Fantasy/SF Book Reviews

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Signal to Noise by Eric S. Nylund

Avon Eos, June, 1999.
Paperback, 371 pages.
ISBN: 0380792923.
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Cover of Signal to Noise
by Eric S. Nylund In 2070 Earth, life is tough if you're not brilliant. Children and grownups alike cheat lie and steal to get into the best schools and the best jobs. Jack Potter has made it to the top, and has been allowed by the government to have one of the brain implants that allows access to the bubbles -- virtual reality capsules. Jack is a crack computer cryptographer. But when he makes contact with an alien race and begins to barter for, among other things, a cure for cancer, things get sticky. Suddenly everyone from the government to corporate moguls wants a piece of the pie and the secrets that alien technology can unleash. Soon Jack and his friends Isabel and Zero find themselves in way over their heads, with the very future of the Earth depending on Jack's ability to negotiate a good business deal which may end up destroying other sentient races as a side-effect. Will Jack save the Earth? Will he lose what's left of his soul in the process?

Eric Nylund has created a fast-paced, witty and wry cyberpunk novel with Signal to Noise. Although the storyline gets a bit complicated towards the end, the pace never flags. Jack is interesting and complex enough to hold the reader's interest, and the supporting players are very well-done. You may be panting to keep up with all the action, but you'll be glad you did. Fans of The Matrix and of hip cyberpunk should really love this one.

Subterranean by James Rollins

Avon, June 1999.
Paperback, 410 pages.
ISBN: 0380792648.
Ordering information:

Cover of Subterranean
by James Rollins Paleoanthropoligist Ashley Carter is approached by Dr. Peter Blakely, a renowned archaeologist, for a top secret dig in Antarctica. She grudgingly accepts due to a huge financial offer and the fact that they are willing to let her take Jason, her eleven year old son along. Dr. Blakely also gathers Ben Brust, an expert Australian spelunker who is fetched from prison, a biologist from Canada, a geologist from Egypt and several others. Once in Antarctica, Carter, Brust and the other experts are taken miles down into a deep Volcano where a fully-manned U.S. research station has been constructed, and where marines, scientists and government heavies are living and working in secrecy. The team learns that there are compelling reasons for the confidential nature of the expedition. The caverns are full of new life forms, including the cave dwellings of an ancient primitive society. Unfortunately, the last team to explore the caverns disappeared without a trace. In their search for the missing team and exploration of the caves, the new team discovers strange and prehistoric life, unusual rock formations and some extremely dangerous predators. With danger around every corner, the team must learn to work together despite their differences and the fact that someone is out to sabotage the mission.

Although unbelievable at times, this novel is for the most part deeply intriguing and exciting. The journey below Antarctica unveils a world filled with amazing flora and fauna, both deadly and delightful. Look for more from first-time novelist James Rollin, who is also an amateur spelunker and scuba enthusiast. Part fantasy and part science fiction, Subterranean will please adventure-loving fantasy and SF fans.

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