cover image Queen City Jazz

Queen City Jazz

Kathleen Ann Goonan. Tor Books, $23.95 (416pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85678-6

This impressive first novel by an experienced story writer combines hallucinogenic visions, historical personae and an original futuristic dystopia. Young Verity has been raised by a reconstructionist Shaker group that bases its religion on the American cult that banned sex and believed in ``simple'' virtues. The adolescent has strange powers and mysterious compulsions that cause her to seek out and learn things from technologies that her adoptive community has forsaken. After tragedy strikes her ``family,'' Verity packs up several precious burdens and repairs to the technologically superior but dangerously insane ``enlivened'' city of Cincinnati. There she meets the passionate jazz musician Sphere and becomes embroiled in mutating versions of a nanotech plague and overlapping views of the historical facts that led to the destruction of rational civilization. In Cincinnati she learns her true identity and how to affect the city's destiny. Highlights of the book include a scene in which Ernest Hemingway gets kicked off a baseball team because he's not a ``team player'' and a mini-lesson in the communication techniques of bees. Also a pleasure is watching the intelligent heroine grapple with responsibility, passion and artistic creation. While overly dense in detail, Goonan's work is powerful and richly textured. (Nov.)