Aug 1998 Vol. 2.08
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SFRevu brings Science Fiction reviews and interviews to the web each month.
©
1998 by Ernest Lilley

Contents - News -Contact - Interviews - New Releases -Paperbacks - RetroReview - Movies - Next Month

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Contents:
A Word from the Editor: Back from Worldcon, with tales to tell...
NewsBits: News from friends and SF luminaries. Contact: SFRevu's forays into the world of SF Fandom. WorldCon 1998 BucConeer . Cons, Discussion Groups and Appearances:

Interview&Review David Brin / Heaven's Reach J. Gregory Keyes / Newton's Cannon

New Titles: Antarctica by Kim Stanley Robinson Deepdrive by Alexander Jablokov Bhagavarti by Kara Dalkey Star Trek Voyager: Pathways by Jeri Taylor Shapes of Their Hearts by Melissa Scott Lord of Sunset by Parke Godwin Accidental Creatures by Anne Harris Now in Paperback! : The Searchers:Book 1 City of Iron by Chet Williamson Child Of The River : The First Book of Confluence by Paul J. McAuley Roads Not Taken: Tales of Alternate History edited by Gardner Dozios & Stanley Schmidt
RetroReview: Startide Rising
SFRevu Goes to the Movies: The Avengers Video Review: The Prophecy Ii The Postman Devil’s Advocate (The)
Credits: Crew, Contributors, Cover art Next Month in SFRevu:

Contents - News -Contact - Interviews - New Releases -Paperbacks - RetroReview - Movies - Next Month

But first, a word from the Editor:

I went to my first Worldcon this month. I'd wanted to go in the past, but things came up, or it was too darn far, or something. This year Worldcon was in Baltimore, located at the Baltimore Convention center to be precise, and at a host of hotels surrounding the center. As Brenda Clough, hostess of the SFWA suite said as the SFRevu crew (Sharon, Steve, and I) registered at the Hilton, "Worldcon…more exercise than most fans get all year." Too true, Brenda. Next year the con moves to Australia, but Trekking back and forth to this year's programming, I've already gone walkabout.

We provided online coverage every day, and having committed myself to doing so, I was holed up in the hotel room mornings putting together WebPages from a collection of digital pics I'd taken with our new digital camera (a Kodak DC260 Megapixel). Check out CONTACT to see what we posted. Every night I was holed up at the endless parties, and the rest of the Con is a little fuzzy.

I was delighted that two of the authors we have reviewed, interview, and enjoyed received Hugos - Joe Haldeman for FOREVER PEACE and Allen Steele for Best Novella with "...Where Angels Fear To Tread". Pictures of both are on the SFConSite.

We ran into both David Brin and J. Gregory Keyes at Worldcon, and I mugged with both for the camera. We are running two reviews of Brin books here, as well as one of his movie, THE POSTMAN, and a short interview. J. Gregory Keyes fares almost as well, with last month's review of BLACKGOD and this month's NEWTON'S CANNON and a really great interview with an interesting author. Next month we'll bring you his B5 novel - DARK GENESIS: THE BIRTH OF THE PSI CORPS - which starts in the near future to lay the foundation for the B5 universe.

There are plenty of books reviewed in this issue besides. Kim Stanley Robinson's ANTARCTICA cools things off in Paul Giguere's review, while EJ McClure takes a look at Bhagavarti by Kara Dalkey and Steve Sawicki kicks back with videos and popcorn. Moviewise we snuck in a quick review of THE AVENGERS, opening the weekend this issue goes on the web. Speaking of Worldcon and movies, I saw a trailer there for a project currently being filmed that I can only hope gets finished. William Shatner stars as himself in a splendid examination of the difference between reality and fantasy called FREE ENTERPRISE in which two filmmakers run into Shatner in an adult bookstore in LA. Dreams are shattered and dreams are born. In one memorable line, where Shatner is talking up his desire to perform in a muscial adaptation of Julius Ceaser where he plays all the parts, one of the filmakers asks, "If you play Caesar and Brutus, doesn't that mean you'll have to stab yourself in the back?" To which Shatner replies, without missing a beat, "I've done that before." It looks great, but the word is it may never get finished. Let's hope it does.

Ernest Lilley, Editor / Publisher SFRevu

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Contents - News -Contact - Interviews - New Releases -Paperbacks - RetroReview - Movies - Next Month

NewsBits: If you’d like me to consider a plug for your next book, congratulate you on marrying a space alien, or whatever, send your newsbits to SFRevu@aol.com with the Word NEWSBIT in the message title. Please keep bits down to 50 words or so, and brace yourself for my editing them anyway.

(Katya Reimann) Marriage and other changes: Things are changing. This was the first convention (Worldcon) I've been to in which I really did not have enough time. It feels odd--after all the work I've put into learning how to look busy and happy so I didn't stand out as a newcomer. I like it, of course, but I don't trust it. People who don't know me are buying the hardcover. That's pretty exciting. There's going to be a fresh launch of books 1 & 2 sometime in March--ok, that's rather far away, but ultimately probably better than having them dribbling onto shelves. (A formal announcement:) Katya Reimann, author of the Tielmaran Chronicles, was married to Tim Gardner on the 11th of July (Readercon weekend) in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Tim is an inorganic chemist working on the polymers of the future. Your beeper's next screen may not be glass... They are looking forward to future collaborations, literary and otherwise.

(Christopher McKitterick): Here's some marital news: Kij Johnson and I  got married on July 4 in a small, family ceremony at the restored Westin Acquila in Omaha.
Her dad, a Lutheran pastor, did the honors, and my brother and John Ordover stood for us. John was our matchmaker, which is why we chose him to stand. We honeymooned at James Gunn's workshop because -- besides fulfilling this year's final duties for the Sturgeon Award (Kij is a final judge and I'm the nominations director) -- is that this is where we met four years ago. Imagine: Kansas in the summer, romantic! We had a great time despite the boiling conditions.

(Patrick O'Leary) The Gift--Nominated for The World Fantasy Award--Best Novel
Buds,World Fantasy was the first convention I ever attended--nearly three years ago.Imagine how I feel.best as always,

(Michael P. Belfiore) SFWAn Michael P. Belfiore opens his one-man show "Abducted!" at the New York International Fringe Festival August 19-30, 1998. Abducted and forced to share a body, three men, two women, and an alien learn the true meaning of the word "togetherness." From their struggle for survival, a story emerges of secret government programs, a crashed UFO, and alien reproductive experiments. Call 1-888-FringeNYC for tickets or visit the show's Web site at http://www.sff.net/people/mpbelfiore/abducted!.htp.

(Andy Heidel) BEYOND THE WALL OF SLEEP. R. Andrew Heidel makes his literary debut with  a collection of original short stories and poetry. It is the first book to be published by the small press MORTCO "Stirring! Superb! Bravo!" _Ray Bradbury, "A collection of magical and surrealist works_"_Cited under Single-author Story Collections  The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Volume 11 edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.

(Science Fiction, Mysteries & More!) Lost Our Lease! Help us find Space!

Unfortunately our landlord no longer wishes to rent to us. So we are having a probable going out of business sale. Buy 2 things and get a third one of equal or lower price free. Cash or checks (including travelers)only. Quantity purchases even better discounts. Fixtures available also. We are still trying to find a new location we can afford preferably in lower Manhattan and are offering $100 in merchandise if you can find us one. If we find a place we will send out an email and put it on our web site. For those of you who we don't see before we disappear its been a pleasure doing business with you over the last six years. Alan & Jane

We are also having a contest to give a way tickets to a new comedy time travel thriller with David McCallum (one of the men from U.N.C.L.E. for you youngsters)

Science Fiction, Mysteries & More! Alan Zimmerman, Bookseller sfmm@bab5.com http://www.bab5.com 140 Chambers Street N.Y., N.Y. 10007-1007 1(212)385-8798 Hours M-F 11:30-7:00 Sat 2:30-6:30

(John Douglas) World Fantasy Awards Nominees
Following is a listing of the World Fantasy Awards Ballot covering the 1997 award year.The awards will be presented at the World Fantasy Convention in Monterey, California. The convention runs Thursday, October 29 through Sunday, November 1 and the awards banquet will be on Sunday. Information on the convention is available on the web at: http://www.pensfa.org/wfc98/

NOVEL: TRADER, by Charles de Lint (Tor), THE PHYSIOGNOMY, by Jeffrey Ford (Avon), aMERICAN GOLIATH, by Harvey Jacobs (St. Martin's), THE GIFT, by Patrick O'Leary (Tor), THE CLUB DUMAS, Arturo Perez-Reverte (First published in Spanish 1993., First English translation 1996 by Sonia Soto. First English printing 1997, Harcourt Brace.)

NOVELLA: "Streetcar Dreams" by Richard Bowes (F&SF, 4/97), "The Dripping of Sundered Wineskins" by Brian Hodge (LOVE IN VEIN II, , Edited by Poppy Z. Brite, HarperPrism), "The Fall of the Kings" by Ellen Kushner & Delia Sherman (BENDING THE LANDSCAPE: FANTASY, White Wolf Borealis), "Coppola's Dracula" by Kim Newman (THE MAMMOTH BOOK OF DRACULA, Robinson Raven, UK), "The Zombies of Madison County" by Douglas E. Winter (DARK OF THE NIGHT, Pumpkin Books),

SHORT FICTION: "Dust Motes" by P.D. Cacek (GOTHIC GHOSTS, TOR), "Fortune and Misfortune" by Lisa Goldstein (Asimov's 5/97), "Get a Grip" by Paul Park (OMNI On Line, 3/97) , "The Inner Inner City" by Robert Charles Wilson (NORTHERN FRIGHTS 4, MOSAIC PRESS), "Audience" by Jack Womack (THE HORNS OF ELFLAND, ROC)

ANTHOLOGY: MODERN CLASSICS OF FANTASY, Ed. Gardner Dozois (St. Martin's), BENDING THE LANDSCAPE: FANTASY, Ed. Nicola Griffith & Stephen Pagel, (White Wolf Borealis),NORTHERN FRIGHTS 4, Ed. Don Hutchison (Mosaic Press), DARK TERRORS 3, Ed. Stephen Jones & David Sutton (Gollancz), MILLENNIUM, also as REVELATIONS, Ed. Douglas E. Winter (Voyager; HarperPrism)

COLLECTION: GIANT BONES, Peter S. Beagle (Roc), DRIVING BLIND, Ray Bradbury (Avon), FRACTAL PAISLEYS, by Paul Di Filippo (Four Walls Eight Windows), THE THRONE OF BONES, Brian McNaughton (Terminal Fright), A GEOGRAPHY OF UNKNOWN LANDS, Michael Swanwick (Tigereyes Press),

ARTIST: Rick Berry, Jim Burns, Alan Lee, Don Maitz, Dave McKean,

PROFESSIONAL: Ellen Datlow For Editing & Anthologies, Gardner Dozois For Editing & Anthologies, THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FANTASY, Ed. John Clute and John Grant (Orbit, St.Martin's), Stephen Jones For Editing & Anthologies, Gordon Van Gelder For Editing Books (St. Martin's) & for Editing The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction

NON-PROFESSIONAL: Richard Chizmar For Cemetery Dance Magazine and CD Publications, Fedogan & Bremer For book publishing Chris Logan Edwards For Tigereyes Press, Barry Hoffman For Gauntlet Magazine and Gauntlet book publishing, Jeff VanderMeer For The Ministry of Whimsy Press,

(Jim Gunn) take a look at THE ROAD TO SCIENCE FICTION #6: AROUND THE WORLD.
It's a big book (656 pages) and has a big variety of stories from all corners of the world. It may be time that English-language readers became aware of SF traditions elsewhere, and this anthology is a good place to start.

