Sleuth’s roots dug up in lat­est Bell book

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - BOOKS - By David Pitt

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.

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