This odd novel, left incomplete when Bester died in 1987, was finished by Zelazny, who himself died in 1995. In his introduction, Bear refers to Bester (The Deceivers) and Zelazny (Donnerjack) as masters of SF jazz, geniuses of improvisation, and the book has that feel to it. The plot is full of bizarre twists and turns. Neat ideas surface and disappear in an eyeblink and characters transform radically from one page to the next. Alf Noir, an investigative reporter, is sent to Rome to look into the mysterious Black Place of the Soul-Changer and its enigmatic proprietor, Adam Maser. Alf discovers that Maser is a Psychbroker, a sort of pawnbroker of the spirit, dealing in emotions, talents and psychological traits. Want more courage, the ability to see into the infrared, an understanding of ancient Persian? Maser will trade it to you for your mind-reading ability, or a rare coin, or perhaps for the secret of the collective unconscious. Alf discovers that Maser isn't human, but a highly evolved cat from the far future. Nothing is what it seems and no one can be trusted, not even Maser's sexy assistant, an evolved snake with whom Alf has an affair. There's much fun to be had here, but the book doesn't represent either writer in top form. Bester's style in the first part of the novel seems dated, and things don't gel until Zelazny takes over halfway through the book. Vintage has brought Bester's finest work back into print, and for this it deserves praise, but this novel is most likely to appeal to Zelazny's much larger readership. (July)
Reviewed on: 06/29/1998 Release date: 06/01/1998 Genre: Fiction
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