Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Mon Apr 25 22:45:52 EDT 1994

Raymond's Reviews #196 (short takes)

(These were never posted to USENET.)

%T Flare Star
%A Paula E. Downing
%I DelRey
%D April 1992
%O paperback, US$3.99
%P 249
%G ISBN 0-345-37165-8

As this novel opens, the underground human colony on Wolf II is nearly destroyed when Wolf 359, a dormant flare star, wakes up. Their only hope of survival is the scheduled re-supply freighter due in within days; but on that freighter, the Ceti Flag, tensions among the crew are turning command decisions into the instruments of vendetta. Can the colony survive long enough for the Ceti Flag to arrive? Will the Ceti's crew be able to pull together to evacuate the colony, or will they self-destruct and take the imperiled colonists down with them? This is a neatly executed little suspense/adventure novel with a bit more sympathy for even its "villain" characters than usual; no groundbreaker, but a pleasant read.

%T Captain Jack Zodiac
%A Michael Kandel
%I Bantam Spectra
%D April 1992
%O paperback, US$5.99
%P 260
%G ISBN 0-553-29367-2

Michael Kandel obviously wants to be Philip K. Dick when he grows up, and this book is almost good enough to redeem that ambition. He gives us the story of Clifford Koussevitsky, a well-meaning everynebbish who will dare any peril to marry the woman he loves and be reunited with his two estranged children. Off we go on a whirligig ride through a world of demonic chicken salads, quantum-delocalized mall-zombies, man-eating lawns, subways to (not from) Hell, teleportation pills, and permanent floating nuclear war. As Cliff's world zigzags deeper into surrealistic insanity, one could be forgiven for thinking the novel is yet another attack of the kind of boring `symbolic' avant-gardism that isn't supposed to make any sense --- but Kandel, it turns out, is (like the original Surrealists) cleverer than that. There's a deus behind the machina, and Cliff eventually solves his problems in a resoundingly nontrivial way. Halfway through this book I expected to pan it; now I give it a cautious recommendation to anyone who enjoys the mad-genius-on-speed style of prose construction. There's plenty of that here.

%T Lord of the Troll-Bats
%A Alexis Gilliland
%I DelRey
%D May 1992
%O paperback, US$3.99
%P 231
%G ISBN 0-345-37467

Third (and possibly not the last) of the duology _Wizenbeak_ and _The_Shadow _Shaia_ (RR#66), this book offers us a look at a society of wholly sentient troll-bats who keep humans as chattels (reversing the situation in Wizenbeak's Guhland). The King-Patriarch finds himself nose-deep in trouble once again when the ex-Patriarch Gorabani drives Shaia's ghost out of Queen Marjia's body and summons the Demon Lord of the Troll-Bats to destroy Wizenbeak. Warfare, intrigue and skulduggery ensue as Wizenbeak, Jankura, and Count Braley struggle to halt a most peculiar invasion. Through all is woven a clever subplot involving Wizenbeak's efforts to change Guhland in ways which (though he does not realize it) will quickly doom the feudal system as he knows it. Ironic, funny, and dry --- this is truly original fantasy.

Up to Eric's Home Page To Index Mon Apr 25 22:45:52 EDT 1994

Eric S. Raymond <esr@snark.thyrsus.com>