Aiah has learned that plasm is more than an energy source. It resonates within the human mind, giving power to heal and to kill. So when she finds an undiscovered, unlimited supply, she dares to meet with the powerful Metropolitan known as Constantine, a mysterious rebel with plans. Together they can use the plasm to rally forces to overthrow the government.
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The world created in Williams's (Aristoi) latest novel is similar enough to our own that the SF aspects blend with noir stylings to create a potent atmosphere of urban dystopia. Williams tells the tale of Aiah, a lower-level government functionary whose investigation of a "plasm" leak leads her into a macabre alliance with the powerful rebel Constantine, whose financial success has been built in part on a failed revolution he instigated several years before. Joined by Constantine's associate and occasional paramour Sorya (who declares, paraphrasing Leona Helmsley, that "laws are made by little people"), the three valiantly plan to restart the revolution. The action is often hectic, complete with several red herrings concerning who will betray whom first. Williams's great strengths, though, are his depiction of future society-in "the city that girdles the world," street vendors sell roasted pigeon-on-a-stick-and his understanding of the roots of political rebellion; here, he presents a solid case that rebellion arises not in response to large evils but to small slights. Ever the expert storyteller, Williams is also careful to provide more than enough suspense to maintain reader interest.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Williams' latest novel reaches into an indeterminate, surrealistic future in which Earth's energy needs are met by a powerful, much coveted substance known as plasm. Aiah holds an influential but monotonous position in a plasm utility company, doling out energy to its wealthy patrons and ticketing scofflaws who conceal unmetered plasm for their own uses. While out on a fieldwork assignment, she stumbles across an untapped mother lode of plasm and discovers that the substance will not only run cities but has the power to transform her own life and destiny. Seeking to gain control of her newfound resource, Aiah allies herself with a rich, savvy "metropolitan" named Constantine, and together they hatch a plan to overthrow the oppressive power structure around them. Williams quirkily combines the almost archetypal magical energy source with such anachronistic devices as pneumatic tubes and oval video screens in an endearingly different vision of power. Carl Hays
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