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Interface Masque
Shariann Lewitt
Tor Books, 350 pages

A review by Leon Olszewski

Take the idea that different types of music can affect the mind in different ways, add the fact that the net will be controlled by "houses" similar to the mercantile houses prevalent in Italy during the Renaissance, and you will have the world in which Interface Masque is set.

Cecilie, a senior apprentice in the House Sept-Fortune, living in Venice, has one last test before becoming a journeyman. Sept-Fortune specializes in security systems, elaborate designs to protect their patrons. And Cecilie has been asked to break into a system designed by two of her "sisters" from San Francisco. As this violates the tenets that she has been taught, she comes to realize that this test is the means by which to hold her to the House: one part initiation rite, one part blackmail.

After breaking in, she encounters David. He is dressed in an elaborate costume:

"There ... was someone in a full Venetian mask. It was a custom job, very expensive and beautifully tasteful. The face was a Renaissance sun and the golden flares twisted and twined in the marker environment. The body of the costume was sky blue shot with gold, shapeless as all good costumes were to hide the body underneath. He was not only tall, but broad in the shoulders, which Cecilie found amusing. He could have chosen to hide more carefully. Or to deceive her."
In the style of this world, both real and electronic, people conceal who they are using disguises and masks. The major distinguishing factor between them is the originality and quality of work in the costume.

David is not supposed to be in the net, since he does not belong to one of the septs. Cecilie also finds out that he plays jazz. While jazz and rock-n-roll are not banned, they are not entirely legal. Both types of music defy authority, which the septs promote. David's patron, who is also part of an anti-sept faction, is killed on the eve of a meeting of all the septs. David is a suspect, and he hires Cecilie to find evidence to clear him.

The story is very engrossing, and the reader is caught up in the twists and turns of the plot. This future world is fleshed out with details to make it real. In order to access the net, people get in what is essentially a sensory deprivation tank. In the net, Cecilie has programmed a familiar in the shape of a bird of paradise. It is a search engine, bringing back information that Cecilie requests. The net is an electronic analog of the real world, with shopping malls, business districts, and a library. But the net is made up of different layers, some of which only members of the sept can access.

However, the story has several weaknesses. Lina (a singer in the Pieta, the premier Venetian chorus) is less of a character than Zizi, Cecilie's familiar in the net. Cecilie and David are tossed together as antagonists, yet work together as allies. Their relationship shows the nuances of becoming a romantic one, but that seems to peter out. While this may be realistic, it lacks the dramatic element one expects from the rest of the story. Finally, the anomaly which Cecilie and David find is treated as a deus ex machina, solving some of their problems, but leaving an empty feeling. It makes one feel either the story had to be cut down to fit, the author was in a hurry to finish, or that there will be a sequel.

Still, I liked it enough that I plan to pick up Memento Mori, an earlier work, and look forward to seeing her next books.

Copyright © 1997 by Leon Olszewski

Leon Olszewski is the Manager of Network Services at Spyglass, Inc. He goes to the occasional costume party, though he does not wear a mask on the street.

Interface Masque
Shariann Lewitt Related Links
Shariann Lewitt's previous book, Memento Mori, was published in 1995. Using the byline S. N. Lewitt, she has written Cyberstealth, Dancing Vac, Blind Justice, Angel at Apogee, Cybernetic Jungle, and Songs of Chaos. With degrees in biology and drama, she lives in Washington, D.C.

Shariann Lewitt's Home Page
S.N.Lewitt Bibliography

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