Copyright 1992 by
I most recently read this on the 16th January 2002.
A murder mystery in a future Christian fundamentalist America.
Diane Fletcher is a detective hanging the end of her tether,
brutalized by the crimes and the punishments of the
"Redemptionist" religious regime.
She is to investigate the suspicious death of a famous actor amid the tinsel
town fakery of a TV dramatic production.
Our detective has a special talent: she's a Shaper who can
read the emotional patterns underlying events. She can cut through the
artifice, the faked emotions, and paint a picture in her head of
what really happened.
This was Mr Stewart's first novel, and it shows. There's real
promise here, but in the end it's naive and, well, gauche.
William Gibson chose his words very precisely in his cover blurb:
"a talent to watch".
I almost gave up on this book (twenty or so pages from
the end I came close to just tossing the book into the "Saturn Rukh"
Memorial Bin), but I wasn't worried. I already knew that
Sean Stewart would turn out OK as a writer, because
I'd already read his second novel "Resurrection Man" which is
The problem with this novel is that for what is such a simple
clear-cut plot, it's a little murky and hazy around the edges.
I'm still remarkably unclear as a to what a "Shaper" actually is,
although our protagonist goes on and on about what a rare and
unwanted talent a Shaper possesses. Apparently this talent is
something akin to enhanced pattern recognition, or perhaps intense
empathy. Once or twice my laser-like intuition, clearly a bulb or
two short, fixated on lycanthropy. Sadly there's absolutely no
grounds for lycanthropy, although it's clear to
me that Sean would have been more satisfied - and maybe more
successful - writing a werewolf book.
So what is a Shaper's special talent? The book fails
to provide evidence for anything beyond the skills a normally perceptive person
may possess. I doubt that Sean Stewart ever really sorted it out
Furthermore, I preferred the minor characters Jim Haliday and Rolly
French rather more than Diane Fletcher herself, and that's not right
What's it got: murder, mystery, religion, guilt and moral
quandaries. Absolutely no lycanthropy.
Loaded on the 31st January 2003.