Wolfe continues the saga begun in Nightside the Long Sun with this curious mix of science and medieval culture in which gods possess people and robotic police patrol mysterious underground passageways. Patera Silk, a young cleric, attempts to ransom his parish buildings from creditors; in the process he uncovers a larger conspiracy involving the government of Viron and even the gods he worships. Emerging from the underground with his new knowledge, he finds himself chosen as leader (``Calde'') of the masses and is simultaneously arrested. As a hero, Silk is good-natured but he lacks the energy and complexity required by his role. He often seems slighty lost, a lack of direction mirrored by the slowly developing narrative, which picks up only shortly before the finish. While the language is often inventive (``deadcoach'' for horse-drawn hearse), it proves equally distracting; nor are the secondary characters distinctly depicted. Reference is made to the next volume of Wolfe's projected tetralogy, increasing the sense that this book is little more than a bridge between more important segments. (Jan.)
When his parish is threatened by financial difficulties, Patera Silk finds himself embroiled with gangsters, prostitutes, and thieves as the accidental leader of a grassroots political movement. Set aboard a giant generation-starship whose populace has forgotten its history and original purpose, this sequel to Nightside the Long Sun ( LJ 3/15/93) takes its hero on a questlike journey in which truth is discovered at the expense of innocence. Wolfe imbues his straightforward narrative style with a wealth of nuance and subtextual complexity. Stylistic excellence and topnotch storytelling recommend this title for most libraries.