cover image Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone

Scissors Cut Paper Wrap Stone

Ian McDonald. Spectra Books, $3.99 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-553-56116-6

McDonald's fifth novel is a slim but powerful vision of 21st-century Japan and a guilt-ridden man's journey through it toward redemption. Ethan Ring, introspective and plagued by the sins of his past, embarks on the ancient Shikoku pilgrimage--an overland trek to visit the 88 sacred sites of Shingon Buddhism--with his friend Masahiko, hoping to find some peace from his painful memories. Those memories return in flashbacks along the route, and Ring's crimes are revealed: he and some fellow students developed a series of ``fracters,'' superpowerful psychological images that can hypnotize, enrage, heal, blind and even kill on sight. When the security arm of the European common government learns of them, they force Ring to use the fracters as an interrogator and assassin. On the pilgrimage, Ring turns the fracters to good purposes when he can, and searches for a way to escape their curse. McDonald ( The Broken Land ) effectively blends Ring's personal story with his depiction of a future Japan reverting to technological feudalism and haunted by reconstructed ``ghosts'' of the dead preserved in virtual realities, and he keeps this fine novel tight and well focused. (Feb.)