Fantasy/SF Book Reviews

The Fourth World by Dennis Danvers

Eos, March, 2000
Hardcover, 352 pages
ISBN: 0380977613
Ordering information:

The Fourth World
by Dennis Danvers In 2013, our world has been taken over by the World Wide Web. The majority of the civilized world lives in small, spare apartments and works, plays and travels in the virtual reality of cyberspace. Only a few places in the world still have normal cities and poor populations who live in the "real" world. Mexico is one of these. Santee St. John works for NewsReal, visiting hotspots and recording the survivors' stories using his implant technology to convey his own emotions as well as the news stories to the Web-dominated world. Santee is sent to Chiapas, Mexico to record a massacre, but NewsReal never airs the shocking footage. Instead, it uses the tape to blackmail the Mexican government into giving NewsReal exclusive broadcasting rights. Disgusted that the massacre is being kept from the public, Santee becomes drawn into the doomed Zapatista revolutionary movement and into a torrid love affair with revolutionary Margaret Mayfield. As the two explore the real world and the cause of the downtrodden Mexican masses, they become believers in the revolution. But then Santee is kidnapped, and presumed dead. Not believing in her lover's death Margaret investigates with the help of Webster Webfoot. Webster is a "webkicker," a tech person who has turned his back on the virtual world. Margaret, Webster and Santee eventually stumble upon a plot that makes the Chiapas massacre look like a kindergarten outing, and which could mean the end of life on Earth.

Dennis Danvers, best known for his novels, Circuit of Heaven and End of Days, hits another home run with The Fourth World. Danvers has a unique way of looking into our future and coming up with a world that is believable, and always shocking. The underlying (somwhat cynical) point of view in all his work is that humans, given half a chance, will choose to escape into the luxurious virtual world, even if it means the destruction of Earth. His agenda of left-wing and Luddite activism is much more apparent in The Fourth World, and this may be a big turn-off for some readers. But Danvers is a top-notch writer, and no matter what your political persuasion, you'll enjoy an exciting story, skillfully told. Highly recommended.

The Garden of the Stone by Victoria Strauss

Avon, Nov., 1999.
Paperback, 528 pages.
ISBN: 0380797526.
Ordering information:

Cover of The Garden of the Stone
by Victoria Strauss In the fantasy world first introduced in the Arm of the Stone, there are two worlds: our own, which is guided by handpower (technology) and another world, which is guided by mindpower (magic), and where technology is banned upon pain of death. The Stone is a living entity with great power which was worshipped by the mindpower world. The Stone was taken from the world by Bron, leaving the evil guardians of the Stone to pretend to the world that the Stone was still safely hidden in the Fortress. Now Bron's daughter Cariad, an assassin and skilled empath, has been charged with a crucial mission: to infiltrate the Fortress to find out why an undercover agent has gone missing. Meanwhile, Cariad's ex-love, Konstant, has gone undercover in the Fortress and is sent to our world to find Bron, and return the Stone to its proper place.

Although a sequel, The Garden of the Stone reads equally well as a stand alone. The world that Victoria Strauss has created is a fascinating one, and the plots are deftly woven together. Cariad, the assassin, is the clear star of this book: she is a multifaceted character who is forced to grow up emotionally during the course of her adventures. With suspense and a fast-moving narrative, Strauss' latest novel is thought-provoking and entertaining at the same time.

The Sorcerer's Gun by Peter Garrison

Ace, Oct., 1999.
Trade Paperback, 352 pages .
ISBN: 0441006485.
Ordering information:

Cover of The Sorcerer's Gun
by Peter Garrison There are two worlds: the Earth we know and the Castle. The Castle consists of a mind-bending maze of corridors below ground, as well as several kingdoms above ground, and is peopled with kings, armies, warriors, and sorcerers who wield powerful magic. A great war between the two worlds rages on without the knowledge of most of the Earth's inhabitants. In this second installment in the fantasy series, an assorted group of humans invades the Castle to overthrow the Pale Man, in order to save Earth.

16-year-old Brian Clark and his friend Karen Eggleton are back, as is Aubric, the warrior of the Green, as well as a lengthy list of new characters, both funny and frightening. As always, each character is more than he appears to be at first glance, and the action never lets up. Peter Garrison (the pen name for the bestselling author Craig Shaw Gardner) does a marvelous job in creating a world that is weird, wonderful and quite entertaining which should please fantasy fans of all persuasions, and have them eagerly awaiting Book 3.

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