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Steven Gould
St. Martin's Press, 480 pages

Steven Gould
Steven Gould has been publishing fiction since 1980 when his first short story, "The Touch of Their Eyes," was published in Analog. Since then, his stories have appeared in Analog, Amazing, Asimov's and various anthologies. His novels include Helm, Jumper, Wildside and Greenwar, written with his wife, Laura J. Mixon.

Steven Gould Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Blind Waves
SF Site Interview: Steven Gould and Laura J. Mixon

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Donna McMahon

Four centuries before the opening of Helm, refugees from the destruction of Earth set out for Epsilon Eridani II, fleeing in overcrowded ships which couldn't carry all the tools and equipment needed to sustain an advanced technology. Instead, they took glass helmets that could "imprint" Earth's knowledge in a wearer in just a few minutes.

Centuries later, only one glass helm remains, fiercely guarded by the ruler of the city-state of Laal. Dulan is grooming his eldest son to wear the helm and eventually govern Laal, but his plans are wrecked when his youngest son, 17-year-old Leland, breaks all the rules and dons the helmet instead. An avid scholar, Leland longs for knowledge without understanding the dire consequences of wearing the helm, nor does he realize that it is potentially the most dangerous weapon on his world.

Steven Gould wastes no time in getting Helm underway. By the end of chapter one Leland has worn the imprinting device, consequences are rolling, and for the most part the pace does not lag right to the last page. The main characters are strong and the setting -- a planet still in the process of being terraformed -- is interesting and well drawn.

This book has lots of flaws. There are too many characters and it's tough to keep track of them, in part because Gould switches viewpoints far too often. A number of the plot problems are never adequately resolved, and characters are introduced and then dropped at the author's whim. Gould's personal interest in aikido adds an extra dimension and lots of verisimilitude to the fight scenes, but sometimes it's too much detail. Near the end when the pace should be picking up, the fights are simply too long.

Nonetheless, Gould's characters carry this book, especially young Leland and the ancient personality that is sharing his head, thanks to the Helm. Gould writes an entertaining and humorous story, making Helm a difficult book to put down.

Copyright © 2001 Donna McMahon

Donna McMahon discovered science fiction in high school and fandom in 1977, and never recovered. Dance of Knives, her first novel, was published by Tor in May, 2001, and her book reviews won an Aurora Award the same month. She likes to review books first as a reader (Was this a Good Read? Did I get my money's worth?) and second as a writer (What makes this book succeed/fail as a genre novel?). You can visit her website at

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