Fantasy/SF Book Reviews

The Internet Writing Journal, June 1998

The Presence by John Saul

Fawcett Books, June 1998.
Paperback, 417 pages.
ISBN: 0449002411.
Ordering information: |

Cover of The Presence by
John Saul Michael has had asthma his entire life, but he is finally starting to outgrow it and is becoming a vital member of his high school track team. However just when he is starting to grow into his life -- despite the high school bullies who torment him -- his mother, archaeologist Dr. Katharine Sundquist, packs the family up and moves them to Hawaii. She will be assisting in an exploration, run by an old boyfriend of hers, to investigate some recently discovered bones.

Shortly after he arrives in his new home in Hawaii, Michael immediately jumps at the chance to try scuba diving, despite his Mother's objections. However, he has no trouble breathing and even saves another boy's life who quickly befriends him. Michael soon finds that participating in activities with his new friend may be dangerous when he finds himself with a group of boys and sneaking off to go on an unsupervised night dive. A strange occurrence takes place on the dive, and while the tanks seemed full, all the boys have to come up quickly for air only to discover their tanks were empty. Luckily, no one is hurt. But later that night one of the boys dies of asphyxiation on the way home. Soon Michael himself starts to feel occasional discomfort in his lungs. Could the changes to Michael and the mysterious bones from an early hominid his mother is studying (that historically shouldn't be anywhere near the Hawaiian Islands) possibly be related?

The Presence is a compelling novel with horror, thrills, and a crazed scientist all set against the beautiful background of Hawaii. An exciting scientific thriller which is one of Saul's best.

Sword Born by Jennifer Roberson

DAW, April 1998.
Paperback, 416 pages.
ISBN: 0886777763.
Ordering information: |

Cover of Sword Born
by Jennifer Roberson Left for dead as an infant in the desert and enslaved by the Southron tribe who happened upon him, Tiger has lived a hard life. After winning his freedom by slaying a sandtiger which was decimating the tribe, he studied and became the best sword-dancer in the South. But with his green eyes and bronze skin, it was clear he was not of Southern stock. After many adventures he met Delilah, or Del, a beautiful sword slinger from the frozen North. Since their meeting Tiger and Del have had many adventures together. In Sword Born Tiger and Del set out by ship for Skandi hoping to find out the secret of Tiger's origins. Along the way they are shipwrecked and kidnapped by a lady pirate who sells Tiger to a wealthy family in Skandi by claiming that Tiger is the long-lost heir to the house and its great fortune. The more Tiger gets to know his supposed new grandmother the more clear it becomes that Tiger may well indeed be this missing heir. He will have to fight intrigue, treachery, and a deadly magic that may hold the key to his future in order to find out who he is and regain his and Del's freedom.

This is the long-awaited 5th entry in the popular Tiger and Del series which has been without a new adventure for 8 years. Roberson does a masterful job of making the story equally enjoyable by both new and old fans of the series. The city of Skandi with its white cliffs and beautiful oceans makes for a dramatic backdrop for the moving tale of a man searching for his family and a place to call home. With enough action, excitement and magic for two books, Sword Born is rollicking good entertainment which will have readers eagerly awaiting the next installment in the adventure.

The Uncanny by Andrew Klavan

Crown, Feb., 1998.
Hardcover, 343 pages.
ISBN: 0609601121.
Ordering information: |

Cover of The Uncanny
by Andrew Klavan Richard Storm, a Hollywood producer of horror films, has been told that because of a brain tumor he only has sixth months to a year left to live. He has decided to spend this time in England with the hope that he will see a real ghost before he dies. To aid his goal Storm signs on as on a nonpaying freelancer for Bizarre!, a magazine that looks into unusual occurrences. Bizarre! has a medium-sized circulation nearing 100,000 and is run by Harper Albright, who also investigates paranormal activities for the publication.

While Storm is reading a ghost story named "Black Annie" at a party for a gothic literature group, a beautiful young woman named Sophia Endering drops her wine glass at an exciting moment in the story. Although Storm knows it is impractical, not only because she is so much younger than him but also because of his approaching death, he can not help but pursue her. His pursuit of the young woman leads him to an art auction where he finds that some of the artwork is related to the ghost story he was reading. Here the mystery begins as their lives, the ghost of "Black Annie" and a series of artworks intertwine. The mystery becomes more outrageous and sinister as is develops -- even involving an evil cult leader and Nazi secrets.

The Uncanny, written in a gothic style, is an interesting mix of horror, mystery and suspense. Some appealing ghost stories also appear within the novel that add depth and interest to the work. A unique novel that will appeal to lovers of gothic horror and old English ghost stories as well as mystery readers who love elements of the occult or supernatural.

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