cover image Rock of Ages

Rock of Ages

Walter Jon Williams. Tor Books, $21.95 (287pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85963-3

Literate farce is still a scarcity in science fiction. That's why this third volume in the continuing series (after The Crown Jewels and House of Shards) about Majistral, the Number One-rated allowed burglar in the Human Constellation, is such an amusing find. In this adventure, Majistral is taking a vacation from burglary and is spending his leisure time on Earth. Unfortunately, no one believes he is not on the planet to steal something. His unusual profession does not deter several women from suing for his hand, including Roberta, the Dutchess of Benn, and Nicole, an intergalactic celebrity. They are both attractive women (and relatively intriguing characters), and what would be a most pleasant dilemma for Majistral is only overshadowed by the deadly duels to which his wealthy hosts keep challenging him. Moreover, his unswervingly loyal Khosalisk servant, Roman, is in a rotten mood because he's molting. But it is not until his father's coffin--from which the deceased manages to retain a tenuous grasp on current events--is stolen that things really become absurd. The plot moves briskly from underwater palaces to holy Graceland (a marvelously silly land practically overflowing with Elvii of all species, genders and sizes), and the whirlwind pace helps keep the novel entertaining, if not intellectually overtaxing. (Sept.)