Openers: My name is Quinn Quicksilver -- or "Cue-Cue" to the mean kids when I was growing up -- but I can't blame my parents because I don't know who they are. Soon after birth, I was abandoned on a lonely highway, seven miles outside of Peproe, Arizona, where 906 people pretended that the place where they lived was actually a town. Swaddled in a blue blanket, nestled in a white bassinet made of plastic thatching, I had been placed on the centermost of three lanes of blacktop, where I was found shortly after dawn.
Although you might think this was as bad a start on life one could have, I assure you it could have been much worse. For one thing, this was coyote country. Had ne of those creatures found me, it wouldn't have suckled me as did the wolf that saved abandoned Romulus, the founder of Rome, but instead would have regarded me as a Grubhub delivery. I could also have been run over by an eighteen-wheeler and turned into pate for vultures.
Fortunately, I was found by three men on their way to work. The first, Hakeem Kaspar, was a lineman for the county, as in that Glen Campbell song I've always found lovely but weird, though at the time I was discovered on the highway, I hadn't yet herd it. The second, Bailie Belshazzer, worked as head mechanic at one of the country's first wind farms. The third Caesar Melchizadek, was a blackjack pit boss in an Indian casino.
According to the newspaper story at the time, Hakeem tucked me snugly in the passenger-side footwell of his electric-company truck and dove me to the county sheriff's office, with Bailie and Caesar following in their vehicles. Why they felt it necessary that all three should turn me in to the law, the newspaper didn't say. This was all I knew about those men until, year later and running for my life, I visited one of them with the hope of learning some small detail that might be a clue as to who and what I am.
-- Dean Koontz, Quicksilver, 2022
Thus begins the latest Dean Koontz extravaganza, which takes nineteen-year-old Quinn Quicksilver on a journey from innocence to something else as he develops strange powers and battles some really mean entities intent on destroying the world. Quinn spent his youth in a Catholic orphanage and once he aged out he began working at a regional magazine writing articles of local interest. (Remember, this is a kid of nineteen.) Quinn is extremely self-aware and literate; his voice is strewn with a wry sense of humor most adults never attain. (Remember, this is a kid of nineteen.) A few months before, he had begun to experience something he call "psychic magnetism," where he would automatically go to any place that he "needed" to be; much like Koontz's Odd Thomas (another character who seemed far older than his years). This get him into trouble.
This magnetism takes him to a remote location where a girl is being held captive. She is Bridget Rainking, who, while not beautiful, is a pretty strong contender. She is being held by a pair of agents from the ISA, a shadowy (and evil) government agency. Its agents had tried to confront Quinn earlier and failed. Anyway, Quinn rescues the girls and accidently kills the ISA agents. He then finds Bridget's grandfather tied up in the trunk of a car and releases him. The grandfather is Sparky Rainking, currently a best-selling romance novelist (as "Daphne Larkrise") and in a previous occupation he had done "something, then something else, and then another something we don't talk about."
Sparky and his wife (now dead) had adopted a young girl, who later became pregnant with Bridget by a father she would not name of speak of. Short after Bridget's birth, her mother left, never to be heard from again, and Sparky was left with Bridget to raise. Bridget and Quinn where both curious about their origins and , independently, sent off DNA samples to Getting to Know Me Dot Com (think 23 and Me). It turned out that both had some pretty strange DNA that was not quite human and Getting to Know Me sent the results to the ISA, setting the stage for this whole adventure. It turns out that Bridget also has some strange powers -- psychic magnetism, to be sure, plus an affinity to calm animals; he powers began to manifest much earlier than Quinn's, since she was about five years old.
So the three of them are now on the run from the ISA. They rob a drug gang of thousands of dollars and Bridget tames a junkyard guard dog. They then hook up with another not-quite-human, Panthea, a native American woman of unknown parentage. Panthea knows a bit more about what is happening. There was a universe before ours -- one that was destroyed by the Nihilim, corrupted beings who live to destroy and undo. Our universe was created as a sort of second chance. The Nihilims have been able to penetrate our world and are working surreptitiously to corrupt ours. They can disguise themselves but sometimes our heroes can see beyond their cloaking and see that they tentacles instead of fingers.
So this is the hodge-podge mess we are working with, and it eventually leads back to the orphanage where Quinn grew up. To my mind the entire work is salvaged somewhat by Quinn's wisely naive narration and a wry sense of humor.
