Locus Online








Each month Locus Online selects two books, based on reviews in Locus Magazine, to recommend as first reading choices for the time-impaired. Full reviews of these and many other books are published in the magazine.

Centaurus: The Best of Australian Science Fiction David G. Hartwell & Damien Broderick, eds. (Tor 0-312-86556-2, $29.95, 525pp, hc, July 1999)

Published to coincide with this year's World Science Fiction Convention in Melbourne, Australia, this volume, writes Jonathan Strahan in the July 1999 Locus Magazine,

gathers together a selection of 20 SF stories written by Australians and published between 1971 and 1999. Only the second anthology of its kind published outside Australia, it gives a very modern view of a colonised secular nation and of its visions of the future.
Authors range from A. Bertram Chandler to Greg Egan to Chris Lawson, with many likely to be unfamiliar to readers who do not follow Australian publications (or Interzone), such as Terry Dowling, Sean McMullen, and David J. Lake. Not that these are stories about Australia necessarily:
While it is possible to put an ''Australian'' interpretation on many of these stories, few of the writers seem obviously concerned with reflecting an ''Australian'' experience of nationalistic worldview. And, generally, those that do are the weaker stories.
Strahan concludes that the book
is intended to give non-Australian readers an overview of Australian SF. As such, it succeeds, and succeeds admirably. Highly recommended.

Of related interest are two novels by Australian writers recently published in the US, both by Tor: the late George Turner's final novel, Down There in Darkness; and Sean McMullen's Souls in the Great Machine. And see the current issue of Interzone, a special Australian issue (see Story Selections).


Ancients of Days, Paul J. McAuley (Avon Eos 0-380-97516-5, $16.00, 386pp, hc, July 1999, cover by Gregory Bridges)

This middle book of the ''Confluence'' trilogy follows Child of the River (1997; just out in paperback in the US). Russell Letson's review in the September 1998 Locus (of this book's 1998 UK edition) describes Confluence as

an artificially-constructed world populated by human-appearing but not human-descended beings molded into the outward form of the ''Preservers'' who have retreated beyond the event horizon of a gigantic black hole.

In this far-future setting a foundling named Yamamanama (Yama for short) pursues his origins. He and his companions work for the decayed Department of Vaticination in its fierce rivalry with the Department of Indigenous Affairs -- which is intent on re-establishing the will of the Preservers -- until a conspiracy prompts their escape and long journey up-river.

The plot develops at a leisurely pace (with well-placed episodes of fast action, to be sure), the better to let us observe the scenery as Yama encounters more of the oddities, wonders, and terrors of Confluence: the Department of Apothecaries and Chirugeons, with its vast medical records; a hellhound, which he awakens and turns to his own use; the gambling and pit-fighting palace called Mother Spitfire's; the featureless corridors and interrogation rooms of the Department of Public Safety...

And then Angel, a copy of one of the Ancients of Days, or original humans, who explains among other things why the universe is ''not made for the convenience of humans''.

The series' third book, Shrine of Stars, will be published next month in the UK, and is reviewed in the August 1999 Locus by Letson, who cites echoes in the book not just of obvious antecedents Aldiss, Silverberg, Vance, and Wolfe, but also Heinlein and van Vogt.

© 1999 by Locus Publications. All rights reserved.