Saturday, May 30, 2009
San Francisco Chronicle on End of the Century
Texas writer, editor and publisher Chris Roberson pays home to at least three British masters of fantasy and science fiction in End of the Century (Pyr; 486 pages; $15; trade paperback). Set in a trio of timelines, this epic saga mixes Arthurian legend, Victorian sleuthing and the misadventures of an epileptic young woman in turn-of-the-millennium London.
In sixth century Britain, young Galaad comes to the court of King Artor with tales of a tower of glass and a woman in white who pleads for rescue. The other knights are dubious, but Artor, bored with the mundane details of administering a kingdom, agrees to set off on a quest. In the 1890s, as England prepares for Queen Victoria's Jubilee, consulting detective Sandford Bank and his lovely companion Roxanne Bonaventure investigate a series of gruesome murders in which the victims have been dismembered with an impossibly sharp blade. And in London of 2000, 18-year-old Alice Fell searches for the truth behind her visions of ravens, a glowing jewel and a stranger with ice-chip blue eyes.
Roberson, author of "Here, There & Everywhere" and "Paragaea: A Planetary Romance," coordinates the multiple plots with panache, keeping each interesting in itself while seeding them with clues that pay off up and down the timelines. The book is dedicated to Michael Moorcock, Alan Moore and Kim Newman, and it's not hard to discern their influences on the secret societies, mystical lore and pulpy derring-do featured in "End of the Century."
Roberson has his own unique strengths as a writer, however, and he is developing a literary cosmology well worth further exploration. If he sometimes resorts to bald explication of the scientific/philosophical underpinnings that govern his multiverse, its a forgivable lapse in the face of so much invention and clever storytelling.