new sun for a foreign nation. He will not become the hero that Leal knows the city needs; so in the end, it is up to her to listen, and ultimately reply, to the worldwasp.