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A King of Infinite Space
Allen Steele
HarperPrism Books, 312 pages

A King of Infinite Space
Allen Steele
Allen M. Steele's first published SF was his story "Live from the Mars Hotel", published in Asimov's Science Fiction in 1988. Since then his novels and collections have included Orbital Decay, Clarke County, Space, Lunar Descent, Labyrinth of Night, Rude Astronauts, The Jericho Iteration, The Tranquillity Alternative and All-American Alien Boy. Steele, a resident of St. Louis, MO, received both the 1996 Hugo Award and the 1996 Science Fiction Weekly Reader Appreciation Award for his novella "The Death of Captain Future," which appeared in Asimov's in June 1995.

Allen Steele Website
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Past Feature Reviews
A review by Steven H Silver

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William Alec Tucker III, Alec to his friends, is a self-absorbed, lazy, wealthy Generation-Xer. It, therefore, comes as something of a relief when he is killed at the end of the first chapter of Allen Steele's novel A King of Infinite Space. However, Alec awakes from neurosuspension at the end of the twenty-first century into a world which has little use for the wealthy of the former century. He discovers he is a slave in the rather strange castle of the lunatic Mr. Chicago.

Interestingly, although Steele has published an earlier short story about Mr. Chicago ("Working for Mr. Chicago", Absolute Magnitude, October 1995), that story does not form a part of this novel.

Although, at first, Alec is content in the household of Mr. Chicago, eventually the drugs used on him begin to wear off and Alec tries to escape from Mr. Chicago's palace in an attempt to find out whether his girlfriend, Erin, was frozen and can still be brought into the twenty-second century.

After Alec's quest is set forth, he goes through the motions of trying to find Erin. Unfortunately, Steele never shows us the love he declares for her in chapter one. In fact, nothing in his character seems to motivate Alec in the way necessary for him to accomplish his goal. He takes a few actions, but mostly he allows himself to drift until forced to do something.

Steele does introduce other, more interesting, characters in supporting roles, the enigmatic Mr. Chicago, the physicist Russell, who came out of neurosuspension in the same batch as Alec, and the Superior Jeri Lee-Bose, who formerly appeared in the Hugo-winning "The Death of Captain Future." (Asimov's, October 1995)

A King of Infinite Space seems to be lacking the easy humor and pop-culture touches which distinguish much of Steele's earlier work. The latter may be due to the fact that the novel is set so far in the future. The former can not be accounted for as easily. This lack of humor may be partially accountable for the more depressed civilization in the book, or may be caused by the state of twenty-second century culture.

A King of Infinite Space is set in Steele's future history. It also contains the clearest delineation of the events which will occur in the next century. Set in 2099-2100, A King of Infinite Space shows civilization in a much more pessimistic light than the earlier novels in the series depict. More so than earlier works, A King in Infinite Space draws on events which occur in earlier chronicles, from the novel Clarke County, Space to the novella The Weight. At the same time, Steele gives hints of un-chronicled events in the twenty-first century which may, one day, see the light of day.

Because of the background Steele provides, A King of Infinite Space may be a good starting point for readers of his future history. It is not, however, the best entry in the series. Readers may want to familiarize themselves with some of the earlier history of this universe by reading Orbital Decay or Lunar Descent before tackling A King of Infinite Space.

Copyright © 1997 by Steven H Silver

Steven H Silver is one of the founders and judges for the Sidewise Award for Alternate History. He sits on concoms for Windycon, Chicon 2000 and Clavius in 2001 and is co-chair of Picnicon 1998. Steven will be serving as the Programming Chairman for Chicon 2000. In addition to maintaining several bibliographies and the Harry Turtledove website, Steven is trying to get his short stories published and has recently finished his first novel. He lives at home with his wife and 3200 books. He is available for convention panels.


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