Sciece Fiction & Fantasy Reviews | December 15, 2005

By Jackie Cassada, Asheville Buncombe Lib. Syst., NC

Bisson, Terry. Numbers Don’t Lie. Tachyon, dist. by Independent Pubs. Group. Dec. 2005. c.176p. illus. ISBN 1-892391-32-5. pap. $14.95. SF

Wilson Wu, formerly a rock musician, an aeronautics engineer, a camel driver, a mechanic, and a trial lawyer, has a knack for introducing his friend Irving to strange situations, such as a gateway to the moon from a Brooklyn junkyard, the point at which the universe ceases expanding and starts contracting (located in a treehouse), or an odd manifestation of the Butterfly Effect involving Irving’s wedding festivities. Award-winning sf novelist Amber Jewelry, Tea Sets, Sleeping Bags, Wholesale Tea Sets and short story writer Bisson (Pirates of the Universe; Talking Man) collects three stories featuring the incorrigible and unflappable Wilson Wu to form a loose novel exploring some of science’s stranger by-roads. With mathematical illustrations supplied by sf writer and mathematician Rudy Rucker, this slim volume is essential reading for the author’s fans and for fans of speculative fiction laced with considerable humor.

Drury, David M. All the Gold of Ophir. Five Star: Gale. Dec. 2005. c.404p. ISBN 1-59414-421-4. $25.95. SF

After several unexplained deaths on the Jupiter Space Station orbiting the gas giant, private investigator Mike Fynn is brought in to find the killers. Instead, he finds evidence of a conspiracy that has transferred key witnesses from the station and arranged for the death of the doctor who performed the autopsies. As he delves deeper, Flynn finds that he himself is in danger. Drury’s debut features a fast-paced blend of hard sf and mystery with likable protagonists and a carefully thought-out premise. A good choice for larger sf collections.

Funk, Bret. Jewel of Truth. Tyrannosaurus. (Boundary’s Fall, Bk. 3). Dec. 2005. c.448p. ISBN 0-9718819-2-8 [ISBN 978-0-9718819-2-1]. $19.99. FANTASY

The weakening of the Boundary that once imprisoned the Darklord Lorthas has afforded that evil being the opportunity to send his forces to harass the lands outside his prison, adding to the troubles already existing in the land of Alrendria. As Prince Martyn struggles with the idea of a political marriage to strengthen his country, the young mage Jeran Odara, enslaved by the Darklord in his mines, finds his loyalties at war with his compassion for his fellow prisoners. The third installment in Funk’s fantasy saga (Path of Glory; Sword of Honor) increases the tension and suspense as the time of ultimate confrontation draws near. Evoking universal fantasy themes, the author provides a cast of intriguing and diverse characters, a complex villain, and a well-executed universe. A good choice for most fantasy collections.

Grimwood, Jon Courtenay. Felaheen: The Third Arabesk. Spectra: Bantam. Dec. 2005. c.384p. ISBN 0-553-38378-7. pap. $12. SF

Ex-policeman Ashraf Bey (Effendi; Pashazade) accepts a job protecting the emir of Tunis, who happens to be his estranged father, from possible assassination. With revolution threatening to explode throughout northern Africa, Bey becomes more and more enmeshed in the politics he despises, finding himself seeking answers to his past and to his present in the fabled city of El Iskandrya. Grimwood evokes the sights and sounds of a Middle East that might have been in this elegant blend of exotic fiction and detective story, which belongs in most libraries.

Hendee, Barb & J.C. Hendee. Traitor to the Blood. ROC: NAL. Jan. 2006. c.368p. ISBN 0-451-46066-9. $23.95. FANTASY

The son of an elven mother and a human father, Leesil is raised as a slave and trained to be an assassin and spy for his master, Lord Darmouth. Unwilling to kill on command, Leesil escapes, only to return with his beloved companion, the dhampir (half-vampire) Magiere, to discover the fate of the parents he left behind. In their hardcover debut and the fourth title of their "Noble Dead" saga, the Hendees (Sister of the Dead; Dhampir) have crafted a unique tale of vampires and half-vampire undead hunters set against a dark fantasy world ruled by tyrants. The personal conflicts of the heroes mirror the larger struggles in their world and provide a solid foundation for this tale of love and loyalty in a world of betrayal. A good choice for most fantasy collections.

Hubbard, L. Ron. The Ultimate Adventure. Galaxy. Jan. 2006. c.217p. ISBN 1-59212-214-0. $22.95. SF

The victim of a string of bad luck that has left him jobless and penniless, Steve Jebson becomes the subject of an experiment by a renegade researcher who sends him to an alternate world that resembles the Arabian Nights, down to the beautiful maiden and the evil ifrit. The late Hubbard, one of the masters of pulp sf, first published this novella in Unknown magazine in 1939; this is its first hardcover publication. Libraries with strong pulp fiction collections and author fans will want this for their readers.

Kenyon, Nate. Bloodstone. Five Star: Gale. Jan. 2006. c.343p. ISBN 1-59414-438-9. $25.95. HORROR

Driven by the voices in his head, ex-convict Billy Smith kidnaps a prostitute named Angel and takes her to the small New England town of White Falls. When Angel confesses that she has been having dreams and hearing voices as well, the unlikely pair work together to unravel the mystery that brought them to this town and to lay to rest the ghosts of their pasts. Kenyon’s horror debut evokes an atmosphere of small-town claustrophobia as he brings his story to its inevitable conclusion. With a final twist worthy of V.C. Andrews, this tale of classic horror belongs in large libraries where readers are not offended by a few graphic sex scenes.

