SIDESHOW by Sheri S. Tepper


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 Bulging, indistinct sociological fantasy, the third part of a cycle that includes Grass (1989) and Raising the Stones (1990). In a vastly overcomplicated scenario, planet Tolerance is the last human world free of (supposed) enslavement by the Hobbs Land Gods. Founded a millennium ago by academics, the Brannigans, the planet is dedicated to preserving hundreds of diverse social systems, all secure against interference by its neighbors, thanks to the Enforcers employed by the ruling Council. But the various societies are growing steadily more bloodthirsty, sadistic, and intolerant: Reports indicate that malign godlike beings are manifesting themselves to influence human affairs. So old Boarmus, the Council president, sends his Enforcers to investigate: wise old Zasper, strong young Dannivon, and beautiful but damaged Fringe are soon joined by a mysterious, ancient woman, Jory, who knows more than she's telling. Eventually, after a thousand convolutions, it emerges that the Brannigans had their mentalities preserved in an impregnable underground vault; they have gone mad and, able to project godlike selves into the outside world via billions of tiny machines, desire only to degrade and torment humans. Possibly they can be stopped by the Hobbs Land Gods--actually an alien Arbai multi-component empathy machine. Jory turns out to be a once-human manifestation of the Arbai device. And, tagging along for no discernible reason, are Nela and Bertran, Siamese twins from Earth who stumble through an Arbai Gate and end up, thousands of years later, on Tolerance. An often astonishing work of bold imagination and sharp if rather conspicuous satire, marred by a recondite discursiveness that frequently degenerates into sheer flab. The workaday prose and dialogue don't help.

Pub Date: April 15th, 1992
ISBN: 0-553-08130-6
Page count: 480pp
Publisher: Bantam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1992


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