John Clute, Author . Tor $25.95 (337p) ISBN 978-0-7653-0378-3

Rarely has there been a space opera with such zeal for language, such a concatenation of ideas archaic and intergalactic and such irreverent reveling in humanity's stinky, steamy, singular sexuality. From the author's notes, which include a definition of the archaic mappemonde, to the novel's final sentence ("The War Against God dates from this moment"), Clute keeps the verbal pyrotechnics bright and the ideas flowing. Nathanael "Stinky" Freer captains his ship, the Tile Dance, through space with the aid of a conjoined AI. He spends his time making lucrative deliveries, learning stories that his ship's many faces act out for him, trying to avoid plaque (the darkness that's left when God eats the universe) and missing his deceased lady love, Ferocity Monthly-Niece. On a seemingly routine mercantile contract to the planet Trencher, he's nearly killed by the rampaging, cannibalistic, self-devouring alien,Opsophagos. On returning to his ship, Stinky discovers that he's somehow acquired two new AIs and that he has a stowaway: a topiary parthogenete, Mamselle Cunning Earth Link, who holds the key to the location of the planet where there are plaque-eating lenses. Opsophagos remains in hot pursuit as Stinky meets the mythic Johnny Appleseed, rediscovers his lady love and has a sexual encounter that just might save the universe. Clute (The Disinheriting Party) has produced a space opera that, though short on characterization, is brimful of both a love of language and the tropes of science fiction. (Feb. 1)

Forecast:Best known for his SF criticism and co-authorship of The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, Clute is well placed within the field to ensure that this first novel gets plenty of attention.

Reviewed on: 01/28/2002
Release date: 01/01/2002
Paperback - 337 pages - 978-0-7653-0379-0
Open Ebook - 338 pages - 978-1-4299-7216-1
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