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Perfect Circle
Sean Stewart
Small Beer Press, 243 pages

Perfect Circle
Sean Stewart
Born in Lubbock, Texas in 1965, Sean Stewart moved with his family to Edmonton, Alberta, when he was three. While growing up there and going to school, he has worked as a roofer, a theatre director, and a research assistant, among other things. He received an Honours Degree in English from the University of Alberta in 1987. After living in Vancouver for several years, Sean Stewart now lives in Houston, Texas, with his wife and two children.

Sean Stewart Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: The Night Watch
SF Site Review: Galveston
SF Site Review: The Night Watch
SF Site Review: Clouds End
SF Site Review: Mockingbird

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

I have been remiss in not previously reviewing Perfect Circle, the most recent novel by peripatetic (Edmonton-Vancouver-California-Texas) writer Sean Stewart. This has nothing to do with the quality of the book and everything to do with it having slid underneath a stack of detritus in my office, only to be rediscovered months later. (New Year's resolution: clean office.) Nonetheless, it's worth a very late review, since this is a hell of a book.

Perfect Circle was nominated for the World Fantasy Award and the Nebula. Everybody who reviewed it loved it, from Locus to the Washington Post. It features a contemporary setting, stylish prose, and deep issues that, if they aren't important to America, ought to be. So why hasn't it sold a gazillion copies? Damn if I know.

At first glance, people might be excused for thinking that William Kennedy's nickname, "Dead," refers to his dead end life or deadbeat habits. He's divorced, sweltering in a scummy Houston apartment, failing to pay child support, and has just been fired from his latest mcjob for giving extreme attitude to an obnoxious customer. He can't get over his ex-wife and he can't get his life together.

Under these circumstances, the fact that he can see dead people is a decidedly minor inconvenience. That is, until a dead girl leads him into a near fatal encounter with her murderer and Kennedy's odd ability becomes news. Now everybody in town who doesn't think he's crazy wants to hire him to find ghosts, and Kennedy is afraid it will ruin what's left of his life.

Perfect Circle is about lots of things. It's about gender roles and class in a vividly drawn modern Texas. It's about ownership -- of people, money and guns -- and about pride, guilt and rage. It's a searing snapshot of "normal" life in a working class suburb of America where the dead people seem a lot more functional than the living ones.

It's also a good story, with a funny, likeable protagonist who we find ourselves rooting for despite his blatant flaws. Finally, pop culture mavens will get a kick out of the contemporary music references (all of which were lost on me, but what the heck).

This is a real rarity -- an intelligent, sensitive and entertaining novel about what it means to be male. I think it will speak most strongly to men, but it should appeal to many readers, mainstream as well as genre.

Copyright © 2005 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at

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