CHARISMA

Steven Barnes, Author . Tor $24.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-312-87004-1

The true battleground in the fight between good and evil is the human soul, and no one is better at describing those internal battles than Barnes. While this latest stand-alone thriller, an eerie tale of good intentions gone bad, is the clear spiritual descendent of Barnes's Blood Brothers (1996) and Iron Shadows (1998), it far outclasses its popular predecessors in both style and sheer emotional impact. In an attempt to empower low-income youth, more than a thousand children are raised to become miniature copies of popular rags-to-riches politician Alexander Marcus, but they end up acquiring his bloodthirsty depravities as well as the brilliance and cunning he used to hide them. With a delicate unfolding of the plot and an astonishing ability to show readers the world through the eyes of his many and disparate characters, from ambitious reporter Renny Sand and Kelly Kerrigan, a CIA agent turned theatrical sharpshooter, to dressmaker Vivian Emory and her perceptive and troubled son, Patrick, Barnes keeps the outcome a genuine secret right up until the last sentence. His talent at handling race and racism has never been so evident and polished, and while the occasional overdone metaphor is jarring, the slangy dialogue rings true and the characters' interactions make sense without being predictable. This work will be devoured with shivering delight by horror readers of all kinds, particularly those already familiar with the author's work, to which it also makes an excellent introduction. (June 28)

Forecast:With the publication of a provocative alternative history novel, Lion's Blood (Forecasts, Jan. 14), earlier this year, Barnes has come a long way since he was best known for his collaborative work with Larry Niven ( Saturn's Race, etc.). Some award nominations could enhance sales.

Reviewed on: 06/03/2002
Release date: 06/01/2002
Genre: Fiction
Mass Market Paperbound - 464 pages - 978-0-8125-6896-7
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