Mason's sequel to Summer of Love is a delightful expansion of that work and a major step forward for her. The tale centers on Zhu Wong, a Chinese national whose lawyer plea-bargains her release from prison so that Chiron and his companions from the previous novel's Luxon Institute for Superluminal Applications can transport her 600 years into the past to find a macguffin called the aurelia. Once in San Francisco, 1895, Mason brings the environment and the times to life with her rendering of the city's activities, especially its corruption. The several historic personages who appear--including Frank Norris, Jack London and Susan B. Anthony--are all given dimensions that reflect the rigor of Mason's research without leaving the reader overburdened by minutiae. Zhu Wong finds herself embroiled in a world of decadence and prostitution; she sees friends and companions abuse themselves with such things as alcohol, cocaine and corsets. As with Karen Joy Fowler's Sarah Canary, Mason uses the novel partially to explore the role of women in society. As Zhu grows to understand the hypocrisies of the 1890s, she becomes even less comfortable with the presumptions of her own time. She creates several ``closed time loops,'' apparent paradoxes that impede her mission--and, perhaps more important, thwart her own desires. Eventually she finds her way out of the time loops and in the process teaches everyone--including herself--a few lessons about life. Mason has matured beyond the hipper-than-thou tone that tainted her ``cyber'' novels (Arachne and Cyberweb). Her bravura performance with this book should both leave the reader wanting more and solidify her position as one of the most interesting writers in science fiction. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/1995 Release date: 10/01/1995 Genre: Fiction
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