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REVIEWS: CFQ March/April 2006

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The Prestige
Christopher Priest
Tor (416 p)
$14.95 ISBN: 0312858868
Reprint edition (November 29, 2005)

book cover The upcoming film version has prompted this welcomed re-issue of Christopher Priest's astounding 1994 novel. Reading or (re-reading) this intriguing Chinese puzzle of a book will inspire high hopes for a movie directed by Christopher Nolan, the auteur of Memento. The intricately constructed novel's core story involves a monstrous rivalry between nineteenth-century British stage magicians Rupert Angier and Alfred Borden, ancestors of the framing story's present-day characters, Andrew Westley and Kate Angier. The feeling he has a lost identical twin obsesses Andrew; Kate is obsessed with the death of a boy she witnessed as child. Ultimately, the reasons for their fixations are uncovered we (and they) read first Angier's personal journals then Borden's. The two magicians maniacal efforts to upstage each other lead Angier to Nikola Tesla and his electrical experiments in Colorado. Tesla's invention of an apparatus for Angier results in the darkest of consequences Full of deception, duplicity, duality, and misdirection the novel leads to a magnificently gothic end. You'll be left bedazzled.

Giants of the Frost
Kim Wilkins
Warner (544 p)
$6.99 ISBN: 0446617288
(US edition January 1, 2006)

book cover Victoria Scott, embittered after a second broken engagement, runs away from it all (and toward her doctorate) by becoming a trainee at a meteorological station on the remote island of Othinsey 200 nautical miles off the Norwegian coast. She's warned of ghosts and told of a bloody past history, but Vicky's a levelheaded scientist and not about to accept such nonsense. Nor do strange noises in the forest and an odd sense of deja vu unsettle her. She does start getting a little shakey when she dreams of ghastly hag, but even when left all alone she clings to rational explanations for the weirdness. Considering the set-up, an eventual encounter with supernatural danger and/or a bloodthirsty killer is to be expected. But when Victoria meets the mysterious Vidar on supposedly deserted Othinsey and feels as if she's known him forever the horror story turns into a romantic fantasy of forbidden love and legendary beings wielding world-changing powers. Vidar is a son of the mighty god Odin. Nearly 1000 years before, Vidar loved a mortal named Halla who is now re-born as Victoria. Their undying love was murderously thwarted the first time by Odin and the old man is not any happier with the hook-up this time out. (In other words, supernatural danger and bloodthirstiness remain part of the mix.) Australian author Wilkins has obviously done her research well and places Scandinavian lore into a viable historical context while never losing sight of the importance of story. Norse mythology often pivots on the inescapability of fate and the role of the family in the determination of destiny this theme is well woven into the dark fantasy. Unless you cannot abide romance, Wilkins multi-genre mix, accomplished writing, meticulously drawn characters, and scrupulously established setting will sweep you away.

The Wave
Walter Mosley
Warner Aspect (224 p)
$22.95 ISBN: 0446533637
(January 3, 2006)

book cover Mosley, a bestselling mystery, author returns to allegorical SF-turf he experimented with in Blue Light (1998) with The Wave. Errol Porter has lost his job and his wife but he is vaguely establishing an alternative a career as a potter and starting a relationship with fellow artisan Nella when a strange and captivating young man appears out of a Los Angeles cemetery claiming to be his nine-years dead father, Arthur Porter. Despite intimate knowledge of his life and family, Errol can't accept "GT", as he dubs him, is his somehow resurrected father. Then GT's revelations of a hidden murder prove there is undeniable truth to his story. But this is no supernatural reanimation. Microorganisms buried deep within Earth have been migrating toward the surface for billions of years becoming a group-mind referred to as The Wave. The Wave is using the DNA and memories of the buried dead to prepare for an ultimate cosmic rendezvous. Inevitably the government sees The Wave as a threat to homeland security and the odds of Errol, GT, and The Wave surviving seem nil. The novel is not entirely successful. Told in first person by Errol the p.o.v seems limiting and awkward at times. The book's brevity and its earnest attempt at deeper meaning, however, make it a beguiling read.

The Town That Forgot How to Breathe
Kenneth J. Harvey
St. Martin's (480 p)
$24.95 ISBN: 0312342225 (US Edition: September 22, 2005)

book cover Strange things are happening in Bareneed, Newfoundland. The village has suffered since losing its lifestyle and livelihood with the death of cod-fishing industry. Now people are contracting a mysterious respiratory ailment that causes them to "forget to breathe" and lose themselves in overwhelming rage. An albino shark cast up from the sea regurgitates the head of a man drowned five years previously. The too-well-preserved corpses of other drowning victims appear. A dead girl befriends the eight-year-old daughter of a summer tourist. Sea monsters are seen. Locals with the "sight" warn of reckonings and ghosts. Even the commander of the military unit called in to quarantine Bareneed sees the inexplicable and dreams of spirits. Canadian author Harvey captures the reader with haunting suspense and a remarkable sense of place as he builds his complex plot. Both realistic and fantastic elements are well used and, although he occasionally stumbles into a pretentious style, Harvey can spin a story. In some ways, this is just a generic tale of an isolated community beset by monstrous evil. In other ways it is a modern novel concerned with the loss of self and culture and alienation from the environment, from one another, and from belief. But Harvey overplays the allegory and unintentionally provokes the reader to question the very premise he seems to promote: that the past is a more idyllic place than the present. Of course it is better to provoke thought than not provoke it. The Town That Forgot How to Breathe is not as profoundly significant as the author may have meant it to be, but it is still somewhat meaningful modern horror