Challenging new speculative fiction from the accomplished author of The Fresco (2000), etc. A millennium after an asteroid smashed into the Earth, destroying civilization and remaking the face of the globe, a strange new world has arisen. Central to forthcoming events will be downtrodden Dismé Latimer, kept as a virtual slave by her baneful stepsister Rashell, the latter a thrall of the devilish Hetman Gone. Dismé has odd abilities: she sees “pings,” weird spatial doorways; eerie, wraithlike “ouphs”; and fearsome horned demons. Years ago, the mysterious Guardian Council distributed magical machines to facilitate the transformation of a chosen few into the Appointed Ones. Now these machines have activated. At Bastion, the cruel, ambitious General Gowl has made a pact with a dreadful devil-like entity called the Rebel Angel that feeds on agony; now it urges the General to conquer the world. Dismé owns an ancient book, the journal of astronomer Nell Latimer, who, with her colleagues, survived the asteroid strike in suspended animation, and presently watches developments via the pings with great interest. Clearly, the impactor was not just an asteroid but also some sort of habitat bringing a variety of alien creatures to Earth—including an angelic lesser god whose task is to offer humanity one last chance to prove itself worthy. And all this merely hints at the characters and ideas packed away here.
Fascinating hypercomplexities, stylistically reminiscent of Tepper’s earlier works (1993’s A Plague of Angels, etc.), admirable but heavy and definitely on the gloomy side.