Things to remember:
- Dogs are good and kind. More importantly, dogs want to be good and kind.
- Cosmology is not the author's strong suit.
- The universe, as well as our lives, have meaning -- something to do with truth, kindness, beauty, and whatnot. Exactly what this meaning is is never explained.
- Bridget knew two years earlier that she was going to marry Quinn. Both Quinn and Bridget will remain virgins until that time, if only to emphasize that they are innocents.
- For an innocent, Quinn sure learns how to kill pretty quickly.
- There's a lesson here about ants, but it appears that I am a bad student about ants.
- Martin H. Greenberg & Larry Segriff, editors, Guardsmen of Tomorrow. Science fiction anthology of 13 original stories about "those valiant men and women who patrol the far-flung spaceways, keeping the universe safe for humankind." Authors are "Nathan Archer" (Lawrence Watt-Evans). Robin Wayne Bailey, Paul Dellinger, William H. Keith, Jr., Paul Levinson, Jane Lindskold, Andre Norton, Jean Rabe, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Robert J. Sawyer, Josepha Sherman, Dean Wesley smith, and Michael A. Stackpole.
- Hans Holzer, True Ghost Stories. A collection of bushwah -- including 38 "case histories" throughout the U.S. -- from everybody's favorite psychic investigator. As you can tell, I'm not a believer although I find most of these books fascinating. Holzer (1920-2009) was an Austrian-American who wrote over 120 books on the occult. He was the one who inflicted the "Amityville Horror" on the world. He was also falsely credited with coining the term "ghost hunter" some 27 years after the phrase entered the lexicon. He was evidently intensely gullible and did not bother to provide verification for many of his claims. Still, he was far less of a fraud than, say, Ed and Lorraine Warren, of whom the less said the better.
- Bryan Thomas Schmidt, editor, Infinite Stars. Doorstop anthology of space opera and military science fiction, with fourteen original stories and ten reprints; many of the twenty-four tales take place in popular "universes" beloved by SF fans. The authors: Poul Anderson, Catherine Ansaro (a Skolian Empire story), Dave Bara (a Lightship Chronicles story), Leigh Brackett & Edmond Hamilton (a mash-up story with Brackett's John Eric Stark and Hamilton's Star Kings), Lois McMaster Bujold (a Miles Vorkosigan story). Jack Campbell (a Lost Fleet story), Orson Scott Card (an Ender's universe story), Bennett R. Coles (a Virtues of War story), A. C. Crispin (a Starbridge story), William C. Dietz (a Legion of the Damned story), David Drake (a Lt. Leary story), Charles E. Gannon (a Caine Riordon story), Brian Herbert & Kevin J. Anderson (a Dune story), Jean Johnson (a Theirs Not a Reason Why universe story), Ann McCaffrey (a Ship Who Sang story), Elizabeth Moon (a Vatta's War story), Linda Nagata (a Red story), Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle (A Codominium story), Jody Lynn Nye (an Imperium story), Nnedi Okorafor (a Binti story), Alastair Reynolds (a Revelation Space story), Robert Silverberg, Cordwainer Smith, and David Weber (an Honorverse story).
- Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, editor, Singapore Noir. Crime anthology with fourteen stories, one of the Akashic Noir series. Authors are Monica Bhude, Colin Cheong, Damon Chua, Dave Chua, Colin Goh, "Donald Tee Quee Ho" (Simon Tay), Philip Jeyaretnam, Johann S. Lee, Suchen Christine Lim, Lawrence Osborne, S. J. Rozan, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, Nury Vittachi, and Ovidia Yu.
- Harry Turtledove, editor, Alternate Generals, Alternate Generals II, and Alternate Generals III. SF anthologies of alternate worlds. The first book has sixteen tales by Janet Berliner, Lillian Stewart Carl, Bill Fawcett, William R. Forstchen, Esther Friesner, Brad Linaweaver, R. M. Meluch, John Mina, Elizabeth Moon, Jody Lynn Nye, William Sanders, S. M. Sterling, Brian M. Thomsen, Lois Tilton, Harry Turtledove, and David Weber; the second has thirteen stories by Chris Bunch, Noreen Doyle, James Fiscus, Michael F. Flynn, Esther M. Friesner, Roland J. Green, R. M. meluch, Joel Richards, William Sanders, Susan Shwartz, S. m. Stirling & Richard Foss, Judith Tarr, and Harry Turtledove; and the third volume has thirteen stories by Lee Allred, Chris Bunch, Lillian Stewart Carl, A. M. Dellamonica, Jim Fiscus, Esther M. Friesner. Roland J. Green, Brad Linaweaver, John Mina, Mike Resnick, William Sanders, Judith Tarr, and Harry Turtledove. A lot of strange "what ifs" here.