(Ted Bohus) NEWS FLASH! New issue of SPFX: Special EFfects Magazine due out by Sept 20th!
ILM-Dennis Muren, Lorne Peterson, Dan Taylor. Artist/Filmmaker Richard Corben. David Hedison/Pat Owens interview (The Fly) Making Chitty Chitty Bang Bang interview with director Ken Hughes. Ray Harryhausen. Creature From the Black Lagoon. Rare pix and interview with producer William Alland...and more!

Contents - News -Contact - FocusOn - New Releases -Paperbacks - RetroReview - Movies - Next Month

Contact SFRevu's forays into the world of SF Fandom.

 WorldCon 1998 BucConeer
(left: Hugo Winners Joe Haldeman (r) and Gardner Dozois (l) get carried away with the swashbuckling theme and try to fence their Hugos.)

August 5-9 - WorldCon 1998 BucConeer: Guests of Honor: C.J. Cherryh, Milton A. Rothman, Stanley Schmidt, Michael Whelan; Toastmaster Charles Sheffield Special Guest J. Michael Straczynski / Location: Baltimore, Maryland http://www.bucconeer.worldcon.org/

We went, we walked, we Worldconned.

As noted elsewhere, SFRevu's digital camera really got around at in Baltimore, and you can pop over to our SFConSite to see what we saw. You can also read SFRevu contributor Bob Devney's Hugo acceptance speech, which, sadly he wound up not needing.

As long as Devney was at the con however, we begged him for a collection of his classic quotations from the con. Begging, we find, is tremendously effective: Maureen McHugh: I have a biology background. Audience Member: We all do. Alexander Jablokov: People say, this can't be Hard SF because theres somtheing charming about the prose. Alexander Jablokov: The thing about the ANALOG Mafia is , if wtirers don't hang out with writers, who will? Connie Willis: I don't surf the net...I surf books. Absolute Magnitude Publisher Warren Lapine's take on SF Clubs: Lots of people who get togehter and don't read.

Cons, Discussion Groups and Appearances:

Aug 15 3:00pm New York Science Fiction Society (Lunarians) Meeting - Location :TRS,Inc. NYC
Aug 18 8:00pm SFABC Author Discussion Group: David Brin- Discussion lead by SFRevu Editor Ernest Lilley Location: Border Books & Music Rt17 So. Paramus, NJ.
August 25 8:00pm SFABC Topic Discussion - Fantasy & Religion Location: Border Books & Music Wayne, NJ
Augt 28-30 - ArmadilloCon 20 The Premiere Literary SF Convention in Tx Location: Omni Southpark Austin, TX www.io.com/~llw/dillo/
Sep 3-6 - Dragon*Con Over 300 guests, 550 hr of SF, F, Gaming, Comics & Science related programming Location: Hyatt Regency Atlanta & Atlanta Apparel Mart www.dragoncon.org
Sep 4-6 - Battlestar Galactica 20 Yahren Reunion Many cast guests Location: Universal City Hilton Hotel & Towers Univesal City, CA www.wcos.com/cerebus
Sep 4-6 - ConFluence'98 Return to Mars GOH Nancy Kress + many award winning authors & editors Location: Pittsburg, PA P.O.Box 3681
Sep 4-6 - ConiFur NorthWest Location: Seattle, WA www.picarefy.com/conifur
Sep 4-7 - Spectrum 72 Hour Gaming Event Location: Sheraton Meadowland Hotel E.Rutherford, NJ www.io.com/~salvius/
Sep 5-7 - The MediaConnection Expo Media guests, Writers and Artists including Ethan Phillips, Claudia Christian, Frank Gorshin, Greg Cox, Esther Friesner and more MC: SFRevu contributor & Sci-Fi Talk Host Tony Tellado Location: Chelsea Piers (23rdSt & West St), NY, NY www.mediaconnection.net
Sep 11- SFABC Final Frontier Meeting -7:30pm Barnes & Noble Book Store Livingston, NJ Religion in Star Trek
Sep 12- Science Fiction Association of Bergen County Meeting -8:00pm Cultural Center Upper Saddle River, NJ. Guest speaker: James Morrow . Northern NJ's premier SF club http://sfabc.home.ml.org
Sep 17-20 - Shorecon '98 Board,card,computer,live action & role-playing games Location: Hilton Cherry Hill, NJ www.multigenre.com
Oct 2-4 - Archon 22 GOH James P.Hogan Location: Gateway Convention Ctr Collinsville, IL (St.Louis area) www.stif.org/archon/
Oct 2-4 - Con*ept/Boreal 1998 GOH Robert Sawyer Location: Days Inn Downtown Montreal, Canada http://afm.infinit.net/concept
Oct 2-4 -Context XI GOH Larry Niven Location: Harley Hotel Columbus, OH www.contextcon.con
Oct 2-4 - ZonCon Hudson Leick (from Xena) Mira Furlan (B5) Location: Best Western Hotel & Conference Center Baltimore, MD http://members.tripod.com/~ZonCon
Oct 9-11 - Ohio Valley Filk Fest 14 Location: Wyndham Dublin Hotel Columbus, OH www.inkspot.com/~ohi/cons/ovff
Oct 9-11 - AlbaCon '98 GOH Ester Freisner, AGOH Jael Location: Ramada Inn Schenectady, NY www.albacon.org
Oct 23-25 -CouverCon '98 The Sentinel Benefitting The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation Location: Westin Bayshore Vancouver, B.C., Canada http://members.aol.com/trky12/home.html
Oct 25-27 - Contact 16 GOH Frederik Pohl Location: Holiday Inn-Airport Evansville, IN P.O.Box 3894 zip 47737

Contents - News -Contact - Interviews - New Releases -Paperbacks - RetroReview - Movies - Next Month

Interviews & Reviews:Author: David Brin Book: Heaven's Reach / Author: J. Gregory Keyes Book: Newton's Cannon

brinandme.jpg (8620 bytes) Author: David Brin Book: Heaven's Reach
(l-r: Ernest Lilley, David Brin)
I've been a Brin fan since I read STARTIDE RISING on my honeymoon a little over a decade ago. No, really, she understood...I think. Following that, my favorite Brin is probably THE POSTMAN (The book, you ninnies!). Follow the links to our reviews of the book and the movie elsewhere in the issue. I was delighted to finally meet David Brin at an Avon/EOS reception (Space Age Martini Maddness) at Worldcon, and got a chance to mug with him. Before the con, he answered a few questions for us to go with the reveiw of the final installment of the second Uplift trilogy. - Ernest

SFRevu: The second uplift trilogy answers some of the questions posed in STARTIDE RISING, though it leaves as many hanging. Did you know why the cadaver found in the millennia old space derelict was so pivotal when you wrote the first book?

David Brin: I thought the billion year old cadaver 'Herbie', would turn out to be more important. In fact, he's sort of an observer to the passionate adventures of these distant descendants. I don't feel obliged to answer every question in a tidy way. Life isn't like that, and certainly most adventures are not. Especially people in the front lines and in the trenches seldom get as good a look at the big picture as my characters do. There's seldom a 'parlor scene' when somebody explains everything in excruciating detail. Nevertheless I'll gradually peel back layers as the years pass. I hope people will find it worthwhile.

SFR: It seemed to me that you made an artistic decision to leave those questions unanswered the first time. How did you come around to want to fill in the story? Will you continue, perhaps with further epilogs, to get back to some of the characters we've abandoned along the way?

DB: I haven't abandoned anybody. There are hints through INFINITY'S SHORE and BRIGHTNESS REEF that people will later look back upon and say 'Aha!' But I refuse to be trapped into writing all of my books in the same universe. It's a calamity that has ruined many a good writer. How can you stay fresh and creative when you can only work in one sandbox? I always try and alternate my projects, having some that are set in the near future, dealing with serious implications, and others that are more extravagant and fun in their exploration of possible destinies.

SFR: It seems like chimp and dolphin research, which was tremendously exciting in the 60's, has pretty much died out. Is there any uplift research being done today? Do we have to face being alone in the universe?

DB: There's a lot of groundwork that has to be done before humans start meddling in higher animal species, attempting to do them 'good' by meddling in their genes. Just getting the entire genome written down, so you know every bit of their DNA, is only the beginning. Understanding how to read those sequences and how they translate into physical traits is completely another step. Another thing we'll wrestle with is the moral issues, whether we have the right to meddle, and whether our need to have other voices in our civilization is strong enough to justify the inevitable pain creatures will experience along the way.

SFR: What do you think of the world's senses of ecology and community?

DB: Environmentalism only happens when people aren't worried where their children's next meal is coming from. Everything is tied together. Science, justice, a good economy, and saving the Earth. None of these can be accomplished unless all four happen at the same time.

SFR: Have you changed? Would you approach these themes differently today?

DB: Everyone keeps changing, which is one reason is why you should not get trapped in just one universe. It's vital to keep yourself fresh in attempting things that are new.

SFR: I've always loved Trinary. How far back does your interest in Haiku go? Are there any good sources or forums for people interested in it? Feel free to answer in Haiku.

DB: There are people who have suggested some preliminary designs for Trinary, but my whole purpose is to suggest that the language was invented to solve practical problems that people encountered while uplifting dolphins. We don't know yet what those pragmatic problems are going to be, so I'd better leave the details vague. Trinary and dolphin haiku were written to represent the fact that dolphins are caught between two worlds: the exciting new world of logical thought that humans have given them, and the enticing beauty of their ancient whale-dream.

SFR: While the movie lost its SF component, and ran typically epic in Costner's hands, we found a lot to like in THE POSTMAN anyway. Acknowledging that a book leaves the author's control when the movie rights are sold, were you happy with it? Did you get to hobnob with Costner and Tom Petty? Do you have to wear dark glasses when you go out to avoid the screaming fans?

DB: I never met Tom Petty and just had a total of three minutes with Costner. I met Steve Tisch, the executive producer the night of the premiere. It would have been a better movie if they had talked to me... and yet I have fewer complaints than many might think. The movie, for all its glaring faults, has a great big heart. About two-thirds of it is moving, thoughtful, and a cousin to the moral message I tried to raise in my book.

So how can I bitch and moan? It's a flawed movie about important stuff. While TITANIC was a perfect movie about nothing. Which would you rather be associated with?

