Heroes and Villains

Lewis Shiner. Subterranean, $40 (328p) ISBN 978-1-59606-840-7
Common folk rising to depose despots with unchecked power is the theme running through Shiner’s compilation of three action-packed novellas and one short story. In the strongest work, the precisely plotted alternate history “Black Sun,” five stage magicians form an intricate plan to take down Adolf Hitler in 1934 Germany. Led by Ernest Adler (aka the Amazing Adonini), a hypnotist, an escape artist, an impersonator, and an illusionist prey on Hitler and his henchmen’s belief in the occult. The far-fetched plot is made plausible by sustained suspense and single-minded characters. In “The Next,” frumpy lawyer Tom Davis and reporter Susan Altman investigate a killing in modern Los Angeles and discover a cabal of predatory mutant bloodsuckers. The allegorical “Doglandia” focuses on Bruno, a Rottweiler, who teaches other dogs to fear cats and starts a war at a city dump; corgi Toby and cat spy Rita manipulate Bruno with false flattery and rouse resistance from the ranks. The atmospheric James Bond–esque thriller “Doctor Helios” has a CIA agent confronting Chinese and Russian spies who are plotting to destroy the Aswan Dam in 1963 Egypt. High adventure, exotic locales, and beautiful women all triumph. Shiner (Collected Stories) merges well-researched and detailed historical elements with cinematic action and crisp writing. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 07/10/2017
Release date: 10/01/2017
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