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Preternatural Too: Gyre
Margaret Wander Bonanno
Tor Books, 320 pages

Preternatural Too: Gyre
Margaret Wander Bonanno
Margaret Wander Bonanno is perhaps best known for her Star Trek writing. Her novels include Strangers from the Sky and Dwellers in the Crucible (1985). She wrote Saturn's Child (1995) with Nichelle Nichols.

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SF Site Review: Preternatural

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Peter D. Tillman

Karen Rohmer Guerreri, 1 a lower-midlist SF writer, is having trouble selling a new book. "Maybe you need to write a sequel," her agent advises. "This time, don't make it so autobiographical." Arch meta-fictional milling-about ensues, but don't be put off by the slow start -- soon, Karen has been snatched from her bed at the Days Inn, and dumped onto a straw pallet in Eleanor of Aquitane's Brittany -- the start of a long, strange trip through Julius Ceasar's Gaul, the fall of Berlin in 1945, and several alternate Nows. Preternatural Too: Gyre's unhinging of time reminds me of Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five, and Karen's working-out of her predicament is as intricate and recursive as the best of Philip K. Dick.

Readers of Preternatural won't be surprised to learn that it's Fuschia, that naughty S. oteri, one of the telepathic ET jellyfish who inspired and bedeviled Karen in the first book, up to hir old tricks -- the S. oteri live in the Long Now, and have trouble with the idea of sequential time. You don't need to have read the first book to enjoy the second, but if you liked the first, you're probably already headed for the bookstore and I'm preaching to the choir... Anyway, if you're new to Margaret Wander Bonanno, it would make sense to start with Preternatural. They're both pretty amazing books.

In both books, you need to pay close attention to all the balls in the air, but when Margaret Wander Bonanno's running a hot hand, like Joe Slattermill in Fritz Leiber's wonderful "Gonna Roll the Bones," 2 her aim is true and her eye (and pen) unerring. She can be trusted to bring matters to a satisfying conclusion, with tantalizing hints of more to come: "She turned and headed straight for home, but she took the long way, around the world." (With apologies to Mr. Leiber's shade.)

And while you're keeping your eye on the ball, you'll enjoy watching Margaret Wander Bonanno's characters come to life, notably her multiple alterselves and their friends, 3 while she ignores her agent's no-autobiography advice -- or is she just counterfeiting Real Life exceptionally well? It is fiction, after all, isn't it? -- and it's enormously entertaining reading, which is what I look for, and, I'm sure, so do you.

1 Compare her maiden name to the RL author's ...

2 Joe was a miner, and he could pitch 7 or 8 rocks back into place on the face they'd fallen from, before gravity caught up and tumbled them back down again. And when he got to the craps table -- "he felt the power in his fingers..."

3 Margaret Wander Bonanno's women are spot-on, wonderfully real. Her men are a little blurry (but well-hung). Hey, nobody's perfect.

Copyright © 2000 by Peter D. Tillman

Pete Tillman has been reading SF for better than 40 years now. He reviews SF -- and other books -- for Usenet, "Under the Covers", Infinity-Plus, Dark Planet, and SF Site. He's a mineral exploration geologist based in Arizona. More of his reviews are posted at .

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