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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.

Teranesia, Greg Egan
(HarperPrism 0-06-105092-x, $24, 293pp, hc, December 1999, cover by Peter Gudynas; UK edition Orion, August 1999)

Greg Egan's new novel is set on a remote Indonesian island where a young boy, Prabir, lives with his parents, who are studying genetic anomalies of butterflies. The novel takes Prabir and his younger sister Madhrusree to the academic life in Canada and later, as adults, on a pursuit of a series of strange mutations that takes them back to the island of Teranesia.

Gary K. Wolfe writes in the September 1999 Locus:

''Teranesia is Egan's most humane and at times his most funny novel to date. ... The ending, like some key scenes in the beginning, builds a crescendo of emotional power we have not seen before in Egan, and if the novel seems to shift modalities more than once -- from idyll to near-future political thriller to absurdist social satire to Conradian adventure to family love story -- perhaps the one thing that holds it together is Egan's own intensity. It's as though a writer whose last several novels have been powered by stunning ideas has suddenly discovered that passions can be stunning, too.''

From Russell Letson's review in the July 1999 Locus:

''Teranesia is at once immediately recognizable as coming from Greg Egan and quite unlike, say, the cosmology opera of Diaspora or the cyber-metaphysics of Permutation City. ... I expect wild notions and dizzy-making perspectives from Greg Egan, but this may be his most emotionally adventurous book... After Teranesia, nobody's going to call Greg Egan a chilly writer again.''

All Tomorrow's Parties, William Gibson
(Putnam 0-399-14579-6, $24.95, 277pp, hc, October 1999)

William Gibson's latest novel is the third in a loose trilogy that began with with Virtual Light (1993) and Idoru (1996). Russell Letson's review in the November 1999 Locus contrasts it with the current state of cyberpunk, which he assesses as a young person's genre, all style and swagger.

''But to have any appeal beyond the ages between Play Station and body piercing, you gotta have brains and heart, and William Gibson's new book has miles and miles of both. ... Being a grownup doesn't mean that Gibson has abandoned the flashy surfaces that knocked us out in his early work, and this book's world still consists of wacky and haunting environments... [R]ead it for the thrill ride, for the ingenious and extravagant inventiveness, and the splendid writing.''

In the same Locus reviewer Jonathan Strahan isn't quite as impressed:

''Since the publication of Neuromancer, it's been clear that Gibson is one of the most important stylists to enter the genre. It's also clear from that book, and the subsequent volumes in the Sprawl trilogy, that plotting and, to some extent, conventional narrative are not his strengths. That is true for this second trilogy which, like the first, expends most of its narrative energy in the opening volumes, leaving All Tomorrow's Parties to dissipate in a rather vague act of transcendence that fails to satisfy.''

Reviewer Edward Bryant has his own take in the December Locus:

''All Tomorrow's Parties ultimately gives us a transformed future through hint and suggestion rather than bombast. Not everyone will like that. Fair enough. But I think it tonally fits Gibson's approach to his materials here, still giving us an impressionist view of a complexly layered future world by utilizing the sensory filters of a whole repertory company of diverse characters.''

© 1999 by Locus Publications. All rights reserved.