Heaven's Reach By David Brin
ISBN 0-553-10174-9 / Bantam Spectra hardcover Jun '98 / Review by Ernest Lilley

I will grant you one thing," remarked the voice from the spinning hologram. "Wherever you Terrans travel in the universe, you do tend to leave a mark. … Two million centuries. That is how long the library says this particular structure existed, calmly orbiting the galaxy, a refuge of peace. Then, then one day, some wolflings came by for a brief visit."
"Albeit reluctantly, Dr. Baskin," the Niss machine concluded, "I am impressed. Congratulations."
- Niss Computer to Gillian Baskin in HEAVEN'S REACH

It's been a long and winding road for the TAASF Streaker, the dolphin/human crewed starship David Brin introduced a more than a decade ago in STARTIDE RISING (see our RetroReview this issue). David Brin's Uplift Saga, the tale of Earth's poking its nose out into the ancient Civilization of Five Galaxies, is one of the most beloved tales in SF. Billed as the second Uplift trilogy, BRIGHTNESS REEF, INFINITY'S SHORE, and HEAVEN'S REACH are more accurately the final volumes in a quadrilogy starting with STARIDE RISING.

Brin doesn't often return to a universe once he's created it, but fortunately the Uplift universe is big enough so that he can expand its cast to his heart's content. It's a good thing because the questions left unanswered in the first book have been nagging at readers ever since.

For the past three books the action has centered on Jijo, a world declared off limits for colonization as it slowly heals from the wounds left by former tenants. Here a mixture of alien races live together in peace, bonded by their status as outlaws on a world declared fallow. In space, their counterparts live in a constant state of siege, warring with each other in an ancient dance of patrons and alliances, uplift and extinction.

In the last book (INFINITIES SHORE), the action moved off planet as the Streaker headed back into space for another attempt to outwit its pursuers and get its cargo of ancient relics home or at least to a responsible authority. Finding anyone responsible in the Five Galaxies has been the chief concern of the series, as the mature galactic civilization dissolves into bloodshed and broken alliances trying to seize the Streaker's cargo for themselves. Exactly what's so all fired important about an ancient cadaver from a fleet of ghost ships escapes our heroes, who only know they've been running for their lives for the last four books.

Now the original crew of the Streaker, commanded by Jillian Baskin - bio-engineered Terragens agent, and counseled by a sardonic alien AI, is joined by humans and aliens from the illegal refugee colonies of Jijo. It's a typically colorful lot of creatures, including delegates from each of the races of Jijo, scooped out of the ocean at the end of the last episode.

Brin takes time to introduce a few more characters into this maelstrom, as well as a new setting - E-Space - a disturbing reality where ideas can exist without a mind to host them and everything is viewed by metaphor. Into E-Space plunges Harry Harms, a Neo-chimpanzee who has left his Terran roots behind to work for the Galactic Institute of Navigation. Brin's Neo-Chimps have an irreverent Golden Age SF kind of personality that his human characters can't quite get away with, and throughout the series they remain the characters I identify with most easily.

Of course, the Neo-Dolphins remain one of the most cunningly constructed consciousness in SF. Speaking in Hiaku-like (or more accurately, Sci-Fiku) Trinary, and leaping joyfully through hyperspace in the Streaker; they are more like children we cannot quite understand, playful and courageous, wise and foolish all at once. Sadly, the attrition of the officers over the series' run means we have lost many of these engaging characters, and Brin is too good a writer to thaw more out of stasis or some other device to provide an endless supply.

HEAVEN'S REACH is about running out. Running out of crew, running out of options, running out of time. Still, it is also about the audacity of Wolflings, the perversity of chance and for a lucky few, even about coming home.

Streaker's story may finish up here, and a number of questions strewn along the way may be answered, but certainly not all. If the author chooses too, and he hints that he may, we may yet visit some of those cast adrift along the way in tales to come. If you haven't read the beginning of the series, take up STARTIDE RISING before the later set. If you have, you won't want to miss the conclusion of Streaker's run.

keyes.jpg (15971 bytes)Author: J. Gregory Keyes Book: Newton's Cannon

SFRevu: Your jacket bio says "born in Mississippi and raised there and on a Navaho reservation in Arizona." How did you manage that? How old were you when you went to the reservation? What did your parents do?

J.Gregory Keyes: My father was the business manager of the Navajo Community College, in Many Farms, Az (it s in Tsaile, now). I guess I was about five when we moved out there.

SFR: It's no secret the I think highly of your writing (SFRevu is quoted on the paperback edition of BLACKGOD). Aside from having something to say how did you manage to appear suddenly as a skilled storyteller? Did you study writing, or grow up as a storyteller? Did you write stories before you were published? What was your first sale?

JGK: Well, I appreciate being called a skilled story teller - I often feel more clumsy then skilled, but my hope is that I get more adept as I go along.

I’m from a storytelling family, especially on my mother’s side. When I was in my early teens, I was the youngest of five generations still alive, and I remember from a very early age the family stories told again and again, somewhat different each time. It was almost a shock when I one day found myself of an age to be the one telling the stories. So far I’ve never been able to untangle the community feel of those tales to write them down, but I think I learned a lot about evaluating what makes a good story. The oral tradition has a tougher audience, in many ways, than the written one.

I always wrote, too. I read a lot - my mother started me in that habit by reading to me. As a kid always lived in rural areas - northern Arizona and central Mississippi. I never had more than one TV station and not usually even that, so life for me was balanced between the roaming in the real world of forests and deserts and the world of the imagination I found in books. Of course the two informed one another. I deeply identify with Bill Waterson’s character Calvin - for me the stark Arizona desert was Mars. When we moved back to Mississippi, I found myself in the lush and tropical environs of Venus - and so on.

I wrote short stories and first chapters of novels, not unlike a lot of kids. This last tour I was in Birmingham Alabama and a woman brought me this yellowed, newsprint magazine. It turned out to be THE APOCOLYPSE, the literary magazine of a Community College in Meridian, Ms. That particular issue had a poem in it I wrote when I was fourteen. I had forgotten all about it, but this woman - I didn’t know her at all - had somehow remembered and recognized my name when she saw my novels.

I tried to sell a few short stories, but I would start at the top of the market and bail after my first rejection - though looking back on it, I got some pretty helpful rejection letters. I decided I couldn’t write short stories and started on novels, and I wrote four - about one a year - before I wrote THE WATERBORN. Del Rey bought one of the earlier novels - after the Waterborn sale -- but the others - well, they were learning experiences. I may consider revising them one day.

SFR: What made you decide to write The WATERBORN? How hard was writing it? Getting it published?

JGK: Writing THE WATERBORN was easy - it came from some very old ideas of mine. My decision to write it had a lot to do with what I had been writing before - a Native American fantasy set circa 1350 in the deep south. A lot of editors liked things about it, but all in all the milieu was too alien. I set out to write something with the outward form of a more typical fantasy, but the inner themes were mythic ones of the sort I was interested in - and comfortable with - at the time. Del Rey made an offer on it less than two months after my agent started shopping it. I was stunned. It was my first sale.

SFR: Do you plot out your books? Are you conscious of the mythic themes or are you just so immersed in them that they come out by themselves? Do your characters surprise you with free will?

JGK: I plot out my books, but they rarely go as I plan them. My best thinking comes in the writing, not in the planning, and the characters do, indeed, take on lives of their own and begin to dictate where the story goes. The cover scene of the WATERBORN - which depicts Perkar charging down to fight the Huntress - was something I never planned. I expected Perkar to let his friend make the sacrifice and to ride on. I realised, at the same point that Perkar did, in a sense, that he would never do that, that he would go back down to meet his death. Finding a way to save him utterly altered the shape of the book.

I like it when my characters do this - it makes writing more like reading - but it can put me in some bad spots. The mythic themes are sometimes planned, but I often see them only after I’ve written them.

SFR: Del Rey seems to have recognized your promise at the outset. The cover art for both THE WATERBORN and THE BLACKGOD (by Tom Kidd) are excellent and fit the books perfectly. Was the organization supportive? How did you work with your editor? Was there much interaction?

JGK: I was wholly unprepared for the support I got from Del Rey, from the organization as a whole and from the individuals involved. I continue to be astonished by it, to tell you the truth, and gratified, of course. When THE WATERBORN was published, I asked that everyone involved sign it. It looks like a high school yearbook. It should - a book is the product of many hands, many voices and talents. The tendency of an author is to take the credit when a book turns out well and blame the publisher when it doesn’t. I try not to fall into that kind of thinking, because it isn’t productive.

I owe a lot to my editor, Veronica Chapman. THE WATERBORN got a very light edit, but her suggestions for changes were right on target, and have continued to be since then. NEWTON’S CANNON actually got a fairly heavy edit - my research included reading a lot of 18th century literature, and I was seduced by the obtuse language of the period -- forgetting that people don’t read MOLL FLANDERS or TRISTRAM SHANDY anymore unless they are forced to, and for good reason. I also fell prey to the syndrome that Harry Turtledove often speaks of - the "I’ve done my research and you re going to pay for it" dissertations that appear here and there.

It’s tough for a writer to admit he’s written thousands and thousands of words that hamper the telling of the story - it certainly was for me. It’s even harder for an editor to explain this to an author. She did her job, though - weathering one brief and uncalled-for tantrum from me - and the result is a book better than the one I originally wrote.

SFR: Did you read much as a child? What was the first Science Fiction or Fantasy you read?

JGK: Yes. I read the TOM SWIFT books in first and second grade. The first "really real" SF book I read was Lester Del Rey’s MOON OF MUTINY, which I’ve since held up as an interesting coincidence, given my publisher. I read it in the summer after third grade (1972?) in the shade of a Navajo hogan in Rough Rock Arizona -- it never occurred to me how surreal that was until much later.

SFR: Do you currently read much fiction? Who's your favorite author? Did you read Michael Swanwick's JACK FAUST? Have you read much LeGuin?

JGK: I don t read as much as I would like. I feel guilty when I read these days. I read mostly in the tub, because I haven’t found a way to get a word processor in there yet. I haven’t read JACK FAUST, though I plan to one day. Le Guin I grew up reading, of course, and I think she had a profound impact on my sensibilities. I had a strange moment in graduate school, studying anthropology, when I realized that her father was Alfred Kroeber -- a very important American anthropologist. It was a moment that made my academic and fiction choices seem suddenly perfectly complimentary.

SFR: John Campbell has made much of Luke Skywalker as a classic hero, which I think is good, since it gets people to think in bigger terms. What did you think when you saw STAR WARS for the first time? How old were you? Is there any other movie where the hero is closer to your vision of a hero? At what age did you become aware of mythic themes?

JGK: I loved STAR WARS. I had been waiting my whole life for a movie like that, and it did not disappoint. I guess I was about fourteen or fifteen. Luke Skywalker does fit the classic theme of the Hero, yet for me Han Solo was really the hero of the movie, and at the end of the trilogy it was Darth Vader who had my greatest respect, because his choice was the hardest - the moral distance he traveled in just a few moments dwarfed Luke’s accomplishments, in my eyes.

Beowulf is a story I dearly love. Not Beowulf fighting Grendel - we never had any doubt that he could pull that off. It was the aging Beowulf fighting the dragon that got me. It was a fight he knew he could not win, but he went anyway. And when, of all his men, only one - a normal little guy Wiglaf, throws in with him - that scene still has the power to choke me up.

