Review by CB

Edited by Marion McChesney 1989
Comb bound 221 pages

America genzine containing stories and poetry. The front cover is a strking blue and gold fantastical study by Suzan Lovett, principally of Blake and Avon. There are a number of illustrations including a second Lovett on page 87; other artists are Adrian Morgan Caro Hedge Karen River O'Caoindeablan, Sue Williams, Gayle Feyrer, and Annette Hall. The poetry is by Cindy Rancourt, Pat Jacqueri, and Shoshana Green.

"Love and War" by Jeane DeVore is a fifty-page post-Centero Jenna and Blake story. Servalan hatches a plot to trap Blake by capturing Jenna and getting him to engineer her rescue. There are some good personal sequences between Blake and Jenna but the plot has at least one large illogical hole which undermines its credibility.

"Quoth Avon 'Nevermore' " by April Murray is a middling comic short in which Liberator is transporting some young children to safety; the pun on Poe's poem is the best joke. "Hecate Waits" by Jean Graham has Jenna and Avon captured while on a computer complex tampering mission. Avon is injured and hallucinates about Anna, Jenna isn't sure how she should respond, and afterwards Avon is concerned at what he might have revealed. Good story, not at all sentimental.

Four brief stories come next. In "Playing the Fool" by Wortham and Rosenthal Vila hoodwinks Avon in a short anecdote with a sting in the tail. "And then there was none" by Jeff Morris looks at Orac's role in GP. "Lost" by Steven Swanger tells why Jenna did not rejoin Liberator after Star One. "Nothing but the Thorn" by Joan Hoffman is about Servalan at seventeen, immediately after Keller and as she meets Kasabi.

"Too Good for You" by Paulie Kay has that hardy perennial theme of men from the Liberator being forced to display their prowess to the lucky women-on-a-matriarchal-planet who acquire them; this time it's Blake and Vila's turn. Nothing you won't have read before. "Past Tense" by Sheila Paulson is an original well-written story set many years after GP in which a young researcher finds more than he expected when preparing a thesis on Roj Blake. "Last Clear Chance" by Sue Wells and Dee Beetem has Avon and Blake resolving their conflicts after GP. Not especially original in theme but excellent dialogue and spot on for character. "Memories" by Mary Gerstner is a short and affectingly desolate monologue from a hallucinating Avon.

"A Fool's Wager" by Kathy Hintze is an Orbit story in which Vila reveals his reasons for not telling the crew what nearly happened on the shuttle. Quite interesting but takes a bit of believing. There are a good many Orbit stories in which Vila decides it's not really Avon's fault, the poor lamb, and promptly forgives him, and none of them has convinced me yet. Would your first instinct be to say there, there, I know you didn't mean it to a friend who has just tried to eject you from a moving vehicle?

"Part 1V; the Wrath of the Slumber Party" by D J Driscoll is a comedy, part of a series but annoyingly there's no precis of the previous episodes to set it in context. Most of the action consists of female crew members in pursuit of male ones. It's moderately amusing but rather repetitive.

The last story is a substantial 70-page saga "Still Life" by Judith Kitses, which the editor says will be concluded in a later edition of Powerplay; I haven't seen Powerplay 5 so this review cannot really judge whether the story works overall. It is an ambitious piece of work and intensely mystical in tone. Avon and Vila are translated post-GP onto an alien world where actions are controlled by the power of thought. They both start a new life there and flit back and forth fighting the Federation.

The emphasis is very much on Avon and his redemption, expressed in enigmatic and quasi-religious terms - "The inner galaxy of Avon's soul" is a typical phrase. If you see Avon in those terms you will probably enjoy this one. If you prefer something less esoteric you will probably become exasperated by all the mysticism which is echoed by the very mannered writing style.

The story is told almost entirely in the present tense and as the time scale is not always made clear - some sections cover a few hours, but overall the action stretches over three years at the very least - the plot tends to lose its focus. There are descriptions about Avon's experiences away from his new life that seem divorced from the rest, and I really couldn't see what the author was trying to show. However, all may be resolved in the next episode.

While this story is not my cup of tea, it is genuinely original and the author's imagination is a welcome change from identikit stories dead and buried under the weight of their cliched phrases; could "get kitted up/Vila moaned/Avon glared/Blake chewed his knuckle etc be banned?

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