Magic realism meets sf in the fascinating Oracles (Univ. of New Mexico, $24.95), by Melissa Tantaquidgeon Zobel. As tribal historian of the Mohegan Nation in Connecticut, the author has the credentials to write about New England Indians. In this novel, the fictional Yantuck Indians live in a mid-21st-century future in which tribal factions either preserve the natural environment or market their "Indian-ness" through continued gaming and a New Age movement. Ashneon Quay, a young medicine-woman-in-training, is torn between two choices -- studying anthropology at a nearby college or focusing on her traditions.
The characters in Seduced by Moonlight, by Laurell K. Hamilton (Ballantine, $23.95), talk interminably about the intrigues and relationships in three fantasy courts. This is the third of Hamilton's novels featuring the detective Princess Meredith Gentry and the continuing perils she faces as heir to the throne of Faerie. Between long conversations and seminar-like expositions that test a reader's patience, this overreaching and ultimately unsuccessful novel features huge doses of sex and violence.
Eastern Standard Tribe, by Cory Doctorow (Tor, $23.95), is to traditional science fiction what a small independently produced film is to a big-budget Hollywood studio action movie. It avoids the themes that have typically held sf audiences in thrall (alien invasion, interstellar war, life in distant futures, for example) in favor of a personal human story in a near future. Science fiction may have begun as pulp adventure fiction, but arguably the best sf writers have always transcended genre restrictions by concentrating on character, which is what Doctorow does here. His characters have more in common with those in mainstream novels than with the superficial ones too often found in this genre.
Art Berry is such a character. In a world gradually splintering into tribal groups, Art, an interface designer and industrial saboteur, is a member of Eastern Standard Tribe. Drawn into high-tech intrigue , he is eventually railroaded into a mental hospital where saving his sanity and career becomes the ultimate challenge. The language is flippant and hip, which gives the novel a strongly satirical undertone. *
Larry Tritten is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the New Yorker, Harper's and Vanity Fair.