Sep 1998 Vol. 2.09
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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: The future is closer than you think.
NewsBits: News from friends and SF luminaries. World Fantasy Awards: Award Nominees and American Goliath review
Contact: SFRevu's forays into the world of SF Fandom. Media Connection Calender of Events: Cons, Discussion Groups and Appearances

Interview&Review: Author: Wil McCarthy Books: Bloom (New) The Fall of Sirius

New Titles: The Centurion's Empire by Sean McCullen A Knight of the Word by Terry Brooks Six Moon Dance by Sheri S. Tepper The Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells Stinger by Nancy Kress Beaker's Dozen by Nancy Kress Quest for the Fallen Star by Piers Anthony, James Richey & Alan Riggs
Now in Paperback: Widowmaker Unleashed by Mike Resnick B5: Thirdspace by Peter David Jack Faust by Michael Swanwick Greenmantle by Charles DeLint Running with the Demon by Terry Brooks
RetroReview: Riverworld Rambling with Bob Savoye
SFRevu Goes to the Movies: Blade Video Review: Sphere / Fallen / Snow White: A Tale Of Terror
SFMusic: S.P.O.C.K Assignment Earth Next Month in SFRevu:

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

But first, a word from the Editor:

The future isn't what it used to be. These days, it's more like the present.

When I began reading SF in the 60s the stories were about adventures far away in space and time. Heroic hurtlings through the void enthralled me while John Glenn and Neil Armstrong wrote the beginnings of that future history on transistor radios and new color TVs around the world. SF was about the future, extrapolated from the technology and dreams of the present, and it was thrilling stuff. It was much more interesting than where I really was, stuck in a middle class high school, not cool enough to join the enough to join the revolution against the establishment.

Then the space program died, so much so that even I don't remember the last shuttle launch. Faster Than Light Travel fell from Hard SF grace and Wormholes became the only way to move around the universe. Over the years Alternative History, the fiction of might-have-been rather than things-to-come, has moved into its ascendancy.

Ironically, the seeds of the future were there in front of our noses, but we didn't see them. The space program beget the transistor, which beget the PC, which beget the net.

Today, Bio and Cybertech rule both SF and the market and Urban Fantasists like Charles de Lint and Terry Brooks stride across a literary landscape that looks remarkably like the world outside our own front door.

Sure, there are plenty of authors writing about battle fleets popping in and out of hyperspace to slug it out in pyrotechnics that would have made E.E. Smith proud. Space Opera is tastier and less filling than other SF, and I consume it regularly. It even has a certain utility, recounting this waning century's world wars on page and screen for generations whose navies depend on stealth and speed rather than the thickness of their armor. But its not about the future.

The big issues we're wrestling with today are cyberspace and life extension. Cyberspace has been pretty thoroughly imagined, but immortality is just hitting it's stride. Hard SF is in resurgence, with Authors like Wil McCarthy and Allen Steele putting science back in as a real character ready to help move the plot along this time, rather than just fill the gaps between explosions.

Nanotech is the next holy grail, a science that is theoretically possible, but not yet realized. I wonder how today's authors will shape its growth, for while SF is a rotten predictor, it's a big influencer. William Gibson wrote NEUROMANCER with hardly  a clue…and entranced legions labored for decades to bring his cybervision into focus.

The dream of SF readers 50 years ago was that they might live to see the marvels on the pages come to life. Today, our dreams each night become the revelations of the following day. Living in the future, SF has become the fiction of our present.

- Ernest Lilley 9/22/98

In this issue: I finally got the review done for THE CENTURION'S EMPIRE by Sean McCullen which I loved, and capitalized on meeting BLOOM author Wil McCarthy at Worldcon with an interview and reviews of his works. Steve Sawicki is on as usual to urge you down to the video store, Paul Giguere and EJ McClure keep sending my reviews I can't find anything to fix on, and Bob Savoy rambles on about the reissue of Riverworld. Plus Blade, lots more books, new and reprinted paperbacks and a Space Rock CD from a Swedish group called S.P.O.C.K.

Pop up to the contents and hyperlink over to our efforts or punch the print button and read it on the bus. Welcome to the September issue of SFRevu!

Ernest Lilley, Editor / Publisher SFRevu

Subscribe now by Emailing with "Subscribe" in the subject to be notified when new issues go online ("Remove" gets you off the list).

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 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.

Mary Doria Russell: Well, this is probably old news now, but I won the John W. Campbell award last month, which was a huge thrill. This is new, though: the Cleveland Arts Council Prize for Literature. No additional movie news--the second revision of The Sparrow went to Banderas and Universal Pictures about 3 weeks ago. Everybody likes it better than the first version, and everybody wants a third revision. So it goes...

Michael Flynn: My story "House of Dreams" won the Sturgeon Prize. But you already know that, right? (H wins a Sturgeon and now he's fishing for complements.)

Visit for more information about the Sturgeon and Campbell Awards.

Patrick O'Leary: The latest from our Shameless Self-Promotion Department....
THE GIFT has just come out in paperback.
DOOR NUMBER THREE has just come out in Germany.
The SCI-FI Channel site "Seeing Ear Theatre" will have a REALAUDIO recording of me doing a reading at the READERCON 1998--One or both of these short stories: 23 SKIDOO and BAT BOY.
The Date I'm up is Monday Sept 21. the url is:

Cool, huh?

STAR TREK MOVIE NEWS: I (Ern) was browsing through IMZADI II, and while Peter David is a delightful writer, I can't get over this Riker can't live without Diana nonsense. IMHO Riker is the only character capable of actually moving on and leaving the past behind. I cheered the day he said, "Sure...just friends...besides I've got a date in the holosuite." Trek keeps hobbling him with their need to keep fans from dealing with change. Arrrghhhh. (Klingon ceremoanial comment) So I complained to a prominent Start Trek Editor, who shall remain anonymous and said: "You didn't hear this from me, but the new movie puts Deanna and Riker back together and takes their relationship to a new level. Our book is the bridge between All Good Things..., DS9, and the movie." - Oh, swell.

Dave Duncan: August 13th, 1998: Samuel Joseph Duncan, 7lb 12 oz, born in Vancouver BC, Canada, third grandson, fourth grandchild, of Dave Duncan. (And the firstmale Duncan in his generation.) Mother & son going great guns. (Congrats Dave!)

Ian Randal Strock, President, LRC Publications: LRC Publications is proud to announce the launch of our web site, Currently, we have news of interest to our readers and potential readers, as well as a book review section. We'll be expanding the reviews to films, music, games, and whatever else we find of interest. We've also got our stock offering document available, for those who might wish to invest.
And, as the launch date of Artemis Magazine nears, we'll be keeping our readers updated on the latest developments.

Allen Steele: Taking home a second Hugo has been sweet, but it hasn't made life that much easier. Just like the first time two years ago, I still had a novel to finish -- A KING OF INFINITE SPACE after L.A.Con II, OCEANSPACE after Bucconneer. Two days after coming come, I was back at work.

Two weeks later, the mild toothache which had been nagging me throughout the worldcon became a hornet lodged in the hinge of my jaw. I underwent emergency dental surgery during Labor Day Weekend and had my lower right wisdom tooth pulled; the remaining three come out next Thursday.

In hindsight, it's fortunate that this year's worldcon was early, or this all would have happened during Bucconneer. In that case, my wife would have had to accept the Hugo for me while I lay in my hotel bed, semi-conscious under the influence of heavy-duty antibiotics and painkillers.

Lessons to be learned from this? In order to win a Hugo, you should (a.) write a story that a lot of people enjoy reading, and (b.) floss.

Vanessa Christenson - Editor /The Leading Edge: The Leading Edge: Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy and the 17th Annual Life, the Universe & Everything Science Fiction and Fantasy Symposium at Brigham Young University are sponsoring a science fiction and fantasy short story contest for students and non-students (deadline is November 6, 1998). For information mail your address and a SASE (self-addressed, stamped envelope) to:

The Leading Edge, 1998 Contest, 3163 JKHB, Provo, UT 84602

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

Award Nominees: World Fantasy Awards to be announced at World Fantasy Convention at the end of October (see Contact for Con details). Novels reviewed by SFRevu indicate issue number within { }:

NOVEL: TRADER, by Charles de Lint (Tor) ; THE PHYSIOGNOMY, by Jeffrey Ford (Avon);; DRY WATER, by Eric Nylund (Avon){2.5} ; THE GIFT, by Patrick O'Leary (Tor) {1.5}; AMERICAN GOLIATH, by Harvey Jacobs (St. Martin's) {American Goliath}

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 & Tom Winstead - For The Ministry of Whimsy Press

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

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

Media Connection Expo

SFRevu contributor and Sci-Fi Talk host Tony Tellado hosted the first Media Connection Expo held at the Chelsea Piers in NYC during the Labor Day Weekend. SFRevu Associate Editor Sharon Archer and contributors Linda Zimmermann and Bruce Wallace attended the event and were pleased to cheer Tony on. Here is Tony's first hand account of the happenings …

I had a wonderful experience hosting the first Media Connection Expo in New York City. I certainly hope that there will be more of them to come. Eric and Mindy Lopkin put together a great show. I emceed on stage talking to various actors and here's a sampling of some of the buzz the actors shared with us:

STAR TREK: VOYAGER - Ethan Philips said that he is very excited about Brannon Braga taking over for Jeri Taylor as the Executive Producer of the show. He says that he brings a fresh prospective to the show. He stated that Jeri Taylor did a wonderful job and her departure will be felt. We all wish her well as she will write novels and not have to endure the grind of weekly series television. Also Ethan expects Voyager to return home when DEEP SPACE NINE ends as they will be the only Star Trek series on. He also expects the stories to shift away from Seven of Nine now that she is an established character.

