cover image Songs of Earth and Power

Songs of Earth and Power

Greg Bear. Tor Books, $24.95 (556pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85669-4

Two of Bear's earlier and closely related novels, each originally published in its own mass market edition, have now been expanded and placed between one set of hard covers. Together, the two excel at one of fantasy's foremost attributes: its power to create new worlds that reflect intriguingly on our own. In The Infinity Concerto (1984), 16-year-old poet Michael Perrin follows a mysterious set of instructions from his deceased friend, the composer Arno Waltiri. Going through a deserted house, he enters the Realm of the Sidhe, a race that has oppressed humanity since our Serpent Mage first stole their souls. In the Realm, Michael is taught magic and survival by the half-faerie/half-human ``Breed'' women Nare, Spart and Coom. Setting off across the Realm, he gets caught up in a plot and counterplot that, by novel's end, connect him with a hidden knowledge, fragments of which were revealed to Coleridge in his celebrated poem about Xanadu. The Serpent Mage (1986) proves slightly less exciting, since Michael's rough edges have smoothed over as, under Breed tutelage, he has gained nearly godlike powers. The action here centers less on the Realm than on modern-day Los Angeles, where Michael and Kristine Pendeers, a UCLA musicologist, manage to get Waltiri's elusive and otherworldly Infinity Concerto performed. Movie scoring, the nature of the universe and the bases for Western religions are all ink for Bear's pen as the richness of his ideas, the exuberance of his characters and their refreshing decency make this new edition of two old works a joy to read. Author tour. (Jan.)