cover image Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grill

Cowboy Feng's Space Bar and Grill

Steven Brust. Ace Books, $3.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-441-11816-8

Brust's ( Jhereg ) dynamic, inventive style makes this time-hopping, intergalactic thriller a better book than its plot initially suggests. For all the frills and furbelows--and there are many, each more bizarre than the next--the central conflict is humdrum: a fiendish paranoiac called the Physician decides to destroy his native planet in order to stop the spread of a deadly illness called Hags disease. An unlikely group of heroes goes to work to foil the madman's apocalyptic plans. These white knights double as the house band at Feng's, a bar and grill that features Jewish cooking, a dance floor and--when it takes a direct hit from an atomic warhead--a neat little trick enabling travel through time and space. The often poignant musical allusions as well as the deftly sketched cronies at Feng's contribute to the book's surprisingly subtle depth of feeling. Brust's fantasy landscape seems truer than the backdrops of many realistic novels. (Jan.)