by Patch O'Furr
Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.
Chasing the Phoenix, by Michael Swanwick
NYC, Tor Books, August 2015, hardcover $26.99 (316 pages), Kindle $12.99.
“Third year, summer, first month, of the royal year. The Hidden King killed his brothers so that there might be no rivals for his throne and continued his preparations for war. In that same month, a stranger unlike any ever seen before came to the Abundant Kingdom.
— The Summer and Winter Annals
Surplus came down out of the north dressed in a Mongolian shaman’s robes covered with multicolored ribbons and hammered copper disks. He was leading a yak adorned with red tassels and tiny silver bells. The yak carried a bundle swaddled in cloth and carefully tied up with ropes.
In the bundle was the corpse of his friend Aubrey Darger.” (p. 17)
I am tempted to end this review here. If that isn’t enough to make you want to read Chasing the Phoenix, nothing that I could say would convince you.
Chasing the Phoenix is Swanwick’s sixth novelette, novella, or novel featuring the adventures of his futuristic con-man team of human Aubrey Darger and genetically-engineered talking dog Sir Blackthorpe Ravenscairn de Plus Precieux (“Call me Sir Plus”). Three short fictions chronicled their steampunk post-utopian adventures in London, Paris, and Arcadian Greece on their way to the Grand Duchy of Muscovy. In the novel Dancing With Bears (reviewed here), they reached (and ruined) Moscow. A later adventure was set in New Orleans.