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The Well World books by Jack Chalker
Published by Del Rey Books
Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel
The Well World series, Midnight at the Well of Souls, Exiles at the Well of Souls, Quest for the Well of Souls, The Return of Nathan Brazil and Twilight at the Well of Souls, was never intended to be a series at all. When Jack Chalker finished the first book, it did so well that his readers clamored for a sequel.
He then sat down and outlined what he intended to be two sequels. However both of them were so long that the publishers decided to split each of them, since the market for super-large books was not big at the time. (People are more likely to buy two small books than one big one, since that way they can put each of the books on a different paycheck). Thus the second and third book are actually a single novel in terms of story structure, as are the fourth and fifth.
The Well World is a planet divided into more than a thousand hexagonal areas, each with its own ecosystem. It is the product of an experiment by an ancient race known as the Markovians, who were apparently the first race to evolve in the universe. They advanced so far that they had godlike powers, but it didn't bring them happiness.
Certain that something had gone wrong in their evolution, they created the Well World in order to test the races that they would become in order to try other paths of evolution. Then they went through and were transformed and seeded on worlds throughout the universe, leaving the Well World to run unattended.
The first book tells about how Nathan Brazil and his companions accidently drop through a Markovian Gate into the Well World shortly after it was re-opened by a pair of twisted mathematical geniuses. They all make a mad chase to the central computer control, with universal domination the prize of whoever gets there first.
But when they enter, they find that it is far beyond their comprehension. All save for Nathan Brazil, that is. He reveals himself to be the last of the Markovians, and maybe even God himself.
The second and third books take place about fifty years later and deal with an evil dictator who has gotten ahold of a mathematician who has cracked the Markovian Equations. Because this mathematician has principles, the dictator kidnaps his daughter to use as a lever.
Mavra Chang, a mercenary, is hired to ferret out the dictator's plans and gets involved in rescuing the daughter. In doing so, they all wind up getting drawn to the Well World in an experiment gone wrong. There they go through all kinds of adventures trying to recover the two rockets that would enable them to go back to the dictator's base. The dictator is killed, but his assistant nearly takes everything over before being overcome by his own overgrown ego.
The fourth and fifth books take place many hundreds of years later, when the events of the first three books have almost been forgotten. Threatened by an invasion by a parasite invader, humans recover the secret of the Markovian Equations and use them to make a weapon of terrible destruction.
In doing so, they damage the fabric of space-time such that it threatens the Well World itself. The only way to set things right is to find Nathan Brazil, who is the only one with the knowledge and skills to force a reset of the computer maintaining the structure of the universe.
However he doesn't want it, because it will genocide all creatures then existant, save those on the Well World. Once the heroes convince him that there is no other choice, they have to fight their way through to the controlling computers, with the whole Well World arrayed against them (since they will be the seed populations for the re-creation of the universe).
Unfortunately several of the Well World books have gone out of print. It is possible to have Amazon.com search for used copies of them, albeit at a premium.
Click to search for a used copy of Midnight at the Well of Souls in paperback.
Click to search for a used copy of Exiles at the Well of Souls.
Click to search for a used copy of Quest for the Well of Souls in paperback.
Click to search for a used copy of The Return of Nathan Brazil in paperback.
Click to search for a used copy of Twilight at the Well of Souls in paperback.This Review posted May 23, 1999
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