cover image After Many a Summer

After Many a Summer

Tim Powers. Subterranean, $40 (88p) ISBN 978-1-64524-124-9

World Fantasy Award winner Powers (Stolen Skies) is a master at turning gonzo concepts into mystical thrill rides, and this latest novella is no exception, setting a mummified head as the ransom in the kidnapping of Belgian heiress Arielle. This severed head speaks prophesies, and the kidnappers are Hollywood executives desperate to keep their sinking studio afloat by using the head’s predictions to only back hits. Assisting them is Conrad, a down-and-out screenwriter promised a big payment for an old script if he can get the head; the windfall might help reunite him with his estranged family. But Conrad’s scruples and a series of strange time loops get in the way, giving him a chance to rethink his decisions. Powers places his tale in a bleakly rendered Southern Californian landscape as bereft of magic as an empty film lot, with characters whose amoral focus on their bottom lines blind them to the costs and marvels of real magic. Readers who enjoyed the skewering of popular institutions in Carl Hiaasen’s Florida will be equally delighted by Powers’s cynical portrait of his own adopted state. Agent: Russell Galen, Scovil Galen Ghosh Literary Agency (Jan.)