cover image Chasing the Phoenix

Chasing the Phoenix

Michael Swanwick. Tor, $26.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-7653-8090-6

Hugo-winner Swanwick (Dancing with Bears) takes his longtime rogue heroes, Surplus and Darger, to postapocalyptic China in this intriguing chronicle of adventures. Once Surplus resurrects Darger with the help of the Infallible Physician, the pair and their newfound associate, Capable Servant, ingratiate themselves with the Hidden King and lead him throughout the warring provinces in search of the Phoenix Bride, a war machine from before the AI war. Taking the names Noble Dog Warrior and the Perfect Strategist, Surplus and Darger navigate the personalities of the Hidden King’s court—the mercenary bandit Fire Orchid, who decides that Surplus is her husband; the archaeologist White Squall, a secretive specialist in forbidden technology—while attempting to keep their sterling reputations intact (at least for now) in the face of seemingly intractable situations. Swanwick deftly incorporates the literature and history of imperial China into the established post-technology world. The style may distance readers who are more used to stories of emotional development, but as Darger’s schemes become more intricate, the intellectual puzzles keep interest right to the end. Agent: Martha Millard, Martha Millard Literary Agency. (Aug.)