cover image Manhattan Transfer

Manhattan Transfer

John E. Stith / Author Tor Books $21.95 (381p) ISBN 978-0-312-

In this somewhat old-fashioned hard SF novel, aliens abruptly wrap the island of Manhattan in a cocoon, move it through space and plop it--lock, stock and populace--in the middle of an extensive plain. In the distance lie similarly transported communities, of alien origin. Civil authorities, led by the city's first black woman mayor, strive to maintain order in the face of panic and the exhortations of a religious fanatic, while techies and scientists try to find out what has occurred. An expedition to some of the other cities, led by masterful army officer Matt Sheehan and young computer genius Bobby Joe Brewster, discovers evidence that the municipalities are transported just before disaster strikes their home planets. In one such city, the expedition learns, the inhabitants have all committed suicide. On finding that the ``plain'' they occupy is actually part of a giant ship, the expedition attempts to contact its crew. Stith's ( Redshift Rendezvous) initial picture of disaster and some of his speculations on alien societies are intriguing, but the cliched and predictable actions of his main characters make for a dreary read. (July)