cover image The Golden Globe

The Golden Globe

Patricia A. McKillip, John Varley. Ace Books, $22.95 (448pp) ISBN 978-0-441-00558-1

Sparky Valentine grew up on stage. He'd memorized all of Shakespeare by age six and was the star of a hit TV show at eight. His father, actor John Barrymore Valentine, was famous throughout the solar system. But John was also an abusive monster who used torture to help his son learn his lines. Now, nearly a century later, Sparky, a rootless outcast, wanders the outer reaches of inhabited space, sometimes acting in legitimate theater, sometimes working small-scale con games. Although his acting skills are still well honed, virtually all of his theater work must be done under various stage names because he's wanted for a variety of crimes, some minor, some serious. Then two events change Sparky's life. First, he's given a chance to play Lear in a new production being mounted on Luna by the finest director in the solar system. Second, he finds himself the intended victim of an implacable, surgically enhanced professional killer. Fleeing the assassin and a number of local constabularies, risking his life to reach Luna and the opening of King Lear, Sparky little knows what revelations about his family's secrets await him. Hugo and Nebula winner Varley (Steel Beach) is not so much a writer of ideas as one of character; the gradually emerging portrait he offers here of an abuse survivor seems right on the money. There's a lot of humor in evidence too, and plenty of theatrical extravagance, but they're invariably tinged with the melancholy that infuses Sparky's life. Although a tad wordy (as one might expect of a book narrated by a Shakespearean actor), this is an engrossing novel by one of the genre's most accomplished storytellers. (Oct.)