SCI- FI/ FANTASY
WHEN it comes to quality, home- grown science fiction, multi- award- winning author Sean Williams is in the front line of major players, turning his hand to everything from Star Wars novelisations and cutting- edge space opera to elaborate fantasy adventure with a distinctively Australian flavour.
In Saturn Returns ( Orbit, 292pp, $ 32.95), book one in his new Astropolis series, he introduces us to Imre Bergamasc. Imre is a former mercenary leader who returns to consciousness in deep space remade from old genetic material by the Jinc, a hive race.
He must discover not only the events that led to his reincarnation, this time as a woman, but also why the galaxy- spanning continuum of human settlements has fallen into disarray. Also to be solved is why the supposedly all- powerful posthuman entities, the Forts, have been destroyed by a mysterious cosmic event called the slow wave.
This intriguing beginning soon has Imre seeking out the members of his old squad, trying to discover what has happened in the intervening years and learning who he can trust. This band- of- brothers tale has enough twists and teases to make it a compelling and rewarding read.
One of the joys of revisiting Terry Pratchett’s multifaceted Discworld series is wondering where he’s going to take us next. In Making Money ( Doubleday, 349pp, $ 49.95), Moist von Lipwig, the charming if not altogether reputable postmaster- general of Ankh- Morpork, is offered an appointment he can’t refuse, running the city’s mint.
Lord Vetinari’s brief is simple: Lipwig has carte blanche, provided the prosperity of the city comes first.
While our hero likes to think of himself as the ‘‘ least recognisable person in the world’’ when he isn’t wearing his trademark golden suit, his new post draws attention from all quarters, putting him very much at odds with the powerful Lavish family, major shareholders in the institution. All that stands between them and control of the state economy is Lipwig and Mr Fusspot, the small dog bequeathed to the mint’s new administrator by his canny predecessor, and officially chairman of the board.
Pratchett’s delivery is always engaging, full of a sharp comic sense, clever wordplay and close observation. Whether in tossed- off jibes (‘‘ It would be hard to imagine an uglier building that hadn’t won a major architectural award’’) or pithy bon mots (‘‘ Time turned the evil bastards into rogues, and rogue was a word with a twinkle in its eye and nothing to be ashamed of’’), he easily transforms what might have been a lightweight and unlikely tale into a pointed and thoroughly enjoyable piece of social satire.
In the Year’s Best Australian Science Fiction & Fantasy 3 ( MirrorDanse Books, 224pp, $ 19.95), editors Bill Congreve and Michelle Marquardt once again serve up an excellent selection of the previous year’s top imaginative short stories. All 11 tales are worthy, with fine work from Geoffrey Maloney, Margo Lanagan and Simon Brown. The editors give a useful overview of the year in fantastic fiction. Try specialist bookstores or order from MirrorDanse Books, PO Box 546, Chatswood, NSW 2057 ( mirrordanse@ optusnet. com. au).