A Clash of Kings By George R.R. Martin (Bantam, $25.95)
When it comes to writing epic fantasy, George R.R.
Martin has definitely raised the bar a few notches. In 1996
he produced the massive "A Game of Thrones," which introduced
readers to his series "A Song of Ice and Fire." Now he
follows up with a story of civil war. The king is dead. His
son and widow, contending for power, are but one of five
factions which are tearing the kingdom apart.
Martin is able to balance multiple story lines. He keeps
readers balanced on a sword's edge as we see not only the
squabbles of politics and war that rend the land but the
dangers of a returning winter that may last for decades.
The second book in a multi-volume series can be a tricky
project for any writer. Martin manages with "A Clash of
Kings" to have produced a novel that does three important
things. It grips the reader whether or not they read the
earlier book, tells a satisfying story and leaves the
reader wanting the next book as soon as possible.
When you wish upon a star
Stardust By Neil Gaiman (Avon/Spike Books, $22)
Neil Gaiman is an amazing writer. He has already
produced an award-winning body of work, scripted a
groundbreaking comic series in the early 90s, produced film
scripts and excellent short fiction. With his third novel,
"Stardust," he manages to produce an amazingly quirky fantasy
Set in a tiny English village called Wall, early in the
rule of Queen Victoria, this is a tale of high adventure
that echos traditional fairy tales of the period. One of
the unique things about the village is that the realm of
Faire touches the human world.
It is into this realm that Tristran Thorn must venture.
He is in search of a star that has come plummeting out of
the heavens. He has lost his heart to a beautiful village
girl, Victoria. She promises him his heart's desire, if he
will retrieve the fallen star.
As one might expect Tristran is not the only one to seek
the fallen star, which turns out to be something more than
anyone expected. Each his own agenda and is willing to go
to any length to achieve it. "Stardust" is not your
ordinary fantasy, it will definitely leave readers feeling
as if they have been entertained by a master storyteller.
Following a giant's footsteps
Foundation's Triumph By David Brin (Harper Prism, $25)
Stepping into the shoes of Isaac Asimov is no easy task.
But David Brin, already a major voice in science fiction,
does it with a style and panache that Asimov would have
approved of. Picked, along with Greg Bear and Gregory
Benford, to tell more stories from Asimov's famous
"Foundation" series, it falls to Brin the job to tell the
final days of the hero of those tales, Hari Seldon.
In order to save civilization in the wake of the fall of
a galactic Empire, Seldon has created a secret foundation,
armed with a science that allows them to predict and
influence the course of history. As his plan is about to be
launched, and his own life nearing its end, Seldon
discovers that there are threats against his organization
that he had not anticipated. It is up to him, and a few
trusted companions, to face these threats and discover,
perhaps, if his life's work will bear fruit.
Brin is a sharp writer who imbues his characters with
depth. The story he has spun is one that will intrigue new
readers and please veterans of both his own and Asimov's