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Violent Stars
Phyllis Gotlieb
Tor Books, 284 pages

Violent Stars
Phyllis Gotlieb
Phyllis Gotlieb is best known for such gems as O Master Caliban, Heart of Red Iron and Sunburst. Other titles include Blue Apes (collection), A Judgement Of Dragons, Emperor, Swords, Pentacles, Son Of The Morning And Other Stories and The Kingdom Of The Cats.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Flesh and Gold

Past Feature Reviews
A review by A.L. Sirois

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If I have my dates right, Phyllis Gotlieb debuted in Amazing during the early 60s, probably in 1963 or 1964. One of her tales, about a group of mutant children, was particularly memorable, although the title has escaped my mind. I had lost track of Gotlieb over the intervening decades, but here is a new novel from her -- and it's a good one.

It's a follow-up to an earlier work called Flesh and Gold. The reader would probably benefit from having read the earlier volume, because I found myself slightly at sea amid references I was supposed to understand, but this confusion passed fairly quickly and I was able to settle into the story. The main reason for this is that the story is compelling. As a whole, the book reminds me somewhat of some of Keith Laumer's work, in that there's lots of action and exotic aliens.

Verona Bullivant is the bewildered target of a series of kidnapping attempts. Her father, Tom, who has been estranged from her mother and has not seen Vronni until her mother's recent death, plucks her from Toronto. He and Vronni go to the distant world Khagodis, which is inhabited by a race of intelligent and generally peace-loving saurians. Tom thinks that Vronni will be safe there, but almost before he can relax he himself is targeted and Vronni is attacked once more by the loathsome Ix, who are so repulsive that the mere sight of them can drive sentient beings mad.

The layers of story that Gotlieb has woven here remind me to some extent of the film Chinatown. As Vronni learns more of the secrets surrounding her mother, she and her father come to understand that the fate in store for her is awful beyond description, part of a cycle of betrayal and vengeance that has been playing out for hundreds of years.

I particularly like the characters in this book. Besides Vronni, there is Skerow, a cultured saurian academic obliged to care for Vronni while her father, a diplomat, tries to unravel the mysteries surrounding her; the crippled saurian genius Hasso; Palma, a human assassin for hire; Ned Gattes, a retired government agent; several genetically enhanced monkeys with attitude; the Lyhhrt, a race of gastropods inhabiting beautiful robot bodies; and various other human hybrids, clones, and aliens. It's an impressive cast, and all the more so because Gotlieb somehow manages to keep them all from falling over each other in this relatively short novel.

Gotlieb has contrived a fascinating, dark universe, set into motion with Flesh and Gold and enlarged upon in this current book. Clearly there is material enough here for many more books -- and I, for one, am looking forward to seeing more.

Copyright © 1999 by A.L. Sirois

A.L. Sirois walks the walk, too. He's a longtime member of SFWA and currently serves the organization as webmaster for the SFWA BULLETIN. His personal site is at http://www.w3pg.com/jazzpolice.


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