cover image Quietus


Tristan Palmgren. Angry Robot, $12.99 trade paper (464p) ISBN 978-0-85766-743-4

Palmgren’s intriguing but convoluted debut, a mash-up of SF and historical fiction, features an anthropologist researching the black plague in hopes of saving her home world from a baffling epidemic. Anthropologist Dr. Habidah Um’brael Thayusene Shen is able to study among many worlds, or planes, across time and space, and her current project finds her in medieval Italy as the bubonic plague sweeps through the population. She’s instructed not to interfere; she can only observe how people respond to the spread of the disease. Her masters, the amalgamates, who began as AIs, are desperate to combat a plague spreading through the multiverse. When Habidah discovers a gravely wounded Carthusian monk, the lone survivor of his cloister, she breaks protocol and recruits him to help her observe the Florentines. Soon, she discovers a vast conspiracy among the amalgamates, forcing her to question everything she believes in. Habidah is an appealing, intelligent heroine, and the intricate story effectively tackles big themes such as free will and mortality, but Palmgren’s impeccably built, immersive setting of plague-era Italy is more accessible than the complex elements of the multiverse. Readers looking for something exciting from a promising new voice will find Palmgren’s debut worth their time. (Mar.)