Locus Online










Trying to keep up with the best new SF/F/H books, but have time to read only a couple books a month? Locus Online selects two books each month, based on reviews in Locus Magazine, as first reading choices for the time-impaired. Full reviews of these and many other books are published in the magazine.

Mr. X, Peter Straub
(Random House 0-679-40138-5, $25.95, 482pp, hc, August 1999)

Peter Straub's new novel has ''unequivocal supernatural elements'' that his other recent works have lacked, notes Gary K. Wolfe in the July 1999 Locus. It's about a software programmer drawn back to his Illinois hometown, where he discovers his father of record is not his real father, and that a twin brother apparently disappeared after birth. The real father, the Mr. X of the title, is

''one of Straub's most chilling creations -- a sadistic murderer with supernatural psychic powers, self-styled Lord of Crime, and bad horror story writer in the HPL [H.P. Lovecraft] tradition... Despite several scenes of spectacularly gruesome murder, Mr. X is a complex novel that engages in an active and often witty critique of the horror genre while staking an authoritative claim to being part of it. ... As crafty as it is well-crafted, Mr. X soars.''

Faren Miller, in the October 1999 Locus, concurs:

''In Mr. X, Straub returns to horror like a sometimes impish, thoroughly self-aware, jazz master who redefines and old standard and opens worlds within worlds.''

The Martians, Kim Stanley Robinson
(Bantam Spectra 0-553-80117-1, $24.95, 336pp, hc, September 1999, cover by Don Dixon; UK edition HarperCollins/Voyager April 1999)

Kim Stanley Robinson's new book is a collection of stories expanding on his landmark trilogy of novels Red Mars, Green Mars, and Blue Mars. Gary K. Wolfe writes in the April 1999 Locus that since concluding the trilogy

''Robinson has continued to write stories, poems, meditations, and essays about his terraformed New World, and The Martians is the odd, and oddly satisfying result. ... [I]n the context that Robinson provides here, [the stories are] elements in a Dos Passos-like collage that gains depth through linkages between various stories and characters. The book's centerpiece, the long novella ''Green Mars'', actually antedates the trilogy, and is a masterful mountaineering tale about an expedition to climb Mons Olympus...''

Russell Letson notes in his October 1999 Locus review that the book's opening story, ''Michel in Antarctica'', ends with the colonization project being cancelled.

''In fact, at least six of the 28 selections take place in one or more parallel universes where similar situations come to different ends. ... Robinson seems to be less interested, in this volume at least, in building a single, consistent future history than in walking around the whole project, looking at it from different angles, wondering how this or that theme or idea might have been developed differently. ... Given the complex relationship between these stories and the trilogy, the ideal audience for The Martians has read at least one of the novels, but the ''Green Mars'' sequence is a highly satisfying piece of work that can stand on its own. It might also serve as a sampler for those daunted by the trilogy's more-than-War and Peace bulk and (to shift the metaphor) a training-ground for the big event. There aren't many bodies of work in the genre that will repay the effort as handsomely.''

© 1999 by Locus Publications. All rights reserved.