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. . .leaving more than a few shattered readers, too, if they plow through to the end of this gore-drenched, screech-and-gibber Bronze Age lunacy-fest. Somtow (a.k.a. science-fiction writer Somtow Sucharitkul) begins with the Trojan War: Astyanax, son of Hector, survives the sack of Troy (a slave is killed mistakenly in his place) and in due course becomes king of the ruins. He swears vengeance on the Akhaian (Greek) murderers of his grandfather, Priam, and vows to recapture Helen and return her to Troy. Helped by friendly Egyptian mage Memnon--he has the undead mummy of pharaoh Akhenaten aboard his ship--Astyanax sails for Greece, leaving a magically inspirited doppelganger to rule Troy in his absence. After various privations, Astyanax reaches Phthia, where his mother Andromache (carried off from Troy as a slave) is quite unhinged and fails to recognize him, and King Neoptolemos is torn to shreds by maenads. At Mycenae, Astyanax watches the already-crazy Orestes butcher his mother Clytaemnestra and uncle Aigisthos in revenge for their murder of his father Agamemnon, for which crime the Furies drive Orestes even more insane. Reaching Sparta, Astyanax steals the agelessly beautiful demigoddess Helen away from deranged, drunken, doddering Menelaos. Meanwhile, impressed by some newfangled iron weapons, Astyanax develops a private theory that the heroic Bronze Age must yield to the dishonorable Iron Age. So when the still demented Orestes arrives at Troy, ready to fight Trojan War II, Astyanax is pleased: it's the perfect opportunity for a Twilight of the Heroes orgy of slaughter, as swords ring out and everyone falls dead. Problems, problems. The everyday details that might give the lurching, illogical plot some substance are missing. Far from coming to life, the mythic heroes are depicted as filthy, contemptible brutes, with Astyanax himself a juvenile delinquent. Blood spurts across every page. The prose is tin-eared and unheroically modern. Even the Olympians are out to lunch. Interminable.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1986
Publisher: Tor--dist. by St. Martin's