Grimsley's backdrop's and quantum-magic ideas are deeply considered and impressively detailed, but the rest is obvious,...


Fantasy from the southern playwright and author of Comfort and Joy (1999), etc. Blue Queen Athryn Ardfalla, refusing to yield her throne to the Red King, Kirith Kirin, as tradition and law demand, has allied herself with an evil wizard, Drudaen Keerfax, and has grievously oppressed the people. Kirith Kirin, keeping to the forest of Arthen where the queen cannot go, plots to remedy the situation. His seer, Mordwen, in response to a prophecy, sends for young sheepherder Jessex to tend the lamps at the forest's shrine. But Jessex, the son and grandson of witches, has more talents than are apparent. Three weird sisters—the Fates, in effect—spirit him away to a magical lake, where they teach him magic in a sort of time warp. Then Jessex learns that the queen's witch, Julassa, has killed his family and captured his mother. Kirith Kirin, meanwhile, falls in love with Jessex. Constrained by the sisters never to use his magic, Jessex progresses rapidly, resisting Drudaen's blandishments—until Julassa threatens to annihilate Kirith Kirin and his armies in battle. Jessex kills Julassa, but the sisters agree that this too is part of his development, while they wait for a major-league wizard, Yron, to show up. Finally, the war of liberation gets going and Jessex realizes who he really is.

Grimsley's backdrop's and quantum-magic ideas are deeply considered and impressively detailed, but the rest is obvious, overly familiar, and weighs a ton.

Pub Date: May 1, 2000

ISBN: 1-892065-16-9

Page Count: 456

Publisher: N/A

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 2000

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


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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Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.


Video-game players embrace the quest of a lifetime in a virtual world; screenwriter Cline’s first novel is old wine in new bottles. 

The real world, in 2045, is the usual dystopian horror story. So who can blame Wade, our narrator, if he spends most of his time in a virtual world? The 18-year-old, orphaned at 11, has no friends in his vertical trailer park in Oklahoma City, while the OASIS has captivating bells and whistles, and it’s free. Its creator, the legendary billionaire James Halliday, left a curious will. He had devised an elaborate online game, a hunt for a hidden Easter egg. The finder would inherit his estate. Old-fashioned riddles lead to three keys and three gates. Wade, or rather his avatar Parzival, is the first gunter (egg-hunter) to win the Copper Key, first of three. Halliday was obsessed with the pop culture of the 1980s, primarily the arcade games, so the novel is as much retro as futurist. Parzival’s great strength is that he has absorbed all Halliday’s obsessions; he knows by heart three essential movies, crossing the line from geek to freak. His most formidable competitors are the Sixers, contract gunters working for the evil conglomerate IOI, whose goal is to acquire the OASIS. Cline’s narrative is straightforward but loaded with exposition. It takes a while to reach a scene that crackles with excitement: the meeting between Parzival (now world famous as the lead contender) and Sorrento, the head of IOI. The latter tries to recruit Parzival; when he fails, he issues and executes a death threat. Wade’s trailer is demolished, his relatives killed; luckily Wade was not at home. Too bad this is the dramatic high point. Parzival threads his way between more ’80s games and movies to gain the other keys; it’s clever but not exciting. Even a romance with another avatar and the ultimate “epic throwdown” fail to stir the blood.

Too much puzzle-solving, not enough suspense.

Pub Date: Aug. 16, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-88743-6

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: April 18, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 2011

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