After an eight-year hiatus (his 1988 novel, Fool on the Hill, became an underground hit), Ruff proves himself still capable of wild-eyed flights of fancy as he pits altruists against antihuman robots in an updated version of Atlas Shrugged above and below the streets of Manhattan. In the year 2023, visionary zillionaire industrialist Harry Gant is building a new Tower of Babel, uptown; his crusading ex- wife Joan is on a search-and-destroy effort in the city sewers, seeking a mutant Jaws-like shark named Meisterbrau; eco-terrorist Philo Dufresne, one of the few blacks remaining after the race- specific pandemic of '04, leads the brilliant, eccentric crew of the submarine Yabba-Dabba-Doo on a nonviolent attack against a Gant-owned ship to save Antarctica; Anderson Teaneck, Wall Street takeover specialist, also with a bead on Gant Industries, is murdered, perhaps by one of his servant robots—who are all carefully programmed, supposedly, to be harmless. Joan has a close encounter with Meisterbrau that leaves them intact but the East River in flames, then is enlisted to solve the Teaneck mystery, a mission that takes her into the heart of a plot hatched by a psychopath and his creation, an artificial brain sheltered in a bunker under Disneyland. Joan also ends up with the querulous companionship of Ayn Rand, reduced to a holograph on a hurricane lamp. Philo and crew, meanwhile, are threatened by the vengeful scheme of a Gant subordinate, as they willingly enter a trap to save what may be the world's last lemurs. Several torpedoes, robot assaults, philosophical debates, and an earthquake later, all is again reasonably right with the world. A careening riot to read, even with all of its zestful improbabilities: Ruff's second novel can only enhance his reputation as a fantasy writer with imagination to burn.
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