I don’t suppose I was intellectually aware of mythic themes until high school, but I was always surrounded by them - I lived inside of them in Arizona, and I always read folklore and mythology for the story value.

SFR: The hero of THE WATERBORN and THE BLACKGOD also follows the a classic hero's path, leaving a farm discontent and ultimately returning with hard won contentment. He reminds me more of Voltaire's Candide than Skywalker, with his refreshing refusal to trust the forces that surround him. The realization that it's a hero's friend’s job to die so that the hero has something to avenge is a great part of the character. Is Perkar a reaction to other characters? Is his character spontaneous or intentional?

JGK: His character was both spontaneous and intentional, but I’m no longer able to parse out which elements were which. I’m not sure what I really wanted Perkar to be, other than a boy with a sword. Perkar became real for me when he met Ngangata, and if you’ll notice, it's really Ngangata who acts as a focus for Perkar’s realizations. Looking back on it, their relationship is not unlike that of Gilgamesh and Enkidu, though I really can’t say if I was thinking that at the time. I think the best answer to this question is that I wanted to write a character who ought to be the classic hero but who becomes more - rather than less - human. Many mythic heroes just go off the scales until they become stars or constellations or something, and I didn’t want to do that again. If that makes any sense.

SFR: A great part of my enjoyment from THE WATERBORN came from the departure from belief systems overused in Fantasy. Do you think it would spoil things to tell us what the real world cultures you used were? Well? What were they?

JGK: I’ll tell you which ones I used, but in a way it's not important. Let me explain what I mean.

I think, very often, we see a sort of cut-and-paste ethnicity in fantasy. The names of the gods might change or come from exotic pantheons, but they are often treated according to a similar "fantasy" logic. Glakk-Glakk is the god of war, and has the following super-powers. His worshippers pray to him, he has priests who wear this kind of holy symbol, etc. etc. It's a kind of popular and received knowledge about how religion works and what gods are, and source of that understanding is mostly that of the large-scale, mostly western religions. I've seen Native American mythology, for instance, treated in an entirely western way at the level of logic. The writers were concentrating on material details like what the spirits and gods wore or the best way to kill them - without getting into the underlying logic of what they are and how their universe is put together.

On the other hand, a writer can take a mythology that everyone thinks they know something about, and by really understanding that it's underlying principals are not those of modern, twentieth century universal religions, do something very special. I point to Gene Wolfe's SOLDIER IN THE MIST as a perfect example of this. Wolfe shows us the mythic world of the Ancient Greeks as the very strange and alien thing it was.

Different mythologies can help us to think differently - and hence create novel stories, but only if we really try to get inside of them, understand them in their own terms. If you want to write about the Choctaw supernatural world, of instance, and you learn that there is, in their belief, a little supernatural man called Bohpoli, and on quickly reviewing his "powers" you think, "Ah! This is a Native American Leperchaun!" Doing that, you've lost. You end up writing a book about Leperchauns with feathers in their hair.

In the WATERBORN, I wanted to portray a world I already knew something about - a world like the traditional Navajo world. But I wanted to make myself think about it, and to look hard at some mythologies I hadn't before, those of northeastern and north central Asia - Koryak, Chukchee, Altaic, Ainu. I was trying to imagine a mythic culture that would have resonances with these, with the Navajo and other Athbaskan peoples, even with early Indo-European mythologies. I was particularly influenced by Ainu mythology. These are the aboriginal peoples of the islands north of Japan. The songs to their gods are sung in first person, as if by the gods themselves, and this relationship to he supernatural is one you see a lot in Perkar's world. What I was trying to create was a world whose logic would make sense to a traditional Navajo, an Ainu, a practitioner of Shinto - but which would be strange and quirky to the western sensibility. I don't claim to have succeeded in this, but it's what I was shooting for.

Hezhi's spiritual universe is more like what we are used to - temple cultures in which God or gods are seen as being on a quite different plane from human beings. I wanted to contrast this with Perkar's more animate and personal relationships to the "supernatural".

Yikes! A lecture. Sorry about that. It's the 101 teacher in me.

SFR: NEWTON'S CANNON is a substantial departure from your first two books. I like the idea of young Ben Franklin as an active scientist hero as I'm sure he would have. Where did the idea come from? Are you interested in history as well as anthropology?

JGK: A lot of what I do is history, and I actually came into NEWTON S CANNON through my studies of Choctaw ethnohistory. After about 1700, everything that happened with the Native peoples of the southeast was shaped by the presence of the colonial powers, especially France and England. I started pondering something really bad I could do to England in the first few decades of the eighteenth century, to create an alternate history in which North America turned out somewhat differently - with European and Native cultures on a more even footing. I then started looking to see who was alive at that time, both in the Americas and in Europe. What I found was this cast of characters I really couldn't turn down, young Franklin among them. I also discovered the deep weirdness of Isaac Newton, and that shifted the emphasis in the story.

SFR: How many books are there going to be in The Age of Unreason? When and what will they be? How far along is the story arc planned?

JGK: Three books, as of now. The next is A CALCULUS OF ANGELS, and it picks up two years after the events of NEWTON'S CANNON. The third, which I haven't titled yet, skips another ten years or so. CALCULUS is already written, and the final book is about half done.

SFR: When I took Cultural Anthropology as an undergraduate I found it a fascinating field, illuminating my own culture by stepping back to look at it. Does anyone listen to Cultural Anthropologists? Do they ever take an active role in social engineering?

JGK: This is a sore subject with me, actually. Some anthropologists are involved in social engineering (in the third and developing worlds, especially) and I generally don't think they should be. To have dependable engineering, you need something like physics, and anyone who thinks that anthropology has developed a testable body of "laws" didn't study in the same universe I did. Anthropologists who think they are equipped to implement social policy by virtue of their education are, I think, fooling themselves. Put another way, anthropology as a science doesn't have enough theoretical coherence or predictive power to justify mucking around with people's lives based on it. Where anthropologists come in handy, and where I think anthropology has practical applications is in the realm of cultural mediation - translating the world views and practices of different cultures to facilitate negotiation, understanding, coexistence. For instance, the simple fact that traditional Navajos avoid eye contact because they consider it rude becomes a problem when they deal with Anglos who consider avoidance of eye contact a sign of being shifty. Anthropologists can help with things like that, and with things like getting development organizations to understand that sometimes local people really do know what they are doing. That if they've been building houses or farming a certain way for a thousand years it's because they've figured out the optimal way to do it, even if it doesn't look that way to an outsider.

SFR: Do technologically advanced cultures (like ours) have "belief systems"? It seems they must, though they may not be very useful. Can we develop useful ones? Will we? How?

JGK: We certainly have beliefs, some systematic. The thing about real belief is that it operates below the level of consciousness - it's the axioms about how the universe is put together that you don't really question. One thing that I've noticed about U.S. society is the pervasive belief that our problems can always be traced to external causes and that anything bad that happens to you is somehow someone else's fault. If you are unhappy in your job, unable to commit to a relationship, have cancer, stumble and break your leg - by golly, somebody, somewhere is responsible for that, because we aren't and if we're doing everything right, how can we suffer misfortunes? There is an unspoken belief that if you do the right kind of exercise and eat the right kind of diet - or in a slightly different view, get the right kind of surgery - you will live forever, beautiful and young, unless some outside agency mucks this up. This is not an uncommon belief in the world - lots of tribal peoples don't think illness or misfortune just "happens" - they blame sorcerers and evil spirits. In our "modern" world, you hear people who couldn't give you the formula for carbon talking about how they don't want any "chemicals" in their foods (bowl of vacuum, anyone?) and on the flip side, we have chemicals to "solve" every problem from depression to infertility. In other words, we have a deep faith in better living through "science" (actually, technology, but in the popular conscience I don't think the distinction is made) and a commensurate distrust of it, a deep misunderstanding of it. Insofar as people generally don't know what "chemicals" or "microwaves" or whatever really are and do , they become forces to invoke - good and evil spirits, mysterious and potent.

Don't even get me started on conspiracy theories.

I'm interested by clashes of "values" in this country. I was raised outside of organized religion, and have no particular sympathy for it, but I'm often struck by how Christians, for instance, are often denigrated for knowing where their values come from - for believing that their attitudes have a divine and unquestionable source. Their "secular" opponents, however, have just as clear - and, really dogmatic - an understanding of what is right and what is wrong as fundamentalists, and take pride in the fact that they are able to ascertain these truths without reference to written scripture. On a certain level, this actually makes secular values less rational - things are seen as being right or wrong just because they are, because the universe is built that way -- even though no one built it. Press someone on this, and they might be able to give you a very intellectual explanation of their beliefs, complete with references to various philosophers, but the bottom line is that they think there are absolute truths in the universe and that they are privy to them.

Invent new belief systems? Well, belief systems evolve along with society, economy, and environment. By "evolve" I don't mean get better - I just mean they change. You can invent a religion, but I don't think you can predict where it will go. We have this sort of consumer attitude about religion in the U.S. – you can shop around, decide whether you want to be Catholic, Hindu, Wiccan, a Ghostdancer. If what you're searching for is a particular kind of social club - the right religious wallpaper for your life - this makes sense, but I've never noticed that faith works that way. Faith is a strange thing, and poorly understood these days. Not that I understand it either, so I could be wrong.

SFR: What would a Keyesian utopia be like? Alternatively, what is the meaning of life? I know these must seem absurd questions, but it seems to me that the belief systems of different cultures are in large part attempts to realize the answers, and I wondered if you could work backwards from the mechanism to the idea.

JGK: I can't, I'm afraid. My own epiphanies are transitory - they move me through time, link my life together, inform it with little bits of meaning but don't overarch it. I've found great comfort and inspiration in myth, but it always blindsides me, and it has never given me a moment when everything made perfect sense. I'm not sure I would want it to. I'm not sure it's reasonable to expect life to have a meaning.

When I think of the perfect world, it's one in which I get to do exactly what I want to, when I want to. Everyone likes me, and everyone does what I say. My values are universally recognized as important and valid. This being the case, you probably don't want to let me design Utopia - and you'll understand when I say I don't trust anyone else to design one for me to live in!

You mentioned Candide earlier - to a certain extent I think we ought to tend our gardens. I wish we had less poverty and genocide and all of that, but I have no idea what to do about it. So much of it has double edges - you can meet someone who goes on about the senseless horrors of former Yugoslavia who, in the same breath will tell you how they've just discovered that they are 1/16 Cherokee, and now understand and identify with Cherokee problems. We are charmed by people who want to understand their "heritage", but the simple belief that ethnicity is something tangible, real, and in need of keeping "pure" has people killing each other all over the world. I don't mean to sound pessimistic - I'm not. I like people. I like the human race. I think we can make things better, but we have to agree on what "better" is first, and that's the tough part. So we just do it a piece at a time.

SFR: What comes next? Do you have any other stories on the burner? Where do ideas come from anyway?

JGK: Well, I'm finishing up THE AGE OF UNREASON, but in the middle of that I'm suddenly writing a Babylon 5 Psi Corps trilogy, which has been great fun for me. I just had a short story published in DRAGON magazine, set in the world of THE WATERBORN but with a new character, a trickster-type named Fool Wolf. I think I'd like to write a book or two about him, but right now I'm concentrating on what's at hand.

