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Alexander C. Irvine
DelRey / $13.95 / 340p
Alex Irvine made a strong debut with A Scattering of Jades
in 2002 racking up several awards; new novel One King One Soldier proves it was no fluke.
Like the earlier novel, this one follows the Tim Powers-patented path into supernatural
secret history. Alternating chapters parallel two stories.
One features Arthur Rimbaud in his post-poet days as a gunrunner in Africa circa
1890. Rimbaud discovers he must recover the Holy Grail (which is not a cup at all,
but a piece of the Ark of the Covenant), a destiny that has secretly involved his
forebears since the 12th century. The other story pivots on Lance Porter, a young soldier
wounded in Korea. Lances arrives in 1953 San Francisco and immediately e
ncounters the now-legendary Jack Spicer, considered by many to be most
provocative and least appreciated poet of his generation (not to mention a leading light
in Bay Area gay culture.) Spicer knows of Rimbaud's secret role and, convinced
that Lance is the Fisher King, he sets Lance on a quest for the Grail.
Meanwhile, Rimbaud crosses paths with an American baseball player,
George Gibson who received a small leather packet from the bloody hands of a
murdered man on mysterious Oak Island off Nova Scotia's Atlantic Coast.
A tight plot twines all together by the end. Adventurous and suspenseful,
Irvine's second book is less complex than his first, but his characters may
be even more convincing (although they may be a bit on the shallow side for some tastes).
Irvine scores a home run with another intelligent enjoyable fantasy about the importance
of belief and becomes a "must-read" author to boot.
--review originally appeared in Cinemafantastique Aug/Sept 2004
Copyright © 2004 Paula Guran. All Rights