John Barnes, Author . Tor $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7653-0329-5

Barnes (The Sky So Big and Black ) has created a gonzo piece of metafiction that cleverly blurs the line between reality and fantasy. Private detective Travis Bismark turns up on the doorstep of his old friend, the science fiction writer John Barnes, spouting a bizarre story about prostitutes with degrees in physics, pills that facilitate telepathy and great sex, and a mysterious technology called Gaudeamus that people are willing to kill for. Oddly enough, Barnes himself is already addicted to a complex, hypertextual Web cartoon, also called Gaudeamus, that seems to contain a number of references to Bismark's adventures. The detective disappears soon thereafter when Barnes's pickup is attacked by a cybernetically enhanced elk, but shows up repeatedly over the next year with increasingly wild tales of industrial espionage, alien entrepreneurs and Native Americans who dress in clown suits and travel in flying saucers. What's most fascinating about the novel is the way in which Barnes entangles real autobiographical material, including appearances by his wife, fantasy writer Kara Dalkey, with an increasingly outlandish and highly improbable plot. Also interesting is that Barnes makes little attempt to portray himself sympathetically and is very open about his dislike for hardcore SF fans. This fascinating book is quite unlike anything else on the market today, but it's hard to know how the author's regular readers will react. Agent, Ashley Grayson. (Nov. 4)

Reviewed on: 09/27/2004
Release date: 11/01/2004
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-0-7653-1198-6
Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4299-7062-4
Mass Market Paperbound - 336 pages - 978-0-7653-4223-2
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