Friday, July 25, 2008

An Evil Guest-Gene Wolfe

An Evil Guest
Gene Wolfe
Tor, Sep 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765321336

A century from now, the President of the United States makes a fervent request of academia private detective wizard Gideon Chase, known for solving problems no one else can. He wants the wizard to figure out how Bill Reis gets past sensitive secure gates. Reis was the ambassador to the alien planet Woldercan, where he learned how to perform things that appear to defy the laws of physics. He can convert base metals into gold and can turn invisible.

Chase starts off by searching for Reis asking actress Cassie Casey to help him. He offers her money and fame as he sees a natural talented beauty inside her that should entice Reis. Chase takes Cassie to a magic mountain where he performs a makeover enchantment that brings her beauty and talent to the surface. Cassie begins her performing to lure to bring Reis out of hiding. He becomes her angel backing a play, “Dating the Volcano God”, that she is in and begins to fall in love with her. Cassie feels pulled in opposite directions by Chase and Bill. As people around her get killed, survivors starts looking at her relationship with Chase who now works for Bill. Chase takes her to a South Pacific island group where Reis is king and leaves her so she can learn whether she has a future with the monarch. Cassie learns many lessons on the island while waiting for Chase to return.

Gene Wolf has written an interesting but weird fantasy that should be read in one sitting to fully understand what is going as so much happens in non linear ways to the heroine with two strange men of magic in her life. Cassis is a terrific protagonist who somehow holds the plot together although the audience will not realize that until the end. She deals with the two wizards and a host of supernatural beings with aplomb and charm. The publisher says “AN EVIL GUEST is a novel in which Lovecraft writes Blade Runner” inside the Twilight Zone which is as good a description as any.

Harriet Klausner

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