cover image Plague Birds

Plague Birds

Jason Sanford. Apex, $16.95 trade paper (308p) ISBN 978-1-937009-94-6

This head-scratchingly loopy novel from Sanford (Heaven’s Touch) begins thousands of years after human civilization collapsed due to contamination with brute animal genes. Now most people are too dangerous to live together and must stay in separate, small settlements protected by AIs. Lawbreakers are punished by roving individuals called plague birds who share their bodies with blood AIs that threaten to erupt into horrendous violence at any moment. When one plague bird is fatally wounded in an encounter with a superpowered, dimension-spanning man named Ashdyd, young villager Christina de Ane is forced to take over the role. She and the cranky blood AI Red Day set off in pursuit of Ashdyd and his followers, the Veil, while also seeking Seed, the wonderful living city described by Christina’s mother. Along the way, they pick up some odd companions, among them Diver, an apparently immortal little girl who may have the power to destroy the world. The characters fear—rightly—that they’re constantly being manipulated by competing superhuman forces, and the mass of ingenious complications sometimes squeezes the life out of the story. The resulting tale isn’t for everyone, but those who imagine something like The Wizard of Oz as retold by A.E. van Vogt sounds like a good time should take note. (Sept.)