Hunter’s Run. By George R.R. Martin,
The Soldier Son, Book Three: Renegade’s Magic. By Robin Hobb. Eos. $25.95.
Voyage of the Snake Lady. By Theresa Tomlinson. Eos. $17.99.
Every once in a while, someone comes along with a rip-roaring, thrill-a-minute SF novel that reminds readers familiar with the Golden Age of SF of just what was golden about it: a mixture of strangeness and familiarity in characters; aliens that seem genuinely strange but are fully formed characters rather than unidimensional helpers or antagonists; cleverness in dialogue; to-the-point plotting, with unexpected elements to keep the reader guessing; and enough of a twist ending to create a satisfying conclusion that does not require going on to another part of the same story in some later novel. Now three someones have produced such a book. It is Hunter’s Run, and the authors – George R.R. Martin, Gardner Dozois and Daniel Abraham, accomplished SF writers all – have knitted it together so seamlessly that there is no way to tell where one’s contribution ends and another’s begins. The book is compact at 300 pages, containing within that length more twists and turns than do many multi-novel series. It seems to be the story of Ramón Espejo, a poor Third Worlder who has gone to another world altogether to seek his fortune on a planet known as
Renegade’s Magic and Voyage of the Snake Lady are fine books in their way, worth of (+++) ratings, but they are altogether more conventional than Hunter’s Run in plotting and characterization. Renegade’s Magic, although more than twice as long as Hunter’s Run, is merely one-third of the trilogy called The Soldier Son, a story of destiny and duty in a world where magic can be used to capture as well as captivate. The hero is Nevar Burvelle, who has been framed for and convicted of terrible crimes, and wrongfully sentenced to death by his onetime fellow soldiers. Nevar has a magical, vicious alter ego among his people’s enemies, the Speck – and Nevar is in love with a Speck woman. From these and other threads, Robin Hobb knits an exciting but essentially predictable story – can anyone doubt that Nevar will turn the magic that has enslaved him into a force that he can use, somehow uniting himself and his alter ego? This is the sort of lengthy outer-and-inner-quest novel that will appeal to fantasy-genre fans who want to immerse themselves for hours upon hours in a world filled with magical possibilities. But many other novels of this genre have similar appeal.
One such is Voyage of the Snake Lady, which is not exactly part of a series but is a sequel – to Theresa Tomlinson’s The Moon Riders. Intended for readers ages 12 and up, the book runs nearly 400 pages but uses larger type and more white space than adult-targeted fantasies. It is nevertheless a long book to read, but fans of The Moon Riders will barely notice, because Tomlinson packs so much adventure into this followup. Voyage of the Snake Lady is historical fantasy, more or less, being set in ancient times after the fall of