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Child Of The River
The First Book of Confluence

Paul J. McAuley
Avon EOS Books, 320 pages

Child Of The River
Paul J. McAuley
Paul J. McAuley was born in England in 1955 and currently lives in Scotland. He worked as a researcher in biology in various universities before going to St. Andrew's University as a lecturer in botany for six years. He's chosen to move on to become a full-time writer.

His first novel, Four Hundred Billion Stars, won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Award and several subsequent novels have been nominated for the Arthur C. Clarke Award, winning one for Fairyland which also won the 1997 John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best SF Novel. His short story, "The Temptation of Dr. Stein," won the British Fantasy Award. Pasquale's Angel won the very first Sidewise Award for Alternate History (Long Form) in 1996. McAuley also produces a regular review column for Interzone and contributes reviews to Foundation.

Paul J. McAuley Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Archive: Paul J. McAuley
Star Makers - Paul J. McAuley
Mark/Space: Paul J.McAuley

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Lisa DuMond

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The mere mention of a new science fiction or fantasy series is enough to send me shrieking from the bookstore. And don't try telling me I'm the only one. Sometimes, the stand-alone novel seems on the verge of extinction, pushed aside by the double trilogy and the (shudder) movie/TV/game tie-in. The announcement of a new series isn't always good news -- unless the name on the cover is Paul McAuley. Then we're talking celebration.

For anyone who has followed McAuley's career from Eternal Light to the award-winning Fairyland, the promise of more volumes to follow is like an early birthday present (or a late one, just depending). And with Child of the River to judge by, this is a present no one is going to be taking back.

The Confluence is the end product of an ancient civilization, a disintegrating world abandoned by the races of gods that made it. The inhabitants are a Dr. Moreau menagerie. Every bloodline bears the characteristics of humanoid and at least one species of animal, "a thousand-thousand extraordinary bloodlines... ruled by... universal devotion to absent gods."

The only exception to this bestial population is Yamamanama -- thankfully "Yama" for short. An orphan of unusual circumstances and more unusual talents who is driven to ferret out the secret behind his ancestry. The need to search for his own bloodline draws him to Ys, the Confluence's major city. The need to avenge his foster brother's death propels him toward the war that threatens to end the world.

McAuley's creation is a strange, intense land. Violence and blind faith control virtually every aspect of society. Barbarism thrives alongside the leftovers of a vanished, technologically-superior race. This juxtaposition makes for a background unlike the usual settings in science fiction and fantasy novels. There may be wizards and magic, but don't expect pretty fairies and winsome elves to show up; the creatures of the Confluence would literally have them for breakfast.

Child of the River introduces readers to an unpredictable world, where every character is like a different species. And where far too many of them -- despite the pelts and jagged teeth -- are eerily similar to the working stiff in the next cubicle, if you add an interesting personality to your co-worker.

Yama's story appears to be just beginning in Child of the River. There is material aplenty to fill the coming volumes and mysteries yet to solve. Indeed, expect no neat resolutions in this first installment. This is a tale that will and should stretch over many novels. Your experience with Yama and the Confluence is merely beginning and the surprises promise to be many. And that may be the best news you hear this week.

Copyright © 1998 Lisa DuMond

Lisa DuMond writes science fiction and humour. She co-authored the 45th anniversary issue cover of MAD Magazine. Previews of her latest, as yet unpublished, novel are available at Hades Online.


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