SLIDERS - Kari Wurher was a wonderful interview, sharing her experiences working with Jon Voight in ANACONDA and Ray Liotta in the upcoming PHOENIX. She says that she will direct a SLIDERS episode this season. She also said that Jerry O'Connell and his brother will leave the program this season. She will be alone with Cleavant Derrick's character until the replacement characters come into the show. But she says that they will have an interesting chemistry. She also hinted that she has a long term commitment to the program. Look for the new season on the Sci-Fi Channel.

Richard Biggs of BABYLON FIVE gave two very wonderful and moving interviews openly discussing his deafness. He donated the proceeds from his autograph signings to a charity that benefits the deaf. He will also appear on the first episode of the news B5 spinoff, CRUSADE which stars Gary Cole as Captain of the starship, Excalibur. He says that Dr. Franklin has a disease that has infected Earth and sends the crew on a quest to find a cure, encountering alien races along the way. It will be on TNT.

Frank Gorshin who was the Riddler on BATMAN described how he based the Riddler's laugh on his own. He also did various impressions including his famous rendition of Richard Burton. I also saw Gary Lockwood of 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY signing at the show. He confided that he is a huge Science Fiction Fan that he watches still the movie every now and then on laserdisc and he still loves it. He didn't like the Hugo winning film CONTACT except for the special effects which he said were amazing. Actor Tim Thomerson talked about his experiences working with Lucy Lawless and Rene O'Connor on XENA:WARRIOR PRINCESS in New Zealand. Brion James knew Thomerson from their army days, talked about working on BLADE RUNNER with Ridley Scott whom he called the best director he ever worked for because he let you experiment.

Hosting the Con was a really great experience and one I would be happy to repeat. Thanks and kudos go to Eric and Mindy Lopkin for a great job of organizing.

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

 Cons, Discussion Groups and Appearances:

Sep 12- Science Fiction Association of Bergen County Meeting -8:00pm Cultural Center Upper Saddle River, NJ. Guest speaker: Jeffrey Ford. Northern NJ's premier SF club

Sep 15 8:00pm SFABC Author Discussion Group: Arthur C. Clarke- Discussion lead by SFRevu Editor Ernest Lilley Location: Border Books & Music Rt17 So. Paramus, NJ.

Sep 17-20 - Shorecon '98 Board,card,computer,live action & role-playing games Location: Hilton Cherry Hill, NJ

Sep 19 3:00pm New York Science Fiction Society (Lunarians) Meeting - Location :TRS,Inc. NYC

Sep 22 8:00pm SFABC Topic Discussion - Camelot, Location: Border Books & Music Wayne, NJ

Sep 27 11:00am - 5:00pm New York is Book Country Street Fair - Fifth Avenue 48 - 57th Streets
Oct 2-4 - Archon 22 GOH James P.Hogan Location: Gateway Convention Ctr Collinsville, IL (St.Louis area)
Oct 2-4 - Con*ept/Boreal 1998 GOH Robert Sawyer Location: Days Inn Downtown Montreal, Canada
Oct 2-4 -Context XI GOH Larry Niven Location: Harley Hotel Columbus, OH
Oct 2-4 - ZonCon Hudson Leick (from Xena) Mira Furlan (B5) Location: Best Western Hotel & Conference Center Baltimore, MD

Oct 6 8:00pm SFABC Classics of Science Fiction Discussion Group : Gateway by Fred Pohl Location: Barnes& Noble Rte.17 So., Paramus, NJ
Oct 9-11 - Ohio Valley Filk Fest 14 Location: Wyndham Dublin Hotel Columbus, OH
Oct 9-11 - AlbaCon '98 GOH Ester Freisner, AGOH Jael Location: Ramada Inn Schenectady, NY
Oct 23-25 -CouverCon '98 The Sentinel Benefitting The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric Aids Foundation Location: Westin Bayshore Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Oct 25-27 - Contact 16 GOH Frederik Pohl Location: Holiday Inn-Airport Evansville, IN P.O.Box 3894 zip 47737
Oct 29 - Nov 1 - World Fantasy Convention Location: Monterey, California - winners of World Fantasy Awards to be announced at banquet Sunday - see Award Nominees for listing of candidates.
Nov 6-8 - Sci-Con 20 GOHs Emma Bull, Will Shetterly, Collen Doran Location: Holiday Inn Executive Center Virginia Beach, VA
Nov 13-15 - WindyCon XXV Celebrating 25yrs of fandom in Chicago GOHs Allen Steele, Phil Foglio Location: Hyatt Regency Woodfield Schaumburg, IL
Nov 13-15 - OryCon 20 GOHs Lois McMaster Bujold,Alan Clark, Ellen Asher Location: Doubletree Hotel Portland , OR`osfci/orycon
Nov 13-15 -Tropicon XVII GOHs Neil Gaiman, Charles Vess Location: Sheraton Suites Cypress Creek Hotel Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Nov 14,15,21&22 - Virtual Con 1 SF & Non-Fiction Authors in live audio,contests, workshops, chat room Location: Cyberspace

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

Interviews & Reviews: Author: Wil McCarthy Books: Bloom (New) The Fall of Sirius

Author: Wil McCarthy

SFR: Congratulations. Not only did BLOOM strike me as a solid piece of Hard SF, I found it well written and the characters are both convincing and engaging. How did the book come about?

WM: My agent had a lot to do with it, actually, by challenging me to invent a story with "sweep." That was her word: sweep. I always have a lot of ideas flitting around in my head, both new ones and reactions (sometimes irate reactions) to things I've seen elsewhere in the field, so my half-joking response to her challenge was to use them all - literally every idea I could think of. That's not easy to do, given the number of fields I'm interested in. What kind of book integrates nuclear physics, molecular biology, interplanetary travel, nanotechnology, virtual reality, and a dozen other things into a cohesive storyline? The answer, apparently, is a book with "sweep." My agent loved the outline I sent her, and so did Random House. So I pretended to have been serious all along, and went ahead and wrote the book. I'm glad, too!

SFR: How do your five novels relate to each other? Are they all in the same universe? Is there a McCarthy timeline?

WM: Actually, I hate that "universe/timeline" jargon. It's useful in publishing, I know, and there really isn't any substitute for it, but to my ear it does seem to cheapen any artistic sentiments. English can be a very cynical language - probably this is why the French are always trying to hose its influence off their own culture.

That said, I'll admit that THE FALL OF SIRIUS is an indirect sequel to AGGRESSOR SIX; they share only one character in common, and take place thousands of years and dozens of light-years apart, but they're in the same "universe." FLIES FROM THE AMBER stands completely alone right now, while BLOOM is - at least approximately - in the same timeline as MURDER IN THE SOLID STATE. I have some other works planned in that sequence as well, falling just about squarely between the two, but we'll have to see when I have the time for that. The untitled book I'm currently working on is derived - again, loosely - from the DREAM OF HOUSES series of short stories that have appeared in Analog over the past several years.

Anyway, this is probably irrelevant; I take great pains to ensure that every book stands as a whole work, complete and consistent unto itself. Start anywhere you like.

SFR: Both BLOOM and THE FALL OF SIRIUS have human political factions bickering away while an incomprehensible alien invaders threaten us. Why can't we all just get along?

WM: Humans will be humans, yes. No matter how dire or wonderful the circumstances, there will always be misguided or malicious or short-sighted people mucking things up. Not necessarily that many, but their influence tends to be way out of proportion with their numbers. So barring some fundamental change in human nature, counterproductive behavior will be as much a part of the future as of the past and present. Would we want it any other way?

As for "incomprehensible invaders," you may be misreading me slightly. I have a big problem with the way alien intelligence is traditionally portrayed in Science Fiction: AI, space aliens, people with brain damage or deliberate modifications to cerebral function... they all come out sounding like White Anglo Saxon Buddhists or, on a bad day, maybe White Anglo Nihilists. But if you look at the world around you, even among normal human beings almost nobody actually thinks like that. Even your neighbors don't, and some homeless girl in Botswana definitely isn't going to. She's human, you can count on certain basic motivations, but their exact implementation may surprise you. And for minds with a very different evolutionary background, even those basic fundamentals may be altered or absent.