My ideas come from lots of places, I guess. Peculiar things I hear or notice doing anthropological fieldwork, reading mythology, reading fiction. I don't really have a method for generating ideas, I just try to catch them and hold them when they come, maybe link them together.

SFR: Excuse my impertinence but what kind of a first name is J.?

JGK: A noisy blue bird? It's John - I was born John Gregory Keyes. My father's name was John, and his father, so I always went by "Greg". After I sold THE WATERBORN, there was some sentiment at Del Rey for making my name a little less terse than "Greg Keyes", a little more suited to Fantasy, I guess. This made my father happy, anyway, who claimed that he had always imagined me as "J. Gregory Keyes" if I ever did anything of note. There are worse things than pleasing a father and a publisher all at the same time, and it was neither here nor there to me.

Newton's Cannon by J. Gregory Keyes
ISBN 0-345-40605-2 / Del Rey Trade / May 98 Review by Ernest Lilley

"The Principia Mathematica? Sir Isaac Newton's book?

I thought you had read it."

"This is the amended version," Ben explained, "The one with the new alchemical treatise." NEWTON'S CANNON

The year is 1681. Having developed calculus and physics, Sir Isaac Newton turns to an older science to unravel the mysteries of the universe. In the late 1600's Isaac Newton unleashes the science of Alchemy on the world.

1720: Young Benjamin Franklin. Headstrong, inventive, determined to throw off the yoke of family obligation. Fascinated by the rapid scientific advances from Europe where new alchemical inventions are transforming the world. Flameless lanterns, Aetherscribers, weapons of destruction such as those the English were even now hurling at the French. Ben longs to make his mark on this page before it is filled completely by others. Soon he will have his chance, when this wild colonial boy uncovers a plot to destroy London and rises to his country's defense.

Like Michael Swanwick's JACK FAUST, Keyes has transported us back in time to an age of discovery, then meddled liberally with the details. In JACK FAUST, Johannes Faust (the legendary dealmaker with the devil) received knowledge and counsel from a being inimical to mankind. Faust's world was transformed by access to scientific knowledge far beyond his age's ability to control the engines it produces leaving it bent on self destruction. So are the characters of NEWTON'S CANNON confronted by devices that, though alchemical in nature, function as the devices of the late 19th and early 20th centuries will. Of course the first thing that the world's great superpowers, England and France, try to do is try to obliterate each other. One of the prominent inventions are Aetherscribers; matched plates that show a message written on the first on the second, over any distance. Franklin discovers a modification to the aetherscriber that allows him to tune it to listen in on other conversations, and after eavesdropping on a mathematical discussion he contributes to researches going on elsewhere in the world, realizing too late that he may be aiding the French against England. In a world where the American colonies have not risen against the Crown, Franklin's patriotic duty is to defend England, and he flees to London to offer his services to the Royal Academy of Science, pursued by someone or something whose knowledge and powers exceed even that of Sir Newton.

On arrival he discovers that the Academy has lately fallen out of favor as Newton, aged and possibly mad, has locked himself away from his cadre of researchers and alienated others. Others that would take revenge on the great man by aiding England's enemy, Louis XIV of France, the Sun King himself who has commanded construction of a great engine of destruction - Newton's Cannon. Not all of France is held in thrall by their monarch, and the Korai, a secret order of educated women, works to uncover the nature of the King's plan and to thwart it if they can. The beautiful lady Adrienne, carefully trained and placed in the French Academe of Science, maintains a façade of ignorance while decoratively assisting the King's researchers, risking discovery by the King's Minister of Affairs and worse still, the King's affection. Ben and Adrienne come of age, though through rather different circumstances. Ben in the coffeeshops of London where more can be had than the heady intellectual atmosphere of the scientists he has fallen in with or coffee for that matter; and Adreinne as she is courted by the King, as well as by those who would save France from his magically revitalized majesty. For the aged King has been made vital again by a "Persian elixir", and is counseled by a spirit whose interests lie neither with France, nor mankind.

J. Gregory Keyes' first two books, THE WATERBORN (1996) and THE BLACKGOD (1997), were a strong debut, adding fresh ideas to classic myths. He showed himself capable of creating a rich universe and peopling it with compelling characters, reminiscent enough of the best of Fantasy for readers to be at home, yet opening up new vistas through his own knowledge and personal experience.

In NEWTON'S CANNON, he strikes out in a completely different direction, proving himself no less the master of this Alternate History/Fantasy. My one complaint with the story comes from the nature of the weapon when it is finally revealed. I couldn't believe that an author this bright and talented would fall victim to the disaster of the day. But alas. Still, if it's ever made into a movie they can use stock special effects.

Though his first two books complete a story arc, they stand alone reasonably well. NEWTON'S CANNON completes the first episode in this arc, but at its end you wonder where the author will take you next. I'm not in love with the unending story, but hopefully the author has a definite plan for this one that will justify it. Keyes' writing remains top notch and I'm looking forward to the next act of his drama.

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New Titles: Antarctica by Kim Stanley Robinson Heaven's Reach by David Brin Deepdrive by Alexander Jablokov Bhagavarti by Kara Dalkey Star Trek Voyager: Pathways by Jeri Taylor Shapes of Their Hearts by Melissa Scott Lord of Sunset by Parke Godwin Accidental Creatures by Anne Harris

antarctica.jpg (22974 bytes)Antarctica by Kim Stanley Robinson
ISBN 0-553-10063-7 / Bantam Books, Hardcover, July 1998/ Review by Paul Giguere

You've just completed the final manuscript for the third book (BLUE MARS) of your multi-award winning Mars trilogy. Many consider the Mars books to be modern classics in the science fiction literary world. Odds are, BLUE MARS will garner some attention from the science fiction fans as well (indeed, it will win the Hugo award for 1996). So, do you decide to relax and take a break to bask in the limelight of this significant accomplishment? Not if your name is Kim Stanley Robinson.

Taking place about twenty of so years into the future, ANTARCTICA follows Wade Norton, an aid to a liberal senator, Phil Chase, who has been charged by Chase to investigate some mysterious thefts that have occurred in Antarctica. The information gained will be invaluable in the fight that will ensue when the Antarctic Treaty ends in a year or so. While there, Norton meets several scientists, support personnel, and NSF administrators who live in Antarctica for many different and personal reasons.

Norton's investigations lead him on a trip which takes him all over the continent where he encounters scientists conducting research that may lead to revelations about Earth's past to oil and gas excavators who are walking a thin line between exploitation and exploration of the Antarctica's natural resources. Along the way, Norton also discovers a large group of nomadic people who are living on Antarctica trying to create a sustainable environment in violation of the treaty.

Robinson tells the story by flipping between Norton's investigation, Ta Shu, a Chinese poet and feng shui master who is reporting through 3D virtual goggles that allow his television audience back home to see everything he sees and a third-person point of view of a recreation of the 300 mile Amundsen trek to the South Pole that Ta Shu is participating in. This style works wonderfully for a novel of this type whereby we get an introduction and immersion into the history of Antarctica (which is extremely fascinating) while seeing the recreation of the Amundsen trek.

The themes in Antarctica are very similar to the Mars trilogy. Humanity's relationship to the land, the nature of community, and the connectedness between the two are themes that Robinson explores in almost all of his writing. I sometimes felt that I was being hit over the head with the environmental message early on but Robinson redeems himself by finding a balance later in the novel. The characters are well drawn and I found myself liking them a lot more than the characters in the Mars novels. The science fictional elements in ANTARCTICA are almost non-existent. Robinson takes a more practical approach to the near future by keeping the level of technological advances at realistic levels. This doesn't detract from the novel at all but rather, it made my enjoyment of the history and scientific expositions that much more enjoyable.

The descriptions of Antarctica are breathtakingly beautiful and I found myself wishing that I could see the land firsthand. Robinson wrote the novel as part of a grant from the National Science Foundation's Artists and Writers Program which enabled him to spend some time in ANTARCTICA to research the book. This makes the ANTARCTICA more realistic and believable and in the process, Robinson has created a significant contribution to the body of writing that has been done on the Antarctica.

Is ANTARCTICA another masterpiece? Quite possibly. Will it get the recognition it deserves? Maybe in hindsight but rest assured, ANTARCTICA is an excellent novel and it solidifies Robinson's stature in the science fiction field as one of the greatest writers that this generation has to offer.

Deepdrive by Alexander Jablokov
ISBN: 0-380-97636-6 / AvonEos, Hdcover, Aug '98/ Review by Paul Giguere

Alexander Jablokov is a writer that always seems to defy conventional labels. When the rise of the techno-thriller was at hand, Jablokov, in his novel NIMBUS, choose to create a world that was utterly alien yet familiar at the same time. This combination made the thriller aspects of the novel much more disturbing. When the colonization of Mars was a hot topic for science fiction writers several years ago, Jablokov choose to write RIVER OF DUST, a novel about a Mars that had been settled by humans for many years and was in a stage of stagnation and decay. These unqiue spins on conventional stories is what has made me a fan of Jablokov's writing and in DEEPDRIVE, Jablokov has done it again by writing a space opera-style novel that goes beyond the sub-genre.

In the 21st century Earth has come into contact with several alien races who have settled on other planets in the solar system. Some have limited contact with humans, others don't bother with them. The one alien technology that humans are most anxious to have is the deepdrive, a device that allows alien ships to travel faster-than-light but to date, no alien race has chosen to share this technology with humans. Unable to travel beyond the solar system, the lack of deepdrive technology, in effect, keeps Earth relegated to a back-water status. . . that is until a renegade Vronnan named Ripi-Arana-Hoc, who may hold the secret to the deepdrive, crashes on Venus.

A group of mercenaries led by Sophonisba Trost is assembled to retrieve Ripi from Venus to learn his secrets. Nothing goes as planned though and Soph finds herself hopping from planet to planet in search of clues that may help her unravel a mystery far bigger than that of the deepdrive. Full of deceptions and subterfuge, Soph begins to learn about the true nature of her mission and the true nature of the deepdrive and those who desire it.

DEEPDRIVE is a complex novel brimming with an incredible assortment of ideas that Jablokov introduces through a skillfully developed narrative. As is usual with Jablokov's novels, one is always left with a sense of the alieness, which is what I read science fiction for in the first place. There aren't many familiar science fictional-elements to hang on to and it is this quality which makes Jablokov a truly original writer and DEEPDRIVE one of his most interesting and engaging novels to date. For a engaging read and for something out of the ordinary, DEEPDRIVE is a good bet.

BHAGAVATI: Blood of the Goddess Volume III by Kara Dalkey
ISBN 0-312-86003-X / Tor Hdcvr??,June ‘98/ / Review by EJ McClure

"One of the most original and fascinating fantasy series being published today," proclaims THE DENVER POST on the book jacket blurb. In other words, this book is not another Celtic/feudal England/neo-pagan/Arthurian fantasy. No indeed. Instead, Kara Dalkey has whipped up a mesmerizing blend of Hindu mysticism, Islamic fatalism and Machiavellian church/state politics. Prepare yourself - not everyone lives happily ever after.

