NESFA Members' Reviews

coverA Scattering of Jades

by Alexander Irvine

A book review by Mark L. Olson

Tor, 2002, 428 pp, $25.95.

As far as I know this is a first book by a Boston author – he was at Boskone a year or two ago and for the first time was on program. I don’t recall more than briefly meeting him then, but, if this book is any indication, he’s going to be quite successful as an SF writer.

My wife, Priscilla, read A Scattering of Jades first and handed it to me, telling me that I’d like it, and describing the book as a lot like what Tim Powers does. I think that’s a very fair assessment – though there’s a touch of H. P. Lovecraft, also. (Though now that I think about it, while Powers doesn’t have Lovecraft’s anti-modern phobia, and doesn’t require that his leading characters suffer horrible ends, his fantasies in many respects are the truest modern successors to Lovecraft’s work – far truer than most of the horror that claims the Lovecraft mantle.)

The story takes place in New York City and Mammoth Cave, Kentucky in the late 1830s and involves Stephen Bishop, the slave who was the first serious explorer of Mammoth Cave, P. T. Barnum, and Tammany Hall.

Archie Prescott is a printer working for the New York Herald who loses his wife and daughter to a tenement fire. Years later he’s still devastated, especially since a maimed young beggar girl has turned up claiming to be his daughter.

She is his daughter, of course, and how she survived and where she had been and what the strange events which start to happen might mean are the heart of the book: The time has come around again for two ancient Aztec gods to attempt to regain reality.

The plot lines are neatly brought together and I thought the resolution was in every respect satisfying.


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