All Tomorrow's Parties
By William Gibson
Putnam; 288 pages; $24.95
Gibson returns to characters introduced in "Virtual Light" and "Idoru" and sets them in motion in a near-future, post-quake San Francisco. The millennium has passed, but apocalypse may still be right around the corner as ex-cop Berry Rydell, former bike messenger Chevette and virtual pop star Rei Toei converge in a search for a dangerous man who leaves no trace in data space.
From London to Manila to the island sultanate of Kinakuta, "Cryptonomicon" follows three generations of soldiers, scientists and adventurers as they use the tools of physics, mathematics and modern warfare to defeat the Axis powers and then recapture an unimaginable fortune in stolen gold. Whether writing about World War II spycraft or modern-day electronic banking, Stephenson combines the best elements of espionage fiction in the Len Deighton mold with the "geek-chic" sensibility of William Gibson.
Dark Cities Underground
The BART System plays an integral role in this engaging new fantasy by the author of "Walking the Labyrinth." When Ruthie, a young journalist, sets out to interview Jerry, the son of a famous children's book writer, she suddenly finds herself swept into the fantasy world his mother wrote about. Goldstein wittily and chillingly reveals the secret history of subways and the mythical archetypes who inhabit them.
The discovery of a mummified prehistoric family, a mass grave in modern Russia and a virus that causes miscarriages are all harbingers of a new wrinkle in human evolution in this thriller by the author of "Moving Mars" and "Blood Music." The book delivers more lectures on virology and genetics than perhaps the average reader wants, but Bear has devised a clever and provoking medical adventure story.
Set in a multiverse where myriad worlds operate under varying rules of magic, the novel chronicles the adventures of Rupert Venables, the junior magician in charge of making things run as smoothly as possible here on Earth. Jones deftly juggles the many elements of her complicated story, moving the narrative along with a light touch and a sure hand. She pokes gentle fun at the excesses of science fiction fandom, but she doesn't lose sight of the more serious, even tragic, aspects of the tale.
Card gives the old Sleeping Beauty fairy tale a modern makeover, using Russian folklore as a springboard for a story set in both the present and the distant past. Especially well-done are the scenes between Baba Yaga and her reluctant lover-god Bear, which lend a deliciously mordant sense of humor to the proceedings. "Enchantment" is minor work in Card's canon, but it's a charming and lively one.
Hearts in Atlantis
With his latest book, King aims high, seeking to make a personal statement about the Sixties, of all things. "Hearts in Atlantis" presents five shorter works of varying lengths, whose settings span four decades. The best of the lot is "Low Men in Yellow Coats," a creepy tale of a boy encountering an otherworldly visitor during the summer of 1960.
After more than a decade of producing psychological thrillers like "The Throat" and "The Hellfire Club," Straub returns to the tale of the out-and-out supernatural. Every birthday, Ned Dunstan experiences excruciating pain and bizarre visions. As his thirty-fifth approaches, he finally discovers the truth about his family legacy, coming face-to-face not only with his doppelganger, but with the psychotic killer who fathered the both of them.
Robinson builds his new paranoid science fiction thriller around the premise that a hidden species of hominids, virtually indistinguishable from Homo sapiens, but equipped with psychic powers, has shared the planet with us for millennia. "Waiting" crackles with tension, and the mystery of the Old People is explicated with extreme cleverness and precision.
Sarrantonio attempts to do for horror and suspense what Harlan Ellison did for science fiction with "Dangerous Visions." This massive anthology presents new work by many of the genre's biggest names, including Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, David Morrell, Joyce Carol Oates and William Peter Blatty.
(c) 1999 by Michael Berry