Bookshelf (Starburst Reviews) Bookshelf compiled by Anthony Brown
• part of Starburst's monthly Reviews section
Selected from Starburst #278

Selected this month: Cohen and Stewart's

and Carol Berg's Revelation

Ratings given are now
out of five

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Wheelers by Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart
Published by Earthlight, 505pp
Trade p/b • Reviewer: Anthony Brown

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'From start to finish, Wheelers is about misunderstandings and their consequences'

With Wheelers Jack Cohen and Ian Wheeler prove that baseline Science Fiction, fiction written by scientists which turns hard science into drama, is still alive and well, offering up awesome spectacles to match Hollywood's best CGI combined with ideas to back them up.

Just as Humanity's recovering from the pause, a twenty-second century rebellion against technology which left it split into an isolationist Free China and an environmentalist Ecotopia spanning the rest of the globe, it gets proof that aliens exist in the most brutal manner possible. The Moons of Jupiter shift in their orbits, in such a way that a comet about to sweep past the gas giant will now be aimed directly at Earth by their gravitational influences.

From start to finish, Wheelers is a novel about misunderstandings and their consequences, beginning with the academic argument over an archaeological find which turns its heroes into bitter enemies pursuing rival contact strategies, through to the Jovian civilisation's belief that the environmentally responsible thing to do with dangerous rogue comets is to fire them at the uninhabitable rocks of the inner solar system. The political machinations on Earth and Jupiter are fascinating, and the climax has a sheer bravado which fuses together Space: 1999 and Doctor Strangelove in the mind's eye while giving the scene the credibility of Arthur C Clarke.

However, some parts show how rare a talent Clarke really is - whereas his descriptions of Jovian life in 2010 had a sense of poetry, Cohen and Stewart drift a little too much into biology lectures on occasion. But that's a minor criticism of something which brings out the wonders of scientific discovery, and the pig-headedness of the scientistsStarburst Rating: 5/5 and their bosses effectively, and manages to do so in two species so different that they'd seem to have nothing in common.

Revelation by Carol Berg
Published by Orbit, 485pp
Trade p/b • Reviewer: Barbara Davies

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'There is plenty here to intrigue: ancient mysteries, betrayal, shapchanging etc'

Following Transformation(the excellent first book of The Rai-Kirah, reviewed in Starburst #273) was always going to be a tall order for Carol Berg. Book Two, Revelation, features the same protagonist and is full of the same energy, plot twists, and originality, but it doesn't grip as firmly. Maybe it's just that demon protagonists aren't as engaging as Human ones.

Sorcerer and ex-slave Seyonne always was a trouble-magnet, and so it's no surprise that it finds him again and upsets his idyllic life among the Ezzarians. First, an encounter with a benign demon triggers questions about the true nature of the creatures he has been routinely killing. Next, his child is born demon-possessed.

As Seyonne tries to solve the eons-old demon problem, and in the process save his son from ritual slaughter, he alienates his friends, including former master Aleksander, and even his wife. And his new partner in magic, the obnoxious Fiona, dogs his every step with disastrous results. Seyonne has an almost impossible task - to get Ezzarians and demons to work together. There is only one way to accomplish it; to venture alone and unprotected into the alien realm of the demons...

In many ways it's the formula as before: Seyonne versus the world, striving against the odds... and frequently getting beaten up! There is plenty here to intrigue: ominous dreams, ancient mysteries, betrayal, shapechanging etc. My attention wandered, though, during the long passages set in the demon realm. I was also disappointed that the charismatic Aleksander, a key figure in the previous book, was relegated to the margins, though the introduction of the tenacious Fiona went some way towards making up for that.

Starburst Rating: 3/5Middle books are always problematic, though, and it will be interesting to see how Berg handles the final book, Restoration.

Reviews © Visual Imagination 2001. Not for reproduction