Green Man Review:
The year is 2094, and the Native tribes have built sealed, protected Enclaves to live in. The Enclaves are the only places left on the face of the earth where nature is thriving, where pollution doesn't exist, nor acid rain, nor crimes against the earth and its people. Outside the Enclaves there is only desolation and despair, and people are concentrated in small Complexes where power and money rule. These Complexes are ruled and policed by different factions, mostly the Chinese and Japanese.
The Native tribes can do nothing to prevent the killing of nations and the land. They can only wait until it's safe to use their technology to cleanse the world and rebuild it as it should be. It is this technology that the Complexes want at any cost, including murder. They've placed the blame for the devastation at the feet of the tribes, in order to further hatred and the drive for revenge.
Something has gone wrong with one of the Enclaves in North America. An Indian flyer has been downed and a systems chip, encoded with vital technological secrets, is missing. Gahzee is chosen to leave the Enclave to find the chip before anyone else can use it. He will never be able to return to the Enclave, for it lies behind force fields and is pure. The Outerlands are filled with diseases, and the Enclaves cannot risk contamination. Gahzee will be alone and homeless, giving all he has so that the Enclaves will stay safe and thrive.
The first night out of the Enclave, Gahzee befriends a coyote, Nanabozho, and they become a tribe of two. A beginning. Then Gahzee is captured by a group of Outlanders who intend to cook him and eat him, believing his flesh will make them healthy. Gahzee manages to escape, taking out a number of the enemy. He then learns that the populace believes the state of the world is the 'Claver's' fault, a belief that could not be further from the truth.
Gahzee chances across a battle between messenger Lisa Bone and some of the Complexes' Mafia types, the 'Yaks.' Lisa is running from some serious trouble; already two friends have died in her stead. Gahzee and Lisa are caught up in a power struggle and Gahzee discovers that the 'Yaks' have killed off everyone living in one of the Enclaves with the use of the stolen technology. He's too late. Gahzee claims the Enclave and means to clean up the entire world with the help of Lisa Bone and her friends, and an independent power base, the Jones Co-op.
This is a tale of hope, for mankind, and for the future of the planet. Svaha is Amerindian and means "the time between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder; a waiting for promises to be fulfilled". Svaha is the new name of the acquired Enclave.
From Booklist, American Library Association, 1989:
Another unique book by one of the most original fantasy writers currently working. Recommended for any collection where de Lint has an audience.
From Locus Magazine, 1988:
When Charles de Lint, master of urban fantasy, decides to write a cyberpunk novel, it's going to be a strange one. This is a pastoral mystical novel, like most of de Lint's. As with the others, what keeps it from being absurd is a deft hand with characterization and a love for the mystic religions. De Lint knows that mysticism is not a way to hide from the world, but a way to deal with it differently. His characters do know when action is necessary and take action at those times. De Lint's readers who normally read only fantasy should try this book: it's very well handled, and might get them started on reading more SF. And those who normally read only SF may find that it tempts them to read more fantasy.
From The Fulcrum, University of Ottawa, 1989:
De Lint has done what he is best at here produced a story about people and how they deal with their environment, and the places that history has built, or dug, for them. The major characters in this book are likeable people, not the saints that some authors paint their heroes as… If you are interested in near-future SF, this is a must read. If you are just looking for an interesting and gripping read, then you will enjoy Svaha as well.
From Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact:
Charles de Lint is renowned for his fantasies in which moderns confront faery, the realm of myth, legend, and history, or in which head confronts heart and the truer, nobler paths of existence. Now he gives us the same confrontations in science fiction instead of fantasy and proves that his skills are independent of the difference. Svaha has love, mysticism, honor, martial arts, murder, more mysticism, blood, more love, superhero deeds, and high hopes. It's got it all, something for everyone, and it's very satisfying.
Bookbrowser.com, Oct. 2000:
As the twenty-first century is half way through its final decade, the world is a terrible place to live except for the Enclaves. Most of the residents of the planet live in polluted communities ruled totally by money and greed with things turning worse all the time as the world nears collapse under the weight of destruction and devastation and dissolution. On the other hand, the Enclave is a clean environment where the tribes thrive in peace. The powers of the disease ridden environs outside the Enclave blame the problems on the Tribes as a means of diverting accountability by using a convenient scapegoat to silent the masses.
A flyer containing an Enclave technological chip that could help cleanse the world crashes in the outside. Afraid that it will be misused, the Enclavers send Gahzee into the precarious mess to retrieve the chip before the outside world begins encroachment on the Enclaves.
Svaha is a reprint of the classic tale of Native American magic mingling in a world on the eve of destruction caused by self-interests polluting the environment and the minds of the people. The story line is fast-paced, filled with action, and loaded with fully developed characters representing different sides of the conflict. This novel shows why Charles de Lint has been so highly regarded by fans of science fiction and fantasy for well over a decade. Readers of Hiero's Journey will fully relish this great tale.
Fantastica Daily :
Ever found yourself watching one of those old westerns in which the cowboys always stiff the Indians, and realize you wish the guys with the braids and cool horses would emerge triumphant just once? If so, then Charles de Lint will score big with Svaha. Ahhhh, this nice little paperback release of an oldie but goodie has it all: adventure, ninjas, romances, tragedy, surprises, a wily coyote, mystery, and just the right touch of spirituality. In a nutshell this is one sweet read.
Svaha refers to "…the time between seeing the lightning and hearing the thunder; a waiting for promises to be fulfilled." For starters, the Natives have won BIG-time in the legal arena. Withdrawing from the rest of the polluted world into their enclaves, the Indigenous peoples live the good life compared to the rest of humanity. But when communication with one enclave is cut off, our main man Gahzee is sent into the wilderness to retrieve valuable technology, where he hooks up with one very special coyote and the divine Ms. Lisa, whose own troubles are directly connected with Gahzee's quest. But this little tribe of three is just the beginning of the cast of characters de Lint breathes life into: Ragman, Goro, Phillip Yip, Miko, and all the walk-ons are memorable in their own right. No matter how big or small their part in the play of the plot, de Lint stamps each character onto the screen of your imagination with deadly precision. As in his beautiful Forests of the Heart, de Lint makes the unreal very real and alluring.
So while Gahzee closes in on the object of his mission, other folks are embarking on major life changes, such as the honorable Phillip Yip, who strives to do the "right" thing by his employer and himself—with unexpected consequences at every turn; the exquisite Miko, long overdue for an escape from her personal prison; the gangster Goro, who engorges himself at the expense of others; and the ever-resourceful computer wizard Ragman, who has more than a few wires up his sleeve. But it's Gahzee's own journey's unexpected twists and turns that put a real spin on the outcome of everyone else's adventure. Ahhhh, the power of the Dreamtime.
If you're looking for a stocking stuffer that'll hold your best bud's interest for longer than the latest DVD, Charles de Lint's Svaha ought to fill the bill quite nicely.