URSUS by David Dvorkin


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Jaws goes inland in this tale of ursus minimus, which marks a departure from Dvorkin's previous sf novels (Time for Sherlock Holmes, Budspy, The Seekers), though not from the conventions of the monster-animal genre. Four bear cubs of a deadly new miniature species, brought down from the Rockies to the city of Piketon, escape in an auto accident and begin killing their new neighbors in the Hispanic ghetto. Corrupt mayor Mack Nicholson and his toadies are naturally indifferent to the deaths; only two police officers, Sam Henderson and Phyllis Ortiveda, and a young lawyer attached to the mayor's office, Mark Adler, take them seriously. With the help of Phyllis' former lover Slipher Whitman, who first postulates the existence of ursus minimus, they trace the bears to hibernation in Lifeway Center, capital of the Reverend Carol O'Hair's evangelical empire. There are conflicts between Anglos and Hispanics, old lovers and new, idealists and politicos, and tangentially related subplots--including young Carla Montez's rape by her brother and seduction by Pastor O'Hair--to keep us interested while those bears are sleeping through the long winter. In the meantime, four more minibears, all female, begin their descent from the mountains. When the hunters finally catch up with their prey, the story shifts into high gear, presenting gruesome battles in the abandoned Lifeway Center and Piketon Hospital before reaching a climax (literally, in the bears' case) in a used-car lot. All the goods you'd expect from the genre--lots of gore, a nicely controlled pace, the wheels of justice inexorably grinding up the bad guys. It's only when Dvorkin lingers over his irrelevant subsidiary characters, who pop in and out of his story as if it were a poor man's Middlemarch, that he's a bore.

Pub Date: May 8th, 1989
ISBN: 531-15109-3
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