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The Boolean Gate
Walter Jon Williams
Subterranean Press, 120 pages

The Boolean Gate
Walter Jon Williams
Walter Jon Williams is the author of Knight Moves (1985), Hardwired (1986), Days of Atonement (1991), the Nebula nominee Metropolitan (1995) and its sequel, City on Fire, and the Drake Maijstral Series (The Crown Jewels, 1987, House of Shards, 1988, and Rock of Ages, 1995) among other books. At his site you'll find a complete bibliography and sample chapters.

Walter Jon Williams Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Implied Spaces
SF Site Review: Implied Spaces
SF Site Review: The Sundering
SF Site Review: The Praxis
SF Site Review: Metropolitan
SF Site Review: The Rift
SF Site Review: Metropolitan

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Rich Horton

This review is very late, for multiple reasons, but one reason is that I find myself at odds with the consensus, which makes me think I may have missed something. The Boolean Gate is a new novella by an author I enjoy immensely, and it has gotten quite a bit of praise. So why, I wonder, was I left rather cold by it? I'm forced to caution the reader that I may simply be wrong -- that I may have read the book in the wrong state of mind, or that I may simply not be the right reader for the book. All that said, my reaction was: well done, but not very interesting.

In The Boolean Gate, at one level, Walter Jon Williams gives us a sympathetic and (as far as I can say) accurate portrayal of Mark Twain near the end of his life. Twain's daughter has just died, and his wife is returning from overseas (and doesn't even know her daughter is dead). His life is a very public thing -- he is constantly putting on the show of being "Mark Twain, the most quoted man in America," rather than being Samuel Clemens, husband and father. Much of his money is made giving speeches. He is aging, often constipated, rather grumpy. All this rings true.

The main action of the story concerns his interactions with Nicola Tesla. Tesla is promoting a fantastic new invention, a way of lighting the world, of broadcasting power everywhere. But it seems that Tesla is being strangely affected by his invention. And of course any such invention could be used to bad ends -- as a weapon. So as Twain continues to interact with Tesla -- dinners and demonstrations -- he ponders whether he should be stopped. And indeed, whether Tesla is truly himself...

So much of this is truly well done -- Twain's character convinced me completely. The portrayal of Tesla was also interesting and believable, and so was much of the furniture of that turn of the 20th Century era. But for me things never really caught my interest. Sometimes that happens -- The Boolean Gate is well enough executed that I am certainly not surprised that other readers disagree with me.

Copyright © 2013 Rich Horton

Rich Horton is an eclectic reader in and out of the SF and fantasy genres. He's been reading SF since before the Golden Age (that is, since before he was 13). Born in Naperville, IL, he lives and works (as a Software Engineer for the proverbial Major Aerospace Company) in St. Louis area and is a regular contributor to Tangent. Stop by his website at

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