Shrine of Stars finishes up one of the most important trilogies in science fiction and fantasy since Gene Wolfe's Book of the New Sun series. In his column in Science Fiction Weekly, SF critic John Clute calls Paul McAuley's Confluence trilogy a novel in three parts, comprising Child of the River, Ancients of Days, and Shrine of Stars, and best read all at once. Indeed, the narrative is seamless in this far-future tale of a man's birth, death, and rebirth as the savior of Confluence, an artificial world created by his bloodline on behalf of the almighty, departed Preservers.
At the beginning of Shrine of Stars, the hierodule Tibor and the reformed thief Pandaras begin searching for their master, Yamamanama, who has been captured by the sinister Dr. Dismas. A feral machine possesses Dismas with the intent of using Yama's newly ripened powers to alter the course of the worldwide war in favor of the nihilistic heretics. Dismas infects Yama with the offspring of his own paramour, and the young man finds himself unable to control machines, call to his friends, or stop Dismas and the military monster Enobarbus from bending him to their will. It falls to faithful Pandaras to find and rescue his strangely altered master, setting in motion a course of events that will mean the end of Confluence and the beginning of the Preservers' plan for the rest of time. As ever, McAuley's sentences flow beautifully together, linking ideas like a string of fabulous and strange pearls.
Yama is both savior and destroyer in McAuley's story, and the agent of irrefutable change echoing the role of Severian in Wolfe's New Sun books. As John Clute so adeptly points out, where McAuley diverges from these past masterpieces is in his big finish. Shrine of Stars removes Yama from the confines of Confluence and puts him fully in charge of the vast forces of cosmology. By embracing his ultimate humanity, Yama rejects both the notion that the only way to achieve independence is through selfishness, and the possibility that the Preservers have named his destiny. Instead, he names his own. --Therese Littleton [via]