Another sobering plunge into a bleak, violent future (Ambient, 1987) and a disturbing alternate past. A desultory...



Another sobering plunge into a bleak, violent future (Ambient, 1987) and a disturbing alternate past. A desultory non-nuclear war between the USA and USSR drags on--it's business almost as usual, since the Dryco corporation runs America and the similar Krasnaya runs Russia. Two Dryco operatives, narrator and retired general Luther and his sidekick-assassin Jake, arrive in Moscow to negotiate the kidnapping of noted scientist Alekhine. Their double-agent Krasnaya contact, Skuratov, tells them that Alekhine has inexplicably disappeared, and offers Alekhine's genius assistant, Oktobriana, in his place. Luther accepts; they collect Oktobriana--and the mysterious device Alekhine has invented. Then Skuratov tries to double-cross them, so they capture Skuratov and flee in his private plane, only to be intercepted by Russian fighters. Oktobriana activates Alekhine's device, and later the plane crash-lands in the New Jersey swamps--where the year turns out to be 1939! Moreover, this 1939 is weirdly different from their own past (no Civil War happened; the slaves weren't freed until 1913; traffic lights are blue and orange). Finally, after many scintillating adventures, only Luther survives to return home, burdened with the awareness that their--and Alekhine's--devastating intrusion has doomed this strange past to a future as pitiless as his own. Womack's futurespeak is distinctive, plausible and well calculated, as are his time-travel complications and absorbing contrasts between future and alternate past. Chilling, both viscerally and intellectually, memorable work.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1988

ISBN: 0802135625

Page Count: -

Publisher: Weidenfeld & Nicholson

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 1988