So yes, I have a lot of characters and groups and entities who don't think or behave anything like you and I do. This is a far cry from "incomprehensible," though; whatever parallels these behaviors are drawn from, music or mathematics or wild nature itself, they are internally consistent. They just have to be taken on their own -sometimes very alien - terms.

SFR: Explaining the Science in the SF story has fallen largely out of favor, but it works pretty well in BLOOM, especially since the point of view character is a reporter.

WM: Technical explanations are a part of the fabric of our lives; we hear them every time we start a new job, examine a new appliance, board an airplane, or whatever. Some authors overdo this, but the ones who leave it out altogether are kidding themselves, and gypping their audience. Even in the future, people simply won't stake their fates on a widget or phenomenon they find overly mysterious.

SFR: Faster Than Light Travel was synonymous with SF from the 40's to the 70's, but it's pretty much passe these days, and no respectable SF writer (yourself included) would dream of using it. Is nanotech the next FTL?

WM: I wouldn't dream of using FTL unless (a) I could justify it technically, and (b) it didn't serve as a crutch in the storytelling sense. Tools which exist purely to make the characters' lives easier or more "dramatic" are among the worst elements of mediocre SF. Why make things easier? Why create false problems when the universe itself supplies an infinite number of real ones? You have to get to Alpha Centauri in twelve seconds or you're all dead? Tough luck, Bub. That's drama.

But let's be fair: there are authors who've used FTL to good effect. Now it's true that nanotechnology is particularly vulnerable to this sort of abuse; people have the idea that it can do anything, and this makes it the ultimate plot crutch: paint your characters into a corner and then POOF! Nanotech to the rescue, roll credits.

But again, if we just look to the laws of physics as our guide, this problem falls away. There's nothing preventing nanotechnology from becoming a reality, even from reordering our world more completely than the Industrial or Information revolutions ever could. But nanotech can't do the impossible, either. When used honestly, as a framework rather than a crutch, any technical innovation brings all kinds of new tensions and dangers and promises to the fore. Then all you need is a similarly honest portrayal of the human beings affected by it.

SFR: What SF or Fantasy influenced you growing up? What do you read now, and why?

WM: "Influence" is a tricky term, because a work you hate can inspire just as passionate a response as a work you love. I'm grateful for every crappy book that ever made me say "I can do better than this." And the good ones, too, that made me say the same thing a bit more cautiously. Truthfully, more than half of what I read these days is nonfiction, and the rest is a scattershot sampling of Mystery, Suspense, Mainstream Literature, Fantasy, and of course Science Fiction.

I do seem to have lost my tolerance for the mediocre, though. Most of the fiction I start to read gets put down unfinished. Fantasy in particular seems to have fallen into the hands of mostly very poor craftsmen, which makes the contrasting good works stand out all the more. I've become a sort of student of good Fantasy; I think there's something there that Science Fiction - especially Hard Science Fiction - can learn from.

SFR: Do you believe in better living through technology? Are things getting better?

WM: Technology is a profoundly neutral force. It's that counterproductive human behavior in the face of technology that steamrollers people. Are things getting better? Yeah, I guess a little bit. We don't walk around expecting our children to drop dead before the age of ten; I'd call that an improvement. But we've slaughtered millions of innocent people, too.

SFR: Since you work in the space launch business, do you think we'll return to space?

WM: Sure. People forget how hard space travel is, though. It's expensive, and while there are technological spinoffs, you can also get those in other, cheaper areas like the Human Genome Project. In the end, the only solid reason to go into space is because we feel like it. Will that happen? Absolutely. But maybe not today.

Bloom by Wil McCarthy
ISBN: 0-345-40857-8 / Del Rey Hrdcvr, Sep-98 / Review by Ernest Lilley

I think the Honorable Klaus Penbruck, in closing the book on Glazer v. Cholm, speaks for all of us with his immortal words, "Shut up Lady, We don't want to end up like the Earth." - BLOOM

BLOOM is nine months in a tin can with six other people speaking English with a Swiss accent while the universe tries to eat you alive. It feels claustrophobic, occasionally incomprehensible, frequently terrifying and all in all, just about right. It's a mission to Earth, or what used to be Earth before the nanotech machines or alien space spores or whatever the microscopic Mycoria really are ate it and the entire inner solar system for lunch, leaving only puffy balls of goo where Earth, Venus and Mars once were. It's a recon mission, the first since the evacuation to the asteroids and moons of Jupiter. It's not an offensive strike, honest. So it should be a simple trip. All they have to do is fly an untested ship into the heart of the Mycorium, thick with the creatures that consumed a planet, drop a few probes at the polar caps of the inner planets and zoom home. Of course the Captain has a prosthetic sense of humor, the biological safety officer gets killed off before the mission starts, everyone thinks the main character is a spy, and there's probably a saboteur aboard. What could go wrong?

The story is told in the first person of the mission correspondent, John Strashiem, born on Earth before the evacuation, now a resident of one of Jupiter's moons, where much of exiled humanity lives. Even here they are not safe from the sudden, explosive blooms of Mycorium, living on the edge of the next outbreak of spores, consuming everything in its path, slowed only by the assault of chemicals, stopped finally by the cold of the outer system. Strashiem is an amateur net journalist, with an online following for the daily net postings he beams back in ever decreasing volume as the ship plunges towards the fecund inner system and its data rate dwindles. The narrative is broken up between his reports for the net and his accounting of the voyage, complete with occasional interviews with the different experts on the ship to explain what's going on. So, yes, it's a feast of exposition, but it's tasty as well as nutritious.

Wil McCarthy explores the human dynamics aboard the ship, the inevitable affairs, betrayals, heroics and the really bad smells a spaceship gets after being sealed up too long. His writing has matured very nicely, and his sworn agenda to balance hard science, adventure and characterization is vindicated by the completed product. My only complaint is that as with any story with nanobeasties at its core there is a bit of a deus ex machina at the ending. Wil is a seriously hard science guy though, spending his days plotting satellite orbits and working launch support on heavy-lift Titan boosters for Lockheed Martin and producing regular rants on subjects as diverse as the Invention of Credit and the Year In Science. Maybe he's thought through the whole nanotech thing.

BLOOM is a fine synthesis between Hard and Literary SF, a trick many have tried, but few have managed.

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The Fall of Sirius by Wil McCarthy
ISBN 0-451-45485-5 / Roc Pprbk Sept '96 / Review by Ernest Lilley

Colonel Malyene Andreivne of Central Investigations is very good at what she does, tracking down the occasional killer in mankind's Sirius colony worlds. She's good because she hides the same kind of monster insider her that she pursues relentlessly, though hers is kept under control, if barely. A monster she inherited from her father along with the guilt for his crimes and his ability to see emotional aura, invaluable in interrogations…or negotiations.

Suddenly the Waister fleet appeared from the direction of Orion's belt and moving at .9 lightspeed, to wipe out every one of the billions of colonists in Sirius system, because humans had not learned the art of surrender. Every one except Malyene, her children and a few assorted cyrostorage patients deep within an asteroid med facility where she commandeered the freezing tanks to wait until human rescue ships returned to the system.

She wakes two thousand years later, cut off from everything she has ever known, surrounded by human descendants who have genetically engineered themselves to become the aliens that destroyed much of mankind once. She wakes to find that she is once again on the eve of invasion, (Didn't we just leave this party?) that the aliens that accepted mankind's surrender are about to return, and her eyewitness account of the first attack could be invaluable to the modified humans of Sirius as they prepare for the second invasion. Even if she is a stupid, unmodified human.

They don't know it yet, but between the human and the monster buried within her, they have awakened either their worst nightmare or best hope for peace, or both. Either way, they are about to get much more than they bargained for. We all have a bit of a monster inside us, and sometimes we need it to get the job done. "Monsters from the id…" proclaimed Professor Morpheus in FORBIDDEN PLANET, three decades ago and a few hundred years after Will Shakesphere dreamed up the original script. Well, monsters from the id are back, and this time they're not taking no for an answer. Pity the aliens.

THE FALL OF SIRIUS is Wil McCarthy's fourth novel, and follows in the universe of his first, AGGRESSOR SIX which took place at the time of the first invasions in Earthspace. McCarthy's favorite themes are present - mankind pitted against a genuinely alien enemy, nanotech and asteroid habitats, plenty of hard science and enough character development to keep the literary hounds at bay. The story takes place entirely inside the confinement imposed on Malyene and her companions as they try to understand and manipulate both the pseudo-alien society of the post human "aggressors" and the truly alien Waisters returning after millennia of noninterference with the surrendered humans.

Though not as smooth as the narrative in his latest work (BLOOM) it's an engaging read, and though it follows AGGRESSOR SIX, millennia have passed and it stands on its own fairly well setting up the story and giving it closure. Still, the epilogue shows that Wil isn't done with this universe yet and promises more to come.


