cover image Land of the Dead

Land of the Dead

Thomas Harlan, . . Tor, $25.95 (414pp) ISBN 978-0-7653-1204-4

An artfully constructed alternate history setting, in which Earth and nearby worlds are ruled by an alliance of the Aztecs and the Japanese, serves as a tantalizing background to a breathless yet tedious stream of battle scenes and complex conspiracies in the third Time of the Sixth Sun installment (after 2005's House of Reeds ). Archeologist Gretchen Anderssen, mysterious provocateur Green Hummingbird and other familiar characters find an unusual ancient artifact. Several military forces soon converge on it, with unknown forces behind the scenes pulling the strings, but the focus is not on the politics, intrigue and people behind this complex encounter. Instead, battles are described at length in technical jargon, spaceships explode with monotonous regularity and bodies pile up by the dozens, overwhelming the intriguing subtleties of the world. (Aug.)