All the Bells on Earth by James P. Blaylock, Ace
The Lions of Al-Rassan by Guy Gavriel Kay, Viking
Evolution's Shore by Ian McDonald, Bantam
World Without End by Sean Russell, DAW
Zod Wallop by William Browning Spencer, St. Martin's Press
The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson, Bantam
The Knights of the Black Earth by Margaret Weis and Don Perrin, Roc
Metropolitan by Walter Jon Williams, HarperPrism
The Lions of Al-Rassan
by Guy Gavriel Kay, Viking
With only a few tips of the hat towards traditional fantasy elements,
Kay has crafted a magnificent story of love, intrigue and
friendship. The book has some of the strongest characters I've
met in many-a-year of reading. Jehane, the doctor with,
to western eyes, odd ways of diagnosis and Rodrigo, the mercenary
leader whose love of family brought tears to my eyes and
Ammar ibn Khairan,
the assassin with noble goals and failed dreams (thanks, Guy); they all
made me hope for their success and worry when their failure was
imminent. What more could an author offer than the joy a reader
finds in his prose?
World Without End
by Sean Russell, DAW
Have you ever found a book that you don't want to end? Ever? I've discovered a few
in almost forty years of reading science fiction and fantasy. This is one. I wish I could
explain why it held me in such thrall. Characters? Plot? Prose? Setting? Yeah, I suppose
so but that's not it. I just remember each time I picked it up there was a languid ache knowing
that, with each page, I'd have less to read. Finishing it was like the day I knew for
certain that it was time to leave school and go out into the world. I could only sigh, look
back and remember.
by William Browning Spencer, St. Martin's Press
Harry Gainsborough wrote a children's book called Zod Wallop. But with the drowning death of his
daughter, he stopped. This was much to the despair of Raymond Story, for the book meant everything
to him. So much so, that he decided to seek out Harry and try to recreate the events of the book.
Unfortunately for Harry, Raymond is a patient at Harwood Psychiatric Hospital. In a way, this
synopsis reminds me of Stephen King's Misery. But not so, gentle reader.
Until this book appeared, I wondered whether I'd ever see another the likes of Jonathan Carroll's
Land of Laughs. I have and I am happy. Spencer's originality, humour and warmth left me
with a sense of wonder and well-being. It reminded me of the joy found in simple acts of kindness,
the satisfaction of not caving into institutional wisdom and the merits of eccentricity.
Until this book appeared, I wondered whether I'd ever see another the likes of Jonathan Carroll's Land of Laughs. I have and I am happy. Spencer's originality, humour and warmth left me with a sense of wonder and well-being. It reminded me of the joy found in simple acts of kindness, the satisfaction of not caving into institutional wisdom and the merits of eccentricity.
All the Bells on Earth
by James P. Blaylock, Ace
Walt Stebbins wants nothing more than to run his catalogue sales business out of his garage, His wife, Ivy,
could quit her job as a real estate agent, if business picked up like he expected. After all, Christmas was coming.
Into his life comes Henry, Ivy's uncle, and his wife, Jinx, to spend the winter in a trailer park in their laneway. Then
along comes a mysterious package for Argyle, an old business partner and one-time suitor for Ivy's hand. Foolishly
opening it to see what Argyle is up to, Walt returns it to Argyle's doostep minus one item. Sound pretty
straightforward, doesn't it? Well, not with Blaylock at the keyboard. He provides us with a provocative
look at the effect man's greed for success will have on him. We meet a golem, two churchmen trying to
save souls from eternal damnation (one used to sell souls for fun and profit) and a 6'6" phony
postal inspector with a face like pudding. Then, there is the author's odd facination with various forms
of sea creatures. He throws in spontaneous human combustion along with a bottled
bluebird which may just grant wishes. Geez, I love Blaylock's stuff.
The Knights of the Black Earth
by Margaret Weis and Don Perrin, Roc
I start hundreds of books each year. Usually, I know whether I'm going to finish it
within fifty pages. I began this one due to Don Perrin's local connection and Margaret
Weis' courtesy to me one Saturday in Chicago some years ago. Twenty pages or so in and
minding my own business, the novel shook me by the neck and dragged me headlong into a
fabulous adventure. I struggled, I pushed, I deked but I couldn't shake loose until the
end. One sitting and I was done, exhausted and drooling for more. Geez, I hope they don't
write another. I couldn't handle the ride. Thanks, guys.
The Diamond Age
by Neal Stephenson, Bantam
Stephenson took the SF world by storm when Snowcrash was published. I can
only compare its presence in retail to that of Dan Simmons' Hyperion. Shortly
thereafter, the buzz began. Can he do it again? Will the sophomore jinx kick in? Will he
rise like Gibson did or will he see bleak times like Card did? Well, it's hard to tell
until this book is in paperback. What he has written is a truly different novel full of
intriguing and goofy technology and the people who use it and abuse it. Some of the technology
is already passe. The bulk is to come and, if true, it will change humanity forever. Great
characters, neo-victorian stuff for fans, a so-so plot and great movie possibilities. It
has everything that should have been in The Difference Engine.
by Walter Jon Williams, HarperPrism
Williams had built up a lot of points with me for his first bunch of novels. Witty, enchanting,
clever describe his manner novels and sleek, edgy and innovative are reserved for his adventure
novels. But his last two really stiffed at the cash register and customer feedback wasn't polite. I couldn't
finish either one. Karma points were sinking. I started Metropolitan on spec. Then I met Aiah,
one of the most interesting and evolving characters whose exploits I've had the pleasure to follow. She
takes her life by the throat and goes for the brass ring. Knowing that life isn't fair and she could
tank, she keeps a realistic perspective and her options open. The plot, to overthrow a city-state,
remains in the background and, instead, stays near her. Her pivotal role and her relationship with the Metropolitan,
Constantine, show why not every book needs to focus on the splatter bits. Bravo, Mr. Williams.
by Ian McDonald, Bantam
Some years ago, I picked up a digest magazine in which a friend of mine had a story published. Now I
don't read enough short fiction (usually just the Year's Best from St. Martin's). Anyway, I thought
I'd skim some of the other stories when I saw an Ian McDonald item. I thought, double treat. It was called
Towards Kilimanjaro. It forms the core of this novel (called Chaga in the UK). It
gave me a taste of the impact a spreading alien plant form could have on modern society. I saw how the
various walks of life would react and adapt to the spread of alien flora. The native culture (it is set in
Africa) is juxtaposed with the rest of the world via an evolved UN force (they try to surround the chaga)
and the media (they try to out-scoop one another -- big suprise, eh?). It's a story of loss, joy,
rebirth, treachery, and hope without the usual slanted view of destroying what we don't understand. About
70 pages from the end, a stray thought about Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Outlet in North Conway, NH surfaced.
You know how they give you a spoonful of their ice cream to taste? Well, the novelette is like the spoonful.
You know there is a big treat coming.
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