Sleuth’s roots dug up in latest Bell book
TYou (Mulholland Books, 379 pages, $17), by California’s Austin Grossman, introduces us to Russell, a newbie at Black Arts Games, a video-game company with big plans but also, unfortunately, a big problem: there’s a bug in the software of their latest game. Russell searches for the source of the bug, but he’s got something bigger on his mind — namely, what’s behind the death of Simon, Russell’s old friend, just after a game Simon co-created became a smash hit. Grossman, a video-game designer (he also wrote the splendidly quirky superhero novel Soon I Will Be Invincible), immerses us in the gaming culture, catching us up in his enthusiasm. If you’re totally unfamiliar with gaming and software design, some of the dialogue might at first seem a little foreign — these guys talk, sometimes, almost in their own language. But you’ll pick it up pretty quickly, and the characters are so likable that you’ll really enjoy spending time with them. The Gate Thief (Tor, 433 pages, $10), by North Carolina’s Orson Scott Card, is the sequel to 2010’s The Lost Gate, in which young Danny North discovered he has a rare ability: he can create gates, pathways from this world to the world from which his family, and others like them, came many centuries ago. On that world, they were gods; on Earth, they are mortal (but with magical powers). Now, having created the Great Gate linking the two worlds, Danny fears that he might have opened the door for a being of immense power to destroy humanity. Card, author of numerous science-fiction and fantasy novels (including the classic Ender’s Game), has a knack for writing characters who are children. He gives them intelligence and wisdom, a way of speaking that makes them feel more like mature people in immature bodies than like actual children. If you’re one of his fans, you won’t want to miss this one. If you’re a science-fiction fan, and you haven’t read Ohio’s John Scalzi, you’ve been missing out. In addition to an assortment of fine stand-alone novels, he’s also written a series of connected books set in the universe of his first published novel, 2005’s Old Man’s War. The Human Division (Tor, 493 pages, $11), which first appeared as a 13-part online serial, is an episodic novel set in that universe. A group of alien races, the Conclave, is making overtures to humanity, offering us protection against invaders. This is bad news for Earth’s Colonial Union, who have guarded humanity for many years, but who have lately been condemned for the, shall we say, not-entirely-ethical way they’ve been harvesting the human race for its soldiers. The CU is desperate to protect its own interests, but at what cost? Think of this is a literary jigsaw puzzle, 13 separate pieces that join together for the big picture. It feels a bit experimental, and some chapters are better than others, but Scalzi’s writing is as impeccable as always.
Striker (Berkley, 402 pages, $12), by Clive Cussler and Justin Scott, takes early 20th-century detective Isaac Bell back to the beginning of his career. In 1902, Bell isn’t quite the cool, analytical man familiar to fans of the series; he’s more impulsive, more likely to respond in a situation with instinct rather than intellect. Eager to impress his boss, the head of the Van Dorn Detective Agency, Bell is determined to prove that a series of coalmine disasters point to a larger conspiracy... one that could spell disaster for the country. Cussler and Scott, who reside in Colorado and Connecticut, have given Bell’s fans the perfect origin story for their hero: a story full of the usual action and adventure, but one that shows them an Isaac they’ve never seen before. Halifax, N.S., freelancer David Pitt’s column appears the first weekend of every month.