Let me just say that Karl Schroeder makes me feel like a drooling idiot, and I mean that in the most positive way possible.
So full disclosure, when I first heard of the concept behind the Virga novels I didn't think much of them. They just didn't excite me, and I hadn't read any of Karl's work at that point so I had no interest based upon knowing the author's style yet. Then I read a free copy of Ventus available on his website between calls at work and loved it. Everything about that book was believable and fantastic at the same time. Ventus became as real to me as the chair I was sitting in or the the bus I ride to work each day. That is the mark of a great author.
So, at this point I'm interested in Karl's work, and willing to read something else, but having a shelf full of books to read and promising myself I wouldn't by any more books until I had read all the pending ones it was unlikely I'd have a chance to read anything of his anytime soon. Two factors changed this, a gift card from Chapters for my birthday and an eight hour bus ride to Montreal.
Virga: Cities of The Air is a trade paperback priced just above $20, and with a gift card for that amount that I didn't want sitting around till it was forgotten I picked it up in time for my trip to Con*Cept. I love trade paperbacks. I love the feeling of value I get in buying them, and knowing that I'm getting multiple books for the price of one. The only drawback is not getting the individual covers, but this can be a blessing or a curse depending upon the cover art anyways.
So on the to meat of the review. The trade collects Sun of Suns and Queen of Candesce, both books set in the artificial world of Virga, where life literally revolves around multiple smaller suns and one giant sun in the center known, funnily enough, and Candesce. Just like Ventus this world is evoked so strongly and clearly in the text that it lives in the reader's mind, taking root and thriving in the imagination. It's a world where gravity is optional, where heroes ride on jetbikes and airships prowl the endless skies dodging floating icebergs. And it's hard-SF! There is no magic in this book except for the words contained within.
This unbelievable world is filled with believable characters, from the dashing military man, his scheming yet loving wife, to the tormented hero on the jetbike who wants revenge against the man who caused his parents death. The characters grow throughout the books, becoming more than the just brief descriptions, becoming real people who speak to the reader.
My opinion of Virga could not be any different now then when I first heard about it. Truly these books are a masterpiece, and I can't wait for the next two books to be released in trade paperback. Aside from being great books they give me a goal to strive for, to make my writing as powerful and evocative. I may never reach that level, but I'm inspired to try.
I recommend you pick up these books, for the world contained within, the intriguing characters, and the adventure of traveling through a realm beyond imagination.