cover image The Immortals

The Immortals

Tracy Hickman. Roc, $19.95 (368pp) ISBN 978-0-451-45402-7

It's 2010, and an attempted cure for AIDS has mutated into a deadlier disease, V-CIDS. The U.S., under martial law, has set up ""quarantine centers"" in the Southwest. Searching for his gay son, Jon, media mogul Michael Barris smuggles himself into one of centers only to discover that it and the other centers are actually extermination camps. With a strange assortment of allies, including the leader of the camp's gay barracks, an army officer and a local cowboy, Barris precipitates an inmates' rebellion that promises the unraveling of the death-camp system and the overthrow of the government that established it. Here, Hickman is working with a classic SF theme that's been popular since the days when the Great Menace could be the Yellow Peril or invaders from Mars. It shares some its predecessors' common faults-sentimentality, a dubious scenario, questionable technology-but boasts some considerable virtues, including superior characterization, a carefully built setting and excellent pacing. This novel represents a radical departure for the author, who's known for more easily popular SF and fantasy (the Deathgate Cycle, etc.). He's to be commended for his daring and vision. (May)