Me­dusa’s Web

Cel­lu­loid and spi­ders

SFX - - Reviews - Tim Pow­ers was a friend and neigh­bour of Philip K Dick. The char­ac­ter of David in Dick’s 1981 novel VALIS is based on him.

re­leased 7 Jan­uary 368 pages | Pa­per­back/ebook Au­thor Tim Pow­ers Pub­lisher Corvus

When a writer co-in­vents a sub­genre like steam­punk, it’d be un­der­stand­able to ex­pect their books to be full of cogs, top hats and ma­jes­tic air­ships – but au­thor Tim Pow­ers has spent his ca­reer rarely go­ing the ex­pected route. De­spite his sub­genre-defin­ing early col­lab­o­ra­tions with James Blay­lock and KW Jeter, Pow­ers has in­stead fo­cused on writ­ing lay­ered and lit­er­ary blends of sci-fi and fan­tasy that take the ap­proach of his 1983 clas­sic The Anu­bis Gates and push it even fur­ther.

His lat­est book re­volves around a crum­bling Los An­ge­les es­tate known as Caveat. Fol­low­ing their aunt’s death, Scott and Madeleine Mad­den re­turn to Caveat for the first time in over a decade, but their ec­cen­tric cousins who live at the house are hid­ing dark se­crets con­nected to their use of “spi­ders”, strange pat­terns that give them the abil­ity to travel in time and hi­jack past lives…

Me­dusa’s Web is a charm­ingly strange, oc­ca­sion­ally be­wil­der­ing book that throws to­gether plenty of wild ideas and of­ten seems hap­pi­est when tak­ing a more round­about nar­ra­tive route. Pow­ers mixes heady con­cep­tual time-travel shenani­gans with a slightly mag­i­cal-re­al­ist tone, and while the plot car­ries echoes of the Hol­ly­wood-set Clive Barker novel Cold­heart Canyon, it’s more of­ten evoca­tive of the el­lip­ti­cal work of Jonathan Car­roll, au­thor of fan­tasy clas­sic The Land Of Laughs.

The re­sult is a book that de­liv­ers an in­trigu­ing mystery in a man­ner that’s both en­gag­ing and frus­trat­ing. The cen­tral plot is grip­ping, but Pow­ers’s loose, off­beat style means the book never really builds up a sense of mo­men­tum. There’s hu­mour, quirky char­ac­ter­i­sa­tion and a lush por­trait of LA, yet Me­dusa’s Web re­mains a ram­bling read that’s prob­a­bly best en­joyed by long-time Pow­ers fans rather than in­quis­i­tive new­com­ers. Saxon Bul­lock

Prob­a­bly best en­joyed by long-time Pow­ers fans

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