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New Titles: The Centurion's Empire by Sean McCullen A Knight of the Word by Terry Brooks Six Moon Dance by Sheri S. Tepper The Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells Stinger by Nancy Kress Beaker's Dozen by Nancy Kress Quest for the Fallen Star by Piers Anthony, James Richey & Alan Riggs  


 The Centurion's Empire by Sean McCullen

ISBN: 0-312-85131-6 / Tor Hrdcvr, Jul-98 / Review by Ernest Lilley

"Can you hear me, Celcinius?" she asked. His lips moved a little but he made no sound.
"It is the 824th year of the founding of Rome, my great lord, and you have been asleep two hundred and seventeen years."
"Rome?" wheezed Celcinius faintly.
"Rome is now the greatest power on earth," said Regulus over Doria's shoulder.
"Temporian rule is still firm." - The Centurion's Empire

Vitellan doesn't mind the cold, it's better for sleeping the centuries away. CENTURION'S EMPIRE bills him as Rome's second human powered time machine in Sean McCullen's mixture of Secret History and Cyberpunk, and he accomplishes it all with enviable flair.

Vitellan Basilica's father was a Roman Centurion about the time Christ was causing a stir amongst the Jews. He instructed his son to avoid the military and to follow Christ. Without rancor, neither admonishment took very well. At the story's outset young Vitellan is shipwrecked while on his first voyage. "Legions dangerous, he said. Join a ship, he said. Safe, safe…he said." Only his body's native resistance to cold sustains him through the days he spends lashed to a spar in the bitter cold sea.

Shortly after being cast back from the sea, he joins the Roman Army and comes to the attention of the Temporians, a secret society of immortals. Not the unlikely immortals that never age, but a well thought out scheme of cryo-suspension using glacial crypts and a serum distilled from the juices of certain insects that live at sub freezing temperatures. When need arises some are chosen to thaw and wake to influence society and add a few of each era's best and brightest to their numbers.

Unfortunately just before his induction into the society, thieves break into the hidden mountain hold with the result that the society and its secrets are denied Vitellan. Ultimately he stumbles upon a physician with access to half the secret of frozen sleep and as he is nursing a grudge against a faithless fiancée he elects to jump forward beyond her time. Unable to resist the opportunity to throw revenge back in her face he pops out a few decades hence to bed her daughter, with results so disastrous that he winds up hunted for nearly a thousand years.

Vitellan organizes his own cult of sorts around himself to maintain his frozen body through its voyage and in doing so he becomes a sort of human fire extinguisher - kept under a seal and only broken out when times threaten the village around his crypt. The right Roman Centurion, it turns out, is more than a match for the disorganized forces of the centuries after Rome's fall.

Waking in 872ad later he leads his villagers against the Danes, and again in the 1300s against the Jaques in Northern France. Whenever in these dark times he wakes and walks among his oath-bound friends he is a force for the preservation of order, a believer in nobility, and a champion of the civilization that died with Rome. Through these times he seems almost a traveler from some enlightened future, and his legend grows even as he is forgotten in slumber.

And then for something completely different, the traveler wakes in 2028, amazed at the painlessness of revival, stunned by the world outside, and stalked by killers who know exactly who he is and sworn to his death.

Suddenly THE CENTURION'S EMPIRE switches from an engaging epic of early warfare and honor to a compelling work of Cyberpunk three decades hence and Vitellan is a man lost in the post millennial world. Surrounded by high tech assassins and uncertain allies, can he survive a future he could never have imagined? 

Time travel, both the sleep-your-way-to-the-future and the jump-back-to-the-past variety have long delighted in Imperial Rome as a setting. For a look at someone going the other way, try Sprauge DeCamp's HONORABLE BARBARIAN. The immortals story is pretty classic fare as well, and in fact, the Wandering Jew is a roman soldier himself. So Vitellan is in good company.

Time travel fiction often asks, is we sleep, jump, or drive into the future, what will we do for a living? Will the future need us? The answer is rarely cash in on our investments, given that everyone pretty much agrees that no one will stand for all that money sitting around doing nothing. It's usually, do what you did before, and hope that it's so archaic or creative that it sells like hotcakes. Vitellan's trade is war, Roman style, and when he awakens first into the middle ages and then later into our near future, he finds it a handy profession to know. Courage, discipline, and the desire to see more futures down the line serve him well against religious armies and cyberasassins alike. Though admittedly the dark ages were easier to adapt too.

I especially liked the attention that the author paid to the technology of cyro-suspension. With the single addition of his elixir, he fulfills the "one impossible idea" premise of SF and works everything convincingly around it. I also liked the notion that such a traveler might not be in the best of health after being frozen and revived a few times.

 Sean McMullen is best known for his "Medieval Cyberpunk" novel, VOICES IN THE NIGHT, and is a three time winner of the AUSTRALIAN SCIENCE FICTION AWARD.

THE CENTURION'S EMPIRE spans centuries and genres with equal aplomb. Vitellan is a character well worth following, either into battle or through the aeons!

A Knight of the Word by Terry Brook

ISBN 0-345-37963-2 / Del Rey Hrdcvr, Aug-98 / Review by Ernest Lilley

Long ago, the Welsh hero Owain Glyndwr was chosen by the Lady of the Word to carry her magic into the world and battle the demonic force of the Void. Centuries later English teacher John Ross is called to her service, carrying the staff that fills him with the power to defeat the invisible demons feeding on mankind's lusts and hatreds. A staff that cripples him as well, to remind him that he has been bound to the Lady's service. When Ross dreams, he dreams of terrible futures where mankind has turned on itself in an orgy of mad destruction the evil feeds upon. Terrible futures he has a chance to prevent.

Where he succeeded in the first book (RUNNING WITH THE DEMON reviewed in SFRevu #1.4 - see our mini review in this month's Now in Paperback section), John Ross takes the stage in KNIGHT OF THE WORD broken by failure. The blood of the children he had gone to save from a tragedy he had foreseen in his dreams cannot be washed from his hands and he sets aside his staff to do no more harm. Unfortunately, his burden is not one that can be surrendered, and he will either be taken as a prize by the Void, destroyed by the Word, or saved by a friend.

Once rootless, John Ross has found a new life in Seattle working with Simon Lawrence, celebrated champion of the homeless, and a different kind of magic in the love of Stephanie Winslow, a beautiful woman whose love heals the scars he carries. Terry Brooks brings back Nest Freemark, the young woman of power he saved in the first book. Much as Ross saved Nest from the demons seeking to turn her in the first book, she is now called upon to save him, unleashing the magic within her once more. Close at hand a demon waits to take him into the service of the Void, but with its ability to take any form it chooses, how can Nest find it in time to save him?


RUNNING WITH THE DEMON gave a tremendous start to this series, and A KNIGHT OF THE WORD carries its momentum forward every bit as strongly. If DEMON smells of Bradbury, with its small town and summer nights, KNIGHT reeks of King, in a darkly urban setting. Both books are superb Fantasy, and the sequel is self-contained enough to read alone.

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Six Moon Dance by Sheri S. Tepper
ISBN: 0-380-97479-7 / Avon/EOS, Hrdcvr, Aug-98 / Review by EJ McClure

SIX MOON DANCE is an elaborately constructed work tackling the thorny issues of gender roles, environmentalism, indigenous rights and the responsibilities of technologically superior governments.

Once I got past the suspension of disbelief required to swallow the premise of a gender-reversed society in which surplus boys are sold off as Consorts (more vulgarly known as "Hunks") to married women who have fulfilled their contractual child-bearing obligations, I was able to take interest in Mouche's adventures. Though his lowly status as a Consort means he will never have a wife of his own and attain the coveted title of Family Man, he nurtures a secret dream; he wants to become a sailor, one of the few careers open to "supernumes".

But while in training as a Consort at House Genevois, Mousche rediscovers the Timmys that delighted him as a child. Timmys are a native population of non-humans used as menial labor by the settlers of Newholm. The Newholmians deal with the laws against such practices by ignoring the Timmys; they are the invisible hands that do all dirty work, including child care. The Men of Business who handle the mechanics of local government find this a very satisfactory economic arrangement. All is going along so well until the Questioner is dispatched by the Council of Worlds.

The Questioner, a composite intelligence constructed by Haraldson, an idealistic ruler of the Council of Worlds, is tasked with assessing mankind-occupied worlds for compliance to Haraldson's edicts. The edicts forbid slavery, genocide, settling on previously occupied planets, and destruction of habitat or biodiversity. The Men of Business and the Hags who hold religious power on Newholme are certain Questioner will disapprove of the subjugation of the Timmys. The penalty for disobeying the edicts is either evacuation of the human settlers or, in extreme cases, their destruction. Sensibly frightened by this prospect, they find themselves in an uneasy alliance of secrecy.

All this is complicated by the existence of another band of settlers, renegades who fled justice on their homeworld. After decades of living in the wilds of Newholme they are no longer...quite the men they were when they arrived.

