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THE WORLDS OF WONDER by Ruud van de Kruisweg

Hey, what's this? It's not a bird, it's not a plane, it's
not superman, it's a book review section called

'Worlds of Wonder'

which brings you reviews of some of the best pieces of
imaginative fiction published recently in the Science Fiction and
Fantasy field in the English language. (Well, at least the books
I have read until now.) I think that I'm up to the job: I've been
reading SF for more than ten years now (I'm 23 years old), I have
devoured more than 700 SF titles (by estimate), I buy the latest
editions of Locus, Isaac Asimov's Science Fiction and The
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction each month and I'm a
complete sucker for horror/fantasy/sf films. Nonetheless, I still
find enough time to play games on my Atari and Amiga (Oops! I
just said the A-word!!!), abuse my digits on the keys of my
Roland D-50 and watch Cheers and Family Ties! (Let's not mention
my university study!)
You may think that a computer magazine has no place for a SF
book review, but then again, there are an enormous number of
computer freaks who love SF and Fantasy. Just look at the
favourite books and films of all ST NEWS contributors. More than
65 percent of them admit that their fave books were written by
people like Douglas Adams, Isaac Asimov, Stephen R. Donaldson,
Raymond Feist, Anne McCafffrey, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, Frank
Herbert and others. This is no coincidence. Also take into
consideration that most adventures, all roleplaying games and
many shoot-em-ups are heavily influenced or dominated by SF
elements. SF and Fantasy readers and computers freaks share a
common enthusiasm for the possibilities of technology. Of course,
if I´m totally wrong, feel free to write enraged letters of
dissatisfaction to ST NEWS' correspondence address and try to
persuade Richard and Stefan to stop my rambles. So just let´s see
how long this section of ST NEWS will survive.
If you want to write to me for comments, tips, fan mail,
bomb letters, here's the address:

Ruud van de Kruisweg
Bijltjespad 52-11
NL - 1018 KJ Amsterdam
Tel.020-239038

And now, before you grow tired and restless, let the game
begin!

Mort - by Terry Pratchett

"Does for Fantasy what Douglas Adams did for Science
Fiction
".
This is what the American magazine Today said about Great
Britain's Terry Pratchett and his wacky, wild and wonderful
novels of Discworld. And rightly so, for this series of books
rival those magnificent and insane Hitchhiker's Books by Douglas
Adams in all respects.
The latest book (at least in the United States) in the
Discworld-series is "Mort", which tells the story of a seemingly
no-good character who is apprenticed to the awesome figure of
Death himself. The reason for this unheard of move is that Death
wants to spend some time for himself, untroubled by the call of
duty. So he takes Mort (which is short for Mortimer) into his
home which he shares with his foster daughter Ysabel and a
strange servant called Albert. After a couple of visits to the
world of Discworld, the only Flat Earth in any universe, Mort has
to do the job by himself, while Death is off to pursue some other
interest (namely learning what humans mean by the word 'fun'.).
The first two jobs aren´t so difficult, but the last case is
bungled up. Mort fails to take away the soul of Keli, a beautiful
young princess. Instead he slays the hired killer whose fate it
was to kill her. Of course Mort should never have done this,
since Keli was destined to die according to the Gods, and now
Discworld is divided into two realities, one where the princess
is dead and another one where she is still alive! And since Death
is nowhere to be found, it is up to Mort, Ysabel and Cutwell, a
clumsy wizard, to try mend the whole future course of history
before the Discworld turns around (and preferably save the
princess in the process).
Pratchett's likable wacky characters, the wild situations
they find themselves in in the course of the story and his
humorous style make the book a joy to read for every fantasy fan
(and every one else who just likes a good read when he´s not
fiddling away on his trust old ST). Here are some examples of his
flamboyant style, take for example his description of the city of
Ankh-Morpork.

