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Books reviewed in this month's LOCUS MAGAZINE


Book Selections for August 2000

Daemonomania, John Crowley
(Bantam 0-553-10004-1, $24.95, 451pp, hc, August 2000, cover design by Jamie S. Warren Youll)

The Collapsium, Wil McCarthy
(Ballantine Del Rey 0-345-40856-x, $24.95, 325pp, hc, August 2000, cover design by David Stevenson and Heather Kern)

Faren Miller writes in the July Locus:

Thirteen years ago when I reviewed AEgypt, the first in John Crowley’s metaphysical fantasy quartet which has now reached volume three, I compared its mixture of enigmas, frustrations, and strange attractions to faerie gold, at once rich and liable to turn into a handful of pebbles and leaves. Seven years passed, and then Love & Sleep continued the saga of historian/writer Pierce Moffett and those very different women, Rosie and Rose, in a 20th-century America where reality seems strangely unstable, the stuff of dreams. Would it take another seven years for the third book to arrive?

It turned out to be six years in our world, and some time has passed in Crowley’s as well. We’ve survived without the millennial apocalypse some predicted when 1999 rolled over into 2000 A.D. As for Pierce, it seems possible that ‘‘the first shudders of the coming age that so many perceived had in fact passed and left the world the same; there had come no irreversible disasters really, no salvations either....’’ But he still feels driven to continue his own literary endeavor dealing with the transformation of Old Age to New, or the repudiation of centuries of science, industry, and all the rest of modernity in favor of a return to ‘‘ancient possibilities,’’ lost times, renewal.

The story concerns Pierce Moffett’s move to Faraway Hills, and his study of ‘‘mass craziness about demons’’ through the lives of John Dee and Giordano Bruno. Meanwhile Rose becomes involved with a Holocaust-denying cult called Powerhouse, and Rosie struggles to heal her daughter’s epileptic fits.

The sense of danger is all the more immediate because Pierce, and some of the others, know they are living in one of those ‘‘passage times’’ between ages, where ‘‘the gate of horn is open, between dreaming and remembering, between being and meaning,’’ and different eras seem to merge. ...

Crowley prefers to deal with dreamscapes, and he knows them well: the perfect logic of illogic; how they vanish on waking but can sometimes be retrieved, while at other times the apparent wakening is itself just another dream. By the end of Love & Sleep, this particular dream or passage time seemed to be growing brighter, with elements of hope. But Daemonomania is a tale of the ‘‘Autumn Quaternary,’’ from its ‘‘Ember Days’’ to the time of ‘‘The Christmas Ass’’ (as subtitles note before the book’s segments begin), and neither hope nor fulfillment really belong here. Dreams become nightmares. ...


Russell Letson, in the September 2000 issue of Locus Magazine, writes that Wil McCarthy's new novel is a

comedy of manners about High Physics, immortality, mad scientists, and murder [that] had me thinking simultaneously of Michael Moorcock’s ‘‘End of Time’’ sequence, Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age, Alexei Panshin’s and Walter Jon Williams’s retrofits of SF engines on Georgette Heyer chassis, and even Doc Smith. Generically confusing, but great fun.

In each of the book's three sections, genius Bruno de Towaji is called upon to save the 26th-century Queendom of Sol from various technological disasters, involving

the polymorphous-programmable ‘‘wellstone’’ material that can mimic nearly any substance in form and function; spacecraft propelled by electromagnetic grapples and shielded from inertia; matter-duplicating ‘‘fax’’ technology that can copy, transmit, transform or repair anything...

The fax technology allows people to be

constantly duplicating, editing, and reintegrating versions of themselves, and ‘‘morbidity filters’’ repair the effects of disease and age. Thus two characters can have copies of themselves working at multiple sites around the inner solar system -- until they all get murdered at about the same time, which understandably distresses the versions who survive.

This is anything but a dry hard SF novel:

The tone and texture are as light as the physics and technologies are weighty, with a narrative voice somewhere between a fairy tale and P.G. Wodehouse. ... As ingenious as the physics and special effects are, it is their juxtaposition to the wit and comedy that gives the novel its particular flavor. Immorbidity and near-omnipotence are all very well, McCarthy seems to say, but will they really improve your love life or your fashion sense? Fortunately for us, the answer takes the whole of this playful, thoughtful book to deliver.

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© 2000 by Locus Publications. All rights reserved.