Tepper's large cast of characters conscientiously serve to advance the plot, though they spend a great deal of time relating the complicated backstory to one another, along with various fables and legends. It is a novel of exposition rather than action. The conclusion is morally satisfying; as in a fable, everyone gets a measure of justice. By the end of the book Tepper has given adequate accounting for the stubborn individuality of human nature which rebels against being conformed to tidily-engineered society. Her irony isn't subtle, but she makes her points with good humor and this is, after all, only her second book published by Avon.

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The Death of the Necromancer by Martha Wells
ISBN: 0380973340 / AvonEos Hardcover, July '98 / Review by Paul Giguere

Looking for big fire-breathing dragons, some Xena-esc Sword and Sorcery, and hyper-powerful magic? Well you won't find it in any of Martha Wells' Fantasy novels and that is what makes them first rate. Martha Wells writes the kind of Fantasy novels that appeal to non-Fantasy and Fantasy readers alike.

THE DEATH OF THE NECROMANCER is her third novel but is only the second to take place in Ile-Rien, a sort of Victorian-era fantasy world (that closely resembles France at the turn of the century) where magic is just one of many serious scientific disciplines. This approach keeps the magic at bay and lets the wonderfully complex world, interesting characters and engrossing plot develop. Wells' first novel THE ELEMENT OF FIRE, takes place several years into the future from the events of NECROMANCER but there aren't any cross-over of characters.

The story revolves around Nicholas Valiarde, a Nobleman, whose father was falsely accused and convicted of necromancy and executed. Valiarde is consumed with the need for vengeance against Count Montesq, the man who testified against Nicholas' father. To complete his revenge, Nicholas takes on the persona of Donatien, a master thief, and amasses great wealth in an effort to frame Montesq. To help him, Nicholas has assembled a small group of people; an actress, who is also his lover, a professional killer, who seems to be amoral but still has a sense of professional ethics, and a once great sorcerer, who has a drug addiction that is destroying his mental faculties.

Nicholas' plans for revenge are interrupted by a mysterious spiritualist, Octave, who seems to be able to truly make contact with the dead using a technology that Nicholas recognizes as one of his father's forgotten inventions. With death and decay at every turn, the pursuit of Octave leads Nicholas and his friends into the deep dark recesses of terror itself and a mystery far greater than Nicholas could have imagined.

THE DEATH OF THE NECROMANCER crosses many literary boundaries. It is a Fantasy with hard Science Fiction-like elements. It is a mystery/thriller but also a horror story. Chilling and convincingly real, it is a fast-paced adult Fantasy novel. This is one of the best novels I've read this year. I found that I couldn't put it down and I doubt that you will be able to either. Thoroughly enjoyable.

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Stinger by Nancy Kress
ISBN: 0-312-86536-8 / Forge Books / Oct. 1998/ Review by Paul Giguere

Nancy Kress is best known for her science fiction stories, BEGGERS IN SPAIN being one of her most notable. With her reputation established, Kress began experimenting with other literary genres. In 1996 she wrote OATHS AND MIRACLES, a biomedical-Thriller which introduced the character of FBI agent Robert Cavanaugh. The result was a satisfying story that probably found its audience in SF readers rather than the traditional readers of Thrillers.

In STINGER, Cavanaugh has been transferred to a field office in southern Maryland that takes him out of the fast-paced high profile organized crime unit. But things don't turn out to be so slow-paced as Cavanaugh expects. Cavanaugh receives a call from a nurse at a local hospital who has noticed a high incidence of heart-attacks in Black adults. What is taken to be a fluke at first winds up becoming a major concern when an African-American presidential candidate also dies.

As events begin to unfold, the Centers for Disease Control begin to investigate as well and discover that someone has created a plague that only affects people of color and has released it into the general population through the use of mosquitoes as carriers. Cavanaugh races against time to find the answers.

As good as the first book, STINGER is well-paced, the characters are likable, and the main story and sub-plots keep you turning the pages. In my opinion, STINGER is better than many of the thrillers being published today. Even the supposed masters of the genre could learn a thing or two from Kress (like how to write a good sentence for one... but I digress).

My only problem has not to do with the novel or with Kress but with the marketing of STINGER. Like OAHTS AND MIRACLES, STINGER (which hasn't any SF elements in it) will probably never find its way on to the Mystery/Thriller shelves of your local bookstore or into the hands of people who typically read thrillers. Kress' name recognition as a science fiction writer and Forge Books, which has a reputation as a Science Fiction and Fantasy publisher, means that most book stores will automatically file this book next to Kress's other SF works. Thus, STINGER is not the break-out book for Kress. Alas, the Thriller fan will be the loser but SF fans don't have to be. STINGER is a great read. 

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Beaker's Dozen by Nancy Kress
ISBN  0-312-86537-6 / Tor Hrdcvr, Aug-98 / Review by EJ McClure

 Nancy Kress maintains that her favorite length for a story is a novella. She claims this gives her "room to build an alternate reality but not so much room that I become lost and foundering in the terrain." This may be the case, but Kress is a master of her art in any form. BEAKER'S DOZEN is a delightful collection of her short stories of varying length and complexity, but uniform strength and clarity.

Kress starts off with "Beggars in Spain," which she has expanded into a successful trilogy since writing the novella. In it she sets the stage for the social conflict between Sleepers, those of us who waste some portion of our life sleeping, and the genetically modified Sleepless, those who have those extra hours to live, learn, and create. Leisha, one of the first of the Sleepless, holds to the view that the Sleepless are still part of the society which created them, and that some accommodation, some social contract, must be possible. She finds herself increasingly alienated both from the Sleepers, including her "normal" twin sister, and her fellow Sleepless who want to withdraw from the world into a secure enclave. Kress masterfully stages the social debate without ever losing touch with her characters' intrinsic humanity or missing a beat in the taut pacing of the rising tensions that threaten the family Leisha loves and the one she needs.

"Dancing on Air" was another of my favorites. It also wrestles with the question of the place of bioenhancement in society, and its impact on those who accept its risks, and those who cling to the purity of tradition. The talking dog, a devoted and protective mother and an aging ballerina make an unlikely trio of lead characters. What price the glory of the moment, the beauty of movement and music?

"Summer Wind" is not Science Fiction at all, but a Fantasy piece, a tragic retelling of the story of "Sleeping Beauty" that the Brothers Grimm would have appreciated. The scope of Kress' talent is obvious when you compare "Summer Wind" with the tersely ironic "Margin of Error", a chilling tale of slow revenge. Sisterhood is a theme throughout the book; the two characters in "Margin of Error" are sisters; one a brilliant geneticist, one a single mother. "Flowers of Aulit Prison" is another story of sisterly devotion: one sister is dead; the other, a murderer…if her memories can be trusted. In "Evolution" friends who were once as close as sisters find themselves on opposite sides of the fence in a struggle over who should receive antibiotics and the role of hospitals and doctors as increasingly drug resistant and lethal strains of diseases decimate the population.

A cop turned schoolteacher takes us into the frenetic and brutal world of inner city schools in the story "Fault Lines." He is struggling to let go of his wife - who lies cocooned in a coma after a car accident - while being unable to let himself care for the unruly kids he teaches or the fellow teachers who look to him for help. This is my favorite of the stories. Whether to let go or hold on is a fundamental question at some point in every relationship. The tautly constructed mystery facing Gene Shaunessy probes fearlessly into the ethical and emotional dilemmas facing researchers who want to rush a new drug to market, yet are held up by the seemingly endless bureaucracy of testing and approval. Once again Nancy Kress shows us the human side of the cutting edge of technology.

There are six more delightful tidbits in BEAKER'S DOZEN. The theme of genetic engineering and its social and personal consequences is a familiar one for Kress, who worked as a corporate copywriter before turning to Science Fiction. Legal definitions and decisions will inevitably lag behind the race of technological progress; experience is the very essence of case law. Science Fiction is one of the ways that we visualize and contemplate the future. Kress gives us a valuable glimpse into that future as she explores the possible consequences of uncorking the genie from the beaker.

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Quest for the Fallen Star by Piers Anthony, James Richey & Alan Riggs
ISBN 0-312-86409-4 / Tor, Hrdcvr, Jul-98 / Review by Asta Sinusas

"Hope!" the mage bellowed. "Hope is a road that only leads to despair."

This wizard continues in his bad mood for another two hundred pages. He's a good guy so imagine what the bad guys are like...

Infinitera was once perfect, until the hordes of Ill Creatures led by the Dark One threatened the inhabitants of this world. Now, at peace again, though nothing is ever quite the same, strange star has fallen and the Ill Creatures are back.

If you like role playing adventures, you'll love this story. The "Quest" assembles a host of characters for a mission to destroy the "Fallen Star". Much of the story is spent journeying them together, collecting magical swords, orbs, spells and whatnot as they fight their way through compromised lands.

