DINNER AT DEVIANT'S PALACE

Tim Powers, Author . Subterranean $40 (256p) ISBN 978-1-892284-84-6

First published in 1985, this legendary and still distinctive novel may attract new fans, although the postnuclear-war theme has become somewhat dated. Technology has vanished in a barbaric, 22nd-century California run by a Sidney Greenstreet lookalike messiah, Norton Jaybush, who boasts a fancifully colossal "night club of the damned" in Venice and his own Holy City in Irvine. His young hippie followers, aka "Jaybirds," drift in a hallucinatory Philip K. Dick–style dream, while "redeemers" strive to rescue them. The serviceable plot focuses largely on the efforts of the hero, Gregorio Rivas, a musician and former redeemer who lives in "Ellay," to bring back a runaway. The film Mad Max (1980) seems to have inspired many of the images in this rundown world, such as "an old but painstakingly polished Chevrolet body mounted on a flat wooden wagon drawn by two horses." Powers has a nice knack for puns, e.g., a "hemogoblin," a balloonlike monster who sucks blood from its victims, and "fifths," paper money issued by a "Distiller of the Treasury." The antireligious tone of the book, not uncommon in science fiction of the era, is a refreshing change from much of today's blatantly proselytizing SF (see feature, "Other Worlds, Suffused with Religion," Apr. 16). At times Powers's heavy prose style can be trying, but his engaging conceptions will keep most readers turning the pages. (June 4)

Reviewed on: 05/28/2001
Release date: 02/01/2001
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