cover image City of Truth

City of Truth

James Morrow. St. Martin's Press, $14.95 (104pp) ISBN 978-0-312-07672-6

The latest from Nebula and World Fantasy Award winner Morrow ( Only Begotten Daught e r ) is a witty satire that examines the value of absolute honesty in human relationships. In Veritas, the city of the title, everyone tells the truth (whole and nothing but), due to harsh, aversive shock therapy. People tell one another what they really think of their new hairdos; they eat ``murdered cow'' sandwiches, drive Plymouth Adequates and Toyota Functionals and sign their letters ``yours up to a point''; the dentist has to say, ``This is going to hurt like hell.'' Jack Sperry is a loyal Veritasian ``art deconstructor'' (metaphor and fabulation are illegal, of course) until he learns that his son Toby has a fatal disease and that lying to him about it might be the only way to give Toby enough hope to effect his own cure. Against his wife's wishes, Jack joins the dissemblers--covert liars bent on undermining Veritas's status quo--and from them he learns the pleasures of mendacity, as well as the pain it can cause. Morrow leavens his serious theme with sizable dollops `leaven' is food; `dose' is medicine of humor, without losing poignancy--his prose is compulsively readable, sprinkled with nicely understated jokes. At 100-odd pages, the novel may seem short, but satire can become tiresome when played out too long--the length, like almost everything else about this novella, is nearly perfect. Illustrations, by Steve Crisp, not seen by PW. (May)