Chentelle, an elf enchantress is first, responding to a summons to retrieve the Thunderwood Staff from A'stoc, the apprentice of A'pon Boemarre. Along the way, she rescues Sulmar, an outcast Tengarian with an evil curse on him, who pledges to serve and defend her in repayment. Lord Dacius Gemine is next. He is asked to join a shipful of Legionnaire soldiers that are journeying to the Holy Land and, by the way, to bring along his vorpal sword, which is only used to kill Ill Creatures. Uh oh. Lastly is Father Marcus Alanda, High Bishop and his sidekick Brother Gorin the good goblin.

Once the party is assembled, the High Bishop charges them with the quest. Thus ensues voyaging, fighting and discovery. One of the most fascinating parts of the book is the revelation of the Fallen Star's true nature, but you'll have to find that out for yourself.

I was quite impressed by the character of A'stoc. In a lot of works, wizards are usually the ones who know what they're doing and it is unusual to find one that is hounded by doubt, fear and a lack of self confidence. I was less impressed with Chentelle who seemed to faint into the arms of Sulmar every time she used her magic until it exhausted her.

At the back of the book, there are a few pages in which each contributor explains from his own viewpoint how this project came into being. I was surprised to learn that the rough draft was written by James Richey and polished by Piers Anthony and Alan Riggs. Obviously in this cruel world, the weight of the name Piers Anthony intrigues the potential reader (myself included) and sells the book (which is exactly why Piers collaborated on it).

This quest ends better than it begins, but isn't it written that all's well that ends well? By the time QUEST FOR THE FALLEN STAR is over I was happy to forgive a somewhat obtuse beginning for an excellent overall story.

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ISBN: 0-312-16771-7 / St. Martins Press Oct. 1997 / Review by Paul Giguere

In 1868, an incredible hoax was perpetrated by a one George Hull. In response to a passage from the book of Genesis where giants are proclaimed to have walked the Earth, Hull had a huge statue carved from a stone block and then buried at a relative's farm. A year later the Cardiff Giant was discovered. A discovery that rocked the scientific world and helped George Hull make his fortune.

 The story follows Hull from the inception of the idea to the final downfall of his discovery. Along the way, we are introduced to a wide array of fascinating characters including the Cardiff Giant himself. P.T. Barnum tried to steal the whole idea (during his pre-circus days) by creating his own "giant" which eventually leads to the discovery of the deception on both Hull and Barnum's part.

One part Americana, one part historical fiction (with a little dollop of fantasy thrown in for good measure), AMERICAN GOLIATH is a humorous, bawdy romp through the inventiveness and sheer audacity of a post-Civil War era. A time when industry, pomp and deception have clashed to produce a phenomenon that although laughable today, was none-the-less a significant event in the lives of many people struggling to come to grips with the sense of loss that was felt at the time.

 A nominee for the 1998 World Fantasy Award in the novel category and a "notable book" of the New York Times and Kirkus Review, AMERICAN GOLIATH sets a grand stage. Definitely a fun read.

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In Paperback: Widowmaker Unleashed by Mike Resnick Alternate Generals - Harry Turtledove, Ed. B5: Thirdspace by Peter David Jack Faust by Michael Swanwick Greenmantle by Charles DeLint Running with the Demon by Terry Brooks

Widowmaker Unleashed by Mike Resnick
ISBN ISBN: 0-553-57162-1/ Bantam Paperback 240 pages Oct 1998 / Review by EJ McClure

I need to pay more attention to book jackets. Though Mike Resnick is billed on the cover as "Author of THE WIDOWMAKER REBORN," I didn't twig to the fact that THE WIDOWMAKER UNLEASHED was third in a series until the astute editor of SFRevu pointed it out to me. Frankly, I don't know what higher compliment I can pay to Mike Resnick's skill as a storyteller. I was captivated from the first sentence and just kept turning the pages.

Jefferson Nighthawk is revived from cryogenic suspension to be healed of his grotesquely disfiguring disease. He's ready to live happily ever after. Now sixty two apparent years old (and a whole lot more if you count the time he spent in cryo-sleep), he's missed out on a good many years of galactic history, but he knows exactly what he wants to do with his golden years; plant a garden and catch up on his reading.

Unfortunately for him, the clones that were created to pay the bills for the scientists (and the lawyers) made a lot of enemies along the way because Jefferson Nighthawk, the original, was a professional bounty hunter under the nom de guerre of the Widowmaker. Best in the galaxy, according to his inscrutable oriental sidekick, Kinoshita. Not that this claim is without dispute -there are plenty of twitchy young guns eager to win fame as the man who killed the Widowmaker. No matter where Jefferson Nighthawk goes, trouble follows, forcing him into one unwanted shootout after another.

Nighthawk puts up with it until the troublemakers start using his gal as a pawn to draw him out. Then he decides he has had enough, and once again, he turns to a clone of himself to help him resolve his dilemma. It's not hard to imagine Clint Eastwood in the role.

THE WIDOWMAKER UNLEASHED is a clever pastiche. Whatever backstory Resnick has included was tightly wound to the fast-paced action or buried in the sardonic and snappy dialogue. The humor is ironic, the characters briskly sketched and the settings both amusing and authentic, some of them obviously drawn from Resnick's own experience on safari. A ripping good read.

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B5: Thirdspace by Peter David
ISBN 0-345-42454-9 / Del Rey, Pprbk, Jul-98 / Review by Sandra Bruckner

Peter David has done a wonderful job of bringing the BABYLON 5 TV Movie "Thirdspace" to print form. His adaptation of the movie is very true to the original form, but perhaps better because some of the plot easier to follow.

For example, the encounter between Zack Allen and Lyta Alexander in an elevator is awkward to watch in the movie. But it made perfect sense in the novel. This is mainly because you can read Zack's thoughts as he tries to tell Lyta how he really feels about her!

The author has a very good grasp of the characters on Babylon 5, which helps tremendously in making this adaptation worth reading. It enhanced the movie for me - and I'm sure it would help out any new viewers as well.

The main story revolves around the discovery of an ancient artifact, discarded in space. Who built it and what is its purpose? The answers to those questions form the basis for the movie. As we discover that this great machine was built by "the first ones", we also see the destructive effect is has on human beings. The climax is right out of the Saturday matinee!

The novel is a good read, something we've come to expect from Peter David!

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 Jack Faust by Michael Swanwick ('97 Hugo Nominee)
ISBN: 038079070X / Avon Books (Trade) 337 pages Sep 1998 / Review by Ernest Lilley

If a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, JACK FAUST shows just how much worse limitless knowledge could be.

For centuries, FAUST has been the cautionary tale of the price of knowledge, but Michael Swanwick felt that there was a story still ripe for the telling, and created a masterpiece that is full of irreverence, energy, and inventiveness. JACK FAUST is a delight for anyone who has given thought to life, the universe, and everything - and a spur to anyone who hasn't. This tale of enlightenment, desperation, romance and reason is absolutely fabulous.

The story opens when Johannes Faust, scholar, surgeon, philosopher, and by his own estimation one of the most learned men of his age, that being the 16th century, is tossing his library into the hearth, book by book. Faust has climbed the mountain of knowledge contained in the texts of the day, and from that vantage point he finds that all he can see is contradiction and obvious fallacy. From the inaccuracies of Ptolemy's astronomical observations and the empirical absurdity of Aristotle's physics to the multitudes of inconsistencies in the bible, Faust despairs in finding a single source of truth in a wasteland of prideful pontification. Be careful what you wish for…

In the classic versions, the devil offers Faust mere tidbits of knowledge. Here, the voice that comes to Faust provides nothing less than omniscience...from the relationships between atoms and galaxies to the levers that would move the heart of the most virtuous woman to offer herself carnally. There is little noble about Johannes Faust and nothing noble about his muse, but between his love for knowledge and desire for the one woman that seems denied him, Johannes Faust, a.k.a. Jack, will rewrite the face of the world with a vengeance.

Hardly a traditional devil, this Mephistopheles is the representative of a race that wishes nothing more for man than that he burn himself to ashes on the pyre of progress, and the sooner the better. Hence their offer to Faust, whom they bend to their own devices. Left to himself, he might be content to explore the vast field of knowledge provided to him, but he is driven by his love for Margarete, a.k.a. Gretchen, as was Faust in Goethe's version.

JACK FAUST is full of boisterous fun and sobering revelation. I'd love to see it read in schools alongside Goethe's FAUST...but its heresy would probably be more than even our enlightened age could stand. Read this book before someone gets the idea to toss it on a hearth for your own good.

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Greenmantle by Charles DeLint
ISBN 0-312-86510-4 / Urban Fantasy / Tor Trade Aug-98 (orig. Feb-88) / Review by Ernest Lilley

GREENMANTLE is a collision of worlds.

