cover image Mississippi Blues

Mississippi Blues

Kathleen Ann Goonan. Tor Books, $25.95 (448pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85917-6

Among the wonders of nanotechnology must be counted its power to inspire fine novels such as this sequel to the author's acclaimed Queen City Jazz (1994). Goonan's new novel depicts the same lushly imagined world as its predecessor, an earth transformed by the unlimited power of nanotechnology and by myriad social and psychological responses to it. As Verity, Blaze and others are driven down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers by the information-encoding Norleans Plague, they encounter dangers and mysterious fellow-travelers, many possibly less or more than human. Despite a lot of background exposition (often pleasingly presented as monologues and always fascinating as SF), and a loose, episodic plot, the narrative keeps a firm grip on reader attention through well-crafted suspense and absorbing character development. It also deliberately addresses profound themes: responsibility for ourselves and others; what it means to be human; freedom and purpose; the nature of art (especially music); and the uses and abuses of power. Taking for granted that information and technology are becoming one, Goonan explores serious questions with an intensity and skill that make her a major voice in the field. (Dec.)