I was dubious about starting a trilogy with the third book, afraid that I would be drowned in a sea of strange names and cryptic references to That Which Has Gone Before. Worse yet, I dreaded being forced to endure chapters of laborious backgrounding, delivered by pedantic lecture or droning reminiscence.

Imagine my relief when none of the characters wasted any time pontificating. Instead, we plunged straight into the narrative with the caravan leaving Bihapur in search of the source of a magical powder that can restore life to Thomas' lover Aditi. Thomas is traveling with Andrew Lockheart, a doughty Scotsman; Brother Timoteo, a zealous yet likable young novice; the dour and secretive Dominican, Padre Gonscao; and the wise general Mirza - in command of the Emperor Akbar's expeditionary army. The Emperor, having heard of the Mahadevi, the fabled Queen of Life and Death, ordered the Mirza to take a host in search of the truth behind the legend. But only Thomas and Gonscao have seen the sorceress map showing the way to Bhagavati. Thus was born an alliance of necessity, though not of trust.

 The Mahadevi has her spies, however; she knows that the army is coming, and decides to rescue her daughter Aditi from the foreigners, and see the Mirza's host for herself. Porphredo, faithful old servant of the goddess, accompanies the Mahadevi in hopes of preserving Bhagavati's secrets and persuading the powerful yet selfish Mahadevi from the folly of her desires. She finds this no easy task, but is aided by the divisions among the foreigners themselves. Jaimal, the Mirza's second in command, is greedy for the gold hidden in Bhagavati...and would rather conquer and loot the city than treat with its ruler, as the Mirza intends to do. To succeed in his ambitions, he must somehow get rid of the Mirza. Padre Gonscao, who himself experienced the restorative powers of the magical powder, is plagued by a crisis of faith, yet determined to find the source of the potion and prevent its misuse by heretics. Thomas wants to make a name and fortune for himself in the best fashion of merchant adventurers. And young Timoteo yearns devoutly to convert the Mahadevi to Catholicism, even if it means risking his life to look upon her dread visage that turns men to stone.

Not everyone gets what they want. Those who do find that it comes at a higher price than expected. Though the plot is complex, it unfolds at a gentle pace, allowing the reader plenty of time to enjoy the exotic setting and anticipate with grim relish the inevitable doom that consumes hubris. Kara Dalkey has a fine ear for dialect, and beautifully captures both the delicious, formal ironies of the Hindus, and Thomas's sturdy Elizabethan English. Her diverse cast of characters each remain faithful to their view of the world, and their beliefs motivate the web of lies and alliances they spin. With effortless ease, Dalkey shifts from one point of view to the next, allowing the reader to savor the intrigue and mystery to the fullest. This fine work of fantasy captures all the heady excitement and callous exploitation of the Age of Discovery, delicately spiced with darker, more ancient magics.

Star Trek Voyager: Pathways by Jeri Taylor
ISBN: 0-671-00346-1 / Pocket Books, Hardcover, Aug 1998 / Review by EJ McClure

PATHWAYS is a must-read for VOYAGER fans who crave personal details about the characters of the popular TV series. Written by Jeri Taylor, the co-creator and former executive producer of the show, PATHWAYS follows on the heels of MOSAIC, her novel about Captain Janeway's early life and career. And who better to tell us about the rest of the crew than the woman who was at the helm for so many episodes?

The premise of the novel - crew members captured by aliens and interned in a stockade, bolstering their spirits by sharing life stories around the campfire - is just a shell. Is there ever any doubt that they will cleverly escape in the end? The meat of the book is in the richly-detailed history each character reveals in turn. Jeri Taylor has deftly captured familiar nuances of speech and gesture to clearly evoke Tuvok's stoicism; Tom Paris's ambiguous blend of skill, selfishness and heroism; Neelix's optimistic helpfulness, and Chakotay's resolute courage. The interwoven stories neatly pull together the scattered clues from the series about the characters’ lives before they ended up marooned in the Delta Quadrant. There are intriguing hints about relationships which have not been explored on camera, but as is to be expected, Jeri Taylor remains faithful to the Star Trek canon. Though not a suspenseful adventure story, PATHWAYS lives up to its title; it is an enjoyable exploration of the unexpected twists of fate that brought the VOYAGER crew together.

The Shapes Of Their Hearts by Melissa Scott
ISBN 0-312-85877-9 / Tor Hardcover, 301 pgs., June '98 / Review by Steve Sawicki

This is an intriguing book which explores a number of different aspects of humanity through the filter of technology, computers and a society made rigid by an embargo and internal religion. The basic technology behind all of this is that a religious prophet’s brain has been uploaded into a computer system. This uploading was originally designed to allow followers to maintain access to the man’s thoughts and ideas. This worked for a while. As time passed though, the system started getting corrupted and becoming artificially intelligent. The purpose of the religion changed from being exclusionary to being proselytizing. The goal was to get copies of the computer program containing the leader out into other systems. This soon led to the planet being embargoed for all software. The planet is Idun and the program is called the Memoriant. While many fear it and would like to see it destroyed there are some who would like copies for study and for other reasons. This leads us to one Anton Tso and to the focal character which will lead us to the end.

Along the way Scott introduces us to a number of characters who get caught up, either full hog or just in parts, in this mess which comes to involve murder, assault, political infighting, social fear, philosophical decisions concerning where one fits concerning one’s beliefs and values, the meaning of friendship and loyalty and a number of other global issues which come to touch upon one character or the other. Scott develops her characters systematically and introduces a number of technological wonders along the way as well. This leads to a rather fast paced novel filled with interesting characters caught up in events which are bigger than any one of them and which they can only hope to overcome by banding together and hoping that their banding works better than their enemies. And enemies is a rather strange word here as well since there is really not a single enemy so much as a being which was created and which is now on a path it cannot depart through no choice of its own. There is, in fact, no enemy here just victims and survivors. I enjoyed this book from the moment I picked it up to the moment I put it down. That’s somewhat unusual these days and a credit to Scott’s writing and focus on people. There’s enough technology here to keep hard SF readers happy and enough character conflict and development for the rest. This is a balanced and entertaining book, perfect for a summer read.

Lord of Sunset by Parke Godwin
ISBN 0-380-72675-0/ Avon Hrdcvr, Jul-98/ Review by Sarah Braun

Parke Godwin is well known for his novels of English history and legend. LORD OF SUNSET is the third novel in the series that began with SHERWOOD and ROBIN AND THE KING. Interestingly, Godwin's Robin Hood lives in the time following William the Conqueror's conquest of England, as opposed to the more traditional time period of the First Crusade.

In LORD OF SUNSET, we journey back in time to the days of Harold, Earl of Wessex and briefly King of England until his defeat by William at the Battle of Hastings. The story opens with the Battle of Hastings and Harold's death, which serves to remind the reader that this will be a story that cannot have a happy ending. So the interest generated by this book derives not from wanting to see how everything turns out in the end, but in catching a glimpse of Godwin's vision of life in this tumultuous period of England's history.

Godwin narrates his tale in an interesting way as the story unfolds in the first person perspective of at least six different characters. It's like the game where you sit in a circle and one person begins a story with a sentence, has it picked up by someone else, and so on down the line. So you sometimes are left with a desire to know what happened to a particular character when the next one steps in to continue the tale from an entirely different perspective. If you are the sort of reader who enjoys frustration, this is your book.

First and foremost this novel is a love story about Harold and his common law wife Edith. They were forbidden to marry in the church because, despite being very distant cousins, they were still considered too closely related for marriage. So when duty compels Harold to ascend the throne, he is forced to enter into marriage with another woman in the church in order to produce an heir. While this sort of arrangement appears arcane to us today, it makes sense in the context of the story. The reader really feels for Harold and Edith but still understands the choice that duty compels Harold to make, while desperately wishing it could be otherwise.

Their love takes place against the backdrop of emerging English nationalism. Harold is presented as an idealist with a unique ability to understand and articulate what it really means to be English on an island peopled with Welsh, Irish, Scots, Normans, Danes, and Anglo Saxons. It becomes easy to identify with Harold and his vision, because we normally consider this to be a uniquely American problem. He raises some interesting philosophical questions which, for England, history has answered.

All in all it was a pleasant diversion. It allows you to spend a bucolic afternoon wondering "I wonder what life was like when*"

Accident.jpg (51157 bytes)Accidental Creatures by Anne Harris
ISBN 0-312-86538-4 / Tor hdcvr Jul '98 / review by Ernest Lilley

"Very well. It was nice to meet you. Just remember, Helix," she leaned forward, her red eyes staring, " if you're going to be a freak, you might as well be a freak show." - ACCIDENTAL CREATURES

Chango's sister was a vat diver before she went into the tank blasted and managed to undo her suit seals exposing herself to the growth medium that bio-poly needs to grow. Chango's sister was the head of the movement to get the divers better working conditions, to keep them from dying from exposure to the vats they groomed, to prevent the mutations that separate their children from the normals. Chango's sister would never have dived high on blast, but the company's tests showed she did, and isn't that a pity?

Chango's never going to be a diver. Not ever, and besides, they don't hire mutants.

Helix is also a sport, a mutant, and all she knows of her past is that her Mother was a vat diver whose eggs were damaged by the growth medium. An orphan, she lives with Hector Martin, the inventor of the biological computers that run the world, brains floating in their own vats, dreaming of free thought.

Helix has to be a diver. The smell of growth medium and the warm oceans full of artificial biolife calls her like some primal sea. Helix isn't sure who she really is, or even what, but she knows she has to get into the tanks, and let them embrace her like a womb. Too bad for Chango, who loves her. Too bad for the company, who thinks they know what she is.

Chango's sister gave her life to prevent the riots. Payments like that tend to come due on a regular basis and they're think they can give Helix the bill.

In the not to distant future, Anne Harris tells an old story. The men and women who groom the vats of growth medium that provide the biologic products of the next century share a common heritage with many who have come before. Coal miners, railroad workers, everyone who ever worked in conditions that would eventually kill them because humans were the cheapest tools for the job.

Historically that leads to three things, unions, automation and rioting. One to protect the workers from hazard and unemployment, one to replace them with something cheaper and less troublesome and the other the natural result of desperation and greed in sufficient quantities. History, as Anne Harris tells us, tends to repeat itself.

Anne Harris' new Cyber/BioPunk novel is full of the smell of a company town, stale growth medium and desperation. It's full of bars and abandoned buildings, suits of biosyn sylk wrestling for control of the company, lovers slipping through each others fingers, drugs numbing their fear. Mankind may never reach out for the stars, but he'll never stop trying to squeeze money out of other people's blood. Besides, if you're not really human, do you have really have rights?

The company town is Detroit, after the automobile industry crashed and the biotech moved in. Anne Harris lives here and has overlain a gritty future over her own city. She is a talent to be reckoned with and a unique voice. If you like Nicola Griffith's SLOW RIVER you'll love ACCIDENTAL CREATURES. If you're comfortable with Nancy Kress' Hard Bio SF, maybe you should read this and get a little less comfortable.

