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Stephen Krane
DAW Books, 384 pages

Art: Don Brautigam
Stephen Krane
A Web search for Stephen Krane led to a favourite of ours. S. Andrew Swann is a full-time novelist who has been writing science fiction, horror, and suspense since he left the mechanical engineering program at Cleveland State University. He lives in the Cleveland area where he has stayed for the last 25 years. His other novels include Forests of the Night, God's Dice, Raven and The Flesh, the Blood, and the Fire. (The last 2 are published under his given name, S.A. Swiniarski.)

S. Andrew Swann Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Fearful Symmetries by S. Andrew Swann

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Todd Richmond

Allison Boyle appears to be a completely normal teenager, living alone with her mother. She has a boyfriend, a favourite stuffed animal, and is secretly writing a romance novel. Unfortunately, she also has her very own stalker. Chuck Wilson -- a drunk, a troublemaker and a generally dislikable person -- continually harasses Allison. Allison can't figure out why he is always hanging out around her, and his constant shadowing presence alarms her.

There are a few other problems in her life as well. She's plagued by incredibly painful headaches that mystify her doctor and alarm her mother. Allison is also concerned by the mysterious phone calls her mother has been receiving in the middle of the night. All things considered, she's not having a very good time as a teenager.

Everything comes to a head when Chuck attacks her. She lashes out in self-defense with previously dormant telekinetic abilities, severely injuring him. She escapes injury but it comes at a cost, as her response brings her under the scrutiny of a mysterious organization called the Agency for Scientific Investigation.

As the Agency closes in, Allison begins experimenting with her newly discovered powers. After a violent confrontation with the Agency, Allison is forced to flee with her best friend, Macy. Their goal? Find Allison's father, whom she had thought dead, and try to discover who is behind the Agency and why they are so eager to get their hands on Allison.

The premise sounds promising, if a little familiar. A young woman discovers that she has remarkable paranormal abilities. A secret, black ops agency attempts to capture her. Trouble ensues. We've seen it before; Stephen King's Firestarter is a perfect example. Unfortunately, Teek is pretty formulaic. Everything is black and white -- the good guys are squeaky clean and the bad guys have no redeeming qualities. Allison and Mary run, they get captured, and... well, I'm sure you can guess how the book ends.

There are a few good elements to this novel. For instance, Allison's experimentation with her powers and some of the explanations that come later in the book are very good. The description of the genesis of the children with paranormal abilities, the classification of their powers and their strengths and weaknesses is very interesting. Hidden in there is the explanation why Chuck always wanted to be close to Allison. Allison's character is credible, reflecting her fear and feeling of helplessness at the beginning of the book, and her growing confidence and determination by the end. There's a really good bit of poetic justice thrown in when Macy and Allison are on the run and end up stealing from a couple of would-be assailants.

It's a pity the remainder of the book is disappointing. There were a number of places where I expected the plot or the characters to be more developed. In particular, the Agency people are never made real for the reader, so it's difficult to feel any animosity toward them. You should be cheering when they finally get what's coming to them, but by that point it just seems routine. I expected her father to play a much larger role than he did. Krane takes the trouble to introduce the father into the story, first at the very beginning and then later, but really never does anything with him. The long-lost father shows up and then basically sits on the sidelines until the very end of the book. Allison falls into the Agency's hands way too easily, especially considering some of the initiative she showed earlier in the book.

The end of the book is, unfortunately, the final disappointment. It felt very rushed and cursory, and wasn't satisfying at all. There are some great ideas buried in this novel, and I wish they had been used a little more creatively. There wasn't enough chase or mystery to really grab my attention and keep me interested. So while it's an okay read, there's little that is new or exciting.

Copyright © 1999 by Todd Richmond

Todd is a plant molecular developmental biologist who has finally finished 23 years of formal education. He recently fled Madison, WI for the warmer but damper San Francisco Bay Area and likes bad movies, good science fiction, and role-playing games. He began reading science fiction at the age of eight, starting with Heinlein, Silverberg, and Tom Swift books, and has a great fondness for tongue-in-cheek fantasy Óla Terry Pratchett, Craig Shaw Gardner and Robert Asprin.

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