Knight, E.E. Dragon Champion. ROC: NAL. (Age of Fire, Bk. 1). Dec. 2005. c.384p. ISBN 0-451-46047-2. pap. $14. FANTASY

Born without scales or the hunger for gold, the gray dragon Auron escapes the catastrophe that kills his parents and his siblings. Trying to make his way in the Upper World, Auron finds unusual friends in a dwarven child and an elusive green female dragon who falls captive to a power-hungry mage seeking to enslave all dragons to his will. Auron’s destiny leads him to a confrontation with the mage and a new beginning for dragons. The author of the "Vampire Earth" series has crafted a series opener with a refreshingly new protagonist who views the world from a draconic, rather than a human, perspective. A fine addition to most fantasy collections.

Levinson, Paul. The Plot To Save Socrates. Tor. Feb. 2006. c.272p. ISBN 0-765-30570-4 [ISBN 978-0-765-30570-1]. $25.95. SF

When her advisor shows her a fragment of an unknown Socratic dialog in which the philosopher, on the night of his execution, receives a visitor who speaks of a rescue by virtue of time travel, classics scholar Sierra and her boyfriend, Max, also a classics student, search for the truth behind the tale. Discovering that time travel is possible, Sierra and Max embark on a rescue mission like no other. Levinson (The Silk Code) spins a fascinating tale that spans the centuries from 400 B.C.E. to 2061 C.E. and ranges from ancient Greece and Egypt to Victorian London and future New York. An intriguing premise with believable characters and attention to period detail make this an outstanding choice for most sf collections. Highly recommended.

Masterton, Graham. Manitou Blood. Severn House. Dec. 2005. 369p. ISBN 0-7278-6291-X. $28.95. HORROR

A plague in which the victims feel as if they are on fire from within and are compelled to drink human blood threatens to reach epidemic proportions in New York City. Recognizing the plague’s supernatural origins, medium Harry Erskine consults the spirit of a Native American shaman to discover what is behind it. Together with a Romanian psychic and Dr. Frank Winter, who has nearly succumbed to the plague himself, Harry hunts for the malevolent being who seeks to remake the world in his image. The prolific Masterton (Hidden World; Holy Terror) adds another horror gem to his body of work. A masterly plotter who evokes both terror and suspense, Masterton also creates well-rounded characters ready to do their part in the hidden struggle between good and evil. A few graphic scenes of sex and violence may limit the readership, but hard-core horror fans and followers of the author will want this title.

McMullen, Sean. Voidfarer: A Tale of the Moonworlds Saga. Tor. Feb. 2006. c.400p. ISBN 0-765-31437-1 [ISBN 978-0-765-31437-6]. $27.95. FANTASY

An ovoid object falls from the sky, leading Wayfarer Constable Danolarian to believe that it is a dragon’s egg. Upon hatching, however, the object reveals an invasion force of sorcerers from the world of Lupan, come to conquer. Danolarian refuses to allow his world to fall and enlists the aid of his sorceress girlfriend (and her formidable mother), as well as the dispirited sorcerers of Alberin. Australian fantasy author McMullen’s latest installment in his "Moonworlds Saga" (Glass Dragons; Voyage of the Shadow Moon) offers new heroes and villains and a look at the unusually talented group of peacemakers known as the Wayfarer Constable. Superb storytelling and an unusual setting make this a first-rate addition to most fantasy collections.

Norton , Andre & Jean Rabe. Return to Quag Keep. Tor. Jan. 2006. c.304p. ISBN 0-765-31298-0 [ISBN 978-0-765-31298-3]. $24.95. FANTASY

When a group of role-playing gamers uses a set of enchanted miniature figures in their game, they are transported to a world of dragons, elves, and wizards and become trapped in the form of the miniature they chose. Now they attempt to find a way home in spite of assassins paid to kill them, wizards trying to control them, and the odd monster who just wants to pick a fight. Their journey ultimately leads them to the place where it all began, the fortress known as Quag Keep. The late Grand Master Norton wrote the original Quag Keep in 1976 after her first experience with the Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game. Nearly 30 years later, just before her death, she asked fantasy author Rabe (The Finest Creation) to work with her on the sequel. With believable characters, plenty of action, and storytelling of the highest quality, this fantasy adventure belongs in most fantasy and YA collections.

Rankin, Robert. The Brightonomicon. Gollancz, dist. by Trafalgar Square. (Brentford Trilogy, Bk. 8). Dec. 2005. 359p. ISBN 0-575-07009-9. $20. FANTASY

The youthful hero of Rankin’s latest fantastic romp takes his girlfriend to Brighton for a weekend, but instead of a romantic outing, he finds himself cast into the water only to be rescued by the enigmatic Dr. Hugo Rune. Suffering from memory loss, the young man agrees to help Dr. Rune solve a series of 12 mysteries patterned on the Brighton Zodiac formed by the patterns of Brighton’s streets. His adventures and their final resolution result in a freewheeling tale that combines the best of British comic writing with a panoramic approach to storytelling. Libraries should purchase where there is a demand for comic fantasy or where the author has a following.

Resnick, Mike. Starship: Mutiny. Pyr: Prometheus. Dec. 2005. c.290p. ISBN 1-59102-337-8. $25. SF

When new first officer Wilson Cole reports for duty to the starship Theodore Roosevelt on the outer fringes of a galactic war, he brings with him rumors of his tendency to exceed his orders – and promptly gives the crew an example. After disobeying his commander’s orders and following his own instincts to achieve a major victory, he finds himself the object of a court-martial for insubordination. Instead of facing an almost certain guilty verdict, he and his loyal followers take the Theodore Roosevelt and declare themselves independent from the military, regardless of the consequences. Prolific sf author Resnick (Kirinyaga; A Hunger in the Soul) launches a new series of military sf adventure with a solid introductory tale of one man’s faith in himself and the loyalty of his comrades. A good choice for large sf collections.