Science Fiction Book Review


by C. J. Cherryh
Reviewed date: 2023 Feb 4
Rating: 2
148 pages
cover art

Cherryh writes well but this is not for me.

The Only Death in the City
This story features reincarnation. It is a theme that will recur throughout the book. The residents of Paris alleviate their boredom by making up elaborate social games which they play through multiple reincarnations. Alain Jade is a new soul, never before born, and he falls in love with Ermine Onyx, who toys with him. But Alain offers novelty: if Ermine will consent to marry him for four years, Alain will agree to die a permanent death. The story is difficult to follow and I did not find it compelling.

The Haunted Tower
Bettine antagonizes the Lord Mayor of London, who exiles her to the Tower where she meets the ghosts of all who have been sent to the tower before her. The story is well told.

Andrei Gorodin, from Moskva, looks at the sun and sees beauty, which makes the city around him seem drab and dull. Also there's a Wolf, and some sort of spell that drags him out of the city, only a friend takes his place so Andrei can stay and marry his sweetheart. It is not altogether satisfactory.

The decadent Romans love nothing better than a hunt, and their favorite prey is man, so when Belat brings them a novelty—a natang tribesman warrior from Phoenix IV—it is his ticket in. In exchange, the Romans allow Belat to make a dream-tape of the hunt, which he can sell. I was never entirely clear on whether these man hunts were literal or whether they were done virtually through a Matrix-style plug-in reality. The idea was interesting, but the execution of this story left something to be desired. In particular the ending is opaque and unsatisfactory.

(New York)
This is my favorite story of the bunch. The city of New York is one big skyscraper. Johnny Tallfeather is a highliner, that is, someone who ventures outside and inspects the outside walls. This is more important when the city wishes to expand outward, tacking on new segments to existing walls. Johnny is approached by some shady characters who wish him to falsify his reports in a way that will force a planned expansion project to be adjusted. Why? Well, it's a real estate thing. Certain powerful interests don't want to lose their exterior-view windows. Johnny agrees, but has misgivings. The powerful interests suspect this, which is why the next time Johnny and his crew go outside their lines start breaking and most of them fall to their deaths. Johnny survives, and then the highliners go on strike, and now the powerful interests offer Johnny a truly enormous bribe to talk the highliners into going back to work.

The story is good. Truly exciting. Well written. It ended a little weakly, but overall an enjoyable tale.

The General
Now we're back to reincarnation. A general is leading an army—a horde, even—of men and horses to attack the last free city, Peking. This is clearly modeled after Genghis Khan. The real story, though, is that the General has been doing this for eons. He remembers being Genghis, Alexander, and countless others. He has an ambitious and traitorous second-in-command (who has also been with him in countless other lives) and it's all very artistic and achingly sorrowful or something. The wheel of time turns endlessly, I guess. I don't know.

Cherryh writes well but this is not for me.

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