The Unfinished Land
by Greg Bear
Publisher: HMH Books
Length: 387 pages
Release: 1/19/2021 (re-release)
About the Author: Greg Bear has authored more than thirty novels and five story collections, earning him five Nebulas, two Hugos, two Endeavors, and the Galaxy Award (China). He helped teach the first class in Sci-Fi/Fantasy at San Diego State College and is one of the original founders of San Diego Comic-Con.
Summary: When Reynard, the only survivor of a devastated English fleet, finds himself taken prisoner by a Spanish galleon, it would appear that the end of his story is in sight. But when his captor’s ship is propelled to a strange island in the mist—a cryptic land home to sea dragons, time vampires, and mythical, god-like creatures—it would appear that Raynard’s tale is only just beginning. Now, set forth on an adventure to discover his place in this new world and the truth behind the mysterious forces that have sent him here, Reynard must count on the help of his new found companions if he hopes to survive the island of Thule.
Review: It’s important to note going into The Unfinished Land that Greg Bear has made his name over the past several decades in the world of science fiction, and it certainly shows. In fact, despite the classical setting and mythical themes, Bear’s comfort in science fiction still comes through strong, helping to create what is unarguably a unique experience capable of pleasing both sides of the age-old sci-fi/fantasy rivalry. If ever there were a line drawn in the sand between these two worlds, Bear has deftly kicked it away, creating something that is wholly singular in its execution, and eager to satiate any reader hungry for intricate world-building, unique characters, and the kind of meandering adventure questing that welcomes new friends—and enemies—around every corner.
While this imaginative and meticulous set-up will surely sing to high fantasy and hardcore science fiction readers alike, it’s also safe to say that your average peruser of popular fiction may find themselves stumbling through the majority of the book, or perhaps even putting it down half-way through. In fact, it is all of the nuances that make The Unfinished Land a standout example of the high fantasy genre that, at the very same time, make it a difficult book to read. It can be slow, it can be convoluted, and it can even be tedious at times, especially in its use of language, and that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Still, for every few people who may have trouble getting into it, there will be a genre nerd out there who will eat this up and be right back in line asking for more—have no doubt.
Greg Bear’s The Unfinished Land pulls no punches. It’s high fantasy wrapped around hard science fiction with some notes of historical fantasy tucked in for good measure. If you are looking for a hefty read that aims to challenge as much as it aims to entertain, then this book is for you. But, be prepared, because Bear’s style of scholarly prose and complex world building—like the island of Thule itself—is not for the faint of heart.