"Poets have tried to describe Ankh-Morpork. They have
failed. Perhaps it´s the sheer zestful vitality of the place or
maybe it´s just that a city with a million inhabitants and no
sewers is rather robust for poets, who prefer daffodils and no
wonder. So let´s just say that Ankh-Pomork is as full of life as
an old cheese on a hot day, as loud as a curse in a cathedral, as
bright as an oil slick, as colourful as a bruise and as full of
activity, industry, bustle and sheer exuberant busyness as a dead
dog on a termite mound."

Or what about this footnote on the relative slow speed of
light on Discworld:

"Practically anything can go faster than Disc Light, which
is lazy and tame, unlike ordinary light. The only thing known to
go faster than ordinary light is monarchy, according to the
philosopher Ly Tin Wheedle. He reasoned like this: you can´t have
more than one king, and tradition demands that there´s no gap
between kings, so when a king dies the succession must therefore
pass to the heir instantaneously. Presumably, he said, there must
be some elementary particles - kingons or possibly quenons - that
do this job, but of course succession sometimes fails if, in mid-
flight, they strike an anti-particle, or republicon. His
ambitious plans to use his discovery to send messages, involving
the careful torturing of a small king in order to modulate the
signal, were never fully expounded because, at that point, the
bar closed."

Well, this book is full of these memorable passages and
scenes and just proves that humour in SF and Fantasy is not only
possible, it can also be mindblowingly funny. If you want to read
more works by Terry Pratchett, there´s also The Colour of Magic
(which has been turned into an 8-bit adventure game), The Light
Fantastic, Equal Rites and Sourcery which are just as good. By
the way, other humorous genre novels by people like Douglas
Adams, Ron Goulart, Robert Asprin and Craig Shaw Gardner are also
worth your while. I can also recommend all works by Tom Sharpe,
though he's not into SF or Fantasy. If you want to have your
funny bone tickled, look for these guys in your local bookshop or
order them if your friendly local book seller can only offer you
boring works of high literature.
("Mort" by Terry Pratchett was published by US publisher
Signet, 250 pages, $3.95 US. There are also British editions
available of this series.)

Little editorial note here: I (Stefan) have read 'Mort' by now
and Richard is in the process of reading it and we both think it
is great. The humor in it is quite Douglas Adams-ish, but
different enough to be original. I have also read 'Strata' (about
planet builders and a flat, mechanical Earth) and 'Dark side of
the Sun' which is slightly confusing but also fun to read.

Journey to Fusang - by William Sanders

Terry Pratchett is becoming an established author very
quickly, and I hope that many of you will have heard of him by
now. The next author I'm going to discuss is quite a different
kettle of fish, for he has just published his first novel in the
US eight months ago and has met with considerable critical
success. His new work is yet another bead in a very popular
string of alternate history SF novels that have been published in
recent times by new authors like Hayford Peirce, Esther Friesner
and others.
By now, some of you may wonder what the hell an alternate
history is supposed to be. Well, to put it in simple terms, it is
a story dealing with a world where some significant historical,
technological or historical event has never taken place. What
would your life be like if you had never bought an Atari ST, but
a PC? Would your sex life have improved? Would you work in the
garden more often? Would you take up reading the great works of
literature, like Voltaire's "Candide"? SF writers ask themselves
different questions. Keith Roberts wondered in his novel "Pavane"
what 20th century Great-Britain would look like if Queen
Elizabeth I had been murdered and England had remained a catholic
country where the Inquisition was still actively discouraging new
technology. Philip K. Dick described the state of the States
(sorry about the pun) if the Japanese and the Germans had won the
Second World-War in his SF classic "The man in the High Castle".
And Norman Spinrad wrote the novel that Adolf Hitler would have
written if he had emigrated to the US in the twenties and become
an SF writer instead of meddling with politics in Bavaria. (This
novel, called "The Iron Dream" was banned in Germany; either the
German authorities didn't understand that this was an attack on
fascism or they thought it unlikely that the German population at
large was intelligent enough to discern this underlying motive of
the author.)
Sanders uses another premise for his novel. What would have
happened if the Mongol hordes had conquered medieval Europe and
hadn't been stopped in Russia? An unknown author described it
thus:

"Near the end of the Year of the Ox did Ogadai Khan fall
sick, and it was feared he might not live; yet under the care of
the Chinese physicians he at last recovered, and lived many
years. And in the year of the Leopard did Batu Khan lead the
Horde into the Land of the Franks, which is called Europe. Great
was the destruction and loud the weeping of the Frankish women;
and when it was done, it was said that a blind man might ride a
blind horse from Kiev to Granada."

