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Friday Evening Capsule Book Reviews

Will Shetterly: Elsewhere
Terri Windling's Borderland shared world has now spawned several novels. Will Shetterly's first novel contribution, Elsewhere, follows the arrival in Bordertown of one of the series more popular characters, Ron - later to be known as Wolfboy. Faerie and the real world mix in a tale of teenage gangs, addictions, and loss. An excellent young adult novel, with lots of energy. Ron is a well-drawn narrator, and his relationships with a bookshop and poetry are enough to drawn you into his life...

Frank Herbert and Bill Ransom: The Jesus Incident
A complex and awkward book, The Jesus Incident, is a meditation on the relationship between man and the truly alien. An intelligent starship has become a literal god, and has placed a colony on Pandora, a raw and hostile world. In the midst of the threat of instant death, a small number of people must find their way to avoid tyrrany, while exploring the intelligence of their new home. Facing the alien inside and the alien outside, they make their way through an incoherent and confusing novel. Herbert's normally engrossing prose is fractured and broken, and the story staggers from viewpoint to viewpoint. Worth avoiding.

Ben Bova: The Precipice
Volume One of The Asteroid Wars, The Precipice is good old fashioned science fiction, with rich and powerful men vying for the resources of the solar system, one wanting to save a dying Earth, the other to create a new civilisation in space. It's a struggle that will launch a dangerous mission in an unproven spacecraft, and will bring the human race to the brink of disaster. Corporate politics and hard science mix into a light, fast read, which will give you a few hours respite from a cold and wet Sunday afternoon...

George MacDonald Fraser: Flashman and The Angel Of The Lord
John Brown's body lies a-mouldering in the grave - and Harry Flashman was there. In a run of misadventures that take him from India to America (via South Africa and the home - and daughter - of an old enemy), Flashman finds himself pressganged by three different groups with totally different agendas. His new job is straightforward: military adviser to John Brown for his raid on Harper's Ferry. Except things are never simple in Harry's crooked life. The Underground Railroad wants Brown to succeed, the Kuklos and the US Government want him to fail. Caught up in the maelstrom, Flashman has to find the best way to save his own sorry skin. A fun, irreverant, read, just like the rest of the series.

David Sherman and Dan Craig: Kingdom's Swords
The seventh Starfist military SF novel takes the Marines to the planet Kingdom. What appears to be a colonial uprising just may be something a little more dangerous - like an alien invasion. Played by the numbers, like the earlier books in the series, the troops struggle against the odds, but by dint of their superior skills finally win the day. A sub-plot involving a terrorist attack on a starship reads like a hasty add-on, bolted on to deal with some of today's political issues. Still, it's an enjoyable read, and a cliff-hanger ending leaves you waiting for the next novel in the series.

Phillip Mann: Stand Alone Stan
Volume 2 of A Land Fit For Heroes, a series set in a Britain where Rome never fell, takes a small group of misfits to the eponymous stnading stone and village. It's a place where they will begin to learn their destinies. Meanwhile, a murrain turns the eyes of Rome to Britain once more, and the huge wheels of politics look ready to turn the wild forests into ashes. This is a story of change, of growth, and takes Mann's pastoral vision to a new level.

Phillip Mann: The Dragon Wakes
Volume 3 of the alternate history series A Land Fit For Heroes. Our three heroes have chosen their paths. One is a healer, one an adventurer and one a rebel, but their stories are still entangled in the matter of Britain. A mechanical dragon becomes the key to rebellion, while the machinations of the Roman Empire grow ever closer to the immolation of the forests... Now all I need to do is find volume 4 to see how things finally turn out...

Roger MacBride Allen: The Shores Of Tomorrow
The final volume in The Chronicles Of Solace solves an impossible problem. If all terraforming projects are doomed, then how can we save a dying world, and at the same time, the whole human race? As the ecology of Solace collapses, the discredited terraformer Oskar DeSilvo finally returns with Anton Koffield. He's got a final solution to the problem of making new worlds from scratch - one that will cheat time itself. In a clever, and intriguing, novel Allen explores complex moral issues, and finds hope in the depths of despair.

[36 books currently waiting to be written up - I need to slow down a bit!]