cover image Crescent City Rhapsody

Crescent City Rhapsody

Kathleen Ann Goonan. Eos, $24 (448pp) ISBN 978-0-380-97711-6

In 2012, a mysterious alien signal from space strikes Earth, sending the Information Age into a horrifying tailspin. An intermittent Silence descends on the planet, disrupting all electronic devices and sparking a virus that nine months later produces mutated children with a heightened receptivity to electromagnetic forces. In New Orleans--home of the improvisatory jazz that has clearly inspired Goonan's extrapolation of current scientific trends--Marie Laveau, a mob chieftain and mulatto descendant of voudoun priestesses, is murdered by hit men, but then resurrected through the new science of nanotechnology. She launches a complex 20-year plan to save her city--and her world. Seceding from the Union, Marie's New Orleans becomes the jumping-off place for a new nation, Crescent City, a Caribbean island she creates. Marie eventually brings together Kita, a brilliant Japanese research scientist; Kita's lover, Hugo, who's Marie's faithful assistant; Zeb, the psychologically disturbed astrophysicist who first realized that an alien intelligence lay behind the Silence; Tamchu, a Tibetan refugee and terrorist; and Jason, one of the gifted mutant children. Like Marie, all have to risk extinction while they brave the apocalyptic storm unleashed by ecoterrorists and governments gone xenophobically mad. Their separate stories eventually intersect with Marie's attempt to birth a brave new world that someday will send humanity to the stars. Highly imaginative, peopled with intriguing characters and as intellectually demanding yet emotionally satisfying as Duke Ellington's best, Goonan's literary rhapsody continues her highly praised Nanotech Quartet (Queen City Jazz; Mississippi Blues; to be concluded with Light Music), which imaginatively explores the scientific perils and promises lying at our very doorstep. (Feb.)