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The Fourth World
Dennis Danvers
Avon EOS Books, 352 pages

David Bowers
The Fourth World
Dennis Danvers
Other novels by Dennis Danvers include Wilderness, Circuit of Heaven, Time and Time Again and End of Days. He has taught creative writing and literature at the University of Texas at Arlington, North Texas State University, Virginia Intermont College, and Virginia Commonwealth University. His novel, Wilderness, has recently been adapted as a 3-part series for British television. He lives in Richmond, Virginia.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Circuit of Heaven

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Stephen M. Davis

There are times when readers of The Fourth World will find themselves interested in knowing what will befall the characters, but I think there will never be a time when they are desperate to know.

The story centres around the plight of the chiapanecos, who are poor, oppressed, Mexican farmers. The technological advances that Dennis Danvers envisions for the rest of the world have passed these people by, and they still rely on television and radio for news and entertainment.

The developed world has moved on to a version of the World Wide Web that includes virtual immersion, where people live, love, work, and play online, and in which physical interaction is a bit of a novelty.

Santee St. John is the main character in the novel. He's a man working for NewsReal, a website that specializes in giving its viewers a kind of virtual "you-are-there" experience, using reporters like St. John as first-hand observers to dramatic events.

St. John arrives in Chiapas just in time to witness a massacre of unarmed farmers by the foot soldiers of an unknown faction. He discovers that NewsReal has no real interest in showing the massacre -- that the coverage was really just a kind of blackmail, ensuring a large contract for NewsReal.

St. John decides that he must let the world know of the atrocities being committed in Mexico by the government and corporate America. He spends the rest of the book in a struggle to reveal this truth, with the help of Margaret, his lover, who is quite knowledgeable about the chiapanecos and their long-standing grievances.

Another major element in The Fourth World is the terraforming of Mars -- a project that we learn has not been quite as successful as "live" satellite shots from the planet have led people to believe.

We discover that Mars is part of a terrible future for the poor Mexican farmers that has been cooked up by a combination of heavy-handed folks, including a couple of major governments and, apparently, some pretty nasty corporations.

The novel itself is perfectly readable, but not terribly gripping. It isn't so much that the reader can see everything coming; it's more that there is no real tension present. We know, when many think Santee dead, that he is really alive, and Margaret always knows this, as well. We know that Zack, a pot-smoking informant for a local power-broker, will be redeemed by love.

Mr. Danvers has written a book steeped with cynicism towards big business and bigger government, but we never get the impression that any of the important players are ever in any real danger, even in those moments when their lives should be in greatest danger.

I think the book is adequate as a novel and that Mr. Danvers shows some real ability, but I wouldn't say this is essential reading.

Copyright © 2000 Stephen M. Davis

Steve Davis teaches at the University of New Orleans as an Instructor of English. He enjoys chess, strong black coffee, and books by authors who care enough to work at their craft.

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