NOTABLE SCIENCE FICTION/FANTASY OF 1998

Reviewed by Michael Berry

Antarctica
By Kim Stanley Robinson
Bantam; 508 pages; $24.95

Having chronicled the transformation of the Red Planet in his award-winning Mars Trilogy, Davis writer Kim Stanley Robinson turns his attention earthward for his latest novel. Set in the opening years of the next century, "Antarctica" presents a tour of a terrestrial continent that is nearly as alien and inhospitable as our nearest neighbor in the solar system. Combining the extrapolative techniques of science fiction with the reportorial style of popular history, Robinson creates a fascinating portrait of a harsh environment.

Beaker's Dozen
By Nancy Kress
Tor; 352 pages; $24.95

This volume presents 13 recent short stories and novellas by Nancy Kress, author of "Brain Rose" and "Maximum Light." "Evolution" imagines a future when drug-resistant bacteria turn hospitals into plague houses. "Ars Longa" devises a different sort of destiny for a boy named Walt Disney. "Flowers of Aulit Prison" follows an alien convict-turned-informer as she attempts to learn the truth about her sister's death. Long fascinated by the possibilities of genetic engineering, Kress illuminates the human cost of the coming revolution in biology.

Darwinia
By Robert Charles Wilson
Tor; 320 pages; $22.95

The world changes forever in March 1912, when bright lights in the sky herald the complete transformation of the European continent. Leaving his wife and daughter in a newly rebuilt London, Law embarks on a scientific expedition into terra incognita, only to meet with disaster after catching a glimpse of even greater mysteries. What starts as a variation on Conan Doyle's "The Lost World" develops into an intricate meditation on mortality and duty.

Dragon's Winter
By Elizabeth A. Lynn
Ace; 342 pages; $21.95

After more than a decade's silence, Berkeley writer Elizabeth A. Lynn, returns to fantasy with the tale of Karadur Atani, king of Ippa, who has lost his birthright, the ability to shift from human form into a colossal, fire-breathing dragon. With its quasi-medieval setting, magical battles and supporting cast of shapeshifters, "Dragon's Winter" offers familiar concepts enlivened by Lynn's careful plotting, supple writing and firm grasp of character.

The Dreams Our Stuff Is Made of: How Science Fiction Conquered the World
By Thomas M. Disch
Free Press; 256 pages; $25

In this non-fiction study of the genre, Disch's thesis is that America is a "nation of liars," and that science fiction epitomizes the nation's collective need and appreciation of outlandish untruths. He designates Poe as the true progenitor of the genre, then traces its influence on television, politics, religion and race relations.The book's approach is broad enough to appeal to the casual reader, with enough insider's observations to make it worthwhile for serious scholars.

Flanders
By Patricia Anthony
Ace; 354 pages; $23.95

Texas-born, Harvard-educated Travis Lee joins a British army unit and finds his calling as a sharpshooter in Northern France. During infrequent moments of rest, he dreams of a peaceful garden, where his dead comrades reside before moving on to some other plane of existence. Anthony vividly re-creates "the war to end all wars," and "Flanders" ranks close to "All Quiet on the Western Front" in its devastating impact.

Going Home Again
By Howard Waldrop
St. Martin's Press; 224 pages; $20.95

Howard Waldrop, author of "A Dozen Tough Jobs" and "Night of the Cooters," serves up nine very different alternate worlds in his latest short story collection. Whether writing about Mexican wrestlers, talking insects or Keystone Kops, Waldrop always manages brings a mischievous wit and a keen sense of drama to the enterprise.

Legends
Edited by Robert Silverberg
Tor; 704 pages; $27.95

Eleven popular fantasists, including Stephen King, Robert Jordan, Ursula LeGuin and Anne McCaffrey, each contribute a short novel to this mammoth collection.For long-time fans, it's an opportunity to meet new characters and explore their favorite sagas from fresh perspectives. For newcomers, it's a no-obligation sampler of some of the most imaginative writers working today.

Mockingbird
By Sean Stewart
Ace; 272 pages; $21.95

Thanks to a single sip of her dead mother's Mockingbird Cordial, Toni Beauchamp falls under the spell of six Riders, god-like entities who take control of her body at inopportune moments. Before she quite knows what has hit her, Toni finds herself pregnant, unemployed and at her wit's end. A funny and touching tale of Southwestern magical realism, this novel is a true tour de force, one of the most enjoyable books of the year.

The Tooth Fairy
By Graham Joyce
Tor; 320 pages; $22.95

After placing a tooth beneath his pillow without telling his parents about it, Sam wakes up to find a disheveled stranger sitting on the edge of the bed, the Tooth Fairy itself. That single glimpse of the forbidden is enough to cast a shadow over the boy's young life. Joyce ably captures the turmoil of late childhood without sentimentalizing it, and his characters learn harsh lessons about love, sex and friendship in unpredictable, yet completely credible, ways.

(c) 1998 by Michael Berry


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