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Sacrifice of Fools
Ian McDonald
Gollancz Books, 286 pages

Sacrifice of Fools
Ian McDonald
Ian McDonald was born in 1960 in Manchester and moved to Northern Ireland in 1965. At present, he lives in Belfast with his wife, Patricia. His debut was the short story, The Island of the Dead, in the British magazine, Extro. His work has won the Philip K. Dick Award for best original SF paperback, the Locus poll for best first novel, and several nominations for the Arthur C. Clarke Award.

ISFDB Bibliography
Ian McDonald Tribute Site
Ian McDonald Tribute Site

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rodger Turner

The Shians have landed. In exchange for technology, Earth has ceded them enclaves. Ex-criminal Andy Gillespie has become one of the liaison folk who are there to ease the Shian transition to life on Earth. (He is so alienated from his own contemporaries that the Shians seem like family.) On his way to a Shian celebration, Andy finds himself the chief suspect in the barbaric mutilation and murder of five Shian. To save himself, he decides to track down the true culprits. On the hunt, he joins forces with a Shian lawyer, both know that the police are following close on their heels. It's frustrating because no one will talk to them but it is obvious that the aliens fear something (or someone). But their only real clue is a Shian phrase, Sacrifice of Fools. Andy slowly begins to discover that coming to grips with an alien culture cannot be based upon human experience. Their sense of values for home, family, and morality have developed over centuries of risk and success on a world which bears no resemblance to ours. How can one who hopes to understand them despite a willingness to accept selected precepts of their society?

Before Sacrifice of Fools, Ian McDonald explored the Shian culture in two other short works, "Frooks" (1995 Interzone #100) and "Legitimate Targets" (1994 New Worlds 4). The complexities of these aliens (they aren't guys in rubber alien suits) is based on their sensitivity to information-carrying chemicals and their focus sense is smell, unlike humans whose primary sense is sight. He takes these ideas and weaves a spell-binding tale of intrigue and empathy. In an era of fiction about contrasting cultures (is theirs a better model than ours?) and anticipated change to civilization, here is a fascinating excursion into giving the reader alternatives to what is different but not necessarily better. Boy, I can hardly wait to see what Ian McDonald will do next.

Copyright © 1997, 2002 Rodger Turner

Rodger has read a lot of science fiction and fantasy in forty years. He can only shake his head and say, "So many books, so little time."

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