The Mongols left Europe after a century of ransacking and
pillaging, setting the survivors back in a new dark age . Europe
was fragmented, divided in small nations that declared war on
each other if there were no plagues to further decimate the
population. The Moors and the Chinese became the discoverers of
the New World instead of the Europeans. And so it happened that
what we now know as America was divided between the Chinese who
called their part Fusang (California) , and the Moors who called
their part Kaafristan (lower Mississippi valley and the southern
Great Plains).
"Journey to Fusang" is the picaresque story of an Irish con-
man called Wandering Finn. He's a juggler, a thief, a seducer and
a gambler who is forced to leave his native Ireland because of an
affair with the daughter of the High King. With a bit of luck he
manages to find refuge on a Moorish slave ship bound for Tanger.
His luck leaves him when they arrive in Tanger and it is found
that the crew is one slave short. Finn is made a slave too and is
now bound for the distant shore of Mexica where he will be
ritually sacrificed to a bloodthirsty God in Tenochtitlan like
the other slaves . When the slave ship sinks in a storm, Finn,
Yusuf (a Jewish slave and a friend for life) and Alfred (an
Anglosaxon peasant whose strength is as great as his stupidity
and virility) survive this ordeal and are picked up by another
ship that brings them safely to Dar Al-Islam (New Orleans). Here
they join a caravan bound for trading posts in the Wild West,
where they will meet with the most unlikely characters like
Muhammed Ten Bears, the leader of a group of converted muslim
indians, Vladimir Khan, the Russian-Mongol leader of a small army
of expatriated Europeans, Maeve, a resourceful ex-slave girl and
Finn's playmate and Shinobi, a Japanese ninja.
The book's greatest strength are it's characters and the
resultant humour. Finn and Yusuf are reckless gamblers and
crooks, able to sell their stupid mate Alfred into
Moorish slavery without batting an eyelid. Here's a short scene
where Finn and Yusuf pose as servants of an Afghan officer and
try to sell their unsuspecting friend Alfred to a slave dealer in
Dar Al-Islam:

Over by the door Alfred, who had been sitting there
understanding nothing for the past hour or so, said plaintively,
'Is this going to take much longer? I'm hungry.'
I waved my hand to hush him and Yusuf looked thoughtful. In
English he said, 'I'll see what I can do, Alfred.' Then to Hassan
in Arabic, "Being a gracious man and not one to demean himself
quibbling over mere money, Wazeer Khan accepts your price.
However, there is one thing you might do to repay his
generosity.'
'I am wholly at your service.' Hassan was the picture of
insincere humility. 'Only command.'
Yusuf assumed an expression of pain. 'As we told you, this
slave has belonged to the family since birth. We are quite
attached to him - only harsh necessity compels us to part with
him - and his devotion is touching to see.'
I bowed my head and looked depressed.
'And so', Yusuf continued. 'we ask a favour. When he has
been sold, the poor creature may become emotional and create an
unseemly scene. We would therefore like to be elsewhere before he
knows. And he complains of hunger -'
'I see.' Hassan rubbed his hands together again. 'No
problem. I will take him to the servants' quarters and fed. While
he is there you gentlemen can make your, ah, exit.'
He struck a gong and a black slave appeared. While Hassan
gave instructions I said, 'Alfred? Go with this fellow and he'll
fix you up with dinner, while we conclude our business. Run
along, now there's a good chap.'
While Hassan counted out the money - it made a lovely little
pile of silver and gold pieces, there on the table; it had been a
long time and I'd forgotten just how pretty the stuff could be -
Yusuf said, 'Just to be sure, you might wait a bit - say an hour
- after we leave, before you break the news to him. Being a
soldier, Wazeer Khan does greatly dislike public displays of
sentiment ...'
Out on the street, we began walking rather briskly. Neither
of us wanted to be anywhere near that place when Alfred finally
found out what we'd done to him. I hoped Hassan owned really
stout chains and locks. We had enough to worry about without
Alfred hunting for us with blood in his close-set eyes.
I said, 'Fellow like that, no business on his own. Too
simple-minded to care for himself.'
'Better this way. Responsible supervision.'
'Right. Happier with people to tell him what to do.'
'When you think of it' I said. 'we've done him a good turn.'
'Our duty', Yusuf agreed, 'as we saw it.'
'A far better thing that we do now than we have ever done.'
I liked that; it had a kind of ring to it. 'How much did we get?'

