Lamentation (Ken Scholes) - Tor - 2009 - 362 pages

Ken Scholes has created a fantasy world called The Named Lands that has apparently arisen during a time when technology has gone underground.  The author seems to have borrowed some plot lines from current events with a pre-emptive war, an attack on science, an un-separated church & state, and the use of ritual torture (carving of the Whymer Mazes by the Physicians of Penitent Torture) by the "good guys."  In my view, the use of torture eliminates one from the good-guy category.  The unfortunately-named Sethbert is the evil Overseer who tries to destroy the library of knowledge and centralize his power.  The Named Lands are rather Medieval with people traveling by horse and communicating by bird, but some of the people know how to make robots and performance-enhancing drugs (magick).  The sources of the robot power and the magic powders are not explained which leaves much room for sequels.  The second volume, Canticle was published late last year.  Although the author spent some time as a preacher, he seems to be somewhat conflicted in his religion.  The lead religious character (Petronus) is a reluctant Pope who is unsure of his identity and purpose.  The book is written with concise language with short chapters and sub-chapters within chapters for those of use with short attention spans.  This unusual combination of fantasy and technology leaves many questions unanswered.  Imagine if Frodo had an iPhone instead of a ring, and enough magic powders to turn him into Mark McGwire so he could protect the central database of ancient knowledge.  Those who have a hunger for technology-challenged fantasy worlds will enjoy this series. [JAM 8/11/2010]