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The Grand Ellipse
Paula Volsky
Bantam Spectra, 549 pages

Daniel Merriam
The Grand Ellipse
Paula Volsky
Paula Volsky's previous novels include The Gates of Twilight, Illusion, The Luck of Relian Kru, The Wolf of Winter, The White Tribunal and the Sorcerer's Lady series, comprised of The Sorcerer's Lady, The Sorcerer's Heir and The Sorcerer's Curse.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The White Tribunal

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Hank Luttrell

One of the wonders of Jules Verne's work is that modern readers can still delight in his story telling, even after a century has made his vision of the future obsolete.

Volsky must have wanted to use Verne's charming approach to story telling as the starting point for her new book. Volsky's world isn't quite ours; for one thing, magic works, though in many areas emerging technology is replacing sorcery as a way of getting things done. It is a world threatened by aggression and war, rather similar to Europe of the first World War. It appears that the imperialists will conquer every nation in the known world. But in a neutral kingdom, a sorcerer has discovered an ultimate weapon, sure to stop the invading armies -- except that the eccentric king is unwilling to compromise his neutrality.

Onto this exotic stage Volsky casts her intrepid adventurer Luzelle Devaire, a woman writer, explorer and lecturer in a culture inhospitable to an assertive woman, again not unlike historical Europe. Devaire tours her world in a Jules Verne-like race known as The Grand Ellipse, the prize for which is an audience with the eccentric king. Devaire hopes that she can with The Grand Ellipse and convince the king to help her nation defend itself from the invaders.

Jules Verne led his male heroes through delightful travelogues of an emerging "modern" era. Volsky pits her independent female character against a background which is at once exotic and imaginative, and still evocative of familiar adventure and romantic fiction conventions, not to mention the world in which we all live.

I recommend The Grand Ellipse because it is harrowing, bright, inventive, romantic and, above all, entertaining.

Copyright © 2000 by Hank Luttrell

Hank Luttrell has reviewed science fiction for newspapers, magazines and web sites. He was nominated for the Best Fanzine Hugo Award and is currently a bookseller in Madison, Wisconsin.

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