One fault of the book is that it doesn't take its alternate
reality so seriously. The author sometimes goes to far for a
laugh and destroys the suspension of disbelief on the part of the
reader. For example, at the end of the novel when Yusuf and Finn
are finally in Fusang they see a bunch of 'healthy-looking lads
joining their voices in a childish but oddly haunting Oriental
chant on the beach':

"Ba-Ba-Ba Ba-Ba-Ba-Ran
Ba-Ba-Ba Ba-Ba-Ba-Ran"

But for the most part, the humour is handled well. There are
some nice satirical descriptions of the reversed role of the
Europeans in Chinese America. We even find out about some friends
of Finn like William Shaxper who writes lewd comedies and John
Milton whom he advises to write lighter verse and even corrects
some of his lines: "She sits Amongst the Cabbages and Peas"
becomes "She sits Amongst the Cabbages and Leeks."
And as for the adventurous part, there's the standard one-
man-saves-the-world plot at the end although the happy ending is
missing, depending on the viewpoint of the reader. All in all, a
highly competent and entertaining romp through an America that
could have been, which makes me curious about more novels to
come from this beginning author.

("Journey to Fusang" by William Sanders was published by US
publisher Popular Library, $3.95, 310 pages.)

Short Story Collections

It is a well-established fact in the publishing world that
short story collections never sell as well as single novels.
Despite this, they're still being published and have been getting
more popular than ever, especially in the fantasy field. Here's a
short review of the most important series and collections that
have been published lately:

Prime Evil - Edited by Douglas E. Winter.

This is a collection of stories by the top of the horror
field. And for the greater part of the book this is the case, if
you manage to get never-before published material by Stephen
King, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, Whitley Strieber, Ramsey
Campbell, Dennis Etchison and Charles Grant. Unfortunately Jack
Cady and Paul Hazel aren't exactly known for their horror output,
so that the publisher's claim that the book contains stories by
the masters of horror is a bit feeble. Nevertheless, the
collection is generally of good quality, although they're not
directed at the typical Fangoria-reading horror fan. The stories
are relatively quiet of tone. My favourites were the stories by
King, Tessier and Morell.

("Prime Evil", edited by Douglas E. Winter, was published by
NAL, $4.95, 380 pages)

The Year's Best Fantasty Second Annual Collection edited by
Ellen Datlow and Terry Windling


