Phil Parker (tigertoy) wrote,
Phil Parker

Book review: The Return of Santiago

Herewith is the first in what I hope will be an ongoing series of short reviews of books that I've read. In these reviews, I will try to avoid giving away major parts of the story, unless a book is so horrible that I want to save the world from reading it, but if you prefer to go into a book knowing as little as possible about it, skip it.

With luck, some discussion of the book in question might ensue.

In The Return of Santiago, Resnick returns to his "Inner Frontier" universe where most of his novels are set. Danny Briggs, a small-time but successful thief, finds himself unexpectedly arrested when the cops figure out a neat little scam he has going. With the help of a bystander who trips the pursuing officer, he escapes, and he and the bystander hide out in a rich person's unoccupied house. In the attic, he finds the manuscript of the complete works of Black Orpheus, a poet who chronicled the interesting characters of the frontier a century ago. Enough of Orpheus' short verses had been published to make him a legend, but many of them had not, and reading through the whole collection, Briggs gains new insight about the overall purpose of the poem. Upon discovering the work, he first considered how to sell it, but after discovering the secret, he decides instead to take up the mantle of Orpheus himself, move to the Inner Frontier, seek out the interesting characters, and write them up in new poems in the style of the original Orpheus.

Since the central character in Orpheus' work is the legendary King of the Outlaws, Santiago, Briggs concludes that to be a successful new Orpheus, he needs a new Santiago, and sets about trying to find one. The rest of the story develops his search for Santiago and the evolution of his own reasons for wanting a new Santiago.

I don't want to give away too much more of what happens, but rest assured that there's lots of action and colorful larger-than-life characters.

Overall, it's a good Resnick book, though not his very best. Some of what happens is improbable enough to edge towards deus ex machina, but the story was engaging enough that I wasn't bothered by that until after I finished it. If you're familiar with and like Resnick's Inner Frontier series, don't miss it. If you're not familiar with it, it's not a bad place to start, if you don't have a copy of Ivory handy. Action-adventure, basically fluff, but with some meat underneath.

Overall, I give it an 8 out of 10 (but add a point if you're a Resnick fan).
Tags: book review, mike resnick, sf
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