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Chasing the Phoenix: A Science Fiction Novel…
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Chasing the Phoenix: A Science Fiction Novel

by Michael Swanwick

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I stepped late into an existing series with this one. It was fun and funny, a lighthearted romp with occasional flashes of insight. The characters are the strength of it, centering on a pair of likeable rogues. One is human and one is, well, he’s supposed to be a genetically modified dog, but he couldn’t really be very dog-like since he manages to talk and to hold a cane with his “paw”. There isn’t a lot of physical description, which is probably just as well since it would only interfere with the story. The setting is nominally a post-apocalyptic future, but this feels really like just an excuse. It allows Swanwick to throw around occasional contemporary references and also drag out half-forgotten “technologies” that might as well be magic. (I would barely call it science fiction, although technically it is.) There is world-building here that has plenty of breadth, but somehow not a lot of depth.

I’m not generally a fan of stories about con artists. I don’t really like conflict that is largely based on the protagonist’s risk of having his deceitfulness revealed – not when the motivation for the deceit is the character’s own greed. Swanwick’s characters, Darger and Surplus, are definitely in it for the money, but they are otherwise nicer than they would need to be. They prefer to capture cities by bloodless deceptions than by bloody sieges, etc. And of course they also help prevent a nuclear holocaust. So they are, as I said, likeable rogues. Anyone who isn’t bothered by the con artist aspect, and who enjoys humorous roguery, would probably enjoy the book quite a lot. I give it four stars for being well-written and entertaining, and for generally doing a good job of being what it intends to be. ( )
  Carol_W | Jun 6, 2017 |
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In the distant future, Surplus arrives in China dressed as a Mongolian shaman, leading a yak which carries the corpse of his friend, Darger. The old high-tech world has long since collapsed, and the artificial intelligences that ran it are outlawed and destroyed. Or so it seems.

Darger and Surplus, a human and a genetically engineered dog with human intelligence who walks upright, are a pair of con men and the heroes of a series of prior Swanwick stories. They travel to what was once China and invent a scam to become rich and powerful. Pretending to have limited super-powers, they aid an ambitious local warlord who dreams of conquest and once again reuniting China under one ruler. And, against all odds, it begins to work, but it seems as if there are other forces at work behind the scenes. Chasing the Phoenix is a sharp, slick, witty science fiction adventure that is hugely entertaining from Michael Swanwick, one of the best SF writers alive.
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In the distant future, Surplus arrives in China dressed as a Mongolian shaman, leading a yak which carries the corpse of his friend, Darger. The old high-tech world has long since collapsed, and the artificial intelligences that ran it are outlawed and destroyed. Or so it seems. Darger and Surplus, a human and a genetically engineered dog with human intelligence who walks upright, are a pair of con men and the heroes of a series of prior Swanwick stories. They travel to what was once China and invent a scam to become rich and powerful. Pretending to have limited super-powers, they aid an ambitious local warlord who dreams of conquest and once again reuniting China under one ruler. And, against all odds, it begins to work, but it seems as if there are other forces at work behind the scenes.… (more)

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