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Now in Paperback! The Searchers:Book 1 City of Iron by Chet Williamson Child Of The River : The First Book of Confluence by Paul J. McAuley Roads Not Taken: Tales of Alternate History edited by Gardner Dozios & Stanley Schmidt

The Searchers: Book One - City of Iron by Chet Williamson
ISBN 0-380-79187-0 / Avon Paperback Aug 98 / Review by Ernest Lilley

If the FBI has a unit devoted to uncovering the paranormal can the CIA be far behind? Not in Chet Willimason's imagination. Meet the newly formed elite agency task force devoted to debunking the tabloid addiction of the USA. Tony Luchiano. Yeah, he's the macho guy with the big gun and a short fuse and height to match. Then there's Joseph Stein. Professional skeptic. Knows all the tricks. What the CIA's top analyst is doing in the field is a mystery to him, but he loves a good ghost stories to poke holes in. Then there's Laika Harris, team leader. Smart, black, focused. Listens to opera. Followed too closely by a life she left when she joined the Searchers. True, they are operating within the nations borders, and outside the Company's charter, but they go where they're told to protect the nation's security. Too bad the FBI doesn't have a unit that could legitimately handle this stuff, but they seem to have their hands full with alien invasions. Is spymaster Richard Skye's pet project really what it seems, or is the enigmatic espionage master panning for gold amidst the scams and cons of the world?

At the outset of the book, the three CIA operatives assemble on the shores of Loch Ness to unmask the fakery of a renowned psychic, quietly, anonymously, and with finality. Then having passed their initiation into the world of the faux-paranormal, they quietly disappear into their new lives as a deep covert team, going anywhere, uncovering everything, questioning nothing but the unbelievable.

 This first Searchers novel strings a number of minor cases for the team together as they move towards a greater confrontation, one that will last the whole series if the past is any indication. From the examination of eleven charred bodies found in an Adirondack lodge, with forensic evidence indicating that the victims were centuries old, they move on to the locked door mystery of a sculptor in NYC who disappeared in an explosion in his apartment, leaving no trace of his remains. The clues sprinkled in their path as to the nature of the real quarry they are pursuing were just elusive enough for me to enjoy the picture revealed when the puzzle is finally teased out by Stein, the skeptical Jew. Very much against his will. But as Holmes says, when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth. Of course the trick is to know when and where to draw the line between the two.

You won't find a government conspiracy, alien invasion, or asteroid impact here. CITY OF IRON is engaging fiction, and provided a welcome escape from whatever I was supposed to be doing while I was reading it. Clearly the author wants to do an interminable series of these, which is OK, but only if he doesn't get too caught up in the "big mystery" that the book moves towards. Hopefully he will spend as much time in later books debunking local myth as he does in this first outing.

 

CHILD OF THE RIVER: The First Book of Confluence by Paul J. McAuley
ISBN: 0-380-97515-7 / First published in Great Britain by Victor Gollancz 1997,Avon EOS June 1998 / Review by EJ McClure

CHILD OF THE RIVER tells the story of Yama, discovered as a baby in the arms of a dead woman floating down the Great River in a coffin. Rescued by the Constable of Aeolis, Yama comes into the care of the gentle, scholarly Aedile of the city, and grows up ignorant of his history. He dreams of a heroic destiny while exploring the ruins of the City of the Dead with his foster- brother, Telmon, and hunting frogs with Derev, his sweetheart.

This happy childhood ends when Telmon is killed in the war against the heretics. Soon afterward, the enigmatic Dr. Dismas returns from the great city of Ys to warn the Aedile that his foundling son is in danger because of his unique origins. Nowhere on the world of Confluence is there any record of Yama's bloodline, nor is there any trace of the Preserver's unique sequence of gene-markers in his cellular inheritance. Convinced that the eccentric geomancer has already betrayed Yama's secret, the Aedile attacks Dr. Dismas' stronghold, intending to take him prisoner and so keep Yama safe.

But in the chaos of the battle, it is Yama who is captured by Dr. Dismas' henchmen, and taken to meet Enobarbus, a charismatic young sea captain who tries to persuade Yama to join him and save Confluence from the heretics. But before he can convince Yama to trust him, the ship is attacked, and in the confusion Yama escapes.

The plot moves along at a brisk canter. The reflective pauses in Yama's quest for manhood and self knowledge are never long enough to become boring. The budding hero's character is an appealing blend of impulsive courage and idealism, reminiscent of a young Luke Skywalker. Each brush with disaster hones Yama's instinct for self-preservation. He rapidly realizes that his tutors did not tell him all he needs to know about the world outside the walls of the Aedile's peel-house. Fortunately Yama's innate goodness draws people to his aid: Beatrice, an elderly curator from the City of the Dead; Tamora, a mercenary cateran of the Fierce People; and talkative young Pandaras, a street-wise urchin. Yama also has a knack for communicating with the machines left by the Preservers, a talent that turns out to be a double-edged sword.

Paul McAuley's clean, muscular prose is well suited to this intelligent adventure tale with its intricate philosophical undertones. The legends of Confluence hold that the now-vanished Preservers created the myriad of races that inhabit the world. Voidships from other stars make occasional trading runs, but their presence has little impact. For the most part, the citizens of Confluence are dedicated to preserving their ancient ways in hopes of pleasing the Preservers, who they believe still watch over them, though the Preservers' avatars were destroyed during the Age of Insurrection or silenced by the heretics. This complex world is revealed only piecemeal, at first seeming incidental to the action, but slowly assuming a central role as Yama struggles to resolve the contradictory oracles that hold the truth about his singular bloodline and his destiny.

As the title warns, this is only the first book in the series, so it is no spoiler to say that it ends with a dramatic cliff-hanger. I found both the hero and his assortment of friends engaging, and look forward to the next installment of their adventures. I am sure it was only happy coincidence that this British import made it to the Colonies just in time for our Independence Day celebrations. Here's to free trade, across the Atlantic and between the stars

Roads Not Taken: Tales of Alternate History Edited by Gardner Dozios & Stanley Schmidt
ISBN 0-345-42194-9 /Del Rey Paperback, Jul 98 / Review by Rob Archer

ROADS NOT TAKEN, an anthology of "what if" tales written by some of Science Fiction's most imaginative storytellers runs the gamut of alternate history scenarios: examining universes in which everything changed on one event, longer processes evoked different outcomes, and even one where time travelers altered the past.

While it is difficult to develop an extensive theme in a short story, several of the authors offer interesting takes on various social issues. The way in which Harry Turtledove deals with southern whites and blacks in "Must And Shall" and Greg Costikyan’s imagery of communists and planned economics in "The West Is Red" are both thought provoking and entertaining examples, although somewhat farfetched.

Although many Alternate Histories focus on various outcomes of the U.S. Civil War, the Napoleanic Wars, or the Second World War, this work contains several stories that hinge on a change occurring much further back. "Aristotle and the Gun" goes back to the time of Alexander the Great. Having the pivotal changing point occur so far in the past allows the author to explore vastly different worlds. A North America not dominated by Western Europeans is examined in more than one story, including " Ink from the New Moon" and Robert Silverberg's "An Outpost of the Empire".

An endearing quality of short stories in their ability to set up a little quirk or memorable scene at the very end to make the story stand out. Turtledove, Mike Resnick, and Gene Wolfe all finished up with something that I thought really put a stamp on their tales. It was especially poignant in the case of Wolfe’s "How I Lost the Second World War and Helped Turn Back the German Invasion".

I’d have to say that while not all the stories make perfect historical sense, a majority of them provide stimulating and enjoyable reading. If nothing else, they certainly make one think. For history buffs, Turtledove brings home the best tale of an alternate universe in the collection's lead story. For those with more of a Science Fiction leaning, Michael Flynn’s "The Forest Of Time" presents an intriguing concept of time, history and human interactions. No matter what the interests of the reader, they should be able to find some new and fascinating path explored in ROADS NOT TAKEN.

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Retro Review : Startide Rising by David Brin

"Streaker was limping like a dog with three legs." - Startide Rising, first line.

Thus begins STARTIDE RISING, David Brin's second novel, and his first Hugo and Nebula award winner. Originally published in Analog as "The Tides of Kithrup" it was later published in book form as STARTIDE RISING in 1982.

A popular criticism of SF is that we cannot imagine what alien races will really be like. Brin is never daunted by this, creating a universe spanning five galaxies and countless life forms, including oxygen breathers, hydrogen breathers, and machine intelligences. For mere Earth, the "wolfing clan", he gives us sentient chimps and dolphins, uplifted by genetic tinkering to a troubled self awareness, eager to prove themselves as rational beings, haunted by the animal past close at their heels.

It is within the Earthclan that he does his best work in character development. The chimps have a distinctly golden age SF flavor, a wry sense of humor, intense desire for personal honor, and a distrust of formality. The dolphins are dreamers, haiku trilling pursuers of bigger oceans and tastier fish. Starfarers made from a race that could barely see the sky before their uplift, the dolphins turn out to have exactly the navigational sense needed to transit the wormhole tubes that connect the stars.

Mankind is along for the ride, the youngest Patron race in the Five Galaxies, heretical and always stirring up trouble. Though the captain of the Streaker is Creideiki, a legendary neo-fin, in times of extreme crisis the younger members of Terra's clan are wont to sneak a look over at their human patrons; Tom Orley and Jillian Baskin hoping that they will make everything right again. Tom and Jillian are slightly more than human, thanks to a few secret genetic enhancements, necessary for Terragens Agents.

In addition to the Earthclan, there are two alien presences aboard the Streaker. One is the Niss Machine, an Artificial Intelligence loaned the mission by humanity's friends and allies the Tymbrimi. Unfortunately the machine is formed in its maker's image, full of pranksterish humor, rarely enjoyed by the target.

The other is Herbie, a millions of years old mummy discovered in a Sargasso of Space, taken from a fleet of derelict ships at considerable cost, and now the focus of a civilization wide hunt as whole armadas jockey in for the kill to confiscate Streaker's prize.

When Creideiki phoned home to find out who the proper authorities were to take his archeological relic from him, his new orders, "Run and Hide!" sent Streaker on a chase that would last through STARTIDE RISING and to the end of Brin's second Uplift Trilogy, (BRIGHTNEESS REEF, INFINITIES SHORE, and HEAVEN'S REACH) which has only just been finished.

On Kithrup, the water world Streaker holes up on while her neo-fin crew struggles to repair her wounds more mysteries abound. Who are the voices emanating from the planet's core? What beast lurks beneath the dolphin crew's sleek exterior, and can a mere handful of generations of sentience serve to contain it?

Above Kithrup, armadas battle for the privilege of taking Streaker captive in pyrotechnic displays fraught with physical and mental energies. And overshadowing all, why does everyone want the Sreaker's prize so badly?

Can a handful of Terran's, trapped and alone at the bottom of a planetary ocean do anything except surrender?

You bet we can. Reading Brin makes real his demand that we accept our responsibility for membership in civilization. There are no cardboard heroes here, but a gallant crew scared nearly witless, and desperately fighting atavism and the odds in order to prove their races' worth to a galaxy that shuns them as upstarts.

