cover image Bronze Summer

Bronze Summer

Stephen Baxter. Roc, $26.95 (512p) ISBN 978-0-451-46479-8

Baxter’s underwhelming follow-up to Stone Spring technically succeeds in its overarching goal—showing the effect on the prehistoric world of creating a huge wall to protect the bed of the future North Sea from being flooded—but is hampered by a large, uninteresting cast and the banality and bleakness of the prehistoric societies. When Northlander Milaqa’s mother is murdered, Milaqa’s uncle Teel reveals that he’s a member of a secret society, and he insists that Milaqa work with them to solve the crime. Meanwhile, rogue Qirum, busy taking advantage of the opportunities in postwar Troy, meets former queen Kilushepa, and they hatch a plan to bring them both into power. Baxter mixes some engaging intrigue and espionage into his ancient world, but too often focuses almost fetishistically on brutality, with a barrage of descriptions of violence and rape (targeting children as often as adults) that render the world more bromidic than horrifying and undercut any power in the ending. (Nov.)