|Publisher:||Grand Central Publishing|
About the Author
Patricia A. McKillip (1948) is an American science fiction and fantasy author. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the World Fantasy Award and the Locus Award. In 2008 she was honored with the World Fantasy Award for Lifetime Achievement. Some of her best-known series include the Riddle-Master Trilogy and the Cygnet series.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Fool's Run is science-fiction and therefore immediately different from Patricia A. McKillip's other books (since to my knowledge, all her others are are fantasy). And unlike some science-fiction which sits in a murky mid-ground between fantasy and sci-fi, Fool's Run undeniably the latter.
But despite being a different genre, just as in the novel 'breakwaters in front of the sea-factories and purifying plants had calmed the tides, but the ocean could still braid a whip of wind and spume', McKillip's way with words, her gorgeous (often lyrical and metaphorical) prose still stands. I was hooked by the opening of chapter one: 'The Magician sat alone on a stage in the Constellation Club, playing Bach to the robots whirling a grave minuet around him as they sucked cigarette butts off the floor.' Then again, I have a thing about Bach.Fool's Run is set seven years after 21 year old Terra Viridian was sentenced live out her days in the orbital prison, Underworld, for following a vision which prompted her to take her laser rifle and turn fifteen hundred innocents into light. As part of their rehabilitation program, Underworld invites the band Nova to come and give a concert. Nova hope for a subsequent tour which would take them fame beyond the Constellation Club, but instead find themselves caught up in Terra's visions when she tries to escape. I loved the Magician, Nova's pianist, who can play Bach in the middle of a riot and read people's silences; The Queen of Hearts, a cubist with a cool alias and deeply personal reasons for hiding behind a mask; and Sidney, the owner of the Constellation Club, who finds obscure instruments in attics when most people would struggle to find an attic.It is a strange story of music, madness, grief, family, secrets, coincidences and connections between people. It has laugh-out-loud-funny dialogue, an interesting idea about the future of nationalism, a lot of Bach, some twists I expected and some twists I most certainly did not, something evocative and moving about it, and characters I cared about - and it is nearly worth reading on the grounds of its writing alone. The ending is odd - but I don't know that it could have ended more satisfactorily had it been different.'It's dawn,' Sidney said, and the Magician stopped breathing. He gazed at Sidney expressionlessly over the piano. 'I stayed to listen to you. How often do I get a free Bach concert? I had to stay after hours anyway. One of the bands nearly went Full Primal at closing time.' The Magician made a garbled noise that Sidney took to be a question. 'You were playing, then. You didn't notice the patrollers and the ambulances.'
'What - who - '
Sidney waved a hand vaguely towards a distant stage. 'A new band called Desperate Sun [...] They were planning to electrocute themeslves with their intruments as a gesture of support for the National Regression Coalaition of the Sundown Sector. One of my bouncers cut off their electricity before they hurt themselves too badly. They kept making speeches to the patrollers about the Sundown Sector's right to bear arms, tax itself and call itself Australia again. Though why they wanted to die for Australia in my club eluded me.'
The Magician sat alone on a stage in the Constellation Club, playing Bach to the robots whirling a grave minuet around him as they sucked cigarette butts off the floor.Who could resist a first chapter that starts with such a sentence? Not I!Patricia McKillip wrote Fool¿s Run in 1987, at the end of a three-book run of science fiction works, after which she returned to her accustomed genre of medieval fantasy in novels such as The Book of Atrix Wolfe, Winter Rose, and Song for the Basilisk. Those are more my usual cup of tea as well, but when I found the long-out-of-print Fool¿s Run at a used bookstore, saw McKillips name on the spine, and then read that wonderful first chapter, I couldn¿t do anything but buy and read it.The plot is quite complicated, and the web of characters that holds it together is even more so, but I¿ll do my best to provide a basic run-down. Seven years before the story begins, Terra Viridian killed 1,500 innocent people and was sentenced to lifelong incarceration in a space prison known as the Underworld. Now a research group is requesting Underworld chief Jason Kylos¿ permission to monitor Terra¿s brain; at the same time, he is also negotiating with scholar and club owner Sidney Halleck to send a band to the Underworld as part of a prisoner rehabilitation program. Back on earth, the Musician, a pianist for Sidney¿s house band, Nova, begins having vague premonitions while playing Bach. Meanwhile, his friend Aaron Fischer continues his search for a woman out of the past who he thinks will be able to answer all his questions. When Nova falls upon hard times, another mysterious woman—a former band member, the gold-masked Queen of Hearts—appears to help them.The characters I have named are the most important to the plot, but even the most trivial members of this extensive cast are well-drawn. The settings are both rich and unfamiliar, awash in McKillip¿s luscious, dreamy prose.There are fewer supernatural happenings here than in most of the author¿s fantasy novels, mostly because the only departures from accepted reality occur (or seem to occur) in Terra¿s mind. This is fitting, I think, because in typical McKillip the fantastic elements are almost always reflections of her characters¿ emotional struggles. Indeed, these books could as easily be termed novels of psychological and relational development as sci-fi/fantasy. Fool¿s Run in particular is about the demands of time, the vain pursuits humans chase after in order to bring meaning to their lives, and the danger of shutting other people out.I love this quote:We are born surrounded by mysteries, he though. We make our compromises with terror, with wonder, so that we can go about the business of simply surviving from one day to another ¿ We achieve a balance on the high wire, take one slow step after another, while the wire shakes and the wind blows, and nobody wants the unknown, the unexpected, with wings like some alien insect out of a gaudy, gargantuan jungle to sail by and sweep us off balance ¿ There are a few things I don¿t like about this novel. For one, the content is more mature than in most of the author¿s books, comprising strong swearing and one very sensual bedroom scene. Eventually we do learn why Terra killed all those people, but we never learn why she in particular was chosen. And the Magician, despite being fascinating initially, receives almost no character development: things happen to him, but he never changes. The epilogue is generally disappointing, and I couldn¿t make any sense of the last line at all.Regardless, this is a book that I will be thinking about for some time to come. In recent years McKillip has proclaimed that she is not really a sci-fi writer, and I certainly never considered myself a sci-fi reader, but unless I am mistaken, Fool¿s Run is a science fiction novel, and in spite of some quibbles,
This is a departure for McKillip; while she typically writes fantasy, this is a science fiction novel. Some of her strengths carry over well from her fantasy writing: many of the characters are well drawn--she appears to like them quite a bit, and so do I--and she does very well with the "sensawunda" theme that dominates the second half of the novel. The book's greatest strength is the intertwining connections among the characters, some obvious, others unexpected but crucial (I'd say that's actually a major theme of the novel). An excellent read, and one that I've re-read a couple of times. I'd be delighted to see her tackle something like this again.