Reviews Logo
SearchHomeContents PageSite Map
Steven Barnes
Tor Books, 384 pages

Steven Barnes
Born in Los Angeles in 1952, Steven Barnes majored in Communication Arts at Pepperdine University. He's done numerous screenplays and was a creative consultant on the Sakura Ninja series of action-adventure films and on the animated feature The Secret of Nimh.

With Larry Niven, he's written The Descent of Anansi, Achilles' Choice, Dream Park, The Barsoom Project, The California Voodoo Game, and (with Jerry Pournelle) The Legacy of Heorot. On his own, Barnes novels include The Kundalini Equation, Streetlethal, Gorgon Child and FireDance.

ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Iron Shadows

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Lisa DuMond

No matter how many times I asked you to put Charisma down and get some sleep you wouldn't listen, so at least let me remind you to breathe. Yes, you'll be helplessly rivetted to the book long after all "sensible" people are asleep, but some of us are powerless to resist Steven Barnes' driving prose, so don't be too hard on yourself. And, as I said, prompt yourself to take a breath every now and then, when you start to feel light-headed.

Charisma is Steven Barnes at his suspenseful and shocking best, putting ordinary people in the midst of inexplicable circumstances, with everything they cherish on the line. Perhaps, where you live is different, but the people in Charisma are the people I queue up with for movies, that I gripe to about the kamikaze drivers, that make up my landscape. Put these people in danger and you alternately enrage me and scare the hell out of me.

Now, we are always looking for ways to improve the odds for the next generation, to give the children a better shot at avoiding our mistakes. Suppose you were to take the template of a phenomenally successful, inspirational person and find a way to imprint that masterpiece of a human being onto young children. Surely, they would grow up to icons just as worthy as their role model. But, right, there is the downside: do we ever really know everything we need to know about another person?

Someone in the program should have looked closer, because Alexander Marcus, their model business man and humanitarian, also just happened to be a sexual psychopath, a serial killer. Now, that behaviour may also be indelibly engraved on the psyche of every one of the children who unknowingly underwent this imprintation process. No one knows but the group who administered the undisclosed program, and they are determined that no one ever will know. They'll keep their secrets and they'll take care of anyone who threatens to unmask them or follow in Marcus' footsteps, no matter what they have to do.

Barnes knows how to crank the suspense to an almost unbearable level, until you find you cannot read fast enough to outrun all the potential bullets aimed in your direction. It's too easy to imagine that these are living, breathing humans in harm's way, not static characters that freeze when you stick your bookmark in and walk away. Some of these people need protection and others arouse only fear and cold hatred, but none fail to move the reader in some way.

Pair that kind of vivid characterisation with clean, tight prose with not a word wasted and you'll see why Barnes' book are so irresistible. And, after you sample a bit of it yourself you'll see why he has gathered such a devoted following in such a short time.

And remember, stop... take a breath.

Copyright © 2002 Lisa DuMond

In between reviews, articles, and interviews, Lisa DuMond writes science fiction and humour. DARKERS, her latest novel, was published in August 2000 by Hard Shell Word Factory. She has also written for BOOKPAGE and PUBLISHERS WEEKLY. Her articles and short stories are all over the map. You can check out Lisa and her work at her website hikeeba!.

SearchContents PageSite MapContact UsCopyright

If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to
Copyright © 1996-2014 SF Site All Rights Reserved Worldwide