Fantasy/SF Book Reviews

The Internet Writing Journal

Hidden Empire by Kevin J. Anderson

Warner Aspect, July, 2002
Hardcover, 453 pages
ISBN: 0446528625
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Hidden Empire
 by Kevin J. Anderson Kevin Anderson is best known for his bestselling books in the Dune, Star Wars and X-Files series. With the launch of this new series, he is sure to become better known for his own, original fiction, such as the well-received Captain Nemo. In the 25th century, humans have colonized the stars, with the help of the advanced alien race known as the Ildirans. The only other race humans have encountered is the long-extinct Klikiss, an insectoid race which mysteriously vanished, leaving behind advanced robots and some amazing architectural ruins. Archeologists Louis and Margaret Colicos have dedicated their lives to studying these ruins, and finally decipher some of the Klikiss technology. They convince Earth's government to use the technology to turn a gas giant planet into a small sun in order to make the nearby moons habitable. But, unknown to the humans, the gas giant had life forms inside of it -- them advanced and enigmatic Hydrogues, who immediately declare war on all humans after the inadvertent destruction of one of their worlds and millions of their people. Now humanity is in a fight for its very existence with an enemy which has far superior technology.

In so many of the new doorstopper-sized fantasy and SF novels, authors spend so much times setting up the background that the reader has often nodded off before any of the action starts. Anderson, a pro, never makes such mistakes. He seamlessly weaves vivid characterization into a thought-provoking and action-packed plot, which grabs the reader from the very first page. From the independent Roamers, who mine the crucial ekti from gas giants to meet the energy needs of civilization, to the fantastic palaces of the Ildirans, to the current political machinations of Earth's ruling powers, Anderson's imagined future is powerful in scope and well-imagined, and he uses it as a backdrop to explore some very interesting themes about humanity and its place in the cosmos.

Magic Time by Marc Scott Zicree, Barbara Hambly

Eos, November, 2002
Paperback, 448 pages
ISBN: 0061059579
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Magic Time
by Marc Scott Zicree, Barbara Hambly A top-secret government experiment goes horribly wrong, and opens a door into another dimension. A powerful energy wave sweeps through the Earth, knocking out all electricity and causing some humans to mutate into fairy-tale like creatures: demons and other things which have new powers. New York attorney Cal Griffin is determined to escape a Manhattan that is quickly becoming a war zone, in order to save his little sister who is slowly turning into something quite alien. With a group of newly-made friends, Cal and his sister, set out to find the Source, which is slowly remaking the Earth into a place both horrifying and full of wonder.

Written well before the events of September 11th, Magic Time shows a New York City which is devastated by a vicious attack from an invisible enemy which readers will find very disturbing indeed, especially with current news reports of Al Queda attempting to obtain suitcase nukes. Zicree who is a well-known television writer, writes in a fast-paced, episodic style. The idea of the Source is interesting, and is sure to be explored more in future books. Altogether, this is an intriguing premise which should please readers enough to pick up the next installment in the series.

The Mocking Program by Alan Dean Foster

Warner Aspect, August, 2002
Hardcover, 240 pages
ISBN: 0446527742
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The Mocking Program
by Alan Dean Foster Alan Dean Foster writes in many genres, yet he never seems to be at a loss for new and inventive ideas. The Mocking Program is a perfectly-executed hardboiled police procedural set in the future. Police Inspector Angel Cardenas works the Montezuma Strip, which is what the old U.S.-Mexican border is now called. Angel finds a male corpse with most of its internal organs missing. But the identification of the body is more difficult than usual; the victim appears to have two identities. Angel's considerable intuition tells him that there is more here than a typical mugging. An identity trace leads Angel and his partner to the victim's so-called wife and daughter, who actually turn out to be Surtsey and Katla Mockerkin, the ex-wife and 12-year-old daughter of crime lord Cleator Mockerkin, who will do anything to get them back. But Surtsey and Katla have gone deep into hiding, and Angel will have to go to some pretty exotic places and meet some very dangerous people in order to find the missing duo, before Cleator Mockerkin gets his hands on them.

Alan Dean Foster walks the futuristic mean streets with his usual aplomb in this skillfully executed thriller. Using a new vocabulary which is easily understandable due to the context of the new words (although there is a glossary appended), and a deft hand at description, Foster creates a world which is at once recognizable and strange. Artificial hearts are cheap and readily available, sapient gorillas run a compound in South America, and teeny little a.i.'s known as wugs observe humans, but do not interact with them. Inspector Cardenas is a welcome addition to the fold, and the ending appears to leave the door open for a sequel.

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