cover image TUMBLING AFTER


Paul Witcover, . . Eos, $24.95 (336pp) ISBN 978-0-06-105285-9

Two coming-of-age stories—that of pubescent twins Jack and Jilly Doone in 1977 America and that of Kestrel, a mutant 17-year-old of the distant future—converge in Witcover's compelling second novel (after 1997's Waking Beauty ), which blends postapocalyptic SF with Philip K. Dick–like speculation on reality. In Kestrel's world, survivors of a viral war are divided into super-teched humans and super-powered mutants who battle each other endlessly. In the Doones' world, Jack seems to gain the power to alter reality after nearly drowning. The twin's Uncle Jimmy, a game designer, has devised "a role-playing game developed both to cash in on and undermine the success of Dungeons & Dragons." Jimmy's game scenario, in which he immerses the twins as pre-market testers, mirrors Kestrel's world. Jack's "power" begins to take over his life. Is he suffering from a breakdown fueled by sexual awakening, the new game and his preternaturally close relationship with Jilly, or has he somehow become involved in a multireality war fought for "the right to determine what is and isn't real"? Kestrel, meanwhile, is involved in just such a war. The increasingly disquieting parallel stories amount to an audacious toss of some complex dice, but the result is a winning, entertaining cross-genre roll. Agent, Chris Schelling at the Ralph Vicinanza Agency. (Mar. 1)

FYI: Waking Beauty was shortlisted for Locus and Tiptree awards.