cover image The Incrementalists

The Incrementalists

Steven Brust and Skyler White. Tor, $24.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-7653-3422-0

In this philosophical and inventive urban fantasy, Brust (the Vlad Taltos series) and White (In Dreams Begin) introduce the eponymous secret society, which has existed for millennia with a startlingly humble mission. The Incrementalists use their 40,000-year collective memories for “meddlework”—identifying people at turning points in history and manipulating them to try and make the world a little better. They’re responsible for the MP3 and helping to cure General Grant’s drinking problem during the Civil War, as well as spectacular blunders such as Cambodia’s Killing Fields. Each time an Incrementalist dies, a “stub” of their memories and personality is embedded in a successor chosen by the surviving members. This process goes disastrously wrong in Las Vegas in 2011, when Phil picks Renee as Celeste’s successor and discovers that, for 400 years, Celeste—the woman he loves—has been meddleworking him. Fans of cerebral fantasy will enjoy the layered mystery, innovative concept, and fast-moving plot, though some might be put off by the haphazard, inorganic characterization, which greatly undermines a romantic subplot between Phil and Renee. Agent: Kay McCauley, Pimlico Agency. (Sept.)