Warpath

Tony Daniel, Author Tor Books $19.95 (318p) ISBN 978-0-312-85282-5

An original premise, interesting characters and stylish writing distinguish this first novel, but they are buried under a mountain of pseudo-mystical philosophy and fuzzy science. Set five centuries in the future, the narrative concerns a conflict between settlers and Native Americans. However, these settlers are colonizing not new continents but new planets, on which they find Indians who began to inhabit these far-off realms long before Columbus discovered the New World. Individual character portrayals of both settlers and Indians are well-rounded and credible, but the structure of each society is only vaguely suggested. Much of the conflict, for example, is caused by the manipulations of the Clerisy, which seems to be a spiritual descendent of the Catholic Church but whose tenets are never adequately explained. Characters complain that politics on Earth are creating trouble, but the reader never gets a clear picture of the political situation there. Too many pivotal plot developments take place off-stage, and the narrator keeps interrupting the action to give us his views on the Life and the Universe, views that are neither new nor particularly deep. Soft science fiction need not be technically accurate but it does have to be convincing. Daniel's effort, despite his evident talent, leaves important details unfortunately vague. (Apr.)
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