cover image BLACK BRILLION: A Novel of the Archonate

BLACK BRILLION: A Novel of the Archonate

Matthew Hughes, . . Tor, $23.95 (272pp) ISBN 978-0-7653-0865-8

Hughes's at times confusing third SF novel set in the Archonate universe (after 2001's Fool Me Twice ) takes yet another young man, Baro Harkless of the Bureau of Security, through adventures that question his morals and then his physical worldview. Baro's initial success at getting confidence-man Luff Imbry arrested results in their being partnered to pursue bigger game, the seemingly pious Father Olwyn (aka Horselan Gebbling). This uncomfortable team joins Gebbling's land-sailing expedition, financed by his rich daughter, Trig Helvic, who has the lassitude, a fatal, incurable disease. Baro and Imbry masquerade as lassitude victim and caretaker to travel with other victims across a barren, human-alien, postwar landscape, the Swept, in search of Black Brillion, the promised cure. Instead, they find the Swept's many dangerous secrets, including an alternate world, the Common, accessible to a few and then only through intense mind-control. In order to "get his man," Baro must learn his way through the Common, rethink his childhood, his vocation, his morality and the Archonate. Dominated by stereotypical and archetypal heroes and villains and tortuous plot twists, this book incorporates Baro's personal maturation into a near-apocalyptic scenario for humankind. The story requires leaps of reasoning, but entertains with its scope and irony. (Nov. 3)