Books by Jack L. Chalker

MELCHIOR’S FIRE by Jack L. Chalker
Released: June 1, 2001

"Colorful twiddling: Chalker fans might while away an hour or two in anticipation of a payoff at some future point."
Another tale of the Three Kings (Balshazzar's Serpent, 2000), habitable moons of a giant planet far off in space in a location known to few and, apparently, inhabited by several alien species. A century after the action of the previous installment, a space salvage crew runs into a voracious, highly intelligent alien on a lost colony planet—and barely escapes with their lives. Broke and desperate, they're inclined to listen when approached by slimy, megarich impresario Norman Sanders. He plans to send them to the Three Kings system, the source of weird, brain-stimulating, immensely valuable Magi's Stones. Sanders supplies the expedition with secret navigational coordinates and a floating robot camera named Eyegor. (There's so little plot here, it's impossible not to give it away; if you don't want to know what happens, skip to the last line.) Arriving in the Three Kings system, our heroes discover that Karl Woodward and his flock still survive on paradisiacal Balshazzar, though they're unable to leave. Bypassing cold Kaspar, they land on highly volcanic, storm-battered Melchior and discover a mother lode of Magi's Stones whose mental effects drive them mad. Eyegor steals their hoard of stones and heads for home, abandoning the survivors to the hostile planet. Read full book review >
Released: Aug. 1, 2000

"Elaborate scripting and stage-setting for the series to come: your move."
First volume of a new neo-pulp science fiction series, from the author of The Cybernetic Walrus (1995), etc. In the far future, planets are connected via wormholes, until suddenly—the Great Silence—half the network stops functioning, leaving hundreds of planets isolated, their economies collapsing, social systems regressing toward barbarism. God, however, has told Dr. Karl Woodward, with his huge ship, the Mountain, to visit benighted planets, bringing trade, technology, and the Good Word. In the latest encounter, the Mountain approaches a planet that seems peacefully agricultural, with no advanced technology. Instead, Woodward's folk are confronted by a gang of ruthless pirates who are prepared to take hostages, torture, and kill in order to force their way off the planet. Battle is joined; Woodward emerges victorious. The pirate captain, Morgudan Sapenza, bargains with Woodward: in exchange for not destroying the wormhole and isolating the pirates forever, Sapenza reveals the location of the fabled, lost Three Kings system—which is just teeming with immensely valuable alien artifacts. God, too, wants Karl to go there. After a tough trip through a wormhole, they crash-land on planet Balshazzar, a paradise-like planet that's inhabited by an invisible alien with the power to raise the dead. The alien wagers that Karl's people will devolve into lotus-eaters before another ship arrives; Karl maintains that faith will sustain his flock.Read full book review >
Released: Nov. 1, 1995

First of a trilogy inspired by the what-is-reality terrors of Philip K. Dick, from the author of the interminable Well World series (Shadow of the Well of Souls, 1994), etc. When computer-whiz Cory Maddox discovers that the company he thought he part-owned has been sold out from underneath him, he has little choice but to listen to Al Stark of the NSA and his offer of a hush-hush job. Seems that computer genius Matthew Brand (dead? maybe) had found a way to create Sims, or virtual realities, as convincing as reality itself. What Stark needs from Maddox is his state-of-the-art interface. But then Maddox receives an anonymous message: ``Everything you think you know is wrong.'' He begins to have strange visions, and to recall memories of what seem to be past lives. Stark intimates that the Sims are actually other realities, connected by ``rabbit holes''; only a handful of people are really real, the rest are just computer-generated figments. And Stark's ambition is to control the whole system. As the Lewis Carroll references proliferate, the plot whirls off in a paranoid blur. Slick, brisk entertainment engendered by blarney, Alice, and demented solipsism. Read full book review >
Released: Feb. 1, 1994

Sequel to Echoes of the Well of Souls (not seen), itself a sequel to Chalker's original five-book Well World saga. For those unacquainted, the idea is that the Well of Souls contains the master control of the universe. Immortal, unchanging survivor Nathan Brazil is the Well's guardian, a duty he has lately shared with the now-estranged Mavra Chang. This time, each guardian is called alone to the Well, where they find changes—not just in the surroundings, but in their supposedly unchanging selves too. This shapes up to another struggle with the fate of the universe at stake. While the present volume is independently intelligible (just about), it isn't complete in itself, and newcomers will do better to read Echoes first, or even return to the original saga. Read full book review >
Released: Oct. 1, 1991

Concluding volume of The Quintara Marathon trilogy (The Demons at Rainbow Bridge, The Run to Chaos Keep), this one galloping all over the alternate dimensions and told in three modes of internalized or telepathic nonverbal communication. Book One found the awakening from suspended animation of some nasty, taloned, horned demons who were affecting Earth culture as well as every society in the three galactic empires: The Exchange, the Mycohl, and the Mizlaplan. In Book Two, a scientific team sent by the Exchange was slaughtered by the demons, and small rescue teams from each empire pursued the monsters through an interdimensional gate. Here, the three empire teams forge into one team of five Terrans that has chased the demons of ultimate evil to a city of the damned on a desolate planet ruled by The Other, the master of the Quintara, an unseeable, mind-blocking creature ``at the heart of this horror.'' Even the demon princes are as dust specks compared to The Other. Will The Other—Baal—turn the present and future populations of the three empires into 90 trillion Fausts? Only the martyrdom of small, sandy-haired Irishman Jimmy McCray, who plunges a crucifix into the Evil One's chest, can save the nondemonic beings in all dimensions as we will know them—tomorrow? Superpulp. Read full book review >
THE RUN TO CHAOS KEEP by Jack L. Chalker
Released: May 10, 1991

The second in yet another multivolume work of action-based sf from Chalker. In book #1, a curious structure was found on an uninhabited remote world containing (in some sort of suspended animation) a pair of what could only be described as demons—nasty, taloned, horned beings that figure not only in Earth cultures but in nearly every society in the three galactic empires: the Exchange, the Mycohl, and the Mizlaplan. Accidentally awakened, the demons brutally slaughtered the scientific team sent by the Exchange to study them. Here, small rescue teams from each of the empires arrive. Fighting each other, fearing the demons, and trapped together in the erstwhile tomb, they take the only way out, pursuing the monsters through an interdimensional gate. Competent pulp adventure, but beyond the fast-paced action, there isn't much. Chalker's prose is clumsy, his characters mostly one-dimensional, and, for all their outward differences, the aliens speak and behave altogether too much like their human companions. Passing nods to Dante's Inferno do little to raise the literary stakes. Read full book review >
THE RED TAPE WAR by Jack L. Chalker
Released: April 24, 1991

Just what the sf literary establishment has been waiting for: a round-robin novel wherein the author of one particular chapter endeavors to confound the author due up next with an insoluble cliffhanger. Apparently the original intention was a parody of bureaucracies grinding into diplomatic inaction, but that soon got lost amid a welter of invading aliens, reduplicated characters, love-lorn computers, southern belles, and what-all. Just to get you started, 67th-century Earth diplomat Millard Fillmore Pierce is intercepted by an invading alien fleet whose reptilian leader is also called Millard Fillmore Pierce and is also from (an other-dimensional) Earth. Meanwhile, a teeny-weeny alien invader creeps up on the pair of them; the newcomer is also guessed it...and hails from yet another parallel dimension. Thereafter, things grow more absurd and confused, but not, alas, either funny or provocative. Silly idea, predictable outcome. Read full book review >