VIRTUAL UNREALITIES

THE SHORT FICTION OF ALFRED BESTER

A major retrospective, comprising 15 tales from 194179 (mostly from the '50s and '60s), together with two previously unpublished pieces, though readers should note that the word ``selected'' has been omitted from the subtitle. Bester's (191387) reputation derives from two brilliant and influential novels, The Demolished Man (1953), the first Hugo Awardwinner for Best Novel, and The Stars My Destination (1957), plus a handful of classic stories. Among the latter here: ``Fondly Fahrenheit,'' a black farce about an android that turns homicidal when the temperature exceeds 90 degrees Fahrenheit; ``The Men Who Murdered Mohammed,'' in which Bester invented quantum time, a notion recently taken up by John Kessel in Corrupting Dr. Nice; ``The Pi Man,'' a chilling masterpiece whose protagonist is compelled to respond to changes in surrounding patterns that only he can perceive, later expanded into a wretched novel; the last man in the world, ``Adam and No Eve''; and ``Will You Wait?,'' a witty deal with the devil. Others, like ``Disappearing Act,'' ``Star Light, Star Bright,'' and ``Time is the Traitor,'' are more style than substance. But then Bester was always a consummate showman. Noteworthy for his passionate delivery, pyrotechnic prose, and dazzling ideas, Bester wrote cyberpunk 30 years before William Gibson. But when reality finally caught up, he fizzled out.

Pub Date: Nov. 19, 1997

ISBN: 0-679-76783-5

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Vintage

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1997

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A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

A BLIGHT OF BLACKWINGS

Book 2 of Hearne's latest fantasy trilogy, The Seven Kennings (A Plague of Giants, 2017), set in a multiracial world thrust into turmoil by an invasion of peculiar giants.

In this world, most races have their own particular magical endowment, or “kenning,” though there are downsides to trying to gain the magic (an excellent chance of being killed instead) and using it (rapid aging and death). Most recently discovered is the sixth kenning, whose beneficiaries can talk to and command animals. The story canters along, although with multiple first-person narrators, it's confusing at times. Some characters are familiar, others are new, most of them with their own problems to solve, all somehow caught up in the grand design. To escape her overbearing father and the unreasoning violence his kind represents, fire-giant Olet Kanek leads her followers into the far north, hoping to found a new city where the races and kennings can peacefully coexist. Joining Olet are young Abhinava Khose, discoverer of the sixth kenning, and, later, Koesha Gansu (kenning: air), captain of an all-female crew shipwrecked by deep-sea monsters. Elsewhere, Hanima, who commands hive insects, struggles to free her city from the iron grip of wealthy, callous merchant monarchists. Other threads focus on the Bone Giants, relentless invaders seeking the still-unknown seventh kenning, whose confidence that this can defeat the other six is deeply disturbing. Under Hearne's light touch, these elements mesh perfectly, presenting an inventive, eye-filling panorama; satisfying (and, where appropriate, well-resolved) plotlines; and tensions between the races and their kennings to supply much of the drama.

A charming and persuasive entry that will leave readers impatiently awaiting the concluding volume.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-345-54857-3

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Nov. 25, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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DUNE

This future space fantasy might start an underground craze.

It feeds on the shades of Edgar Rice Burroughs (the Martian series), Aeschylus, Christ and J.R. Tolkien. The novel has a closed system of internal cross-references, and features a glossary, maps and appendices dealing with future religions and ecology. Dune itself is a desert planet where a certain spice liquor is mined in the sands; the spice is a supremely addictive narcotic and control of its distribution means control of the universe. This at a future time when the human race has reached a point of intellectual stagnation. What is needed is a Messiah. That's our hero, called variously Paul, then Muad'Dib (the One Who Points the Way), then Kwisatz Haderach (the space-time Messiah). Paul, who is a member of the House of Atreides (!), suddenly blooms in his middle teens with an ability to read the future and the reader too will be fascinated with the outcome of this projection.

With its bug-eyed monsters, one might think Dune was written thirty years ago; it has a fantastically complex schemata and it should interest advanced sci-fi devotees.

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 1965

ISBN: 0441013597

Page Count: 411

Publisher: Chilton

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1965

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