Winterlong

Elizabeth Hand, Author Spectra Books $4.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-553-28772-1
This first novel is a richly imagined work set in a Washington, D.C., devastated by nuclear and biological warfare. Society is rigidly stratified: the Ascendants, absentee rulers who were responsible for the devastation; the Curators, who tend the city's nearly destroyed museums and libraries; the Paphians, who barter sexual favors for goods; and the Lazars, wretched survivors of periodic germ warfare who subsist by cannibalism. The plot revolves around the reunification of twins separated in childhood: one, a male, is now a Paphian; the female is a ``neurologically augmented empath specializing in emotive engram therapy.'' Hand's world is nuanced and believable and her characters, especially the female twin, come convincingly alive. Her attempts to imbue the plot with mythic sensibility, however, do not succeed, resulting in a good science fiction framework burdened with badly grafted elements of fantasy and the occult. The final scene, in which the incestuous reunion between the twins heralds the onset of a cataclysmic ``Final Ascension,'' is disappointing in its murkiness. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/29/1990
Release date: 09/01/1990
Paperback - 496 pages - 978-0-06-105730-4
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