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ARIADNE'S WEB by Fred Saberhagen


Vol. II, The Book of the Gods

by Fred Saberhagen

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-312-86629-1
Publisher: Tor

Second entry in Saberhagen’s series—fantasy or far-future SF, please yourself—about magical masks, or Faces, that sink into the wearer’s head, bestowing the attributes and memories of gods. In The Face of Apollo (1998), Apollo battled Hades; here, the action begins in the Minotaur’s labyrinth. Prince Perses usurps and kills his brother, King Minos—a foul deed, assisted by the human-blood—bathing destroyer-god Shiva (Saberhagen evidently found the Greeks-only format too restrictive) and his laser beam third eye, witnessed by young soldier Alex. Meanwhile, the current avatar of Dionysus dies but the Face disappears. Dionysus’ eerie helpers want Alex to be the next avatar and send him off in the god’s leopard-drawn chariot. Theseus, a treacherous pirate, makes a deal with Shiva (as part of Shiva’s alliance with Hades) to become the new Dionysus, but too late: Alex takes the Face and becomes the new Dionysus. Apollo, becoming friendly with Alex/Dionysus, agrees to help in the forthcoming showdown with Shiva and Hades. Everybody converges on the labyrinth, where the mighty Face of Zeus is rumored to be hidden. Faces are just the latest of Saberhagen’s remarkable notions (including Berserkers, Swords, revisionist Merlins, Sherlock Holmeses, and Draculas), but here the plot barely hangs together, and the overlong, plodding delivery doesn’t help.