cover image The Gutbucket Quest

The Gutbucket Quest

Piers Anthony. Tor Books, $23.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-0-312-86463-7

Anthony's collaborations with unknowns (Dream a Little Dream, etc.) have a mixed record, but this latest effort is notably successful. The novel draws on Leming's background as a Texas blues musician, by flipping its hero, blues guitarist Slim Chance, into an alternate reality where racial and environmental harmony prevail and music (especially the blues) holds magical power. The key to the power of the blues is the Gutbucket, a magical guitar incorporating the ashes of a famous musician. The Gutbucket has been stolen by the corporate villain T-Bone Pickens, who threatens all magic and music. With a classic elder mentor, the African-American Progress Hornsby, and Progress's gorgeous daughter, Nadine, Slim sets out on the quest to turn his own music into a magical weapon against Pickens and to retrieve the Gutbucket. Along the way to the inevitable victory, he meets a colorful gaggle of largely New Age but largely well-drawn secondary characters, and eventually becomes Nadine's lover and husband. The long passages of dialogue sometimes overwhelm the pacing, but readers will appreciate the graceful use of dialect and the compelling passion for the blues that positively sings out of the pages. Best of all, Slim is slowly and believably changed by his situation into a person worthy of Nadine's love, not handed her as a reward by auctorial fiat. This is a very readable variation on the theme of music as a source of magic. (May)