Deep in the Canadian woods, there is a small village that doesn't appear on the maps, doesn't show up from the air. A small village of people who came here centuries ago to follow ancient beliefs, to listen to a music that calls forth something that cannot be explained, only experienced. Sometimes it's a stag that bounds through the night pursued by hounds, sometimes it's a man pursued by monks. Sometimes, when everything is right, it's a Mystery that runs free in the world, filling men's minds with a longing for something more…

Tony Valenti was a soldier in an army with, uh, family values…capishe? But somebody set him up and he barely got out of New York with his life, retiring from the business to a house he set up in rural Canada where he could heal in peace, maybe even become a better man.

Frankie and her daughter Ali have had some hard times too, but those days are behind her. When Earl, her ex, turned out to be dope dealing scum, she got out, and when she won $200,000 in a lottery she came back to her abandoned ancestral digs with Ali and fixed them up to make a home.

When Frankie's ex finds out about the prize money and heads north to collect his "fair" share, he recognizes Tony. Even though he's strictly independent, it never hurts to have family ties, so he makes a call to some people who'd really like to see Tony again.

About then, worlds collide.

Each of the stories could stand alone. Charles de Lint writes Crime Fiction as convincingly as he does Urban Fantasy. Together the stories intertwine in a way that snared my attention and lifted them out of their separate genres. Tony Valenti is a bit like the character in A KNIGHT OF THE WORD, ready to put down his arms and live peacefully. His old friends don't want him to live at all.

GREENMANTLE was originally written 10 years ago, but remains as exciting now as when it was first issued.

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Running with the Demon by Terry Brooks
ISBN: 0-345-42258-9 / Del Rey, Pprbk, Jul-98 originally published Harper Prism, Sep-97 / Review by Ernest Lilley

Magic runs in the Freemont family. For seven generations the women of the family have been charged with the stewardship of Sinsinippi Park, warding off the mindless "feeders" that no one can see and maintaining a balance of magic with the help of Pick, a Sylvan ("Don't call me an Elf!") and his forest friends. Nest Freemont is a normal 14 year old girl if you discount her prodigious athletic ability and the strength of the magic inside her, or the way her future self keeps popping up in visions of a dark future. Nest's mother died mysteriously when she was an infant, and no one will tell her about her father; not her grandmother, who wielded the power in her time, not her grandfather who can't see the magic, not even Pick.

Two men, or things that were once men, come to town as it readies itself for the Fourth of July, and tries to forget the strike that has shut down its sole source of industry, the steel mill. One is a demon in human flesh, come to tip the balance of power towards an apocalyptic future, the other a Knight of the Word, sworn to the service of an ancient power, sworn to stop the demon and his kind, forsaking his humanity in that service. They have both come for Nest. On her future rests the future of mankind, a future that John Ross, Knight of the Word, dreams all too vividly in the desperate visions of what the future might be if he fails.

The story climaxes in a battle which is clearly part of a larger war. This awareness, along with the author's superb storytelling skill leaves you in suspense as the story moves towards its conclusion. Nest and her band of teenage friends are as well realized as the adult and elderly characters. Though there is some adult content, it is handled with restraint and should make this acceptable for mature teens as well as the adult readers it's aimed at. 

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Retro Review : Riverworld

Riverworld.JPG (22657 bytes)
Del Rey is bringing out in the Philip Jose Farmer's Riverworld Saga, so we thought a few words from Bob Savoye, our resident riverboat rambler, might be in order.

Ol' man river.
That ol' man river.
He don't say nothin'
But he must know somethin'
Cause he just keeps rollin'
He keeps rollin' along.
from - OL' MAN RIVER (Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein)

Think of humanity wound around a planet like a coil of its own DNA. Never mind Death where is thy sting, Riverworld doesn’t even have bug bites.

As an ethical experiment, everyone who has ever lived is reborn on a sort of inverse cruise ship. The water moves and all along the shoreline is a party. They arrive with nothing but mental baggage. All undressed and no place to go. It’s the fertile valley of the Nile without the need to bother sowing seed. How did mankind wind up on the shores of Riverworld? Does it really matter? Well, that's one way of finding out what kind of man you are. Some care, some don't. Somebody behind the curtain is deliberately leaving clues.

In such a Utopia, what is a reasonable goal? Concern for fellow man and future generations is not an issue. Given a luxurious free lunch and a resort beach, I think most people would stop to reevaluate their goals. Science and Technology would yield to art and religion. History and tradition become almost useless. The top job would go to the recreation director. There would be lots of organized sports, dances and sing-alongs. Tough times for would-be pyramid builders. But Philip Farmer opts for sex and aggression. Conflict and control are the real games, battling for affection.

Meddling curiosity and tendency to worry soon derail this opportunity for a life of blissful indolence. With the whole species at the audition, the players chosen to act out the plot manage to hold our interest, even against this extraordinary background. Part of the fun of this is realizing that you too would have been invited. What would your behavior be? How to fill the day? All that time to read and no books!

I enjoyed the first book tremendously, as Farmer sets things up an undetermined amount of time after the human race is wiped off the face of the cosmos in a single day, pretty much by accident. The author just doesn't think mankind is made for leisure, bickering being in our bones, and while some try to get to the top of the human heap, others are determined to take a look behind the curtain and see who's playing the organ. The rest of the series fails to live up to the promise of the first book, though taken as an excuse to mix historical characters willy-nilly it's every bit as interesting as the best Alternative Literature.

Hey...has anyone seen Kevin Costner reading this stuff?

Robert Savoye September 19,1998

I gets weary - Sick of tryin'
I'm tired of livin' - Feared of dyin'
But ol' man river, He's rollin' along.

from - OL' MAN RIVER (Jerome Kern, Oscar Hammerstein)

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SFRevu Goes to the Movies: BLADE - New Line Cinema (review by Ernest Lilley)

Cast: Wesley Snipes (BLADE), Stephen Dorff (FROST), N'Bushe Wright (KAREN), Kris Kristofferson (WHISTLER), Traci Lords (RAQUEL) (MERCURY) A New Line Cinema release. Running time: 120 minutes.
Director: Director: Stephen Norrington ("Death Machine")
Writer: Davis S. Goyer, based on the comic book series
Producers: Peter Frankfurt, Wesley Snipes and Robert Engelman

Blade is the product of the vampiric conversion of his pregnant mother just before she went into labor. They saved the child, mostly. Now, full grown, he possesses a mixture of human and vampire traits, including the vexing desires to drink blood and waste vampires. The first he fights, the second he relishes.

Good thing for Blade that he saves a lovely Hematologist in the first scene, because the serum he's been taking to slake his thirst isn't doing the trick and anemia is threatening to force him to hunt like monsters he has sworn to destroy.

In Blade's world vampires rule an underworld with accommodations by the authorities. Blade and a handful of others don't buy into the controlled grazing the powers that be have kept hidden from the sheepish masses and are out to do max harm to the undead.

It’s not entirely clear how much of the nonstop mayhem Blade inflicts with sword and spike and throwing blade actually kills vampires, some of whom keep growing new hands (gruesomely) between fights and some of whom just dissolve into dust on the spot. Presumably readers of the comic could enlighten me on the rules, but no matter.

At one point you have to believe that ancient vampires built an immense temple under New York for the explicit purpose of channeling the energies of the undead through a half-breed's blood and then forgot why and where they had done all this. Perhaps less believable is that Frost, the bad boy vampire out to turn over the established order figured it all out on an apple PowerBook, probably lent to him by Jeff Goldblum after using it to infect the mothership in ID4.

Kris Kristofferson puts in an excellent performance as Whistler, Blade's weapons designer and mentor, dying of cancer just in time for N'Bushe Wright to step into the role as Alfred to Blade's Batman. She is more fun to look at than Alfred, I'll admit.

Frankly, the only thing I really missed in BLADE was sex. If you're going to show lots of people getting their heads cut off, exploding from the blood boiling in their veins, and dancing in showers of blood, would it really be that much harder on the censors to throw in some sex? I must be getting old, because I remember when there really was sex and violence in films, and vampire films without the sexual thrill of the bite just seems to miss something. Not that there is a shortage of attractive women, including Traci Lords as one of the children of the night. Regrettably, even the post porno Lords has to do more than act mean to get me off.

BLADE is the best adaptation of a comic book to film this decade. At times it comes across as a comic, requiring substantial suspension of disbelief, but on the whole it does what it set out to do - introduce the characters of Blade's vampire compromised world with ninja/ superhero fight scenes, a high energy soundtrack and just enough backstory to make sense of it all.

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SFRevu Video Review (by Steve Sawicki)

The editors here at SFRevu take pride in presenting an honest, balanced and positive approach to film and video. They let me write for them anyway.

Perhaps it’s because I have the flashlights and know the way out. Maybe it has more to do with my pure, unbridled image of what film should and can be. Most likely it’s my sheer enthusiasm toward genre productions and my own horrific hollyweird experiences. In any case, film is a drug and it’s time for our monthly fix. Balance is sought and found--and by me, how ironic.

