By Michael Swanwick, $16.99, 256 pages

10“A magician does not send messages, you know-he orchestrates reality. I do not enjoy being forced into his games, and I cannot tell you what he wants of you because I do not know.”

It is nice to see Michael Swanwick’s Stations of the Tide, which won the Science Fiction Nebula Award in 1991, new again. What a strange amalgam of a science fiction universe with fantastical archetypes. The work is, however, more fantastical than predictive, and probably could now be called Slipstream.

The book is also unusual in that readers will likely be comfortable with Swanwick’s creation. It is like taking a vacation in the Caribbean. One expects a big battle between the protagonist called the “bureaucrat” and the enemy magician there, but is handled in the end so neatly. Most of the book is not action packed, and one gets the tour of the world first. There is also an unusual assortment of characters who make up much of the story. Oddly the science fiction reader may never sense the alienness of the world Miranda, which can be a disappointment.

Swanwick tells the tale with a melodious style. It is not quiet lyrical, but deeply felt anyway. Stations of the Tide is fun and funny, yet unsettling. It also shows the range and possibilities of science fiction. The world is more realistic than most alien worlds with many things you would find on our blue globe like televisions, politics, and advertising. The fantastical elements and the erotic parts are handled with style.

Reviewed by Ryder Miller