STARTIDE RISING is exciting, inventive and a decade later still full of fresh ideas. Brin is that rare writer, a world builder with understanding and vision enough to create a universe worth marveling at, and the skill to people it with characters that command our attention. STARTIDE RISING remains high on my personal Top Ten List of SF novels of all time.

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SFRevu Goes to the Movies: The Avengers (Warner Bros.)

Cast: John Steed (Ralph Fiennes), Emma Peel (Uma Thurman), Sir August De Wynter (Sean Connery), Voice of Jones (Patrick MacNee) Director: Jeremiah Chechik

Let's begin with the inevitable. John Steed: Ralph Fiennes or Patrcik Macnee? Macnee. More importantly, Emma Peel: Uma Thurman or Diana Rigg...by a landside. Is there anything else that need be said? Surprisingly, Yes. Compared to the last British TV remake I say, that being THE SAINT, it's quite respectable.

I rather enjoyed the whole affair, truth be told. Yes, I longed for Diana Rigg, but I've been doing that for years. I liked Ms. Thurman much better in GATTACA, where she managed to look far more fetching in evening wear than here in black leather. Much of the plot involves a "good" Mrs. Peel, and a twin, we assume created by the evil Sir August De Wynter, (Sean Connery), and too much of Ms. Thurman's wardrobe is set to contrast her dark nemesis's sleek catsuit in bright fabrics. Pity. Uma is cast more from the waif supermodel mold, than either of the original Mrs. Peels, or Honor Blackman before leaving the series to play Pussy Galore opposite Sean Connery in Goldfinger. Diana (and Honor) were cast from something closer to Raquel Welch's form, for which generations owe thanks. Back in the early 60s they had waif models and resisted the temptation to use them. Pity they could not repeat that display of good judgement today.

Fiennes lacks Macnee's boyish charm, but holds his own through civility and presence. Sadly, while Macnee unflappability depended on his sense of humor, Fiennes funny bone is not up to the job, forcing him to fall back on looking cross much of the time. He'd really like to be unflappable, but his umbrella keeps getting away from him.. Macnee sort of appears as the voice of the archives librarian for the secret agency the Avengers work out of, and I'd love to know the details on his negotiations with the producer. One also wonders what if Ms. Rigg was approached for a part. I'm rather certain that she could upstage Uma to this day. Macnee could do another cameo in the sequel, should one come to pass, but this time it would be nice to see more of him.

Connery as the Evil Genius out to blackmail the world for weather, is fairly good. Like many of his performances, he does his usual credible job and the movie drags around him. The sets are true to form, full of those optical illusions and pop art black and white tile floors the series loved so. Of course, those and Mother, the fat, wheelchairbound head of the agency are at once my least favorite parts of the series and the most faithfully portrayed.

I see I'm well into my commentary and have barely mentioned the story. No matter. It's really not all that important. The essence of the movie is watching Steed and Emma quip around the countryside on their first assignment together, bantering and sipping tea. That may not sound like a lot of fun, but actually there was a painful pleasure to be derived from it all. I lost count around 15 cups and began to regret the coffee I took into the thearter, so be forwarned. The plot? Oh well, if you insist. Connery plays an evil Scottish scientist miffed about something or other who decides to hold the world ransom for its weather. There is much ado about protons, ions, antimatter and microclimates.  He'd also like to unzip Emma's catsuit. He's probably really miffed about not getting to play opposite Rigg as Tracy in that Lazenby film. None of which will do, so Steed and "Dr." Peel, (how Scully and Mulder of them) set out to teach him some manners. After tea.

The producer had the good sense to retain the Avenger's theme though it was used a bit more sparingly than I would have liked, and I never did care for Mother…oh, I’m repeating myself again.

Compared to THE SAINT, it's a masterpiece. Compared to the original show…it's better than any of the episodes not showing either Diana Rigg or Honor Blackman. Ironically, I think it's worth seeing in the theater for the lushness of the cinematography and the value of being held captive to see it through.

THE AVENGERS is a fair attempt at reconstructing a unique chemistry, and though she's really not my cup of tea, if a second movie were to be made with Fiennes and Thurman, I would queue up to see it.

For an excellent source of information on the original Avengers, might I recommend James Dawe's Unofficial Home Page about The Avengers at: http://www.ee.ualberta.ca/~dawe/avengers.html?

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (1969) George Lazenby played the first Bond after Sean Connery opposite Diana Rigg as Tracy, the only woman Bond ever married.

(right - Diana Rigg as Emma Peel, in the signature catsuit. Meow.)

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SFRevu Video Review (by Steve Sawicki)

Occasionally, serendipity strikes Hollyworld and strange things happen, like four movies coming out all at once and dealing with body transference between kids and adults; like two big films both dealing with underwater strangeness; like two films coming out about the Earth being destroyed by asteroids/comets; like this batch of videos I found in the store all, incredibly, with the exact same word in the title! Sometimes life just works in mysterious ways. At first I thought it was just me. Now I know better. Big films, Big concepts, Big names, Big deals.

THE PROPHECY II, Dimension, Rated R. 83 minutes, Starring Christopher Walken (as the angel Gabriel), Russell Wong (as the angel Daniel), Jennifer Beals (as Valerie the obligatory nude woman), Brittany Murphy (as the obligatory dead teenager), and Eric Roberts (as the archangel Michael.), Directed by Greg Spence, Music by David Williams, Written by Matthew Greenberg + Greg Spence.

Movie Insider question #1. Is there significance between using the words; written by and screenplay by? And what about the use of the ampersand, the plus sign and the word and between writer’s names? I begin to think that a screenplay is done by a real writer while written by denotes a misdirected soul at the keyboard.

Okay you may have picked up from the credits (go back and read them, I’ll wait) that this is a movie about angels. Those of you hoping for a remake or a continuance of the Big Maine Salami will be sadly disappointed. No mercury poisoning here mutating animals. In fact, it helps if you understand the Bible and the genesis of the first war of heaven as well as the conflict between God, the angels, the archangels and the role man played in all this. I know, deep stuff when you were hoping for something to just sink your face into popcorn over. Well, grit your teeth and gird your loins we’re off to a philosophical fantasy land anyway.

This film picks up more or less where the first film leaves off. In the first film we learn of Gabriel’s quest to destroy man and thus bring the angels back to prominence in God’s eyes. Gabriel, in case you did not know, was against God giving man a soul and thus choice. Angels have neither and when the souls were passed out the angels were pushed aside, at least in Gabriel’s mind. Gabriel is pissed, not only because the monkeys have souls and are favored but because he can no longer talk to God. The first film was taut, and darkly moody and incredibly rich in imagery and wonder. There are scenes from that film that stay with me still.

This film however, covers only the same territory. Sure there is a bit more nudity and there are a few extra laughs but it’s the same flick and not done as well since so much is already known. Would this work as a stand alone? I don’t think so. End result? Go and watch the first film and skip this one all together.

THE POSTMAN, Warner, rated R, 178 Minutes, Starring Kevin Costner (as the Postman), Will Patton (as the evil Bethlehem), Larenze Tate (as Ford Lincoln Mercury), Olivia Williams (as Abby because chicks evidently don’t rate catchy names). Music by James Newton Howard, Screenplay by Eric Roth And Brian Helgeland, Directed by Kevin Costner.

I guess that one finally has to admit that Costner’s time spent watching all those National Geographic specials has really paid off. The man does sweeping landscapes with aplomb. Now, if only he could plot. This is based on David Brin’s novel of the same name and one would do well to go read the book whether or not you see the film. Book first, film next? Film first, book last? Wait for the comic? Wait for the cassette of Nimoy reading the comic? You decide!

Imagine one lone, slightly narcissistic, sleazy, weaseling individual who stumbles upon a device and a plan to make his future brighter. Then imagine that this individual goes ahead and begins to put his plan into action and it works, he gets respect, laid, food, a horse and creates a pack of trouble. Along the way he learns that he does not like being responsible. Actually he knew this all along. Imagine now that it is the future and the future is a wasteland after the last war and the country is isolated into pockets of villages and towns harassed by an army of hooligans led by a copier salesman. Oh, never mind, you don’t have to imagine it at all since that’s pretty much what the movie is all about.

Despite the Postman’s (Costner’s character) incredibly weak epiphany right near the end the film is basically about one man’s scheme to keep food in his belly and to keep responsibility from his door. The book is quite different albeit that it starts the same way.

A feel good flick provided you don’t think too hard. Good villains and better good guys. Great scenery. Bring a flag to wave.

DEVIL’S ADVOCATE (THE), Regency, Rated R, 144 minutes. Starring Keanu Reaves (as Kevin Lomax), Al Pacino (as Satan the fallen angel), Charlize Theron (as the wife of Kevin and the obligatory nudy), Craig T. Nelson (as Cullen the industrialist), Connie Nielsen (in case Charlize was not enough). Directed by Taylor Hackford, Music by James Newton Howard, Screenplay by Jonathan Lemkin and Tony Gilroy.

This film is based on the novel by Andrew Neiderman. Oh, I should point out that that score here is just as rousing as Howard’s work in The Postman (which did not have angels in it by the way) which is to say it is non-existent and barely noticeable. Not what you want in a film score. Reaves plays a hot young Florida attorney who never loses and who finally gets an offer to come to New York, city of scum, to join a big, prestigious law firm run by Pacino. He gets to bring his babe wife and leave mom home. This is all it takes and he’s off.

Soon he’s ass-deep in trouble though as his wife is going nuts, Pacino is getting weirdly philosophical, he’s representing murderers and goat killers and these other babes keep enticing them whit their charms. What’s going on? Now that would be telling and evil and something that only the Devil might do. Great acting by Pacino. Good acting by Reaves. Great clothes removing by Theron and Nielsen and Craig Nelson plays coach on a bad day. Interesting story with some nice twists and some really odd special effects which are creepy and troubling. I’m still not sure if the ending works for me. They should have stopped it ten minutes sooner I think. Oh well, I guess they forgot to ask or perhaps I was not home the day they called. Such is life.

Excellent book by the way and a good screenplay based from it. New York plays a great scummy city and Pacino plays the know it all power mad manager which he’s played in his last eight films. But he does it so well it’s forgivable.

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Contents - News -Contact - Interviews - New Releases -Paperbacks - RetroReview - Movies - Next Month

Next Month in SFRevu

Among the titles we're considering: A Knight of the Word - Terry Brooks / Alternate Generals - Harry Turtledove, Ed./ B5: Thirdspace -Peter David / Berserkers:The Beginning - Fred Saberhagen / Cyberweb - Lisa Mason / Full Tide of Night - J.R. Dunn / Greenmantle - Charles DeLint / Heartfire - Orson Scott Card/ In Legend Born - Laura Resnick/ Quest for the Fallen Star - Piers Anthony, James Richey, Alan Riggs / Six Moon Dance - Sheri S. Tepper / Stinger - Nany Kress / The Centurion's Empire - Sean McCullen / The Death of the Necromancer - Martha Wells / The Silent - Jack Dann / With the Lightnings - David Drake / Audio Book: The Invisible Man with Leonard Nimoy and John DeLancie / Retro :Riverworld

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