Wandering a Monster-Ridden World: The Expert System’s Brother by Adrian Tchaikovsky

Wandering a Monster-Ridden World: The Expert System’s Brother by Adrian Tchaikovsky

The Expert System’s Brother and The Expert System’s Champion (Tor Books, 2018-21). Covers by Raphael Lacoste

British author Adrian Tchaikovsky has been steadily making a name for himself since he burst onto the scene with his 10-volume epic fantasy Shadows of the Apt. He’s followed that with several ambitious new series, including the Echoes of the Fall fantasy trilogy and the far-future hard science fiction Children of Time series. His latest is a sequence of tales in Tor.com’s prestigious novella line, opening with The Expert System’s Brother (2018). Liz Bourke gave it an enthusiastic review at Locus Online.

The title of The Expert System’s Brother makes one expect a cyberpunk world, but the landscape initially seems like that of fantasy. Gradually, the reader becomes aware that what seems like a fantasy setting is in fact science fictional one: a setting where the inhabitants have forgotten how they came to live the way they do.

Handry has always lived in a village called Aro. He has a sister, Melory, and a small community, but when he’s 13, he’s involved in an accident. The village’s Lawgiver (one of a handful of people, like its doctor, who has a ghost inside her skull that gives advice and commands) is casting out a troublemaker, a process that involves physically severing that person from the community by the use of a specially brewed substance. When the ac­cident happens, Handry gets some of that substance on him…

Handry now becomes a wanderer, drifting from village to village… At the town-village of Orovo, he learns some more about the world: a ghost-bearer (the bearer of an architect-ghost) has been gathering and feeding the Severed in order that they may do the difficult and dangerous work of helping the now-overcrowded village-town set up a new village… Handry falls in with another Severed called Sharskin… a man who discovered a place he calls the House of the Ancestors, and who believes that the Severed aren’t made lesser than the other people, but are in fact made more: restored to their original state, before the ancestors fell from grace and gave their descendants over to the rule of the ghosts…

The Expert System’s Brother has an engaging voice. Told in first person from Handry’s point of view, it showcases Tchaikovsky’s growing ver­satility as a writer of long-form science fiction, depicting an interesting world with compelling characters.

The second volume, The Expert System’s Champion, arrived last week. Here’s a look at the back covers for both books.

[Click the images for an Expert look.]

Back covers for The Expert System’s Brother and The Expert System’s Champion

I don’t know if these is planned as a trilogy, or if there are more in the pipeline. Here’s everything I do know.

The Expert System’s Brother (167 pages, $14.99 trade paperback/$3.99 digital, July 17, 2018)
The Expert System’s Champion (192 pages, $15.99 trade paperback/$3.99 digital, January 26, 2021)

Our previous coverage includes:

James Davis Nicoll on Five Science Fiction & Fantasy Works Inspired by Role Playing Games (2020)
The Barnes & Noble Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog on the Best Science Fiction & Fantasy of November 2019 (2019)
Epic Musket Fights and Vampire-Like Magic: Guns of the Dawn by Adrian Tchaikovsky by M Harold Page (2015)
The Tiger and the Wolf by Adrian Tchaikovsky (2016)
Adrian Tchaikovsky Suggests Five Books Featuring Adventuring Parties (2016)

See all our recent coverage of the most intriguing new SF an fantasy series here.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x