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Black Brillion
Matthew Hughes
Tor, 272 pages

Black Brillion
Matthew Hughes
Matthew Hughes was born in 1949 Liverpool, England, but moved to Canada when he was five. A life-long writer, he has worked as a journalist, a staff speechwriter in the federal government and, since 1979, a freelance corporate and political speechwriter in British Columbia. He lives in a small town on Vancouver Island with his wife and 3 sons.

Matthew Hughes Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Black Brillion
SF Site Review: Fool Me Twice
Matthew Hughes Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Peter D. Tillman

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Black Brillion is the third novel set in Hughes' Archonate/Old Earth universe. It's definitely a stand-alone, and quite a good one, though not without flaws.

The story opens strongly, with probationary policeman Baro Harkless hot on the trail of the notorious con-man Luff Imbry. Harkless gets his man, and a promotion too, but with a surprising twist: Harkless finds himself teamed with Imbry to track yet another con-man, the even-more notorious Horslan Gebbling. Gebbling, masquerading as Father Olwyn, Sacredotal Eminence, is organizing a landship cruise across the great plain of the Swept, presumably to fleece the passengers....

Here the action bogs down a bit, with the introduction of a noosphere subplot, set in some sort of collective race-memory, featuring Jungian archetype dream-sequence set pieces, a sure-fire recipe for eye glaze, at least for me. And Harkless is just too naive and innocent to become a believable character. Really, none of the characters are developed much beyond sketches. And the "Black Brillion" maguffin turns out to be a red herring (but I love the name).

After more eye glaze Jungstuff, the book gets back on track with dramatic revelations of greed, murder, treason and the resurrection of one of humanity's ancient enemies, and the novel comes to a rousing and satisfactory ending, with all biters well-bit.

The cover art for Black Brillion, by Tom Kidd, is appropriate, atmospheric and, really, quite lovely -- as you can see.

I'm very fond of Hughes' short stories, especially his current "Hengis Hapthorn" humorous shorts, which are set in a similar universe and appear regularly in F&SF magazine. A number of these are collected in The Gist Hunter and Other Stories, the author's first collection.

Copyright © 2005 Peter D. Tillman

Pete Tillman has been reading SF for better than 40 years now. He reviews SF -- and other books -- for Amazon, Infinity-Plus, SF Site, and others. He's a mineral exploration geologist based in Arizona. Google "Peter D. Tillman" +review for many more of Pete's reviews.


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