SPHERE, Warner, Rated PG-13. 135 minutes, Starring Dustin Hoffman as Psychologist Norman, Sharon Stone as Dr. Beth Halpernin, Samuel L. Jackson as Harry (the obligatory nude shower scene), Peter Coyote as Commander Barnes, and Queen Latifa (because someone had to get eaten by the jellyfish). Directed by Barry Levinson, Music by Elliot Goldenthal, Screenplay by Stephen Hauser and Paul Attanasio.

Insider information. Paul Attanasio is a SF writer who has hovered on the edges of Science Fiction for two decades. Is this the explanation for the tightness of the plot and basic ideas?

This is the movie based on the book by Michael Chrichton. It’s about a team assembled to be a first contact squad. There is only one small problem. Well, okay, there are actually two small problems; the ship is 1,000 feet under water and it’s been there for 300 years. So, armed with these two bits of information the first contact team heads right out to open the ship up. (Hey, doesn’t it strike you odd that no one in movies ever seems to have seen movies? If they had they wouldn’t be so quick to open up 300 year old space ships.) Anyway, they open the ship and almost immediately make fatal victim error #1. They split up. They don’t die but this does indicate the level of common sense on hand. What they find is this, some trash and a giant sphere. The trash is important because, well, it just is. The sphere is important because it’s the key to the whole thing, otherwise they would have named the film something else entirely.

I make light but in reality this is a pretty tightly paced and woven effort with some big logic holes. The biggest hole is that some of the crew, Hoffman, Jackson, and Stone, end up with the power to bring their thoughts into reality. Of course, the only thoughts they manage to so embody are evil ones and weak evil ones at that, Hoffman brings forth jelly fish, Stone does snakes and Jackson does squid. Yikes, my dog has more interesting thoughts than that. Still, it is an intriguing concept which sort of sinks as it gets closer to the end. Can’t fault the acting which was excellent and the writing was good too. The book was great so it must have been the director with this lack of vision. Music was okay but hard to dance to. Great pictures for being underwater and some decent special effects.

FALLEN, Warner, rated R, 125 Minutes, Starring Denzel Washington as Detective John Hobbes, John Goodman as Detective Jones, Donald Sutherland as Lt. Stanton,and Embeth Davidtz as Gretta Milano. Music by Tan Dun, Written by Nicholas Kazan, Directed by Gregory Hoblit.

This is a very interesting movie, extremely well acted, very well shot, nicely directed, taut with suspense and plotted to near perfection. The idea which drives the whole thing is incredibly simple. Demons, or fallen angels, can take over human bodies. Once they are in a body they can transfer from body to body merely by touching another body. Demons by the way are pretty evil and are working to bring about the downfall of the human race. They’re doing this one person at a time and having great fun in the process. Washington’s character Hobbes is one of the few who is apparently immune to this touch transfer and he soon begins to be stalked by one of these major demons. The demon power means that it could be anywhere or anyone at any time. It plays with Hobbes in both expected and unexpected ways. Hobbes job is to kill it. This is not an easy thing and Hobbes spends most of the film trying to figure this out while trying to keep himself out of trouble.

 The only real flaw in the film is that we, the audience, know something that the characters do not. This thing that we know proves to be extremely important and, in the end, is a thing which breaks the film. I would not have chosen to close this way and there were other options plainly available which would not have left the audience feeling cheated. They should have called me. Maybe they did. I must have been out.

SNOW WHITE: A TALE OF TERROR, Polygram, Rated PG-13, 101 minutes. Starring Sigourney Weaver as Lady Claudia, San Neill as Master Hoffman, Gil Bellows as the leader of the Dwarves, Monica Keena as Lilly Hoffman. Directed by Michael Cohn, Music by John Ottman, Screenplay by Tom Szollusi and Deborah Serra.  

Okay, so you’ve gone through the credits above and you don’t recognize any character names. Not only that but you don’t see Snow White at all. That’s because this is an alternative telling of the fairy tale. Sigourney Weaver plays the evil stepmom, Keena plays the unnamed Snow White, Neill is dad and the Dwarves (with the exception of one) really aren’t. Otherwise it’s a twisted retelling of the famous story which retains only the bare basics--there’s a mirror, there’s an apple, there’s some witchcraft, and there’s mining done by at least one dwarf. Otherwise be prepared for something that’s close enough to feel comfortable but different enough to keep you going. Good acting and some really wonderful scenery shots of forests. Weaver is great as the mad stepmom. Neil is rather bland as dad and Keena is attractive in a dense sort of way as Ms. White or Lilly as those of us in the know call her. Bellows is a great outlaw miner who deserves exactly what he gets. An interesting story retold in a way to keep it intriguing. Could have been really terrifying if they had just put some thought into it but pretty scary all the same. Not for the kiddies, it’ll creep ‘em out.

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spock assignment earth - group.jpg (14703 bytes)

SFMusic: S.P.O.C.K Assignment Earth (North America edition only) Label: Subspace Communications
Not Human (4:15) 2. Alien Attack (3:26) 3. Out in Space (3:31) 4. Astrogirl's Dilemma (3:10) 5. E.T. Phone Home (4:18) 6. Spooky (3:05) 7. Force of Life (4:47) 8. Meanwhile... (0:49) 9. Space Seed (3:48) 10. All the Children Shall Lead (4:36) 11. Not Human [Remnant Fluxivity mix] (6:14) 12. Not Human [Steadyrockeasy mix] (2:46) 13. Romulan Ale (4:08) 14. All Alone (3:26) 15. Space Seed [live] (3:40) Techno-Pop-Space-Rock group from Sweden. ASSIGNMENT EARTH is their first export album to the U.S. Evidentially this had been going on since 1988 and S.P.O.C.K. has been putting out CDs and playing to enthusiastic crowds in Europe for years. Why doesn't anybody tell me these things? What? Am I stuck out in the Delta Quadrant or something?

The band is made up of several Swedish guys with homey recognizable names like Android, Crull-E, Admiral Eddie B Kirk., and Plasteroid. Is it an indictment of geekdom that no Swedish girls wanted to be in the band? If it's a plot, please don't explain it to me.

The album itself is an song anthology dealing with many of your favorite space and SF themes. No, it's not likely to take over the U.S. charts, but once I put it into my CD player I kept forgetting to take it out. Buy it, crank it up until Regulan Blood worms crawl out of your ears. Don't blame me if you decide you like it.

"Not Human" is a cheery little post abduction song: "They lock me up in a hospital, fill me up with drugs that explain it all, but I know what I've seen, the scar on my neck proves what I mean. They're not human."

"Alien Attack" is a boppy little tune about the return of an alien race that once lived on Earth and left, prudently, to avoid an asteroid impact…60 million years ago. Robert Sawyer should have gotten in on this one in case they ever make a movie out of the Farseer triolgy. The lyrics are catchy…though they repeat rather a lot. "Alien, alien attack…they want their planet back."

Some of the songs on this CD relate directly to specific shows or movies, "E.T. Phone Home" is about the stranded alien's dilema, while "Romulan Ale" has a voice mixed in that sounds suspiciously like Walter Koenig's.

Other songs deal with a variety of topics, from the last generation from Earth on a colony ship ("All The Children Shall Lead") to the ever popular alien genetic influence theory of evolution ("Space Seed") and the disconcerting business of putting on a new body ("Spooky").

Visit the record label or find out where to buy the album:

Interesting trivia: "S.P.Ä.C.K", which means Lard in Swedish, is a group that made S.P.O.C.K-covers in Swedish. Well, I thought it was interesting.


Cover Art: A Knight of the Word (Del Rey) - David Stevenson; Beaker's Dozen (Tor) - Thomas Canty; Bloom (Del Rey) - Rick Berry; Riverworld Trade editions (Del Rey) - John Stevens; Six Moon Dance (Avon/EOS) - J.K. Potter; The Centurion's Empire (Tor) - Michael Koelsch; The Death of the Necromancer (Avon/EOS) - Liz Kenyon; The Widowmaker Unleashed (Bantam) - not credited

Posters/Photos: Blade - New Line Cinema; S.P.O.C.K: ASSIGNMENT EARTH - Subspace Communications; Wil McCarthy - Del Rey booth at 1998 Worldcon photograph by SFRevu

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Next Month in SFRevu

Titles we are considering include: B5: Dark Genesis- J. Gregory Keyes, Echoes of Honor & In Enemy Hands -David Weber plus a Honor Harrington retrospective, Heartlight - Marion Zimmer Bradley, Heroes Die - Mathew Woodring Stover , Inherit the Earth - Brian Stapleford, Northern Stars - David Hartwell & Glen Grant, eds., Star Trek: Imzadi II - Triangle - Peter David, Star Trek: Q's Guide to the Continuum - Michael Jan Freedman and Robert Greenberger, Stars and Stripes Forever - Harry Harrison, The Children Star - Joan Slonczewski, The Essential Bordertown - Terri Windling & Delia Sherman eds.

Audio book - Alien Voices Presents: The Invisible Man

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