There has always been a fierce competition between the
editors of the "Best Of" SF collections each year. Donald
Wollheim of DAW Books made a pick out of the stories published
each year in the magazines, Gardner Dozois (who's currently
editor of Isaac Asimov's SF Magazine) published "The Year's Best
Science Fiction" and finally, Terry Carr published his collection
of stories as "The Best Science Fiction of the Year". It was
generally agreed that Terry Carr had the better hand in selecting
the stories and his death a few years ago was a great loss to the
SF community. Gardner Dozois' collection now became the best of
the bunch and the sudden success of his SF collection made the
publication of a volume devoted to the fantasy and horror field
possible. The new volume which was released in June is the latest
in the series.
It is not only a big book (tradepaperback, more than 600
pages), it is also handy as a brief reference guide to the
publishing year 1988. There are four introductions. The first one
is written by Terry Windling and deals with the fantasy field and
contains a list of the best novels, the best story collections,
the trends, the small specialty press, Celtic folk music (?) and
the awards that were handed out. The second introduction by Ellen
Datlow does the same for horror, be it that more attention is
given to the highlights of that year. The third introduction is a
highly personal piece of criticism on the state of the Fantasy
and Horror film by Edward Bryant with whom I didn't agree on more
than one occasion. I found They Live! by John Carpenter a
disappointment after his terrific Prince of Darkness, which I
blame on the awful acting capabilities of the main character, pro
wrestler Roddy Piper. My Stepmother was an Alien was an
entertaining film instead of stupefyingly somnolent. Beetlejuice
was also a personal favourite that Bryant couldn't appreciate.
But luckily, he shared my opinion on Hellbound II which was
better than people would have you believe (though not as good as
part I). Hopefully 1989 will turn out to be a better year with
Batman, Indiana Jones III, Nightmare on Elmstreet IV, The Abyss
and Total Recall coming to our cinemas hopefully soon. (1989
already had one big disappointment: Leviathan by the director of
Rambo I and Cobra. It was a highly professional Alien-clone. It
looked great, it sounded great, the actors were ok, but it didn't
have one original idea, which made it ultimately fail at the box-
office).
The rest of the collection is filled with 46 stories ranging
from contemporary fantasy to fairy tales and horror by well-known
authors like Tanith Lee, Gene Wolfe, Jane Yolen, Thomas Disch,
Lucius Sheppard, Charles Grant, John Ford, Dennis Etchison and
Barry Malzberg. If you want to use only one book as a survey of
the fantasy field, this is the book to buy although it doesn't
come cheap compared to the more regular paperback. Personal
favourites are the stories by Tanith Lee who never fails to write
a line that doesn't enchant the mind, John M. Ford, Richard
Matheson and Gene Wolfe. This book proves that big can be
beautiful.

("The Year's Best Fantasy, 2nd Annual Collection", edited by
Ellen Datlow and Terry Windling was published by St.Martin's
Press. $13.95, 636 pages, trade paperback)

Arabesques 1 and 2 - Edited by Shwartz

As a young child I had always been enamoured by those
magical oriental fantasy films about evil wizards, enchanted
caliphs, nimble beggars and enslaved princes with the odd romance
thrown in for good measure. As an adult I still find them
attractive and am therefore grateful for this new series of books
with more tales of the Arabian nights.
The first volume was published last year and contained a
couple of truly wonderful stories by Tanith Lee, Andre Norton and
Gene Wolfe (apart from tales by Larry Niven, Jane Yolen, Esther
Friesner, Nancy Springer, Harry Turtledove and others). It must
have been a success, since a second volume has been published
with even more authors. Most of the participants of volume one
have made another contribition, and the names of the newcomers
are very promising: Stephen Donaldson, Marvin Kaye, Charles
Sheffield to name but a few. This collection comes highly
recommended.

Terry's Universe - Edited by Beth Meacham

The death of Terry Carr in 1987 was a great loss to SF
fandom and the SF publishing world, editors and writers alike.
Terry Carr discovered many of the great SF writers with his
series of "Ace SF Specials" in the sixties and eighties, his
annual story collections were widely considered as perfect
introductions to the field and with his collections of original
stories that he published in his "Universe" series he tried to
broaden the scope of SF and move it into a more literary
direction. In honour of Terry Carr Beth Meacham put together a
book with some of the best writers Terry worked with.
In this book they honour the memory of Terry Carr. The names
on the back cover read like a "who's who" of SF: Gregory Benford,
R.A. Lafferty, Ursula LeGuin, Fritz Leiber, Kim Stanley Robinson,
Carter Scholz, Robert Silverberg, Michael Swanwick, Kate Wilhelm,
Gene Wolfe and Roger Zelazny. One of the best stories is the one
by Bob Silverberg about a time traveller marrooned in our
prehistoric past. The story by Fritz Leiber is something special:
it's an excerpt of his latest (but hopefully not last considering
his age) Fafrd and Mouser novel and has an erotic touch that came
as a surprise to me considering Leiber's age.

("Terry's Universe" edited by Beth Meacham was published by
Tor, $3.95, 234 pages)

Disclaimer
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.