Locus Online







In 1998 Locus counted 1122 new science fiction, fantasy, and horror books published, and in that year the magazine reviewed 320 books (a few by more than one reviewer) -- more than two dozen per issue. Those reviews are not available on this website, but -- partly in response to suggestions made during our recent online poll and survey -- Locus Online will choose two books each month, based on the reviews in the magazine, to recommend on this page: suggestions for the time-impaired (aren't we all?) of what to read first.

The Cassini Division, Ken MacLeod (Tor 0-312-87044-2, $22.95, 240pp, hc, July 1999) This is MacLeod's third novel and the first to appear in a US edition. It's set in the same future as the earlier books (The Star Fraction, 1995, and The Stone Canal, 1996): a 24th century utopian Solar Union based around Earth, and an outer solar system where the quasi-military Cassini Division watch over the descendants of the Outwarders or 'fast folk' who left for interstellar space via a wormhole. The book's heroine travels from the Cassini Division to Earth and back, and then to the New Mars colony on the far side of the wormhole. Locus reviewer Russell Letson, in the July 1999 issue, perceives the author as a ''bright and entertaining libertarian undergraduate'' and calls the The Cassini Division

an intelligent and inventive book that combines space adventure, alien contact, and utopian inquiry in a manner that nevertheless left my ribs bruised from frequent elbow-nudges.
Aside from the author's penchant for political provocation, according to Letson, the book has ''plenty of ingenious SF ideas and devices'' (nano-mechanical 'babbages'; smart suits with fashion senses of their own); a ''punny, verbal playfulness'' that brings levels of irony to its political-philosphical arguments; and a strongly driven plot. Letson concludes
...I will be interested in seeing both the predecessors and descendants of this novel. Even when he's annoying, MacLeod is too much fun to ignore.

(The book was first published in 1998 by Orbit in the UK, where it was shortlisted for both the Arthur C. Clarke and the BSFA awards. Its page includes a review by David Langford, and customer comments from, among others, MacLeod's US editor at Tor, Patrick Nielsen Hayden. MacLeod's fourth novel, The Sky Road, has just appeared in the UK.)


The Sub: A Study in Witchcraft, Thomas M. Disch (Knopf 0-679-44292-8, $24.00, 285pp, hc, July 1999) Latest in a loose series of blackly humorous literary horror novels set in Minnesota, following The Businessman (1984), The M.D. (1991), and The Priest (1994). It's about a repressed substitute teacher who returns to her homestead in Leech Lake MN, where the ghost of her (perhaps) abusive father ignites her latent powers. As Faren Miller writes in the June Locus Magazine, Diana ''finds herself able to turn humans into beasts''.

This gives Disch plenty of opportunities for sharp descriptions and satirical carcatures of various types of human behavior, mostly blue-collar middle-American. ... When Diana's first victim is transformed into a stag (in a scene invoking a certain episode in the goddess Diana's classical pursuits), this act of magic clearly takes place in modern Minnesota. And Disch puts a truly American face on witchcraft/ancient magics: ''Wherever sheer intimidation is at a premium, witches flourish. They have always been the best sales personnel and trial lawyers and the most effective nursery school teachers.''
Miller concludes: ''The Sub is nasty, witty, and wise, an animal fable with a lot to say about nature, human nature, and the ways of this strange world we inhabit.''

Previous Selections
Here are what Locus Online would have selected for this page had it been started a few months ago: two books per month, at least, with occasional extra or 'bonus' selections of notable reprints or anthologies. Future selections will be made around mid-month from books that have been seen to be published (not just scheduled for the current month) and that have been reviewed in Locus Magazine (excepting some of the 'bonus' selections).

June 1999
  • The Year's Best Science Fiction: Sixteenth Annual Collection edited by Gardner Dozois + Year's Best SF 4 edited by David G. Hartwell
  • Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, J.K. Rowling

    May 1999

  • Cryptonomicon, Neal Stephenson
  • The Extremes, Christopher Priest
  • Reprint selections: Camp Concentration and 334, Thomas M. Disch
  • Bonus anthology selection: Far Horizons, edited by Robert Silverberg

    April 1999

  • Black Light, Elizabeth Hand
  • Waiting, Frank M. Robinson
  • Reprint selection: Alas, Babylon, Pat Frank

    March 1999

  • A Deepness in the Sky, Vernor Vinge
  • Finity, John Barnes
  • Bonus anthology selection: My Favorite Science Fiction Story, edited by Martin H. Greenberg

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