- Jack Vance, Lurulu. Science fiction novel, a sequel to Ports of Call, continuing 'the escapades of Myron Tany, rebellious heir of a wealthy family, who eschews the comforts of home to hobnob throughout space in a galactic freighter with a crew of fellow misfit. During an apparantly routine cargo run, the gang disembarks on the planet Fluter, where the ship's captain, Malfoor, enlists Tany in a perilous mission to track down con artist Tremaine, who killed Malfoor's father and kidnapped his mother. Fluter locals, however, have their own beef with Tremaine, and the sagacious Malfoor must adapt his political savvy to navigating the cultural and geographical idiosyncrasies of a planet that, apart from boasting the most beautiful landscapes in the galaxy, also harbors its most puritanical citizens." Few people have depicted strange worlds and stranger customs than Vance.
- Classic Tales of Mystery. Anonymously edited anthology of three classic mystery novels (Murder on the Links by Agatha Christie, Whose Body? by Dorothy L. Sayers, and The Thirty-nine Steps by John Buchan), along with stories by Edgar Allan Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, G. K. Chesterton, Ernest Bramah, and R. Austin Freeman. The title says "Classic" and you'd better believe it.
- Bryan J. L. Glass & Michael Avon Oeming, The Mice Templar, Volume One: The Prophecy. Graphic novel. "The young mouse Karic seeks to rescue his family from slavery and save his people from rat oppression by reuniting the legendary Mice Templar. But the Templar knights have been sundered by a vicious civil war, distrustful of one another, and despised by the very people they failed to protect. The fate of all creature now rests in the paws of one small mouse, if only he can find the courage to become a Knight of the Templar himself." A very grown-up fable with some very neat artwork.
- Stanislays Lem, Tales of Pirx the Pilot. Collection of five science fiction tales by the famous Polish writer. "We follow Pirx through five adventures in a time when space travel has become routine. Yet things go wrong, mysteriously and suspiciously, and Pirx is the one to investigate strange accidents -- either because his superiors trust is flair, or because they consider him expendable...[T]he tales of Pilot Pirx build up to a towering climax. We first meet Pirx in school. embarking on a training mission that is to drive home to him, with devastating impact, the inadequacy of textbook knowledge in an astronaut's arsenal. The final adventure finds Pirx deciphering a spaceship's sinister past with the help of a robot's retentive memory...Lem offers here a wonderful vision of the audacity, childlike curiosity, and intuition that may give humans the courage to confront the vastness of space." Translated by Louis Iribarne.
- John Ringo, A Hymn Before Battle. Military science fiction novel. "With the Earth in the path of the rapacious Posteen, the peaceful and friendly races of the Galactic Federation offer their resources to help the backward Terrans -- for a price: Humanity now has three worlds to defend. As Earth's armies rush into battle and special operations units scout alien worlds, the humans begin to learn a valuable lesson: You can protect yourself from your enemies, but may the Lord save you from your allies." This is Ringo's first novel and set him on a career that has included over fifty books, many in collaboration.
- [The Week], 100 Best Books, A series of pamphlets reprinting lists of recommended books from different authors, with each list covering a rather specific topic. George sent me six of these pamphlets, titled "The New List," "To Read on a Desert Island," "Artists and Entertainers," "Writers and Poets," "Opinion Makers," and "All-time Favorites." I must admit that this is one of first sections of the magazine I turn to (after the crossword puzzle, of course); I end up reading the entire magazine, which covers the week's news in a concise, even-handed approach. I currently subscribe to only two magazine: Locus and The Week.
- H. G. Wells, Six Novels. Omnibus volume containing The Time Machine. The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, The First Men in the Moon, and The Food of the Gods. Looking at the book I realized that somehow I missed reading one of these novels. Can you guess which one?