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Crescent City Rhapsody
Kathleen Ann Goonan
Millennium paperback £6.99
review by Ceri Jordan
It would seem that our American cousins have inherited a good deal of that famed British 'stiff upper lip'. Over here, we're reduced to panic by petrol shortages or even heavy snow. But, faced with a series of electromagnetic pulses originating from outer space that destroy all but the most heavily shielded technology, the Americans seem to cope perfectly well, thank you very much. And there I was, thinking that society would collapse without its daily dose of Jerry Springer or 'The Bold And The Beautiful'. Silly me.
Of course, the people of the 2010s have a few advantages. Like illegal but increasingly pervasive nanotech. And then there are the gifted children born in the aftermath of the first pulse, and visionaries like nascent voudon queen Marie Laveau, and the genius astronomer Zeb, the only man who understands what the disastrous pulses really mean...
Goonan has chosen a broad canvas for Crescent City Rhapsody, interweaving alien contact, physics, biology and magic. It's a well-imagined future, taking all the logical leaps, but its very logic makes it feel a little well worn in places. All the usual suspects have been rounded up - clones, voodoo as a semi-science, government conspiracies, the social upheaval caused by nanotechnology - and shaped into a slick but familiar tale of social and political revolution. Though Goonan's prose is atmospheric, the huge cast of characters have to jostle for our attention, and, with the notable exception of Marie, few have the chance to win real sympathy from the reader.
However, Crescent City Rhapsody is an absorbing read, if a little low-key in places: just the thing, perhaps, for those long dark winter nights after British civilisation finally collapses from a lack of four-star...
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