Locus Online












Books reviewed in this month's LOCUS MAGAZINE


Book Selections for May 2000

Full reviews from Locus Magazine are not available on this website!
(However there is an index to those reviews since 1997.)

These pages excerpt Locus Magazine's reviews to profile two books each month, selected as first-choice recommendations for keeping up on the best of current SF, fantasy, and horror.

Eater, Gregory Benford
(HarperCollins/Eos 0-380-97436-3, $24, 340pp, hc, May 2000)

Gregory Benford's new novel is a scientific thriller, somewhat in the mode of his 1980 classic Timescape, writes Gary K. Wolfe in the April 2000 Locus, combining:

''...Benford's talent for believably depicting scientists at work with his capacity for provocative and original hard SF invention and his desire to keep it all accessible to an entry-level SF audience more interested in suspense and spectacle than in speculative physics. This may sound like an uncookable recipe, but fortunately, with his new novel Eater, Benford comes closer to bringing it off than ever before.''

The book begins with evidence of an unusual astronomical artifact, a repeating gamma ray burster; the story is at first

''an astronomical puzzle, and in rapid succession turns into a first contact tale, a world-threatening disaster epic, a tragic romance, a space adventure, and an ontological fable that returns to his favorite themes about the relation of organic to artificial intelligences in the universe.''

The artifact seems to be a black hole but is also intelligent and chatty, having collected samples of various civilizations along its journeys and now demanding the uploaded minds of several hundred humans.

''Eater is probably the best of Benford's hard-SF thrillers to date ... for the first time [Benford] gives us an intellectual thriller with the real characters of his most ''mainstream'' work and the provocative ideas of his hardest SF. It's a mixture that works, if not quite seamlessly, in ways that are both very impressive and very satisfying.''

Jonathan Strahan (in the April issue) and Russell Letson (in the May):

''Benford excels at depicting scientists doing real science and at providing a window into the politics of science. ... Eater is an intelligent, gripping science thriller that will reward any science fiction reader.''

''Even in the face of huge events and special-effects sequences, Benford manages to keep the characters and the human-scale issues important... In fact, it's just this kind of juggling that characterizes the best of Benford's work, and Eater -- more serious than Cosm, more upbeat and extroverted than Timescape -- is Benford's most Benfordesque book in quite a while.''

The Fountains of Youth, Brian Stableford
(Tor 0-312-87206-2, $24.95, 352pp, hc, May 2000, cover by Donato)

The Fountains of Youth is the third in a series of loosely-connected SF novels, following Inherit the Earth and Architects of Emortality, that explore a future history first outlined in the 1985 The Third Millennium, co-written with David Langford. The present novel is an expansion of Stableford's 1995 novella ''Mortimer Gray's History of Death'' (included in Gardner Dozois's 13th Annual Year's Best), set in a 25th century when advanced medical technology has rendered humanity virtually immortal. Mortimer Gray, born in 2520 and one of this generation of Emortals, survives a natural disaster that prompts him to a life-long obsession with exploring mankind's relationship with death, a study that will occupy ten volumes and nearly 500 years of his life.

Writes Jonathan Strahan in the April 2000 Locus,

''Brian Stableford is a writer who has reinvented himself a number of times. He started his career with a series of popular space operas before temporarily abandoning fiction for critical and academic writing. Then in the late '80s he returned to fiction with a series of outstanding scientific romances, most notably The Empire of Fear, which established him as one of the most accomplished writers of science fiction to come out of Britain. The Fountains of Youth bears the marks of that history. Stableford deftly blends the story of Mortimer Gray's life with excerpts and synopses from his History of Death, portraying a life and examining a philosophy, while also carefully extrapolating a detailed and plausible future. The novel has a definite Victorian flavor, possibly a leftover from those scientific romances, that makes for a refreshing change. The Fountains of Youth is amongst the best science fiction novels I've read so far this year, and I suspect it will prove to be one of the year's best.''

Gary K. Wolfe writes in the May 2000 Locus that the book is an

''almost stately novel of ideas that captures both the Tithonian romantic melancholy of immortality and the sheer intellectual excitement of those Stapledonian British scientific romances which set out to chronicle believable long-term futures. As a kind of capstone to Stableford's future history series and as a signal expression of his continuing fascination with various forms of decadence and fin de millennium ennui, it may well be his best novel to date. ... It is one of the season's finest novels, and in all likelihood one of the year's best as well.''

© 2000 by Locus Publications. All rights reserved.