roundup/science fiction

November 09, 2008|By Robert Folsom, McClatchy-Tribune and Amazon.com

The Devil's Eye

by Jack McDevitt

Ace / 368 pages / $24.95

Politics. There's no escaping its ugliness, even on a world several light-years outside the Milky Way galaxy.

That world is Salud Afar, and it's where celebrated horror writer Vicki Greene has gone to research her next novel. Once there, she sends a burst of a message to antiquities dealer Alex Benedict. It ends with, "They're all dead." Then Greene's memory is wiped.

But Greene had asked Benedict and his assistant, Chase Kolpath, for help. She had also paid. A lot. So they go into The Devil's Eye. This latest of McDevitt's Alex Benedict novels - his Seeker won a 2006 Nebula Award - retains the author's ability to ground his speculative fiction in human manipulations, in this case a pandemic that needs that most political of necessities: a cover-up.

As we watch a galactic disaster unfold through Chase's eyes, we also see an administration that is slow to react. When McDevitt uses a phrase such as, "We were sitting on top of a tidal wave," the allusion to Hurricane Katrina is complete.

But why would a horror writer call on the services of an antiquities dealer in such a grave situation? You'll have to read The D evil's Eye to learn the answer to that question.

All the Windwracked Stars

by Elizabeth Bear

Tor / 368 pages / $24.95

Muire is the last Valkyrie and a survivor of the Last Battle of the Children of Light. More than 2 millennia later, she, along with Kasimir, a steed who chose to carry her in war, lives with mortals in Eiledon, the last city on a dying planet ruled by a Technomancer. Her fallen brother, Mingan the Grey Wolf, enters the city with his predatory plans.

Which is putting it simply, for All the Windwracked Stars is a labyrinthine apocalyptic tale based in Norse mythology. However, if you enjoy getting lost in a fantasy with sci-fi overtones, this is a poetic maze for you.

Half a Crown

by Jo Walton

Tor / 320 pages / $25.95

This volume set in 1960 is the conclusion, and a satisfying one, to Walton's alternate-World War II British trilogy. In this tale, former Scotland Yarder Peter Carmichael, now head of the secret police organization known as the Watch, must prepare for a peace conference to be held in London two decades after Britain reached an accommodation with Hitler's Germany in the early 1940s.

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